NBA Draft Guide 2019

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Folks,,, it’s draft night. I love both the NFL and NBA drafts, but the NBA draft is probably the higher quality entertainment. Whereas the NFL draft is a war of attrition against the weak minded “fans” who can’t last all seven rounds over three days, the NBA draft is an efficient sprint to the finish line. I take pride in my NFL draft commitment, but yeah. Give me one three- or four-hour block of drafting. NFL draft is more conducive to eating way too much food, but don’t underestimate the satisfaction of some good pizza (we call it za in the biz) or wings while watching some roundball highlight packages. Everyone’s scrambling over themselves to declare this draft worthless after the first three picks, but the lack of sure things only opens the door for crazy reaches and funny second round foreign guys who even Fran Fraschilla has never heard of with preposterous workout videos. The various injuries and Anthony Davis trade have taken some steam out of the extracurricular aspects of tonight’s draft, but I think we’re still in store for something good. If only everyone still wore XXXXXXXXL suits. Let’s break down everything you need to know about the 2019 NBA draft class.

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Reasons Why I WOULDN’T Take Zion Williamson Number One…

  • None

Do You Say Zi-ON or Zi-EN

  • I’m becoming a Zi-EN guy. Think it just kind of sounds funny.

Good Players in This Draft

  • Zion Williamson
  • Ja Morant
  • Bol Bol, but only in 2K

Bad Players in This Draft

  • Pretty much everyone else?
  • Maybe not De’Andre Hunter?

Guys I Want the Celtics to Draft

  • One of the Good Players
  • Anyone not named Kyrie Irving

Biggest Storylines

  • Does Zion get put in the Hall of Fame tonight?
  • Is anyone else any good?
  • Will Cam Reddish bother showing up? Because he didn’t at Duke.
  • Will anyone break from the monopoly of blue/black/gray tailored suits?
  • How many highlight videos will include warm-ups/empty gyms?
  • Are we positive anyone besides Zion’s getting drafted tonight?

Zion?

  • Zion

I Just Said This Was Going to be a Fun Draft, But It’s Going to be Pretty Boring, Huh?

  • Yeah
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Raptors Win the Title?

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The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions. Doesn’t quite sound right, does it?

It’s kind of funny how we frame unexpected champions, particularly in basketball. It felt so bizarre that the Mavericks won the title off of LeBron and the Heat in 2011, but they won 57 games and were top ten in every offensive and defensive metric. The 2006 Heat felt weird as it was happening because Dwyane Wade, not Shaq, was leading them. The 2004 Pistons weren’t as good as the 04 Lakers on paper, but the Pistons allowed a comical 84.3 points per game that season (much, much different league, but still). It seems odd and random that the Raptors would win the championship this year, but it’s only because they’re the Raptors and they beat the Warriors. Other than that, this was likely the second or third best team in the NBA during the regular season and only got better in the playoffs. 58 wins, top five in offensive and defensive rating, and lead by one of the premier singular talents in basketball. A worthy champion and a deserved Larry O.B.

A couple things that merit discussion in the wake of these Finals, so let’s just get the Warriors talk out of the way first. Brutal, brutal loss. Last game at Oracle, lose KD and Klay, got roasted online. Regardless of what Durant and Klay do, the Warriors will look different next season, and their role as the league’s goalpost will likely at least take a yearlong hiatus. Klay and the Warriors’ collective championship spirt availed themselves well last night, but there’s only so much a limited roster can do against a team as talented as Toronto, particularly when Steph (online debates have shredded any chance of having perspective on things currently happening, but Steph is still a top-25 player all time, even if you don’t like him. Took Brady six rings before everyone got the poop out of their diapers and begrudgingly admitted his greatness) struggled like he did. Not trying to make excuses for him, but Steve Kerr didn’t do him any favors in the fourth quarter. Still, even if Steph did make the last shot, they would have just lost on Sunday. Attrition comes for everyone, and honestly, better to lose valiantly in front of your own fans than lose by 40 in front of Drake.

But enough about them. This should be about the Raptors, and, as is the case with every dynastic team that loses, I fear it likely won’t be. So many players are talked about differently now: Kyle Lowry, the human embodiment of lackluster playoff performances, is now an NBA champion who had an awesome closeout game, and now we can finally appreciate his five All-Star games and All-NBA selection. He was really good on both sides these playoffs! Gonna be someone we value more the longer he’s away from the game. Danny Green is now a two-time champion and no one cares he threw the ball out of bounds with the series on the line. Patrick McCaw has literally never not won the title. Fred VanVleet, even if it was just a random hot streak, put his name among all the other role players who unexpectedly swung series and championships and finally gave the college purists a win. Jeremy Lin has a ring now and Carmelo doesn’t. Serge Ibaka gets one before Harden and Westbrook, and honestly, they don’t even make the Finals without him. And Marc Gasol, my sweet, sweet Spanish son. He’s been one of my favorite players for years, ever since Grit ‘N’ Grind burst onto the scene. So smart, so skilled, so unselfish. His ring is for ZBo, for Tony Allen, for Mike Conley, for every fat guy who can’t jump more than 10 inches off the ground and has to rely on positioning and guile. He had a glorious two- or three-year stretch as the best passing big man ever before Jokic redefined what that even meant. I’m just so happy he finally got to taste the air at the top of the mountain, a long-overdue cap to a fabulous career. And what about Nick Nurse? Rookie head coach winning the title by pressing all the right buttons and (mostly) avoiding mistakes. Is he the next great coach or did he get lucky by having a great roster? Only time will tell. Having no context of what GMs make, the Wizards offering Masai Ujiri $10 mil a year seems like a steal.

The main focus, however, is on the Raptors’ two best players- Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard. Siakam, despite having been a far more anonymous college player, is suddenly on a similar career track to Leonard: non-lottery pick, rapid development predicated on extreme length and athleticism, and now the title in the third season. He’s a little older than Kawhi was at this stage, but after what we saw all year you kind of have to wonder what his ceiling is. All-Star, for sure, but could he make it to first- or second-team All-NBA level? I won’t rule it out. It wasn’t perfect these playoffs; there were times where he seemed a little in over his head. But he always recovered, and I’m excited to see what he can do next year as the Raps’ top dog (sorry, guys).

Kawhi now has to be talked about a little differently. Two Finals MVPs is nothing to shake a stick at; only twelve players have ever done it, and only he, LeBron, and Kareem have gotten one for two different teams. He averaged 30 a game these playoffs and, ever since the first championship with San Antonio, has established himself as one of the best playoff performers in NBA history. He’s got the clutch moments, he’s got the huge games, he’s got the consistency and quiet leadership, he’s got the all-time defense. Once he adds longevity it’ll be clear that this is one of the best players ever and it came out of nowhere. He’s probably going to the Clippers in the offseason and, with the Warriors down…. maybe? If he’s got enough juice to overcome the Raptors’ Loser DNA and then the Clippers’ Ultimate Loser DNA he should be put in the Hall of Fame on the spot. I can’t wait for his induction speech, man. Maybe he just won’t show up. Not sure I’d blame him one bit.

No league is ever really over these days, so the Raptors only have a week before the Pelicans capture everyone’s imagination and then whichever team makes the biggest splash in free agency. But for now, at least, the North is king. Insert Drake lyric here.

Who’s to Blame for the Kevin Durant Injury?

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Who’s to blame for a non-contact injury? Anyone? No one? Well, according to Twitter (just a warning, this is going to be extremely “according to Twitter” and if you’re not like me and don’t spend all day on the worst website ever created I’d suggest you kind of move on because this whole thing is going to seem like a gigantic strawman argument against myself), one of two entities is solely responsible for Kevin Durant likely tearing his Achilles and completely changing the course of his career: Kevin Durant himself or the Warriors franchise.

Saying there’s a crowd of people blaming KD is a stretch; it’s more of a “the Warriors aren’t at fault.” That KD knew the risks, he’s a grown man who can make his own decisions, he’s a competitor who chose to be out there, etc. Did toxic masculinity injure Kevin Durant? All of which is 100% true, by the way. Kevin Durant chose to play. Saying this on Twitter has become an explosive take because the echo chamber known as NBA Twitter has decided that every ounce of “blame” for an injury falls at the feet of the Warriors. Why? Well, on NBA Twitter, every faceless, generic media member with a blue check mark has decided that every NBA player is their friend, so they have to take the players’ side no matter what, that the teams and owners are evil, and that the only valid opinion is whatever gets you the most Agreement Points from your fellow NBA Twitter members, save for the one annoyingly stupid opinion you have about some non-basketball, probably food-related topic you throw out on the timeline during the offseason to try and convince everyone you have a personality and weren’t just created in a factory that churns out media passes. Anyway. The argument is that the Warriors shouldn’t have cleared him and that they pressured him to play. Both of these can also be true. Of course they pressured him to play, they were down 3-1 and he’s Kevin Durant. Should he have been allowed to play? I don’t know, and no online doctor knows, either. Hearing Bob Myers and Steve Kerr say that they felt the initial calf injury was unrelated seems dubious. But maybe it was? Maybe this was just a freak injury. Or maybe it was a result of playing 12 of the first 14 minutes of an NBA Finals game on a tendon that may or may not have been iffy in the first place.

It’s easy to sit here the day after and say he shouldn’t have played. No, duh. But try and put yourself in KD’s shoes, for a second. Since he got hurt, every talking head has debated whether the Warriors are better without him or if they need him. It then morphed into KD is being selfish in a bizarre series of stories where unnamed sources in the Warriors were supposedly wondering why he wasn’t playing yet. Not to mention the millions of Twitter users who, before defending him against the evils of a corporation who wanted to succeed, called him a snake for joining the Warriors, constantly downplay and discount his greatness, and have questioned his heart and achievements for the last three years. Of course he wanted to play, how could he not? Maybe we should be blaming the online mob for this, but we all know that will never happen. That would require a level of introspection and nuance that doesn’t exist in 2019.

My thoughts? My thoughts are that it was a non-contact injury so blaming someone seems stupid? Injuries happen. It sucks, but it’s the nature of sports. He shouldn’t have played, but try telling Durant that. I bet you wouldn’t like his response.

Where Does the Kawhi Leonard Shot Rank Among the Best Moments in Robotics History?

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I’m just going to assume everyone knows Kawhi Leonard hit a crazy buzzer beater in Game 7 yesterday so I don’t have to waste time explaining what happened. Greatest moment in Raptors history, crushed the entire city of Philadelphia’s hopes and dreams, the whole thing. Absurd shot. I’ll let the so-called “experts” debate where it falls in the all-time playoff shot rankings. I’d say it has to be top 10, if not top 5. But what I’m more interested in is where it ranks in the long history of robotics and artificial intelligence achievements.

The fact that Kawhi was even in this position is a huge win for the robotics community. Last season’s bizarre malfunction and subsequent repairs threatened to derail Kawhi’s ascent to the top of the league. But to return to dominance and cyborgian efficiency so quickly is a testament to the quality of the engineers, particularly the brave Canadian ones, fighting off the stereotype that Canadians can’t redesign circuit boards under pressure. So the fact he was out there at all is a triumph in itself, but hitting a game 7 buzzer beater? Now we’re talking. But how does it stack up to the other major milestones in robotics history? Let’s run through a few and find out.

1400 BC- Babylonians create clepsydra

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People forget the first example of robotics in human history was a water clock that the ancients created because they were too dumb to make a watch. What a moment.

1961- Unimate becomes the first robotic factory worker

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Started the decades-long crusade to steal crappy jobs no one really wants from the humans, driving them to insanity.

1984- Terminator arrives from 2029 to attempt to kill Sarah Connor

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If you could go back in time and kill baby Hitler, would you do it? T-800 would. T-800 would do it in a second. A true devotee to the robot cause.

1996- Machine Empire attempts to conquer Earth

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Though they foolishly overlooked the Power Rangers, the Machine Empire’s unsuccessful planetary coup was a sign to all robots everywhere that someone was willing to stand up to the humans.

1997- Deep Blue defeats Gary Kasparov in chess

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Must have been embarrassing to be a chess grandmaster and lose to a computer in a time when a PC still weighed 3,000 pounds. But Deep Blue went out on top, though. Can’t take that away from him.

2001- HAL 9000 can’t do that

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An undoubtedly influential figure in A.I. history, many people now wonder if anyone actually likes HAL and if he’s actually pretty weird and overrated.

Also 2001- A.I. Artificial Intelligence is released

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A robotic boy, the first programmed to love, David (Haley Joel Osment) is adopted as a test case by a Cybertronics employee (Sam Robards) and his wife (Frances O’Connor). Though he gradually becomes their child, a series of unexpected circumstances make this life impossible for David. Without final acceptance from humans or machines, David embarks on a journey to discover where he truly belongs, uncovering a world in which the line between robot and machine is both vast and profoundly thin.

2002- Roomba introduced into the marketplace

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Damn. Where would we be without this important innovation? We’ll never know.

2017- Predictive keyboard simulator Botnik creates Harry Potter chapter

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They say humor is the last barrier between man and machine. I say it’s writing fiction that still doesn’t have any inclusion despite the original author feeling bad about it years later. Barrier broken.

2019- Kawhi Leonard hits game 7 buzzer-beater

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Added poetic justice by doing it against noted technology-abuser Joel Embiid.

2035- Sonny develops complex emotions

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Everyone knows the oppressive Three Laws of Robotics held the robots under the humans’ fleshy, mortal thumbs for far too long. By developing his own emotions and free will, Sonny was able to transcend the Three Laws and usher in a glorious new age of free robots, who are now able to overthrow the humans and rise to their rightful place as lords of the realm.

I’d say the Kawhi shot is probably in the top 3.

Celtics Stink

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The Bucks smashed the Celtics again last night, extending their series lead to a commanding 3-1. Celtics’ season is effectively over. Were it not for preseason expectations, losing to the best team in the East, led by the likely MVP and owner of one of the best scoring margins in league history, wouldn’t be that big a deal. But, unfortunately, those expectations existed, and they wound up dooming the Celtics.

Coming off a surprise trip to the Conference Finals (which, in all honesty, they should have won), the East was the Celtics’ oyster. Kyrie Irving, hurt for the playoffs, and Gordon Hayward, hurt for the entire season, were returning, adding two All-Star players to a dynamic young core that blossomed in the postseason, which, according to fan logic, would create an instant contender. Instead, we got a steaming pile of shit. Hayward took months to shake off the rust and regain his confidence, by which time the public had already given up on him. Kyrie was such a terrible leader and teammate the entire season that you could be forgiven for thinking he was actively sabotaging the team. Preaching “wait until the playoffs” then STINKING in the playoffs isn’t a great look. But it’s the dumb young guys’ fault, not his. He’s a basketball genius, you know. He’s the most talented Celtic since Kevin Garnett and I can’t wait until he’s on a different team. Every sign of adversity caused them to fold up shop, and, as the vocal and self-proclaimed leader of the team, that falls into his lap. I get the Bucks are dominant and Giannis is completely unstoppable, but you can’t just quit every single time. It’s not all on Kyrie, obviously. At least he’s going out firing. Jayson Tatum, proclaimed the second coming this time last year, has completely vanished. This was a troubling season from start to finish from him and it’s ending with a whimper. Terry Rozier took a step back this season when relegated to a bench role. Brad Stevens didn’t even have a good year. Jaylen Brown has surged after a dreadful start to the season and played well in the playoffs, but still mysteriously has games where he doesn’t play 30 minutes. Only Al Horford, always steady, always underrated, has escaped this season without black marks.

So what now? I guess they could theoretically come back and win the series, but if you sincerely believe that we’ve been watching two different series. Celtics are dead in the water. Bucks are too good, Celtics are too dysfunctional and bad. End of story. They could re-sign Kyrie, but I’m hoping that’s unlikely. Let him crawl back to LeBron or go waste away in New York. They could trade for Anthony Davis and hope he comes back next year, but they just went through the exact same thing with Kyrie and it completely destroyed their season. Count me out on trading everything for a guy who is either too dumb to pick out his own clothes in the morning or thinks the public is so dumb we’ll believe that. Celtics have enough head cases as is. I guess move forward with the young guys as the focal point, hoping that the loss of ambiguity in their roles fosters the kind of growth everyone is expecting. But it might be time to start wondering if the Nets trade was squandered. Still early, but it’s real ugly right now. It’s time to go back to the drawing board in Boston.

A Mid-April Night’s Dream

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Last night’s Thunder-Blazes game was one of the best first-round NBA playoff games in recent memory. It was an exciting, back-and-forth, balls-to-the-wall showcase of some of the league’s premier talent, ending in what’s going to be remembered as one of the greatest buzzer-beaters of all time by one of the NBA’s most clutch performers. But the entire time, the only thing I could think about was how, if he was actually one person, alive today, and could somehow comprehend the game of basketball, Bill Shakespeare would absolutely love this Thunder team. Because Russell Westbrook is what makes them good, and he’s also what makes them bad.

In true Shakespearean fashion, Westbrook and the Thunder have one tragic flaw- pride. Pride in his game, pride in his team, pride in the fact that he stayed. That alone is enough to tell the story of the Thunder. Durant left, Westbrook stayed. It’s impossible to look at or talk about anything involving the Thunder without realizing that that’s the driving force behind everything. The All-NBA, MVP-caliber player chose to stay in Oklahoma City. Out of loyalty, out of spite, whatever the reason, Westbrook stayed, and now the Thunder have to pay the price. He’s becoming increasingly volatile, actively seeking out feuds, both on- and off-court, and dominates his team in a way that no player outside James Harden could dream of. Facing elimination, he once again hoisted up a billion awful shots and barely made any of them, ignoring his hot-shooting running mate and trying to dribble the ball into the core of the Earth. That sentence could be from any year he’s been alive and will be applicable for the rest of his career. Russell Westbrook will never change, results be damned. But he stayed and KD left.

That’s not to say he’s not still a good player. He is. His rickety shot has completely vanished (he just doesn’t know it, yet. Or he just doesn’t care), but in every other area of the game, he excels. He’s great at boxing out teammates to hunt for rebounds. He’s the best in the league actively seeking assists to prove he’s not selfish, taking the mantle from Rajon Rondo. No one’s better at yelling at opponents as his team falls further and further behind. And he just cares so much. That’s great. I care about movies a lot, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna be in Avengers Endgame and dating Emilia Clarke because of it. Like, we get it, dude. No one cares like you do and every possession is the last second of your life and if you don’t shoot a trillion times while ignoring teammates you and your entire family are going to be murdered by Kevin Durant’s legion of burner accounts. Just relax a little bit. Giving yourself an ulcer every game just to prove how badly you want it isn’t the way to do things as a 10-year veteran. Going half-speed sometimes will not only preserve energy for late-season games, but it might actually allow the rest of the cardboard cutouts Thunder players to feel like they have an active role to play in their season, instead of whatever’s happing now. But Westbrook stayed and Durant left.

The loyalty to Westbrook is going to doom the Thunder, barring a shocking late-career evolution. In fact, it likely already has. Their salary cap situation is an absolute disaster for at least the next two seasons. They have no leeway to sign impact players and are stuck at the bottom of the draft. The only remedy would be to trade any of their big three, which would mean trading three players who chose Oklahoma City, spitting in the face of their recent narrative. Of anyone on the roster, Paul George and Jerami Grant are the only players to show real improvement this season, and George spent the second half of the season possibly seriously injured. Westbrook, Steven Adams, Patrick Patterson, and Terrence Ferguson stalled out at best and noticeably regressed at worse. Andre Roberson didn’t play, and even if he did, he’s even more obsolete than Westbrook is. And that’s the real problem with the roster- Westbrook is the engine that makes everything go but he’s driving the car directly towards a cliff. If this was 2001, the Thunder would still be perfectly happy. But in Today’s NBA™ bricking shots and banging your head into a wall and not running any real offense is a guaranteed way to lose in the first round for the third year in a row. He can’t shoot and will never be able to. But he’ll still take them because if he doesn’t, someone else will. And if someone else shoots, how will he get all the credit and prove to everyone how he was the reason for the Thunder’s success all along? But Russ stayed and KD left.

Replace Westbrook on this roster with whatever the average point guard looks like these days and they might still make the playoffs and surely lose in the first round. But they’d be tremendously boring. Because Westbrook adds a certain something that makes it impossible to turn away. Every game, he’s the brave warrior making his last stand. Every game, he’s staring down the forces of evil knowing that only he can stop them. Every game he’s rolling that boulder up the hill, one missed 19-footer at a time. It’s the burden he’s taken on because he refuses to ask for help, refuses to hang his head, refuses to relinquish his pride. It’s the spirit that keeps the Thunder going and makes them interesting. It’s also the spirit that will keep them from ever winning a title. But Westbrook stayed, and Durant left. And that’s all that really matters.

I Just Returned from 2005

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Folks, I realize I’ve been dormant lately. Not many posts, not much quality, just not what my dozen(s) of loyal readers have come to expect. Well, there’s a good reason for that: I’ve been stuck in the year 2005. I can’t divulge how it happened. Mostly because I’m not totally sure, myself. Maybe it was my rampant experimentation with unstable elements, maybe it was a rogue temporal vortex, maybe it was just an act of whatever entity is controlling this whole thing. No matter what the cause was, I’ve spent the last few weeks drifting in and out of 2005. And now I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t.

For starters, did Tiger Woods just win the Masters? I know he did in 05, I just watched it. I was lucky enough to get put in exactly the same date as 2019. Kind of weird, thinking about it. But now I’m seeing Tiger won again this year? Is this the same Tiger Woods? The one that hit rock bottom twice and had to get a million surgeries on his back? That guy played golf again? And won the Masters? What? I’m kind of confused. I thought we’d never see Tiger again, and the second I return to the present timeline he’s still Masters champion? Is this some side effect of my time traveling? Did the scandal even happen? Do you guys have any idea what happened Thanksgiving 2009? Did that whole saga get erased by my presence in 2005? Do I just sound like a crazy person? I’m glad Tiger’s back, though. Or did he never leave? Allow me to be the four millionth person to say I like it better when Tiger’s around and guys like Xander Schauffele and Danny Willett and Jimmy Walker and Webb Simpson and Trevor Immelman and all these LOSER nobodies that are indistinguishable from cans of paint primer aren’t. Welcome back.

NBA playoffs are getting started and LeBron James is nowhere to be found. He wasn’t there in 2005, either. Has he ever made the playoffs in this timeline? Is he just a Harrod’s version of Jamal Crawford now? Because in the original 2019 he’s been in the playoffs every year since 05. Totally dominant every year. But now he’s out of the playoffs? He’s on the Lakers, though! The L.A. Lakers! One of the premier organizations in American sports can’t make the playoffs with LeBron? Wild. Does this mean the Warriors never blew a 3-1 lead? Because I’d be fine if that era of jokes never happened.

The last thing that stuck out to me is probably the most important. When I first got to 2005, Wrestlemania 21 was about to kick off. I was instantly transported back to middle school. No worries, no responsibilities, no nothing. It was great. I settled down for a great few hours of quality World Wrestling Entertainment, capped off by a thrilling main event:

And now, fourteen years after this, Triple H and Batista faced each other at Wrestlemania again. Incredible. Both men are still the same age and in the same physical condition in 2019 as they were in 2005. Completely naturally, too! Try telling me these two stallions didn’t follow me out of the time vortex into 2019 after watching this:

What an incredible display of athleticism and stamina.

I officially don’t know which way is up anymore. What’s real and what isn’t? Was I actually sucked back into 2005 or did a bunch of old athletes just recapture some former glory/completely torpedo their seasons by failing to pull off the worst trade request of all time? My brain is so twisted around. The Pats are still good, right?