NBA All Star Saturday Predictions


Nothing quite like NBA All-Star Weekend. I’m pretty sure I went into this last year, but it’s pretty much always been a huge part of my life, and Saturday Night is the crown jewel. Watching the random specials on TNT starting at like 5 pm bleeding into the actual show at 8 is a time honored tradition in the Brian’s Den. Unfortunately, my All-Star Weekend viewership is taking a bit of a hit this year. For the first time since like, 2005 I had to miss the Celebrity Game (without Tom Cavanagh there’s nothing to miss) and most of the Rising Stars. I’m seeing Black Panther tomorrow, which may turn into an all day affair if the crowds are still absurd. But I’ll always make time for All-Star Saturday. This is a challenging time in my life (nothing bad. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ll get to it later) and I feel great having the Dunk Contest be my rock in the storm. Anyway, I’m never too busy to lend my prognosticating skills to All-Star Saturday, so let’s dive right in.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge


Joel Embiid, Buddy Hield, Al Horford, Lou Williams, Andre Drummond, Spencer Dinwiddie, Lauri Markkanen, Jamal Murray

Love me a good corporate sponsorship, especially one with a company as forward thinking as Taco Bell. I may just go out and get some Nacho Fries before the event kicks off. Taco Bell, Live Mas. As far as the actual event goes, got to go Horford, here. Why? Because I’m a Celtics fan, that’s why!

Pick: Al Horford


JBL Three-Point Contest


Eric Gordon, Devin Booker, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Wayne Ellington, Tobias Harris

I’m old enough to remember when this was the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. Smh these millennials don’t know how good they have it. This feels like a weak field, even though it’s really not. Probably because Steph Curry isn’t here and Wayne Ellington and Tobias Harris are. Oh, well. Although I’m a big Dunk Contest stan, the three-point is more consistently entertaining. A bad three-point is infinitely better than a bad dunk contest. So, I’m sure this will wind up being pretty good, especially if Klay gets it going. Which he will.

Pick: Klay Thompson


Verizon Slam Dunk


Victor Oladipo, Donovan Mitchell, Larry Nance, Jr., Dennis Smith, Jr.

I’m also old enough to remember when it was the Sprite Slam Dunk. R.I.P. old corporate sponsorships. Gone, but not forgotten. Apropos of nothing besides dreams of past Sprite Slam Dunks, the 2005 Dunk Contest might be the most underrated ever, both because of Josh Smith’s seemingly forgotten brilliance and the most “I wish Twitter was around for this” moment of my lifetime, Chris Andersen’s never-ending barrage of misses:

How about Magic declaring the Dunk Contest Back way back in 2005! Crazy that it’s been Back so many times since then. I’m actually pretty hyped for this year’s contest. Lot of freaky athletes here. I think any of the four could win (that’s what you call #analysis) but I’m going Dennis Smith, Jr. because I think he can jump the highest (more #analysis). Has there ever been a Dunk Contest with two juniors?

Pick: Dennis Smith, Jr.



NBA Trade Deadline Wrapup


Another trade deadline came and went in the NBA today, and, predictably, there was a flurry of moves. Most of which involve the Cavaliers, but we can get to that. After all, it’s not every day someone like Noah Vonleh gets traded for the rights to Milovan Rakovic. That kind of deal among the league’s power players can shake up the pecking order in the NBA for years to come. My various sources have confirmed that there were, in fact, other trades made, so might as well break down the big and small.

Cavs Trade For An Entirely New Roster

These Cavs moves made me sad. Not because they suddenly righted the ship or can now beat the Warriors or Rockets (they don’t), but because this might finally end the season-long drama. Just kidding. Kevin Love is still on the roster, after all. LeBron can’t help himself, and yelling at George Hill will be a lot easier than yelling at Isaiah Thomas (short rant on Isaiah: I hope he vows to never speak to LeBron again after this. I don’t know if you heard, but he was actually on the Celtics last year and was traded. He wasn’t happy, can you believe it? He made a big stink about literally everything this season and has been statistically the worst player in the NBA. I don’t know why he thought he was more influential than LeBron or why he’s telling the Lakers he won’t be coming off the bench, as if he’s been so much better than Alex Caruso or whoever the hell the Lakers have starting at point guard with Lonzo out, but I hope that hypocrite tells the media every step of the way how bad the Cavs did him, even though his own shitty play and shitty attitude is the reason the wanted him out of town in the first place. Whatever. Good luck with your Brink’s truck this offseason!). What do all of these moves do? Well, they inject some much needed athleticism for one. George Hill is essentially the anti-Isaiah: plays good D, hits open 3s, and is completely milquetoast. I assume they view Jordan Clarkson as an upgrade over Dwyane Wade, which, at this point in their careers, he is, but if LeBron was frustrated with Isaiah how will he not get frustrated at taller Isaiah? Dumping D-Rose and Jae Crowder are additions by subtraction, and Larry Nance and Rodney Hood will probably kill the Celtics in the playoffs. Despite the in-fighting and absolutely terrible play, I never fully committed to believing the Celtics would beat the Cavs, simply because I just assumed LeBron would figure out a way to get to the Finals again. Now I know the Cavs will beat the Celtics, because even getting marginally better than the shitshow they were last night was going to be enough as long as you have LeBron. So not only will they make the Finals now, they might even win a game! Can’t wait for the Wade “I’m Coming Home” video.

Pistons Trade Willie Reed to Chicago for Jameer Nelson

Jameer Nelson is eternal.

Magic Trade Elfrid Payton to Suns for 2nd Rounder

Elfrid Payton STINKS and has stupid hair. Boom, roasted.

Knicks Acquire Emmanuel Mudiay in 3-Team Trade

Remember when Mudiay was a top prospect? Feels like 100 years ago. Guy’s terrible, but the Knicks are gonna Knick. I assume D-Rose will get bought out and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks tried to get him back (please, Wolves, don’t do it! I feel like J.R. telling Jeff Hardy not to jump off a 20-foot ladder onto a table. Think of your roster’s livelihood!). They just live for picking up bad players who are past their prime. Mudiay didn’t even have a prime, that’s how bad he’s been. Doug McDermott sent to Dallas where he can presumably learn how to be a good white NBA player from Dirk. Devin Harris is somehow still in the league and getting traded.

Pistons Trade Brice Johnson to Grizzlies for James Ennis


Heat Trade Okaro White to Hawks for Luke Babbitt

Damn. This is the one that had the internet buzzing big time when it happened. Luke Babbit, multi-time All Star and future Hall of Famer, traded straight up for Okaro White. Crazy. Yet to be seen how the Heat will adjust to such a ball-dominant player, but trust Erik Spoelstra to figure it out. Don’t be surprised if this pushes the Heat into a top three seed in the East.

That’s pretty much it. Aside from the Cavs completely blowing it up, not a ton of trades, and certainly none involving the elite players. No Tyreke Evans trade, no DeAndre Jordan trade, Lou Williams re-signed. Warriors, Rockets, and Celtics stand pat. LeBron didn’t waive his no-trade clause. The Lakers cleared out cap space to sign LeBron Paul George next year. Gonna be an exciting end of the season, and you can be sure the Cleveland drama is far from over.

The Eagles Being Obsessed with LeBron vs. MJ Has Me More Confident in the Patriots than Ever


source– The Philadelphia Eagles watch tape and look at statistics. They check for tendencies, scout the advanced numbers, see how things change when the fourth quarter comes around. And they do it all in order to prepare for … near-daily locker-room arguments about LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

“Heated. Heated, every single time,” said wide receiver Torrey Smith. “We come with stats. This is not just barbershop talk—I have looked up statistics plenty of times. The numbers favor my argument—he’s better in every single category except points per game. LeBron makes his teammates better, he plays on worse teams, and obviously he’s made it to a lot of Finals, even if he doesn’t win them all.”

When I visited the Eagles locker room during the regular season, I saw the arguments in action. I asked if the Eagles argued about hoops often, and I was told no—they just argue about Jordan vs. LeBron, nearly every day. As James continues to contend for MVPs and NBA titles well into his 30s, the debate has developed into an international hot topic. Prince Harry discussed it with Barack Obama—who is on Jordan’s side, though that may have something to do with his Chicago sports fandomPretty much every player in the NBA, past or present, has weighed in by now. NFL locker rooms are fairly boring places, but I have not seen a non-football argument as intense and involved as this one.

Alright, I keep saying it, but the buildup to this Super Bowl has been capital b Boring. I’m searching high and low for anything at all to talk about. I’m leaving no stone unturned and working my fingers to the bone trying to find an NFL storyline. Yeah, I could talk Alex Smith, but who cares? (On the surface it’s a fine, intermediary move for a solid QB, but signing him to 4 years $71 million guaranteed is a startlingly bad decision) All I want to do is discuss the greatness of the Patriots, but there’s just nothing new. I was about to just write “Why Tom Brady Should Win MVP, part 2.” But then this story came to my attention, and I might as well just start typing up the celebratory “Pats Win the Super Bowl Yet Again,” because there’s NO CHANCE the Patriots are going to lose to a team so concerned with debating MJ-LeBron.

Here’s where all the football purists and old school talking heads are nodding in agreement. “Yes, no one can win if you aren’t taking football 100% seriously 100% of the time. No distractions allowed.” That’s not what I’m saying. It’s good for players to have outside interests; conversations like this can build camaraderie and don’t affect practicing at all (although it’s not a coincidence you never hear about Pats’ players getting into these debates, hmmmmm). The real reason I’d be shaking in my boots if I was an Eagles’ fan is the fact that they’re still debating Mj vs. LeBron! That’s a 2016-17 argument. No one cares anymore, or, more specifically, no one cares in the months outside of May-July. The Patriots are at the forefront of the NFL. Every cutting edge scheme, every revolutionary strategy, the Pats not only have it mastered but they’ve mastered how to counteract it. And they’re playing a team who’s main concern is a debate from 8 months ago? Yikes. The Pats are all about the future and going forward. The Eagles are stuck in the past. Progress stops for no man, folks, and it would seem the Patriots are clearly going to be on the right side of history. I wonder when the Eagles will start asking how many holes a straw has. Next training camp? Maybe not until preseason. By then the Pats will have set their sights on number 7. It really just sums up the difference between the two franchises. What else can you expect out of a team from Philadelphia, though? Always five steps behind.

2018 NBA All Star Reserves


First off, I’d like to make it known that I am battling what appears to be the onset of a pretty nasty cold/flu, so it’s courageous that I’m even writing this at all. It’s true that not all heroes wear capes, because I’m certainly not sporting anything resembling one. Whatever- as we all know, pain is just weakness leaving the body. Better to get this sickness out of the way now so I come out of the woods stronger for the Super Bowl and All Star Weekend. Speaking of All Star Weekend, after last Thursday’s All Star starter revelation, the reserves are being announced tonight. I made my starter picks on Thursday as well, and keen-eyed readers will notice that I did not, in fact, get them 100% correct. I’m not too beat up about it since, in my mind, Embiid and Cousins were locks to make the team, anyway. So as long as my two guys still make it, the NBA can consider it water under the bridge. But, in the immortal words of Stephen A. Smith, you don’t want to make an enemy out of me. Put in Horford and Towns or else! Anyway, here are the only legitimate selections for the All Star reserves in 2017-18.


  • Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers– I imagine he’s got Most Improved locked up already, and well deserved. He’s singlehandedly made the Pacers decent (which, depending on your point of view, could actually be a bad thing), and could easily have been named a starter. He’s a stone cold lock.
  • Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors– I get that no one takes the Human Peach Emoji or the Raptors seriously, but there’s a reason they have the second best record in the conference. Yes, DeRozan is their best player, but Lowry is just as important. He’s one of the best point guard defenders in the league, knocks down 3s, is a tough rebounder, and just generally makes the team better. I’m not saying they’ll make the Finals or anything, but the 6 deserves two All Stars again.
  • Al Horford, Boston Celtics– Already covered.
  • Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks– He’s been iiiicccccccccceee cold lately, but the body of work is still there. Finally freed from the shackles of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps became the number one option on a team devoid of scoring. His field goal percentage isn’t great, but he’s also the only guy on the team that can even come close to creating their own shot on a regular basis. He also leads the league in blocks and is a 7’3″ person who handles the ball and shoots 3s. Plus, there would be a riot in New York if he wasn’t named.
  • Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons– I get that the team is terrible, but every East team is terrible so it’s okay. Drummond leads the league in rebounding and brought his free throw shooting from “worst in the history of basketball” to “just plain bad,” which means he can actually play the whole game now. Going back to the rebounding, I feel like everyone is just glossing over the fact that he’s getting 15 a game. 15 a game is pretty darn impressive, and the fact that he has to play with Reggie Jackson shouldn’t be held against him. Also, I don’t know if you knew this, but I went to UConn. At the same time as Drummond. It’s almost like we’re friends.
  • Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards– With John Wall having an injury-plagued and weirdly lethargic season, Beal finally makes his All Star debut after a couple years of being left on the outside looking in. Listen, the Wizards stink and I’m glad they stink, but don’t blame Beal. He’s been filling it up all season and playing better D than he ever has. He’s shooting a bizarrely low percentage from 3 for a guy with one of the three most perfect jumpers in the league, but that can’t keep him out.
  • Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers– If I could name Erik Spoelstra or the Heat’s Miami Vice jerseys to the team, I would. The Heat piecing together a top-4 record on the strength of a bunch of weird lineups and grit is one of the best stories of the year, but I just can’t see them having an All Star. Goran Dragic comes closest, but his numbers aren’t even his career best. So, I decided to give it to Simmons, because why the hell not? It’d be more fun to have another freak athlete generational passer in the game. He’s a rookie averaging 16-8-7. I’d call that pretty decent.


  • Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder– It’s somehow gone under the radar that he’s almost averaging a triple double again this season.
  • Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors– Second greatest shooter of all time having his best shooting season? Yes please.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves– Already covered.
  • Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors– Yes, all four Warriors make it. That’s what happens when you’re one of the greatest teams of all time. The reigning DPOY should probably win it again this year, and he’s the Warriors best passer. You don’t have to like him, but you have to respect him.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs– Somehow the Spurs keep on keeping on, and Aldridge turning back into Blazers Aldridge is the biggest non-Pop reason. He’s tying the highest offensive rating of his career and is in the middle of the West’s best defense. Without Kawhi, Aldridge is the annual Spurs representative.
  • Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves– I know I was staunchly anti-Jimmy in the offseason, but that was only in regards to the Celtics selling the farm to acquire him. But as long as a different team went all in on him, I like him. And, so far, I’d have to say the Wolves are pretty happy with their investment. He’s just a junkyard dog on both ends of the floor. I think he could play 3 games in one day. He’s changed the proverbial culture in Minnesota.
  • Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder– Apologies to Damian Lillard, who I genuinely feel bad for. If he was in the East or born five years earlier or later he’d have a million All Star and All NBA appearances, but, alas, he’s stuck being the fifth best guard in the West. He might make the team this year, but I like George. He’s shooting a career high 3 point percentage and, in my opinion, has been the best perimeter defender in the league this season. Aside from his low field goal percentage, PG can claim the prestigious honor of being the only player Russell Westbrook has ever made better.

NBA All Star Starters Are Announced Tonight


So either they moved the date up to coincide with the earlier start of the season or I’m just getting old and senile and can’t remember things anymore, but it feels like they’re announcing the All Star Starters at least a week earlier than they normally do. Either way, it’s happening tonight. After years of stupefying fan voting results that drew a line in the sand between people saying “it’s a game for the fans, who cares?” and people with brains who pointed out that they use All Star Game starts and appearances when building Hall of Fame cases, so maybe it’s not a good thing that Yao is leading the fan voting after playing five games, the league finally scaled back the weight of fan votes and gave the players and coaches a say, too. And, of course, there’s this year’s new format: no more East vs. West. The top vote-getters from each conference will select their squads from the pool of All Stars (selected in the same process as always), with the voted-on Starters being divided equally to ensure that they, you know, start. In an atypically head-scratching move from the usually savvy NBA, the All Star draft won’t be televised. Huh? What’s the point of the draft if you can’t see it happening live? How is the NBA seriously going to pass up this chance for some easy ratings? If you got all the All Stars in a room and had (presumably) LeBron and Steph go back and forth taking guys, you’re telling me nothing TV-worthy would happen? What if Steph rigs it so LeBron has to pick Kyrie? Will Westbrook try and persuade his captain to avoid KD? Who’s getting picked last? If the NBA made this pay-per-view I wouldn’t hesitate to hand the NBA a blank check. Not televising this is an NHL-level move. Such a wasted opportunity, and it doesn’t sound like Adam Silver is in any hurry to change it. SMH. Anyway, here’s who should (not who will, but who should) be named as the ten starters tonight.


  • Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics– The good thing about doing this is that the cases for who should be starting pretty much build themselves. Kyrie’s numbers are pretty much the same as last year’s, but if you actually watch the Celtics play you know he’s gotten better. He’s trying on defense, meshing well in a new offense, and is always money in the clutch. He’s lead the Celtics to the best record in the East and will undoubtedly get voted as a starter.
  • DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors– If you told me in 2010 that DeMar DeRozan was about to be named to his fourth All Star Game, I would have said you were crazy. Guy just keeps getting better. His playmaking is at an all time high and he’s raised his 3-point shooting from Tony Allen level to “at least pretend to guard him out there,” which is a bigger leap than you might think. Raptors look better than ever, which means their playoff loss will be more disappointing than ever.
  • LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers– Is this guy any good?
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks– I’m lot lying when I say I spelled his name right on the first try and I’m very proud of it. For all the talk of “once he gets a jumper, watch out,” it’s beginning to look like he may not even need one.
  • Al Horford, Boston Celtics– I know I’m a homer, but Al deserves it. The haters and losers will say he’s only averaging 13 and 8, but they’re ignoring the career-best 3-point percentage and over 5 assists per game. He’s the ultimate glue player. Actually, he’s not even a glue guy. He’s like an epoxy guy. He fills in all the gaps for the East’s best team on offense and defense. He makes the offense go with his passing, positioning, and efficient shooting, and is the anchor of the conference’s stingiest defense. I’m sure Embiid will get the vote, and he certainly deserves a roster spot, but I think Horford has done enough as the most important player on the best team to earn a start.


  • Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors– I feel like people forget how good Steph is. If he makes his next five shots he’ll be at 50-40-90 for the season, and since he returned from injury he’s been scorching-magma hot. There are people who don’t think he’s one of the five best players in the league, remember that.
  • James Harden, Houston Rockets– So tempting to put Lou Williams here, but as long as Harden is healthy, the spot’s his. He’s played 35 games compared to 42+ for everyone else and is still third in the league in total points and shooting career high percentages from the field.
  • Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors– Absurdly efficient and one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year? Yikes.
  • Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans– You could really take either one of the Pelicans’ Big 2 here and I’d be fine with it, but I think Davis is just a little better. He’s scoring at will, ruthlessly efficient, and is third in the league in blocks. Plus, no one puts up absurd statlines quite like AD.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves– Absolutely impossible pick. Splitting the thinnest of hairs. I could easily be talked into putting Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, or Draymond Green in over Towns, but, in my mind, KAT is still the number one pick in the “what young player would you build around” draft. He’s had one of the greatest starts to a career (offensively) of any big guy ever, and he has a career high offensive rating this year. He’s absurd. You know what else is absurd? He’s playing solid defense now, too. Jimmy Butler is rightly getting a lot of credit for turning the Wolves into a top four team in the West, but Towns continuing to evolve and improve is the real driving force behind the team. Put him in the All Star Game, already!

I’m Addicted to NBA Fights


If, for whatever reason, you don’t spend every night of the week watching NBA games and going on Twitter to talk about what’s happening like I do, there’s a decent chance you’ve missed some incredible, iiiinnnnncredddibllllllllllle stuff over the last two nights. First you had the amazing Rockets-Clippers game (on MLK Day, no less!) that somehow went from Austin Rivers talking trash to no one in particular while wearing street clothes on the bench to Chris Paul leading Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green down secret tunnels in the Staples Center trying to bust into the Clippers locker room and fight everybody. It still doesn’t seem real. The L.A.P.D. was called!

Then, the very next night, this happens:

Absolutely preposterous scene in Orlando. I think it would have taken me a million years to guess Aaron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica if you told me to name the two most random guys to ever get into a fight. I have no idea what Afflalo thought was going to happen. Bjelica is like six inches taller than him and makes him look like a little boy. Might have actually been a genius move on his part, though. I can’t tell you the last time I thought about Aaron Afflalo, but now I can’t think about anyone else. I guarantee other teams are thinking that, too. “It’s almost the All Star Break, time to shake things up and make some trades. We really need a shooting guard whose primary offense is posting up then taking 19-foot turnarounds and someone to add some edge come playoff time. I thought we were out of luck, but now the only option is Aaron Afflalo!” Watch, someone will trade for him now. Probably the Knicks or Kings. And just one week ago, we had this fight:

You know how you can tell James Johnson, second degree black belt, is the most feared player in the NBA? Absolutely NO ONE wanted to get in the middle of that. Do you know how quickly NBA fracases get broken up? Most last a millisecond. But when James Johnson is involved everyone just waits for someone else to make the first move. The poor ref had to try and drag Johnson away. The Raptors are lucky Serge Ibaka can handle himself, because I’ve never seen anyone get thrown to the wolves that badly.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I can go back to nights where fights don’t happen. I need the rush. I’m addicted to watching two guys yell at each other for a while, maybe push each other, maybe someone throws a punch if we’re really lucky, then get held back and ejected. The ones this year have felt so real and so intense that I can’t imagine enjoying an NBA game that doesn’t have a fight. The thrill of seeing the first video someone tweets out of a fight on a random night of NBA games is unmatched, and I’m not prepared to live in a world where it doesn’t happen every night. They say too much of anything is a bad thing, and to them I would say watch the Malice at the Palace video and try not going down a wormhole of NBA fight videos. Someone get Perk back in the league. Call up Metta World Peace. Is Bruce Bowen too old to step underneath jumpshooters and start a brawl? Tell Steven Adams to go back to the way he was in the beginning of his career when he wasn’t good so he just agitated everyone. Give me more NBA fights. I need more NBA fights. And Cavs locker room drama doesn’t count!

Still the most underrated fight ever:

Is Having a Huge Lead the Worst Thing That Can Ever Happen to a Sports Team in 2018?


In the moments after Sunday’s stupefyingly exciting NFL playoff games, I was searching for a take to throw out there in the coming days. Most NFL weekends I kind of just let breathe until the next one, since usually nothing crazy happens and I already told you everything that would happen beforehand in my weekly picks. But I knew this weekend was different. Too many crazy finishes, too much drama. I couldn’t just recap the games, that’d be boring and pointless. So what should I talk about? I was ready to just scrap it and move on to something else when it hit me: in 2018, having a huge lead at any point in the game is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a team. And to be clear I’m not talking about something like the Titans taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter against the Pats or the Twins going up 3-0 in the top of the first in the Wild Card game against a superior Yankees team. Early leads like that come and go all the time. I’m talking about the games where one team looks like they’re playing a completely different sport than the other. The ones that are over at the half. The ones where the announcers are warming up their garbage time material. The ones where the comeback is so obvious that anyone could see it coming, but everyone is still somehow caught off guard. They’ve become practically commonplace.

Think about what we’ve seen in the last few years: Vikings were up 17 at the half and it felt like 700. If it weren’t for the worst defensive gaffe of all time they would have lost. Jags were up 21-0 and were dying to give it away, and probably would have if Mike Tomlin wasn’t an IDIOT. The Titans looked worse in the first half against Kansas City than they did at any point against the Pats and they made that comeback look easy. I guess last year’s Super Bowl counts. College sports are a different animal, but Georgia had the least convincing two score lead of all time and predictably blew it. Penn State was passing out Rose Bowl Champion shirts on the sideline before Sam Darnold’s one good game. The Clippers had historic collapses against the Rockets and Warriors. PSG’s unbelievable-but-totally-believable loss to Barcelona in the Champions League. Yankees erased a 2-0 series lead against the Indians, then blew a 3-2 lead in the very next round. People forget that the Warriors, Thunder, and Indians blew 3-1 leads in the same year. Teams just flat out refuse to close out leads these days, and it’s starting to get easier and easier to spot.

First off, and not to always bring things back to my privileged life as a Pats fan, but obviously certain teams are exempt from this. The Pats would literally never blow a massive lead in a playoff game. Spurs usually squeeze the life out of teams and don’t allow comebacks in games where their best player doesn’t get hurt. Baseball is too unpredictable to always avoid blowing the occasional lead, but the good teams usually can. That’s really the crux of things, if we’re being honest- all the teams that blow these leads are either actually inferior or believe they’re inferior. No one on the planet thought the Titans were better than the Chiefs, but the Chiefs get paralyzed by success. They want to be the victim so they clam up. Same with the Vikings. The Vikings get into their own heads trying to finally win that big game, so they just start panicking. The Jags aren’t supposed to beat a team like the Steelers, so when the Steelers score a touchdown the Jags, despite what Jalen Ramsey would like you to believe, start questioning things. They were lucky Blake Bortles and Tomlin bailed them out. It’s happened against the Pats a million times. There have been so many comebacks that teams create a self-fulfilling prophecy when they get a lead because all they can think about is how to avoid being the next team to blow a lead.

They’re so easy to predict now, too. In football, if a team is down 21-0 but scores at the end of the half and opens the half by either getting the ball back or forcing a 3-and-out, the leading team goes away from what got them the lead, playing soft defense meant to limit big plays and not make mistakes, next thing you know you’re wondering how you blew that big lead. In basketball, if you take ten points off the lead in the third quarter, you better believe the team in front is going to start passing the ball around, trying not to be the guy that has to shoot, trying not to turn it over, trying not to make the big mistake, then you look up and people are clowning you on Twitter for blowing a bigger lead than the Warriors. Baseball is almost the most obvious because it’s so clear when the pitcher wants no part of the game. One guy gets rocked, put in the next reliever who gets lit up, and now it’s a train of middle relief that’s dying not to be the guy that blows it. And literally any college sport if a team has a huge lead but gives up two unanswered scores it’s pretty much over. The signs are so easy to spot yet people are still caught off guard. If I were a coach, I’d recognize right away if my team had Loser DNA and try to counteract it. “We have a two score lead in the fourth quarter, I’m not going to run prevent defense and I think I’ll call plays that have a chance of picking up 4-5 yards every time to take the pressure off my terrible quarterback.” “Boy, how should I protect this 10 point lead with five minutes left? Perhaps I’ll keep my gameplan the same since that’s what gave us the lead and it’s a good thing I had the foresight to practice what to do against a full court press so my team doesn’t start running around like a chicken with their head cut off.” “Maybe I won’t put my season in the hands of a reliever with a career ERA of over 5.” Somehow professional coaching staffs don’t know how to prevent these things, which just proves that Loser DNA is real. Some teams are just destined to blow leads and never win. Loser DNA is going to make its presence felt this weekend in a big way. For who? Well, you’ll have to tune in on Friday to find out. That’s what they call a tease in the biz. Just like the fleeting feeling of pride you get when you think the team you like is about to win the big game by a million points. These days, it’s safer to just assume they won’t.