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In collaboration with TrueHoop, ESPN The Magazine’s annual Analytics Issue offers an inside look at the art and science of peak performance in the NBA. The issue delves into players’ seriously fascinating obsession with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, explores the league’s new party culture and how it explains the historically great performance of road teams, and offers a layered and thoughtful cover story on Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook and how this lifelong underdog found his singular drive.
ON THE COVER: In “A Man Apart,” senior writer Tim Keown tells the story of NBA star Russell Westbrook’s lifelong journey as an underdog and everything that has led him to this record-breaking moment as a triple-double machine. To better understand his defining season—the first in which he’s the only superstar in Oklahoma City—Keown spent time in Lawndale, California, where Russell went to high school, to reveal how his struggles there shaped the player, and person, he’s become. Westbrook himself offered Keown candid and exclusive insight on his path to the NBA. The Mag also provides an analytical breakdown of Westbrook’s performance. (Link: http://es.pn/2nwwRg0)
DON’T MISS: An introduction to Béisbol Life: A season-long look at how the game and Latino culture intersect. By Pedro Gomez (Link: http://es.pn/2lwvxxk)
For more than a century, baseball has been blending boundaries between the U.S. and Latin America. Latino players may come from different countries, backgrounds and lifestyles, but the one thing that unites them all is their boundless love for the game, which they display every time they step on a ballfield. Ever since Roberto Clemente emerged as the first Latino superstar, major league fans have embraced Latin players. The numbers for Latin-born players continue to grow, and they and their unique style are here to stay. ESPN will be taking a season-long look at Béisbol Life, featuring stories in The Magazine and on ESPN.com, SportsCenter and other platforms.
Additional Béisbol Life content featured in this issue includes a deeper look into Haitian baseball prospects in the Dominican Republic. The Mag’s Bruce Schoenfeld looks at the alleged prejudice and harsh government policies that have worked with MLB rules to make it harder than ever for a young Haitian prospect in the Dominican Republic to make it to MLB. “Long before you get to Major League Baseball,” says Sandy Alderson, who worked for MLB in the Dominican and now serves as GM of the Mets, “there’s a selection process that discriminates against Haitians.” And just in time for the World Baseball Classic, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, teammates on the Seattle Mariners and on the Dominican Republic national team, discuss the coming season, their relationship and their feelings on representing the Dominican Republic in the WBC. (Link: http://es.pn/2lTlLWh)
Issue highlights and features:
The NBA’s Obsession with PB&J
PB&J’s are throughout locker rooms, on team planes and in hotel rooms. Everyone from Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis to Kristaps Porzingis and Isaiah Thomas is obsessed with them. This is the story of how a sandwich that costs 70 cents to make has become the must-have pre-game snack of the NBA’s elite—and the science that bolsters their contention that the sandwich helps them play better. By Baxter Holmes
You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right to Party in Today’s NBA
Why are NBA road teams playing at historically great levels? We pull back the covers on the modern party scene in the NBA to explain the answer. Yes, players still party, but instead of smoking cigarettes and chugging beer in locker rooms or painting the town red, they tend to have their fun in private—beyond the reach of fans’ iPhone cameras and social media. And they’re more educated on how to replenish their bodies afterward. By Tom Haberstroh
Rest Matters: A Compendium
A data dive showing how and why rest matters for LeBron James and the rest of the NBA, the rise in DNP-Rests as coaches have learned of its importance, and the results of our “schedule alert” games, in which we predicted tough times ahead for teams with rough stretches on the schedule.
We Prove the 2016-17 MVP: A Roundtable
The Mag asked some of the smartest NBA minds to make their MVP cases, from Stephen Curry to Kawhi Leonard to James Harden to Isaiah Thomas. We have charts, emojis, metrics—and fun!
Additional issue highlights and features:
Voices: Using the history of his NCAA tournament fandom, poet and writer Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib talks about the power of rooting for the underdogs when you feel like you’re one yourself.
The Truth: In his latest column, Howard Bryant writes about the World Baseball Classic and why some of the league’s biggest names have not committed. There are plenty of All-Stars on the U.S. roster, but there’s a difference between an All-Star and a legend. Howard contends that for the game’s biggest talents—namely, Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout—to reach the superstar level of Tom Brady or LeBron James, they need the international attention of the WBC. (Link: http://es.pn/2mxDYaJ)
College Basketball: Heading into March Madness, Numbers columnist Peter Keating takes an analytical look at UConn women’s dominance and who might deny them a fifth straight title. Also featured is Keating’s annual breakdown of the most vulnerable of the highly ranked men’s teams.
College Football: Insiders debate the scouting report on Miami QB Brad Kaaya ahead of the NFL draft. With superior footwork and decision-making, he’ll be a nice fit in a multiple-set/spread/play-pass scheme. By Ben Arledge
Soccer Confidential: With the new MLS season underway, The Mag granted players anonymity in exchange for responses on new USMNT manager Bruce Arena, the league’s expansion plan, which player they’d most like to see in the MLS and more.
Surfing: To defend his first world title, starting March 14 on Australia’s Gold Coast, surfer John John Florence will fly the equivalent of 3.5 times around the globe—again. The Mag takes a tour of Florence’s 2016 championship year. By Alyssa Roenigk
Zoom: Boston Celtics power forward Al Horford and his 2-year-old son spent the day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Who did they run into? Chewbacca himself. By Sam Alipour
Food: Cleveland chef Michael Symon tells us how to make two of his hometown favorites sold at Quicken Loans Arena for Cavs games: the Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Bacon Milkshake and the Fat Doug Burger, featuring a sirloin, brisket and short rib patty topped with pastrami.