A judge ruled the NFL should pay former players hundreds of millions of dollars for head injuries suffered on the field, but the players want more.The approved settlement was meant to compensate players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and other neurological disorders between 2006 and this July, according to The Guardian.The matter has the potential to deliver a devastating blow to the NFL, whose stock in the eyes of much of the public has begun to fall as the extent of player brain injuries becomes more well-known. Indeed, officials for youth football leagues have been reporting a drop in player enrollment.The financial settlements would help players currently experiencing symptoms of neurological disorders to pay for treatments or money would go to the families of former players who died from them.But the settlement is being criticized by some players who find the amount “insufficient” and because some players were not included.A federal judge yesterday listened to arguments addressing the players’ claims.U.S. Judge Anita Brody, who issued the preliminary approval in July, said she was skeptical that the fund would be enough to cover the potential neurological conditions of men who retired from the league. She initially rejected the NFL’s $765 million settlement in January due to the same skepticism. She was particularly concerned about the players who are diagnosed in the future that wouldn’t benefit from this settlement. She noted that the league would have to pay up to 20,000 men for 65 years, according to The Guardian.She agreed to the preliminary settlement after the NFL lifted its $675 million cap on payments.“Even if only 10 percent of retired NFL football players eventually receive a qualifying diagnosis, it is difficult to see how the monetary award fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels,” Brody wrote.The majority of players involved in the suit were okay with the terms of the settlement, but in October, at least 11 objections against the settlements were filed. The objecting players are contesting that the money is only being awarded to players who had CTE and died within a certain timeframe.A three-level system is considered when determining the how much is paid out. Players suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, would receive payments of $5 million. Those who showed signs of brain trauma or CTE when they died would receive up to $4 million and certain dementia cases could receive up to $3 million. Awards are adjusted for how long the player was in the league and age when diagnosed, according to The Guardian.Players that opt out can pursue individual lawsuits. The family of the late 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau opted out of the lawsuit. Seau was found to have CTE after he committed suicide in 2012.The NFL, which brings in an estimated $9 billion per year, has implemented new rules and penalties to try to discourage the helmet-to-helmet hits that are presumed to be responsible for the brain trauma experienced by former players. Players must go through extensive concussion protocols now before they can re-enter games after showing signs of a concussion.
There have been roughly 100 million males born in America in the past 50 years. Among that total, there appears to finally be one who can safely be called a legitimate international soccer star.Eighteen-year-old Christian Pulisic of the U.S. men’s national team scored twice on Thursday night in Colorado, lifting the USMNT to a critical World Cup qualifying win over Trinidad and Tobago. With the game tied 0-0 in the 52nd minute, Pulisic’s smart run and cool finish put the U.S. up a goal, and 10 minutes later the teenager slipped in behind the defense to double the lead. This has become typical for the Americans. Against Panama, Pulisic held off two defenders in the box to get free and feed Clint Dempsey for the USMNT’s lone goal. He scored one and assisted two in the 6-0 romp over Honduras. All told, over its crucial last three competitive matches, the U.S. has scored nine goals and Pulisic has scored or assisted six of them.1Sebastian Lletget’s goal against Honduras came from a rebound off a saved Pulisic attempt, and Dempsey scored a free kick after Pulisic won a foul, so you could count eight. Pulisic has been one of the best teenagers in Europe since 2010-11 Pulisic was one of the most dangerous players in Germany 11Salomon KalouHertha BSC0.210.190.40 82015-16Kingsley ComanBayern Munich0.51 5Emil ForsbergRB Leipzig0.180.430.61 15Thiago AlcantaraBayern Munich0.210.160.37 12016-17Ousmane DembeleBorussia Dortmund0.72 13Nicolai MullerHamburg0.260.130.39 122013-14Leon GoretzkaSchalke0.41 14Raphael GuerreiroBorussia Dortmund0.240.150.39 132012-13Raheem SterlingLiverpool0.41 8Christian PulisicBorussia Dortmund0.220.300.52 10Kerem DemirbayHoffenheim0.160.250.41 152010-11Jack WilshereArsenal0.37 22013-14Raheem SterlingLiverpool0.67 PLAYERCLUBGOALSASSISTSGOALS + ASSISTS 62015-16Leroy SaneSchalke0.52 2Ousmane DembeleBorussia Dortmund0.260.470.72 Statistics for the 2016-17 season.Source: OPTA The team that has never quite had a scoring force to build around now seems to have a one-man army. As a result, the USMNT has nearly climbed out of the hole it dug under former coach Jurgen Klinsmann when it lost its first two matches in the “Hex,” as the North and Central American qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup in Russia is known. With two wins and a draw in its last three qualifiers, the U.S. has raised its chances for making the tournament from 60 percent to 83 percent percent.Evidence of Pulisic’s quality is not limited to matches against Caribbean nations and middling Central American challengers. He has proved himself for German power Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. This past season, Pulisic scored four goals and assisted eight in the Bundesliga and Champions League. And there’s good reason to believe these numbers were no fluke or merely a function of a hot finishing run. By expected goals, a statistical estimate of the quality of scoring chances, Pulisic’s shots and passes created chances with an estimated value of roughly five expected goals (xG) and seven expected assists (xA). Among nonstrikers with at least 1,500 minutes played, Pulisic was eighth in the Bundesliga in xG + xA per 90 minutes, slightly behind Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa. 6Paul-Georges NtepWolfsburg0.250.280.54 9Marco FabianEintracht Frankfurt0.310.130.43 102015-16Julian BrandtBayer Leverkusen0.47 3Shinji KagawaBorussia Dortmund0.290.410.70 92013-14Bruno FernandesUdinese0.49 4Franck RiberyBayern Munich0.260.370.63 EXPECTED PER 90 MINS 52015-16Marco AsensioEspanyol0.52 142011-12Julian DraxlerSchalke0.39 72016-17Christian PulisicBorussia Dortmund0.52 42012-13Julian DraxlerSchalke0.54 1Arjen RobbenBayern Munich0.390.360.75 112015-16Ousmane DembeleRennes0.44 7Douglas CostaBayern Munich0.190.340.53 The more advanced numbers show that the young American is not limited to shooting, either. For the Panama goal, Pulisic had to beat two defenders in close quarters. His ability to break a defense by winning one-on-ones helps his team create chances even when Pulisic doesn’t get the goal himself. With 72 successful take-ons (beating a defender in an open-field contest), Pulisic was fifth among Bundesliga players in take-ons per 90 minutes, just ahead of Bayern Munich’s world-class veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.And last night against Trinidad and Tobago, Pulisic scored twice after runs off the ball into dangerous areas. His ability to read space and slip unmarked into the penalty box is already elite. Thirty-six times in the last season Pulisic made a run to receive an entry pass into the penalty area, and 16 times he dribbled by a defender to get into the penalty area. In this statistic, Pulisic led all Bundesliga players. He outpaced even Bayern’s Thomas Muller, the 2014 World Cup hero for Germany who had made his name ghosting into scoring positions without alerting the defense.Just this level of production would be enough to make Sam’s Army salivate. But at 18, Pulisic is hardly a finished product and has room to get even better. If you compare his production to players under 20 years of age in the top leagues in Europe, he stands out all the more. 32015-16Dele AlliTottenham Hotspur0.58 YEARPLAYERCLUBEXP. GOALS AND ASSISTS PER 90 MINS 12Joshua KimmichBayern Munich0.310.090.40 Includes players age 18-19 with highest goals and assists per 90 minutesSource: Opta Pulisic’s 0.52 expected goals+assists per 90 minutes is the best mark by any 18-year-old nonstriker in the top five leagues since 2010-11. Among under-20s, Pulisic is seventh and surrounded by high-priced stars such as Leroy Sane of Manchester City and Real Madrid’s Marco Asencio. In terms of receiving or dribbling the ball into the penalty area, he ranks only behind Manchester United’s young star Marcus Rashford and Kylian Mbappe, whose market value is reportedly north of $130 million. Right now Pulisic is not considered to be on the market, but high eight-figure fees are common for players at his level and age.For the U.S. team, the emergence of a true star creates new tactical concerns. Opposing teams will key on Pulisic and look to shut him down. At home against Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago, manager Bruce Arena — who took the reins after Klinsmann was fired in November– played Pulisic at the tip of a diamond midfield to give him freedom. Pulisic paid it off not only with goals but by being a consistent outlet all over the attack third. But at Panama, Pulisic mostly stuck to the wing, as he had under Klinsmann. These two maps show where Pulisic received the ball in the final third when playing a central role behind the striker as opposed to his pass receptions as a winger. As a winger, Pulisic plays on the wing or moves from the wing into the penalty area, whereas from the 10 he can move across the width of the field in the final third. The toughest game the USMNT will play in the Hex is this Sunday in at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, where it has never won a competitive fixture and only drawn twice in nine matches. Arena is unlikely to use the same attacking tactics he used against Trinidad and Tobago with the diamond and will most likely choose a more defensive formation with Pulisic on the wing. But if he wants to maximize the Americans’ chances of stealing a rare win in front of nearly 90,000 at the Azteca, he should look into finding a way to play Pulisic in the hole behind the striker rather than leaving him on the wing where his positioning is more predictable and he can be more easily contained. To play a more defensive formation while keeping Pulisic central would probably require benching the veteran Dempsey, who typically plays as the more reserved of two strikers.A U.S. manager has never had the luxury of such a decision. But the moment to commit to Pulisic and the future of the USMNT may be Sunday.
We’ve never seen a duo quite like Chris Paul and James Harden play for the same team. But that doesn’t mean they’ll play well together. In the video above, Neil Paine discusses the reports of Paul’s trade to the Houston Rockets, and how he and Harden will coexist.Read more: Can Chris Paul And James Harden Play Together?
The NFL playoffs begin Saturday, and if recent reports are any indication, this season could mark the end of the 12-team postseason era. In March, the league will vote on whether to expand its tournament field to 14 teams for the 2015 season — after which the floodgates may open for further expansion in subsequent seasons.This is not necessarily a bad thing. The NFL playoffs are a TV ratings bonanza, and it doesn’t seem as though our appetite for football is waning (despite a trying year off the field). Plus, teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans — all of which missed the playoffs this season despite winning records — make a case for creating more playoff spots. (And the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers hosting a home playoff game makes the case for re-seeding the field.)But which expanded format is best? As I’ve done in the past, I’ll take the perspective that the best format is the one that sees the most deserving team win the most often, using a Monte Carlo simulation to test playoff fields of various sizes.More specifically, I generated random preseason Elo ratings for every team (based on the historical distribution of real-life preseason Elo ratings) and simulated the real-life 2014 regular season schedule 1,000 times — an exercise similar to that performed by Doug Drinen in this classic post at the Pro-Football-Reference.com blog. For each of those simulations, I tracked the regular season standings, seeding the teams within each conference using simulated point differential as the tiebreaker.The preseason ratings represent the starting talent levels for every team, but they can go up or down depending on the simulated game outcomes, in accordance with the Elo formula. For instance, a team assigned an initial Elo below the league-average mark of 1500 could tear off an improbably great regular season and finish above 1700. That would be used as the team’s strength rating going into the postseason.For potential expanded fields of 14, 16, 20, and 32 teams, I tracked how often the most talented preseason and end-of-regular-season Elo team won the Super Bowl, as well as the average preseason and pre-playoff Elo ratings (and rankings) of the simulated Super Bowl champs. For comparison, I also ran this test for contracted fields of 2, 4, and 8 teams, as well as the current 12-team setup.Here’s a little more to help decipher that chart. When the playoffs contained just 2 teams, the average simulated Super Bowl winner had an Elo of 1565.3 before the season, which gave it an average ranking of 9.2 among the NFL’s 32 teams. Also, 12.8 percent of those Super Bowl winners were ranked No. 1 in the preseason. After the regular season was simulated, those teams averaged an Elo rating of 1690.1, with an average ranking of 2.5 within the league, and they led the league in post-regular season Elo 44.7 percent of the time. Finally, following the Super Bowl the average winner from our two-team-playoff universe had an Elo rating of 1711.6.Comparing those categories across all formats, the irony is that a BCS-style two-team playoff produces the most talented champion from the perspective of both preseason and end-of-regular-season Elo ratings. But since that’s clearly neither realistic nor desirable, it appears the 14-team bracket is the superior option. On average, it yields the most talented team of any expanded format, and enables that team to win the Super Bowl with quite a bit more frequency — perhaps due to first-round byes only being given to the top seed in each conference.Interestingly, a 14-team bracket also yields the best average post-Super Bowl rating for the champ among any format tested, expanded or not. (Granting that the current 12-team setup sees the better regular-season team win more often.) Based on this research, then, a 14-team playoff seems to strike the best balance between letting teams settle things on the field and putting the most deserving teams in a position to succeed.
Welcome to this week’s episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Oct. 6, 2015), we discuss whether the Major League Baseball playoff system is subject to too much randomness, talk about Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA finals, and ask FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Morris about the state of kicking in the NFL. Plus, a Significant Digit glimpse at our forthcoming CARMELO NBA Projections.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Below is a video excerpt and links to some of what we discussed on the show.FiveThirtyEight’s 2015 MLB playoff coverage.Neil Paine reveals the Elo system he developed for baseball.A stats-y primer on the WNBA finals.Ian Levy writes for FiveThirtyEight about why the best teams in the WNBA don’t seem to shoot threes.Ben Morris with more historical data about kickers than you thought was possible.If you live near New York City, join Carl Bialik, Walt Hickey and Neil Paine at “Varsity Letters” on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.Significant Digit: 83.1. That’s Anthony Davis’s projected wins above replacement for 2016-22, according to our forthcoming CARMELO NBA Projections. CARMELO found that he’s the most valuable player in the league over that time span. Stay tuned for the full system, which will be up on FiveThirtyEight soon! By Chadwick Matlin, Kate Fagan, Neil Paine, Benjamin Morris and Sara Patterson If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS
ExpectedActual2019 teams 11.010.2New England Well … maybe not the Bengals. Not only is Cincinnati saddled with an injured A.J. Green, who appears to be out until around Week 8, the Bengals have an offense that is bereft of top talent at nearly every position. Cincinnati replaced head coach Marvin Lewis after 16 seasons of on-again, off-again contention and turned instead to Zac Taylor, a coach best known for being friends with L.A. Rams wunderkind Sean McVay. The hope must be that Taylor can revitalize the career of quarterback Andy Dalton, who sports a middling career yards per attempt of 7.2 and is one of the few starting quarterbacks who Vegas believes wouldn’t move a line if he were to be replaced in the lineup. The defense doesn’t offer a compelling reason for optimism: The Bengals ranked 28th in defensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) last season. Perhaps we should view that as a reason to be bullish on their prospects in 2019 simply due to regression, since defensive performance year to year isn’t terribly stable. If that seems like a bridge too far, magic might be the answer: Taylor may give lip service to the notion that he isn’t trying to be like his mentor McVay, but McVay’s brand of QB sorcery seems like the best hope for the Bengals to crest seven wins this year.The Giants are more interesting. After a promising preseason performance by first-round pick Daniel Jones, New York fans are clamoring for a change of the guard at quarterback. As big of a reach as many believed Jones to be, I still see him as a better use of first-round draft capital than “generational talent” Saquon Barkley. Hailed as a potential savior and the missing piece for Eli Manning’s final championship push, Barkley helped the Giants improve from a terrible three-win team in 2017 to a merely bad five-win unit in 2018.The Giants were second-worst in the league on Expected Points Added per play on first-down play-action passes after adding Saquon to the backfield,1On a play call that averaged a robust 0.21 EPA per play for the rest of the league last year, the Giants were one of only two teams to average negative expected value, with -0.06 EPA per play. and prospects for a bounceback in play-action efficiency seem bleak. After trading all-world wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, the Giants lost free agent acquisition Golden Tate to a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and their expected No. 3 wideout Corey Coleman to a season-ending ACL injury. Their best hope for a productive season may rest in ownership’s willingness to bench Manning for good this time.The other team to somehow accumulate negative value on first-down play action was Oakland. In what seems to be a pattern for teams at the bottom of the win total forecast, Vegas sees Derek Carr as a quarterback worth just 1 point to the spread. The stats back up that view. Carr’s career yards per attempt is, at 6.7, below league average, and his best season as judged by QBR is an anemic 54.6. His weapons are improved from a year ago, but they are volatile. New Raiders wideout Antonio Brown sat out of practice because he wasn’t allowed to wear a helmet the NFL deems dangerous and is now likely to be suspended for some period of time, and Tyrell Williams is a boom or bust weapon who likes to be targeted deep — something Carr may be reluctant to do given his career average depth of target of just 7.7 yards. Meanwhile “Hard Knocks” captured head coach Jon Gruden disparaging “all the football stats and all the fantasy bullshit” in favor of running backs that will “BOOF” the opposing team in pass protection. Of all the six-win teams, Oakland may be the most unpredictable — and that unpredictability could manifest itself in good ways, as well as bad. Brown’s antics could end with a fashionable and safe new helmet, Carr might be coaxed into throwing the deep ball to a talented field stretcher, and Gruden might use rookie running back Josh Jacobs optimally, leading to wins we simply can’t foresee at this point.The final team projected for six wins in 2019 is Washington, a team that somehow came to the determination that Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson were better choices than Colin Kaepernick to take over for quarterback Alex Smith when his 2018 season — and perhaps his career — ended with a gruesome leg injury.In the draft, Washington team president Bruce Allen added Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins in the first round but then failed to surround him with receiving weapons. Jamison Crowder left via free agency, former first-round bust Josh Doctson was released at the end of the preseason and tight end Jordan Reed suffered another concussion heading into Week 1. Their current starting wide receivers are third-round pick Terry McLaurin — also from Ohio State — and Paul Richardson.The outlook at running back is brighter with the return of Derrius Guice from an ACL tear that derailed his rookie season, but there is little evidence to suggest they will put him in advantageous spots to run the ball. With the ageless, tackle-breaking cyborg Adrian Peterson in 2018, Washington lined up against neutral or stacked boxes on first-and-10 or second and long 174 times, decided they liked the look and ran right into the scrum 72 percent of the time. But if Washington can flip the script on downs tailor-made for passing and eke out some yards where they should come easy, the duo of Guice and Peterson could be enough to protect current starter Case Keenum or rookie Haskins while he learns on the job — and possibly beat the team’s six-win projection.Check out our latest NFL predictions. Every year, we look back on preseason win totals produced by forecasters and betting markets and chuckle at some of the more egregious misses. Last season, the Chicago Bears were initially forecast for seven wins by Las Vegas, then traded for Khalil Mack and somehow won 12. The Green Bay Packers’s predicted win total was 10, but they melted down in spectacular fashion and ultimately ended up winning just six games.We’ve already published our Elo projections, and we think they’re the best we’ve ever produced for the NFL, but there will still be lots of misses to grouse about come January. Forecasting a sport as luck-driven as the NFL is rough that way.It raises the question: How good are betting markets at predicting team wins? To find out, I got my hands on a tranche of win prediction data stretching back to 1989, courtesy of Sports Odds History, and checked how well Vegas preseason win totals predict actual team wins. While Vegas overall does a good job identifying good and bad teams, it turns out that at the lower end of the range of projected wins, Vegas predictions don’t seem particularly well calibrated — though the confidence intervals at the lower end are large because of the small sample size, so the results aren’t statistically significant. 6.56.4Detroit, Tampa Bay 5.04.6Arizona, Miami 8.07.4Jacksonville, San Francisco, Tennessee 8.58.9Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Seattle wins 9.08.5Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh 7.57.6Carolina 10.08.8Philadelphia 7.06.9Buffalo, Denver, N.Y. Jets 9.59.0Chicago, Green Bay, L.A. Chargers 10.59.9Kansas City, L.A. Rams, New Orleans 6.06.7Cincinnati, N.Y. Giants, Oakland, Washington Projected win totals of six and fewer undersell teams’ prospects by about a win on average, with the exception of teams forecast for five wins.Win totals don’t change as frequently as the moneyline odds, so we probably shouldn’t take win totals at face value — at least for teams with low projected wins. What does this mean for non-bettors? It should be decent news for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins — teams that both Elo and Vegas have pegged for six wins in 2019 — since we should be more bullish on their chances than we currently are.Optimism for these probable cellar dwellers might feel forced. But we should fight the urge toward overconfidence, especially in the face of history. A few of these teams will end up surprising us — in a good way — at the end of the year for reasons inscrutable to us now. Sources: SportsOddsHistory.com, Greg Guglielmo, Pinnacle, Betfair, William Hill, Bet365, BetOnline Which NFL teams might beat expectations?Average actual wins (1989-2018) by Vegas preseason expected wins, and the 2019 teams at each number of expected wins
Ohio State will open its 2010 regular season against Marshall on Thursday, Sept. 2, the OSU athletic department confirmed shortly after a source reported the story to The Lantern.“This change to a Thursday night opener offers a number of positives for Ohio State,” Ohio State associate vice-president and director of athletics Gene Smith said through a press release. “Summer quarter classes end the week before, so there will be minimal campus impact on students, faculty and staff that day.The scheduling decision will provide the Buckeyes two extra days to prepare for their most daunting non-conference opponent, Miami (Fla.), who they will play Sept. 11.“Along with providing maximum national exposure for our Rose Bowl champions, this unique starting date and time allows our team and fans to escape the heat of the day, and breaks up a string of four consecutive Saturday home games to start the season,” Smith said. “It will allow fans to enjoy other events throughout the Labor Day weekend. We see it as a treat for Buckeye fans and an exciting way to open the 2010 campaign.”Information regarding parking and transportation for the night game will be determined at a later date, according to the press release.The Buckeyes haven’t played a mid-week game during the regular season since 1997, when they beat Wyoming 24-10 in their season opener.Coach Jim Tressel expressed his excitement in kicking off the season under the lights.“The Thursday night before Labor Day is a great night to play,” Tressel said. “To be one of the first games that kicks off the 2010 season will be exciting. The Buckeyes and the Thundering Herd will both be veteran teams, and it will be a fun night in the Horseshoe. We cannot wait to tee it up.”
Sunset Park, located on Bellemonte Street in Middletown, Ohio, was once the Rucker Park of the Midwest — when summertime rolled around, professional and collegiate basketball players alike would swarm the courts, hoping to play a game of pickup basketball against the best players in the area. One summer, former University of Dayton senior and captain Johnny Horan was matched up against a man named Jerry Lucas. Lucas absolutely destroyed him, embarrassing him on both ends of the court. Horan, who had never heard of Lucas, went around asking the other players which college Lucas attended. He was impressed with what he saw, and he wanted to find out where Lucas went to school so that he might follow the young man’s career. “He was told that Lucas was a sophomore, so he asked, ‘What college does he go to?’ and he was told, ‘Well, he’s a sophomore in high school. He’s a 10th-grader,’” said Lee Caryer, Buckeye basketball historian and author of “The Golden Age of Ohio State Basketball.” Throughout his life, Lucas has been a step ahead of the competition. In grade school, Lucas said, his coursework bored him. “When I got to school, I realized I wasn’t being taught how to learn,” Lucas said. “In school they use repetition. Everybody has forever, and I realized that this is no fun. There has to be an easier way.” Lucas began to experiment with different learning methods, creating a series of mental games that would help to make the material tangible and easier to learn. “I was always an excellent student — I was a 4.0 student at Ohio State, and my learning systems made it easy for me to learn,” Lucas said. “By the time I got through high school and into college, learning was very simple and easy for me.” At 6-foot-8, Lucas wasn’t always the biggest man on the court. He wasn’t the most athletic or the fastest. He was, however, a tireless worker. “Nobody ever worked harder than I did at basketball, or for longer hours,” Lucas said. Blessed with a gifted mind, Lucas relied on both his intelligence and his unrelenting work ethic to become a better basketball player. Throughout most of his high school career, it seemed Lucas might never lose a game. Middletown High School went undefeated for Lucas’ first three seasons, and he became a hot commodity. “Jerry Lucas was recruited harder than anyone, with the possible exception of Wilt Chamberlain up to that point,” Caryer said. Lucas’ media coverage was similar to that of Akron, Ohio’s LeBron James when he played at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. But Lucas shied away from the spotlight. “Throughout my high-school career, I didn’t want to be bothered by recruiters,” Lucas said. “I wasn’t interested; I just wanted to be a normal person who enjoyed my life and enjoyed my friends.” When the time came to decide on a college, Lucas made only one visit. The summer after his senior season, when he lost his last high-school game to Columbus North High School, he chose to study at OSU. “I liked the atmosphere there, and I was primarily interested in an education,” Lucas said. “I went on an academic scholarship and not a sports scholarship. Everything about Ohio State was very attractive to me, and it seemed like the best situation.” Once Lucas committed to play for the Buckeyes, other high school basketball stars in Ohio began to follow his lead, including local standout Mel Nowell and Bridgeport’s John Havlicek. “Before they got to campus, there was this buzz,” Caryer said. “Then, when they were freshmen, the story about people leaving and missing the varsity games because they wanted to see the freshmen play — that was very true.” Lucas said the freshmen made a habit of beating the varsity team in practice. Dick Furry, then-junior and future co-captain of the varsity squad, remembers things a little differently. “Some of those stories got blown out of proportion,” Furry said. “I think one story that was widely circulated was that they beat us all the time. And basically, if I remember right, we broke even. I think it was about 50-50.” Regardless, Furry said the team was “doggone happy” when Lucas committed to OSU. When he joined the varsity team his sophomore year, 1959-60, Lucas became the centerpiece on the offensive end. “Our offense revolved around Lucas, and that was the best thing for the team,” said John Havlicek, former Buckeye and Celtic Hall of Famer. “For the way we wanted to play, we used him as the focal point.” That year, the Buckeyes won the National Championship Game against the University of California, 75-55. The team played a nearly impeccable first half, making 15 of its first 16 shots. Lucas averaged 26.3 points and 16.4 rebounds per game that season, and he received the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. That summer, Lucas traveled to Rome and suited up for the 1960 U.S. Olympic basketball team. The team’s roster was stacked, featuring future Hall of Famers Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. “That’s a real honor for any athlete, in my opinion; to have the opportunity to represent his country is just incredible,” Lucas said. “As I look back, it was one of the utmost highlights of my entire basketball career.” It was the last championship Lucas won for a number of years. His junior season, the Buckeyes strolled into the National Championship Game undefeated, but fell to Cincinnati, 70-65. “There’s no doubt that our team was better,” Lucas said. “Unfortunately we didn’t play as well as we had been playing. Cincinnati played better, and they beat us.” Cincinnati went on to beat OSU again at the end of Lucas’ senior season, but the first loss still haunts him. “That first Cincinnati loss is the most devastating loss I’ve ever had in my life,” Lucas said. “It’s something that you believe you have a chance of winning — you shoot for it all year, and then when it’s taken away from you, it’s not a pleasant memory in anybody’s life.” The NBA’s defunct Cincinnati Royals drafted Lucas and offered him a contract of $30,000. George Steinbrenner, the late New York Yankees owner who at one time owned the American Basketball League’s Cleveland Pipers, had other ideas. “He offered me $40,000 a year, so I signed with him,” Lucas said. “I never got a nickel from him, nor did I ever play a game in the ABL, because the league folded prior to that season beginning.” Lucas eventually signed with the Royals. For the better half of a decade, he witnessed the Boston Celtics perennially eliminate his team from championship contention. Legendary center Bill Russell and former Buckeye teammate Havlicek led the Celtics. It wasn’t until Lucas became a member of the New York Knicks that he won an NBA championship, reaching the top of the mountain in 1973. For his professional career, he averaged 17.0 points and 15.6 rebounds per game. He played in seven All-Star games and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979. Lucas’ list of awards and achievements includes being the only college player to lead the nation in rebounding and field goal percentage for three straight years, and the first player in history to win a championship at every level of competition, according to his official website. “I would argue to this day that Lucas was one of the top five college players of all time,” said Bob Ryan, longtime Boston Globe contributor and occasional ESPN “Around the Horn” panelist. “Lucas was a great rebounder and an extraordinary player.” Lucas lives near San Luis Obispo, Calif. He has written more than 70 books that aim to help others by teaching memory education techniques, and he’s working on a website he refers to as the “culmination of his life’s work.” “I’m in the process right now of creating a very unique educational website, which will be called ‘Dr. M’s Universe,’” Lucas said. “And I know that when America — and the world, as far as that’s concerned, because it will be on the World Wide Web — when they have an opportunity to experience it, it will change millions and millions of lives.” Sharing his intellectual gifts with others makes perfect sense, given he took pride in his selfless play on the court, and team achievements were always more important to him than individual honors. Of the championships he won at four levels, one in particular stood out to him. “The Ohio State team was more special than the others because I was with that group for a longer period,” Lucas said. “The core of that group came in as freshmen, so we were together for a long time, and we developed great, lifelong friendships that continue to this day. So, that was uniquely special for all of us.” This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: Jan. 24, 2011 An earlier version of this story stated that Oscar Robertson was on the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball team that beat Ohio State in the 1961 National Championship Game. Robertson was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals in 1960 and was not on the University of Cincinnati team in 1961.
Then-Miami Heat center Greg Oden watches from the bench during a preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs AmericanAirlines Arena Oct. 19, 2013. The Heat won, 121-96.Credit: Courtesy of MCTThe once promising career of former Ohio State basketball player Greg Oden has likely ended after the former No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick was arrested on battery charges after allegedly hitting an ex-girlfriend in his home state of Indiana.Oden, who helped lead the Buckeyes to the 2007 NCAA National Championship game, has largely been a recipient of sympathy across the basketball world, as injuries have plagued his career.No one, however, will likely give him sympathy after this latest incident.It is unfortunate that a man with such a bright future just eight years ago has seen his career disappear right before his eyes, however he has only himself to blame for the way his basketball career may end.Oden, who is currently a free agent, could ill afford an incident like this as his career was already in a tailspin, something you don’t usually say about a 26-year-old former No. 1 pick.The former Buckeye center has played in just 105 games in only three active seasons and was inactive from December 2009 to the 2013-14 season in which he appeared in just 23 games for the Miami Heat, who signed him to a one-year deal in August 2013.While Oden is currently looking for a new team, the NBA needs to make an example of the former star center.The NFL was recently in a similar position with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.Rice was seen on videotape dragging his seemingly unconscious fiancée out of an elevator after beating her. Rice and his fiancée were both charged with assault.Rice was suspended just two games by the NFL.While Oden is not currently on a roster, should he get picked up, he should get a much more severe punishment than Rice received.There is no room for domestic violence in sports, nor in any aspect of life. Men and women who receive great attention and are role models for thousands of young people need to be held to a higher standard and Oden is no exception.NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who has not even been in office a full year has already handled the Donald Sterling situation with professionalism and integrity.He made an example of Sterling and I hope would do the same to Oden.It is one thing for a young man’s career to end due to injury, it is another for it to end like this.
Redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall (17) reaches for a pass from redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) during OSU’s 56-17 win against Rutgers on Oct. 18 at Ohio Stadium.Credit: Jon McAllister / Asst. photo editorThe Ohio State Buckeyes jumped out to a 35-7 halftime lead Saturday, en route to a 56-17 drubbing of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.And beyond just a victory, the Buckeye offense collected another record-setting performance by racking up more than 500 yards for the fourth straight game.The Lantern sports editors compiled a list of five things we learned from the Buckeye victory.1. J.T. Barrett could be best in the Big TenComing into the season, senior quarterback Braxton Miller and Penn State sophomore gunslinger Christian Hackenberg were thought to be the class of the Big Ten quarterbacks.But eight weeks into the season, Barrett seems to be heads and tails over any quarterback in the conference.The redshirt-freshman from Wichita Falls, Texas, leads all Big Ten quarterbacks in completion percentage, touchdown passes and quarterback rating and has not thrown an interception since Sept. 13 against Kent State.Not too bad for a guy who was the third string quarterback to start fall camp.If Barrett continues to impress with his play, there is a good chance he could unseat Miller as the Big Ten offensive player of the year.2. The offensive line is dominatingAfter being embarrassed against Virginia Tech in the second game of the season, the Buckeye offensive front has been making opposing defenses look silly.Since the loss to the Hokies in which the Buckeyes totaled just 108 rushing yards, OSU is averaging 314.25 yards per game on the ground.In addition, the Buckeye line has allowed just five sacks in four games since the Virginia Tech game, when Barrett was sacked seven times.OSU coach Urban Meyer has said this year that the Buckeyes are an offensive line driven team, and it has shown the last four weeks.3. Secondary improving, but yet to be testedWhile the OSU secondary held Rutgers to just 196 yards passing, how much stock can we put into the Buckeyes’ performance?Yes, Gary Nova threw for more than 400 yards against Michigan, but this year’s Wolverines are not your traditional Big Ten power.The Buckeye secondary has yet to be tested, but will be on Saturday against Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions.Hackenberg leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game and Penn State is last in the Big Ten in total rushing.Needless to say, the Nittany Lions will be throwing early and often against the Buckeyes in what will likely be the first real test of the OSU secondary this season.4. Redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall has star potentialMarshall — a former high school quarterback — had to take some time before finding his role in OSU’s offense. On Saturday, that role become more defined than ever before.He is simply a playmaker for the Buckeyes and keeps on improving week to week. In OSU’s win against Rutgers, he totaled three receptions for a team-high 58 yards and returned four punts for 45 yards along with one kickoff return for another 26 yards. He ended up leading the game with 129 all-purpose yards, 22 ahead of Barrett.Marshall was expected to make contributions last season before ending up having to redshirt, but he’s proven so far this year that he can step up when his number is called. If he continues on the same kind of trajectory, he has a chance to become the most dangerous player on the Buckeyes’ offense along with the special teams units.5. And so does freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillanNot only does McMillan have star potential down the road, but he is quickly morphing into an important player this season.While he’s not a starter on OSU’s defense, his playing time has continued to increase week by week, and at times it seems like he is the more trusted option ahead of senior linebacker and incumbent starter Curtis Grant.McMillan totaled five tackles against Rutgers — tied for fourth on the team — and made his presence felt throughout the game. Grant, much like McMillan, is a former blue-chip prospect, but it’s starting to look like the younger of the two is ready to unseat the elder sooner than anyone expected.Regardless of Grant’s experience, look for McMillan to be starting games before this season comes to a close.The Buckeyes are set to hit the road on Saturday to take on Penn State in State College, Pa. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.