The world titlists held serve Saturday night in Las Vegas, as Naoya Inoue, Mikaela Mayer and Jermall Charlo successfully retained their belts. But while this upcoming weekend does offer up another world title fight in the form of Gervonta Davis facing Mario Barrios at 140 pounds — perhaps Davis’ best fighting weight — there’s a different bit of intrigue heading into Saturday.
Vasiliy Lomachenko hasn’t stepped in the ring since losing his lightweight titles to Teofimo Lopez last October. Since that time, he has had surgery and plenty of time to recover, but will we get the Lomachenko of old on Saturday night’s Top Rank card in Las Vegas? Will he showcase his highly effective rhythm, which takes his opponents out of their own game, or will Masayoshi Nakatani prove to be too much for a first fight back?
As we look further into the future, can we expect more gold from Inoue as the bantamweight division lines up another unification bout? And despite her clear win this weekend, is Mayer ready for Katie Taylor?
On the boxing sideshow front, Oscar De La Hoya returns this September to face Vitor Belfort, but will he suffer the same fate that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. did this weekend against Anderson Silva?
Michael Rothstein, Ben Baby, Cameron Wolfe and Brett Okamoto offer up their takes on what is real and what’s not when it comes to boxing’s biggest headlines.
We will see the Vasiliy Lomachenko of old on Saturday
Real. In the latter half of Lomachenko’s upset loss to Teofimo Lopez, we saw what made Lomachenko one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Lomachenko, 33, has a lot of amateur mileage on his body but just 16 professional bouts. And despite last year’s defeat inside the Top Rank “bubble,” Lomachenko still has a lot to offer in the lightweight division.
Nakatani is a good opponent, but he will be a heavy underdog against someone who is still in ESPN’s pound-for-pound top 10. And even though Lomachenko doesn’t seem to have the same power in the 135-pound division that he did at junior lightweight, he should still be considered one of the top lightweights until he shows otherwise. — Baby
Can Naoya Inoue unify all four bantamweight belts?
Real. Very, very real. Inoue is, at worst, one of the top five pound-for-pound boxers in the world, regardless of division. At the age of 28, he’s still in his prime and seems to get better every fight. He’s also very cognizant of where he sits in the pound-for-pound ratings.
So, in other words, he understands what is needed to achieve generational greatness. Plus, he wants these fights — craves them. He’ll fight anyone, and has already said he will wait for the John Riel Casimero-Nonito Donaire winner.
That fight will be challenging when it comes for Inoue, but he has shown nothing to indicate he has holes in his approach that could keep him from becoming undisputed at bantamweight. — Rothstein
Mikaela Mayer goes the distance to successfully fend off Erica Farias and defend her WBO junior lightweight championship.
Mikaela Mayer is ready for Katie Taylor at lightweight.
No, not real — not yet. Before Mayer can even think about a superfight against Taylor, she should focus on unifying her division — Maiva Hamadouche is next later this year. If Mayer can unify two world titles, and especially if she puts on a strong performance against Maiva Hamadouche, she’ll have a better case to make.
Mayer is incredibly talented, but Taylor might be the best in the game, along with Claressa Shields. I would also wait to put this fight on, because having two unified champions against one another is a fight that can sell.
And this might be a stretch but something to consider: It would be a heck of a fight to introduce using three-minute rounds for women’s bouts. — Rothstein
Gervonta Davis should stay at 140
Unclear. Davis has to decide what he wants to do next, and commit to it. Right now, it’s unclear what Davis wants his career to be. He hasn’t stayed in a single division long enough to really become a significant player. There’s no doubt he’s one of the four big names around the 135-pound division, and Davis, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Teofimo Lopez are all young, rising stars who have the potential to carry the sport.
But who, exactly, does Davis want to face? None of those fighters are under the Premier Boxing Champions umbrella, so that requires PBC’s Al Haymon to do business with other promoters to make those big fights happen. Haymon has certainly shown the willingness to do that if it makes financial sense.
Davis is fighting Mario Barrios at junior welterweight for one of the secondary belts in the 140-pound division. It makes sense for Davis to stay at that weight only if Josh Taylor vacates the undisputed title and moves up to welterweight. That leaves a path for Davis to fight someone like Regis Prograis and then make a push for one of the four major belts at 140.
Mapping out all these paths is a fun exercise. The big questions, however, remain. How great does Tank Davis truly want to be? And is he willing to fight the names that matter to make that happen? — Baby
Oscar Valdez will beat the winner of Shakur Stevenson-Jamel Herring at 130
Not real. Valdez would defeat Herring if that bout happened. But in what would likely be deemed close to a 50-50 bout between Valdez and Stevenson, Stevenson’s defense, footwork and technique would help him outbox the more powerful Valdez to earn a decision victory, in my eyes.
Valdez is the king of the junior lightweight division right now, but Stevenson is the most skilled fighter of the group. I believe he beats Herring later this year, and then Valdez next year, to become a unified champion. — Wolfe
Oscar De La Hoya will lose to Vitor Belfort
Real. Well … I suppose that depends on whether a “winner” is even declared. This fight was announced as an exhibition, presumably meaning there won’t be an official result. But that didn’t stop offshore books from opening Belfort as a small betting favorite.
Without question, De La Hoya is the more skillful boxer. Belfort has had one professional boxing match in his lifetime, and it took place in 2006. De La Hoya is a former world champion boxer in multiple weight classes. The fact I’m even writing that sentence — Oscar De La Hoya is a more skillful boxer than Vitor Belfort — shows how much combat sports have jumped the shark in 2021. The obvious still needs to be stated in times like these.
But De La Hoya hasn’t been a fighter since he retired in 2008, and at 48 years old, there are legitimate questions as to how fit he even is to compete in a combat sport at this point in his life. Belfort, who is four years younger at age 44, had been competing in MMA regularly (at a high level) up until 2018. Whether or not De La Hoya is the superior boxer (he is) won’t matter as much as the amount of time he has now spent as a civilian. Frankly, I expect Belfort to knock him out. — Okamoto
A clinical study has investigated whether immunotherapy against type 1 diabetes can preserve the body’s own production of insulin. The results suggest that injection of a protein, GAD, into lymph nodes can be effective in a subgroup of individuals.
Image credit: Pixabay (Free Pixabay license)
In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin. When the insulin-producing cells have disappeared, the body can no longer regulate blood sugar level, and a person with type 1 diabetes must take exogenous insulin for the rest of his or her life.
A highly topical question in research into type 1 diabetes is whether, and if so how, the attack of the immune system can be slowed or even completely stopped. One possible strategy is based on altering the immune defence by injecting a protein that the cells of the immune system react to, in a form of vaccination. One of the proteins against which the immune system often forms antibodies in type 1 diabetes is known as GAD65 (glutamic acid decarboxylase). Professor Johnny Ludvigsson at Linköping University has studied for many years the possibility of vaccinating people who have newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes with GAD. It is hoped that the immune system will become more tolerant against the body’s own GAD, and stop damaging the insulin-producing cells, such that the body can continue to form some insulin.
“Studies have shown that even an extremely small production of insulin in the body is highly beneficial for patient health. People with diabetes who produce a certain amount of insulin naturally do not develop low blood sugar levels, hypoglycaemia, so easily. They have also a lower risk of developing the life-threatening condition ketoacidosis, which can arise when the insulin level is low”, says Johnny Ludvigsson, senior professor in the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at Linköping University.
Johnny Ludvigsson has led DIAGNODE-2, a clinical phase 2 study financed by pharmaceuticals company Diamyd Medical. The results have now been published in Diabetes Care. In the study, researchers investigated the effect of GAD-alum (Diamyd) injections into the lymph nodes of 109 young people with recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes. The natural insulin production of the participants was measured at the start of the study and again after 15 months. Several other outcome measures were also followed, such as change in long-term blood sugar levels (HbA1c), and how much supplementary insulin the patients needed to take every day.
Previous studies of immunotherapy in diabetes have suggested that genetic factors play a role in how patients respond to the treatment. This led the researchers in DIAGNODE-2 to look at several variants of what are known as “HLA genes”. These genes code for proteins located on the surface of some cells. They function as holders of proteins, and expose them to immune system cells passing by. If the protein fragment exposed in this way comes from, for example, bacteria, the immune system should form antibodies against the foreign protein. However, the immune system sometimes reacts against the body’s own substances, and certain types of HLA are associated with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes. The HLA variant HLA-DR3-DQ2 exposes the GAD65 protein to cells of the immune system, and patients with this variant often form antibodies against GAD65 at an early stage of the disease. Around half of the participants in the study had the HLA-DR3-DQ2 variant.
For the complete patient group, there was no difference between treatment and placebo in the degree to which insulin production was preserved. GAD-alum did, however, have a positive effect for the subgroup of patients who had the DR3-DQ2 variant of HLA genes.
“The patients in the subgroup with the DR3-DQ2 type of HLA genes did not lose insulin production as quickly as the other patients. In contrast, we did not see any significant effect in the patients who did not have this HLA type”, says Johnny Ludvigsson.
No undesired effects that could be related to treatment with GAD-alum were seen during the study.
“Treatment with GAD-alum seems to be a promising, simple and safe way to preserve insulin production in around half of patients with type 1 diabetes, the ones who have the right type of HLA. This is why we are looking forward to carrying out larger studies, and we hope these will lead to a drug that can change the progress of type 1 diabetes”, says Johnny Ludvigsson.
The study has been financed by Diamyd Medical AB, the Swedish Child Diabetes Foundation, and the Swedish Diabetes Foundation. The pharmaceutical company Diamyd Medical was involved in planning and the collection of data. One of the authors, Ulf Hannelius, is employed by Diamyd Medical.
The 109 participants, aged between 12 and 24 years, had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within the preceding 6 months, and were allocated at random to one of two groups. One group received three injections of GAD-alum at intervals of 1 month and vitamin D in tablet form, while the other group (controls) received placebo. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew which patients received treatment with GAD-alum (the study was randomised and double-blind).
Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling would not be keen on a move to Tottenham as part of a deal to bring Harry Kane to the Etihad Stadium, sources have told ESPN.
ESPN reported on Monday that City were readying a £100 million offer for Kane which could include players heading to Spurs as part of the agreement.
– Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
Reports have suggested Sterling is one of the names in the frame along with Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte but sources have told ESPN the England winger is not open to the idea of being considered in the deal.
Sources close to City and Tottenham told ESPN a formal offer for Kane has not been made.
Sterling has been a key part of City’s success under Pep Guardiola, winning the Premier League title three times.
However, the 26-year-old lost his place in the starting XI towards the end of last season as Guardiola favoured Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez. Although, all three started the Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.
Sterling was left on the bench for both legs of the quarterfinal against Borussia Dortmund and again in the semifinal victory over Paris Saint-Germain.
He has two years left on his contract after signing an extension in November 2018.
Sources have told ESPN that if he were to leave City this summer, it would be on his terms rather than as part of another deal.
Kane is keen to leave Tottenham this summer with City, Manchester United and Chelsea all registering an interest with his representatives.
Sources have told ESPN that even if City made a £100m bid it is likely to be rejected by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who values the striker at more than £150m.
Kane still has three years left on his contract after signing a long-term deal in 2016.
The 27-year-old’s future has also been complicated by Spurs’ ongoing search for a new manager after the dismissal of Jose Mourinho last season.
The 2021 NBA draft lottery drawing will be unveiled Tuesday night at 8:30 ET on ESPN. The ultimate prize is believed to be the right to select Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham at No. 1, but inclusion in what NBA evaluators believe could be a historically strong top-5 is a much-coveted circumstance for every team with their logo on a pingpong ball.
Here’s everything you need to know in advance of the lottery, including the odds for every team involved, the top prospects to watch, the latest intel from around the league, traded picks to track and what’s next.
MORE: Who every lottery team wants, and who they’ll most likely draft
How to watch
Tuesday’s lottery broadcast is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and the ESPN App, immediately preceding Clippers-Suns Game 2.
The show will feature representatives from all 14 lottery teams, including announced or reported reps Hakeem Olajuwon (Rockets), Ben Wallace (Pistons), Jeff Weltman (Magic), Nazr Mohammed (Thunder), Koby Altman (Cavaliers), Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves), Fred Van Vleet (Raptors), Marc Eversley (Bulls), Monte McNair (Kings), Swin Cash (Pelicans), Miles Bridges (Hornets), Peter J. Holt (Spurs), Nancy Leonard (Pacers) and Rick Welts (Warriors).
The 2021 NBA Draft will be held July 29 on ESPN and ABC.
Cade Cunningham is the favorite to be the top pick in the NBA draft after showcasing his versatility at Oklahoma State.
This year’s lottery odds
Here’s a quick look at the odds for every team with a chance to win a top pick this year:
1. Houston Rockets
Average pick: 3.7
No. 1: 14.0%
Top four: 52.1%
Note: If Houston’s pick falls outside the top four it gets conveyed to Oklahoma City.
2. Detroit Pistons
Average pick: 3.9
No. 1: 14.0%
Top four: 52.1%
3. Orlando Magic
Average pick: 4.1
No. 1: 14.0%
Top four: 52.1%
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Average pick: 4.6
No. 1: 11.5%
Top four: 45.1%
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Average pick: 4.8
No. 1: 11.5%
Top four: 45.1%
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
Average pick: 5.5
No. 1: 9.0%
Top four: 27.6%
Note: If Minnesota’s pick is not one of the top three it gets conveyed to Golden State.
7. Toronto Raptors
Average pick: 6.2
No. 1: 7.5%
Top four: 31.9%
8. Chicago Bulls
Average pick: 7.5
No. 1: 4.5%
Top four: 20.2%
Note: If Chicago’s pick does not move up to the top four it gets conveyed to Orlando.
9. Sacramento Kings
Average pick: 8.1
No. 1: 4.5%
Top four: 20.2%
10. New Orleans Pelicans
Average pick: 8.7
No. 1: 4.5%
Top four: 20.2%
11. Charlotte Hornets
Average pick: 10.4
No. 1: 1.8%
Top four: 8.5%
12. San Antonio Spurs
Average pick: 11.3
No. 1: 1.7%
Top four: 8.1%
13. Indiana Pacers
Average pick: 12.5
No. 1: 1.0%
Top four: 4.7%
14. Golden State Warriors
Average pick: 13.7
No. 1: 0.5%
Top four: 2.4%
Check out USC big man Evan Mobley’s highlights that show how his physical skills and versatility make him a top prospect in the NBA draft.
The top prospects
There have been only six drafts with three or more All-Stars selected in the top five since 2000. With executives regularly saying this crop has multiple No. 1-caliber picks, the 2021 NBA draft has that type of firepower at the top.
Here’s a quick case for each player in the most likely top 5, via ESPN’s Mike Schmitz:
Cade Cunningham: Cunningham’s versatility is a big reason he’s the favorite to go No. 1 overall regardless of who ends up winning the lottery. … He’s the only player projected in the top five who could legitimately play four positions.
Evan Mobley: It’s no secret in NBA circles that Mobley could very well end up as the best player to come out of this draft once his body fills out. He could use a more physical big alongside him early on given his rebounding struggles and slight build.
Jalen Green: Green has no shortage of fans in NBA front offices, and there’s an argument that he has the most star potential in the draft. One NBA executive said Green has a chance to be a “10-time All-Star and 25 point-per-game scorer” once he settles into the NBA game.
Jalen Suggs: Suggs is a culture-changer who will instantly bring toughness and a winning mentality wherever he goes. … Coaches and staff who have been around him say he’s the most competitive player they’ve ever coached.
Jonathan Kuminga: Kuminga is the most physically ready of the top five, with ideal tools for a two-way wing in today’s NBA. Of the aforementioned prospects, Kuminga is the only one an NBA coach could comfortably ask to slow elite wing scorers such as Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Tatum, even if his discipline and motor on that end are still evolving.
The rest of the first round should allow for a variety of possibilities. Get ESPN’s full top 100 rankings with scouting reports on the likely first-rounders here.
Check out the highlights that make the G League’s Jalen Green look NBA ready.
Mock draft and projections
Heading into the lottery drawing, here’s how ESPN’s Jonathan Givony is projecting the top five picks, based on the current order:
Rockets: Cade Cunningham | PG | Oklahoma State
Pistons: Evan Mobley | C | USC
Magic: Jalen Green | SG | G League Ignite
Thunder: Jalen Suggs | PG/SG | Gonzaga
Cavaliers: Jonathan Kuminga | SF/PF | G League Ignite
Get the full mock draft from Givony here based on the latest inside information. He’ll have a new mock draft on Tuesday night following the drawing.
Before then, check out this team-by-team breakdown via Givony and Schmitz, including:
Lottery odds for every team
The top-5 prospects each team would covet
The most likely prospect for each team based on its draft range
There are two major factors that will shape NHL free agency when it officially begins on July 28.
The first takes place a week before the market opens for business: the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, in which every team not named the Vegas Golden Knights offers up a player to the NHL’s 32nd team on July 21. In turn, the Kraken will open up salary cap space for many of those teams, and will open up even more as a landing spot for veteran players whose contracts teams want to shed — sacrificing draft picks and prospects in order to do so.
“People are looking at Seattle as the Swiss bank. I don’t think [GM] Ron Francis will totally be that, but he’ll take some contracts on,” one NHL agent told ESPN this week.
The other factor is the flat salary cap, which will be stuck at $81.5 million for the second straight season due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on revenue.
Some agents are optimistic that the cap will be on the rise after the 2021-22 season. One said the NHL could eclipse the $4.8 billion threshold for hockey-related revenue next season, which would allow the cap to increase by $1 million each season until the players’ escrow balance is paid off. Another anticipated “one more cycle of this” before the cap starts growing again.
But for now, it’s a flat cap, coming after a regular season in which teams lost considerable revenue playing in empty or nearly empty arenas.
Some general managers we spoke with believe this free-agent market will look like last offseason’s, with a lack of long-term deals and stagnant salaries for midlevel talents.
“I think it’s going to be the same. I don’t see how it changes. Teams still have cap issues. There’s only so much money that can go around,” said one NHL general manager.
Others believe there will be an uptick in activity.
“I feel it will be more active. Teams have had time to set up for the flat cap. Expansion concerns will be over by free agency,” said another NHL general manager, who predicted the player pool could once again increase with teams walking away from players instead of giving them qualifying offers.
“It will be a busy free-agent period, due to expansion as well as the flat cap,” said another GM. “There will be a group of players that will always get their money, but there will be a group of players that will have to be smart in regards to where they fit into the market, or they could get squeezed out with few options.”
That’s how the agents see it too. “The market is going to be tight. The players that you expect to get their money will get it, and everyone else will get squeezed,” said one agent.
One other factor worth considering: the big names potentially available via trade, including Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (with a contract that pays him $10 million in average annual value) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones ($5.4 million AAV). That’s going to impact whom teams are seeking to sign, and how much they have leftover to do so.
What does the current NHL free-agent market look like? Here’s a tiered guide to the players available this offseason:
An international research team with members from Linköping University has discovered a new material with a thickness of a single layer of atoms. The properties of the material, beryllonitrene, are similar to those of graphene. It is created under extremely high pressure and consists of beryllium and nitrogen atoms. The results have been published in Physical Review Letters.
Image credit: Pixabay (Free Pixabay license)
“Diamonds are created under extremely high pressure, but once formed they are one of the hardest known materials in the world, and are fully stable when the high pressure is removed. This is a property we are seeking in our quest for new ultrathin and functional materials”, says Igor Abrikosov, professor of theoretical physics in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology at Linköping University, LiU.
Together with researchers from countries that include Germany, the Netherlands, France and the US, the LiU researchers have discovered a new layered material with properties similar to those of a familiar supermaterial, graphene. The new material, beryllonitrene, is created under extremely high pressure and retains its properties outside the laboratory, something that is unusual for materials synthesised at high pressure, and a fundamental requirement for future applications.
“Ultrathin materials can have amazing properties with many conceivable applications. When seeking new materials, we can mainly use temperature and chemical composition to control the structure of the material. But recent developments in technology now allow us to create materials under extreme pressure. This opens for many new possibilities and exciting materials”, says Igor Abrikosov.
At the speed of light
As the name implies, beryllonitrene consists of beryllium and nitrogen atoms arranged in a two-dimensional structure. Each beryllium atom binds four nitrogen atoms and together they form an asymmetrical hexagonal pattern through which the electrons move. The electrons in a structure of this type move with speeds close to the speed of light, which is a requirement for future research in particle physics and quantum mechanics.
“Using materials such as graphene and beryllonitrene is an amazing addition to large particle accelerators. These materials will enable us to study the smallest constituents of matter and their fundamental properties, sitting at our office desks. We will eventually be able to study and simulate the properties of our universe and of alternate universes”, says Igor Abrikosov.
This vision, however, will require more research before it can be made reality. The hope for the immediate future is that beryllonitrene can be used in quantum applications such as extremely rapid calculations.
Deeper understanding with visualisation
Beryllonitrene forms the base of a completely new group of materials with huge possibilities. The discovery has been published in Physical Review Letters, and is the result of a large international research collaboration in which scientists from Linköping University have carried out the theoretical work.
Ingrid Hotz is a professor at the Department of Science and Technology at Linköping University. She has led the scientific visualisation of the material and the creation process. According to her, visualisation is vital to obtain essential information about the separation, connection, and bonding of atoms in a crystal, which are responsible for the physical properties of the material.
“Humans are very good at recognising patterns in visual representations. Visualisation is important to obtain a deeper understanding of the data and underlying physics of the material and the creation process. These measures support an objective comparison of changes in material characteristics under changing conditions, such as pressure”, says Ingrid Hotz.
The research has been financed by, among others, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Swedish Government Strategic Research Area in Materials Science on Advanced Functional Materials at Linköping University, the Swedish e-Science Research Centre (SeRC), the Swedish Research Council, and the Fun-Mat II competence centre in materials science.
The article: High-Pressure Synthesis of Dirac Materials: Layered van der Waals Bonded BeN4 Polymorph Maxim Bykov, Timofey Fedotenko, Stella Chariton, Dominique Laniel, Konstantin Glazyrin, Michael Hanfland, Jesse S. Smith, Vitali B. Prakapenka, Mohammad F. Mahmood, Alexander F. Goncharov, Alena V. Ponomareva, Ferenc Tasnádi, Alexei I. Abrikosov, Talha Bin Masood, Ingrid Hotz, Alexander N. Rudenko, Mikhail I. Katsnelson, Natalia Dubrovinskaia, Leonid Dubrovinsky, Igor A. Abrikosov Physical Review Letters 2021 doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.126.175501
Footnote: Graphene is an ultrathin material that consists of a layer of carbon atoms arranged in symmetrical hexagonal structures. The material has many desirable properties such as high strength and high conductivity for both electrons and heat. The hunt for further two-dimensional materials has increased in intensity after the discovery of graphene.
Written by Anders Ryttarson Törneholm, Translated by George Farrants
PHILADELPHIA — When DeVonta Smith transitioned from Heisman Trophy winning receiver to 2021 NFL draft prospect, his size became the focus.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds on the University of Alabama’s website, he was reportedly measured at 6-feet and 166 pounds during the medical combine in April. Debate over how successful he can be in the pros at that stature raged during the leadup to the draft, and has remained a topic of discussion since the Eagles selected him with the No. 10 overall pick.
On one hand, Smith’s size is a bit concerning. Entering the 2021 draft, the past seven receivers selected in the top 10 measured an inch taller and about 35 pounds heavier (6-foot-2, 212 pounds on average) than Smith’s listed height and weight, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The last wideout selected in the top 10 weighing less than 180 pounds? Tavon Austin (No. 8 overall by the Rams in 2013), who hasn’t started a game over the past three seasons and has not surpassed five receiving touchdowns in a single season.
On the other hand, Smith had no issues tearing up the talent-laden SEC en route to becoming the NCAA leader in receptions (117), receiving yards (1,856) and receiving touchdowns (23) in 2020, and has been compared favorably to a couple of other smaller receivers who became Pro Football Hall of Famers: Marvin Harrison (6-foot, 185) and Isaac Bruce (6-foot, 188). Harrison was enshrined in 2016, and Bruce will be enshrined as part of the 2020 class on August 7.
Bruce believes the comparisons to himself and Harrison are fair.
“[Smith] isn’t the most vocal guy, you can start there, which is something I like. He has tremendous confidence when he does open his mouth, and you can see it in his play,” Bruce told ESPN. “He’s very similar to Marvin. I can see a lot of it as far as the separation is concerned, [how he] catches the ball well, strong hands, and his ability to run after the catch, very similar to the way Marvin played.”
Bruce can relate to the skepticism Smith is facing, though in Bruce’s case, it came primarily from teammates as opposed to the public domain. He entered draft week in 1994 at 182 pounds but dropped 12 pounds in seven days as a result of stress over when and where he would be selected, weighing in at 170 pounds when selected 33rd overall by the Rams.
“My new teammates were kind of shocked just how small I was, or how I like to say, how big I was,” said Bruce, who was also questioned about the level of competition he faced coming out of Memphis. “I think the important thing is how DeVonta sees himself. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a 6-foot-5, 215-pound player. And I think he sees himself that way as well. His game proves that, because he plays big.”
Bruce said he didn’t use the doubters as motivation, but “probably ended [up] winking at a couple guys” once his play proved their assumptions faulty, “and after that we became good friends.”
One of the primary adjustments for Bruce was getting used to bigger cornerbacks in the NFL who use their physicality to re-route receivers within five yards of the line of scrimmage. It took him about eight weeks to get acclimated to the speed of the game, and anticipates it will be a smaller learning curve for Smith given the quality of talent he faced in college. Bruce thinks Smith will add about 10 pounds of muscle, which he believes might make Smith even faster than he was at Alabama.
Bruce (15,208) and Harrison (14,580) rank fifth and ninth, respectively, in career receiving yards. They proved that smarts, quality route running, sticky hands and separation speed can be the formula for outstanding receiver play, even in the absence of ideal size.
Smith said he hasn’t studied Bruce or Harrison’s film quite yet, but plans on taking a closer look to see what he can apply to his own game.
“I’ve seen a little bit of Marvin Harrison from watching football when I was young,” Smith said. “But to be compared to somebody like him, I mean, that’s great, that let’s me know that I’m going in the right direction.”
“When you look at Samson, the whole county, the whole town was trying to figure out: Where did Samson get his strength from? So obviously Samson couldn’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But he has supernatural strength,” Bruce said. “So it’s the same thing with DeVonta. He doesn’t look that big, but he creates separation, he can run by you, he’s smart enough to play in a zone and find open spots. So I like everything about his game.”
Game 5 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders was an absolute blowout, with Tampa taking a 3-2 series lead in an 8-0 win. Hopefully, Game 5 between the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens back in Sin City is a more competitive affair.
Check out the ESPN NHL Playoffs Daily to catch up every day of the postseason until the Stanley Cup is handed out in July.
More: Playoff schedule | Playoff Central
Game 5: Montreal Canadiens at Vegas Golden Knights | 9 p.m. (series tied 2-2)
Nicolas Roy arguably saved the Knights’ postseason with his overtime goal in Game 4 in Montreal. “It’s a huge swing game, but it’s only a swing game if we take advantage of it. It’s a two out of three series now, with two of the games in our building,” said Vegas coach Peter DeBoer. The goal gave goalie Robin Lehner the well-deserved win, as he got the start over Marc-Andre Fleury and had a stellar 27-save effort.
Two big questions for Vegas in Game 5: Does Lehner get another start here? Probably. And will the Knights get top center Chandler Stephenson back in the lineup to spark the struggling Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty? DeBoer says his return is “on the horizon.”
About last night
Tampa Bay Lightning 8, New York Islanders 0 (Lightning lead 3-2)
Well, that was emphatic. The Lightning owned Game 5 from the opening minute, as Steven Stamkos scored just 45 seconds into the game. Yanni Gourde banked a shot in off of Andy Greene of the Islanders to make it 2-0. Alex Killorn tucked a puck past Semyon Varlamov to make it 3-0, and end the goalie’s night.
It was Stamkos again at 5:42 of the second period on the power play, followed by a deflection goal by Ondrej Palat 10 minutes later. Killorn struck again on the power play to make it 6-0 at the end of two, but the Lightning weren’t done. Brayden Point scored their third power-play goal of the game 1:59 into the third period and defensive defenseman Luke Schenn even got in on the scoring to cap the 8-0 blowout.
“A loss is a loss this time of year. Whether it was in double overtime or the way it went tonight. We’ll wake up tomorrow down 3-2 and with our backs against the wall,” said Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri. “But we have a chance to win a game at home. That’s all we’re focused on right now.” Full recap
Three stars of the night
1. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stamkos had two goals in the rout, including his first goal since Game 4 against the Carolina Hurricanes. This breakout performance, which included an assist, came after questions about his health earlier in the day, before the game. “I’m not going to get into that sort of stuff,” Stamkos said. “I’m out there like everyone else, trying our hardest to win every single night. At this time of year, you can go through many different (things) guys are battling through, that’s why it’s the toughest trophy in sports to win. If the guys are on the ice, it means they’re good enough to go out there and help the team win, and that’s our goal.”
Steven Stamkos nets a pair of goals in the Lightning’s blowout win vs. the Islanders in Game 5.
2. Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
The rout was already very much on when Point made it 7-0 on the power play in the third period. But it gave him a goal in eight straight playoff games, becoming the second player in NHL history to do so. He’s two goals away from the record of 10 straight games with a goal, set by the Flyers’ Reggie Leach in 1976. Point now has 35 career playoff goals. Only eight players in NHL history have scored more goals through their first 60 career playoff games than him, and seven of them are in Hockey Hall of Fame members.
3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay Lightning
The star goalie was strong when they needed him to be, before Game 5 became a laugher. Vasilevskiy made 21 saves for his fourth career postseason shutout.
Quote of the day
“That’s how the Hockey Gods work. You play great, you earn your bounces. No one expected an 8-0 game. Let’s be honest there. But you earn everything you get.”
— Lighting captain Steven Stamkos
Major penalty of the day
Mat Barzal cross-checks Jan Rutta as he is ejected from Game 5 for the Islanders vs. the Lightning.
Islanders star Mathew Barzal was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a cross-check to the face of Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta at the end of the second period. The referees reviewed their initial call and confirmed it. Rutta took only one shift the rest of the game. This was Barzal’s first major penalty of his career in either the regular season or the playoffs.
Chant of the day
At the end of their series against the Boston Bruins, the Islanders fans at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum chanted “We want Tampa!”
In Game 5, Lightning fans offered their response during the third period of the blowout, chanting: “You’ve got Tampa!”
Fan of the day
From the Islanders watch party at the Coliseum, someone didn’t react well to the blowout.
A team of scientists from MIPT and NUST MISIS have developed and tested a new platform for realization of the ultra-strong photon-to-magnon coupling. The proposed system is on-chip and is based on thin-film hetero-structures with superconducting, ferromagnetic and insulating layers. This discovery solves a problem that has been on the agenda of research teams from different countries for the last 10 years, and opens new opportunities in implementing quantum technologies. The study was published in the highly ranked journal Science Advances.
Image credit: Pixabay (Free Pixabay license)
The last decade has seen significant progress in the development of artificial quantum systems. Scientists are exploring different platforms, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The next critical step for advancing quantum industry requires an efficient method of information exchange between platform hybrid systems that could benefit from distinct platforms. For example, hybrid systems based on collective spin excitations, or magnons, are being developed. In such systems, magnons must interact with photons, standing electromagnetic waves trapped in a resonator. The main limiting factor for developing such systems is the fundamentally weak interaction between photons and magnons. They are of different sizes, and follow different dispersion laws. This size difference of a hundred times or more considerably complicates the interaction.
Scientists from MIPT together with their colleagues managed to create a system with what is called the ultra-strong photon-to-magnon coupling.
Vasily Stolyarov, deputy head of the MIPT Laboratory of Topological Quantum Phenomena in Superconducting Systems, commented: “We created two subsystems. In one, being a sandwich from superconductor/insulator/superconductor thin films, photons are slowed down, their phase velocity is reduced. In another one, which is also a sandwich from superconductor/ferromagnetic/superconductor thin ﬁlms, superconducting proximity at both interfaces enhances the collective spin eigen-frequencies. The ultra strong photon-to-magnon coupling is achieved thanks to the suppressed photon phase velocity in the electromagnetic subsystem.”
Igor Golovchanskiy, leading researcher, senior researcher at the MIPT Laboratory of Topological Quantum Phenomena in Superconducting Systems, head of the NUST MISIS Laboratory of Cryogenic Electronic Systems, explained: “Photons interact very weakly with magnons. We managed to create a system in which these two types of excitations interact very strongly. With the help of superconductors, we have significantly reduced the electromagnetic resonator. This resulted in a hundred times reduction of the phase velocity of photons, and their interaction with magnons increased by several times.”
This discovery will accelerate the implementation of hybrid quantum systems, as well as open up new possibilities in superconducting spintronics and magnonics.
Except for the researchers from the MIPT Laboratory of Topological Quantum Phenomena in Superconducting Systems, the study involved scientists from NUST MISIS, the N.L. Dukhov All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Automatics, the Institute of Solid State Physics, RAS; the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics, the University of Glasgow (United Kingdom), the University of Twente (Netherlands), and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany).
This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, the Russian Science Foundation, and partially by the European Union Horizon 2020 program.
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Jake Olson leans forward, resting his elbows on a long wooden table in a Newport Beach, California, office where the five-man leadership group of his budding tech start-up is dialing into a pitch meeting. It’s the start of a new round of fundraising, and he tells the wealthy men on the other end of the call that their business, and their industry, is on the precipice of exponential growth.
His two most trusted and loyal companions sit by his side. Daniel Hennes, the company’s CEO who was previously Olson’s roommate at USC, is rattling off talking points about the huge opportunity in front of them at his typical breakneck pace. Quebec, Olson’s 11-year-old guide dog who was previously listed as the company’s Chief Barking Officer, is snoring softly as he naps at Olson’s feet.
Olson wears a pair of dark sunglasses and his company’s name, Engage, across the chest of a gray T-shirt. He is explaining to the potential investors how he and Hennes used their unique experience in college to build an online platform to make it easier for companies to book athletes and other celebrities for speaking events. After weathering the pandemic, Olson and Hennes believe the coming year will be a boon for multiple reasons — not the least of which is the unprecedented influx of eligible talent expected to invade the marketplace this summer.
“I’m telling you right now,” Hennes chimes in on the call, “a year from now there will be five other things we’re doing to make us money that we’re not even thinking of right now.”
Possibilities stretch further than the imagination at the moment for an industry that has grown quickly in anticipation of a tectonic change coming to the college sports world. Starting July 1, NCAA athletes in at least a half dozen states will be allowed to start making money from third-party endorsements. State laws will guarantee that players can profit from selling the rights to their name, image and likeness (NIL) in a wide variety of ways. The NCAA plans to vote at some point in the next week on rule changes that could open similar opportunities for every athlete under its authority.
College athletes in those states will be able to sign endorsement deals with sponsors or make money from speaking engagements, autograph signings, live event appearances, sports camps and lessons, social media shoutouts and any number of creative ways to cash in on their skills, life stories and popularity. Sorting through all those opportunities presents a daunting proposition for athletes.
Engage is one of dozens of companies hoping to take advantage of a potentially massive nascent market by using technology to make the process of building a brand and signing deals as simple and efficient as possible.
“You are going to need representation. And not only just any representation, but representation that actually cares about you,” Olson says. “… So what I’m doing now is I’ve created this company that, in my hopes, is to help give structure to individuals who want to speak, who are speaking, who don’t know how to represent themselves, who are kind of lost in this crazy landscape that is the engagement world.”
A labyrinth of differing and developing regulations that will shape the scope of what can be done makes the immediate future even more confusing for student-athletes, their schools and the companies hoping to hire them. Business owners, athletic department administrators and politicians believe that at least some degree of chaos is looming on the horizon. Olson says he’s not sure exactly what to expect this summer either, but he and his roommate-turned-business partner are among the very few (if not the only) people who can say they’ve lived through that chaos before.
At first, Hennes thought Olson was cracking a joke when he introduced himself in 2015 to the eight members of their dorm suite via email prior to freshman year at USC. Olson told them he was going to be on the top-10-ranked Trojans’ football roster as a reserve long-snapper, and that he was blind.
“I remember thinking, ‘OK, this kid is hilarious,'” Hennes says. It wasn’t until another roommate pointed out that it was unfair to make Olson chip in on the group’s television purchase that Hennes figured out Olson was being honest. “I was like, ‘Oh s—! That’s real? Are you kidding me?'”
Hennes then researched his new roommate and learned that Olson had permanently lost his eyesight when he was 12 years old after eight bouts with retinoblastoma cancer. Olson, who grew up a die-hard USC fan in Huntington Beach, became a regular fixture around the Trojans’ locker room as a child after then-head coach Pete Carroll heard about his medical condition. After Olson’s connection with the program and his upbeat attitude were featured in news stories, corporate groups started to invite him to share his inspirational journey as a paid public speaker while he was still in middle school.
Olson received a scholarship for disabled athletes after he was accepted to USC and was offered a chance to try out for the football team. When he and Hennes arrived on campus in 2015, Hennes was terrified that he would leave something out in the room that would trip Olson or commit some other sort of faux pas while learning to live with a blind person. He was also quick to see the power Olson’s story could have when combined with the platform provided by big-time college athletics.
Olson scoffed at his new roommate’s predictions of his impending fame. So during one of their first nights living in the dorm together, Hennes made Olson promise that if he landed in the spotlight that Hennes could lend a hand as his personal public relations manager. Olson didn’t expect anything to come from it, but within weeks of his first practice, USC had gathered a list of interview requests.
Because Olson had started his speaking career prior to becoming a college athlete, the NCAA granted him a rare waiver to ignore the amateurism rules prohibiting players from taking money from third-party sources. He was free to profit while he played. Olson’s parents had helped manage his speaking career while he was in high school, but starting in their second semester at USC, Hennes took over that role. He helped steer Olson to interviews, kept track of his calendar and organized a few paid speaking engagements during their first two years in school.
Their friendship and partnership reached new heights on Sept. 2, 2017, when Olson hit a milestone in his football career. USC pulled away from Western Michigan in the fourth quarter of its season opener that day, and a late interception returned for a touchdown provided a chance for Olson to take the field to snap for the extra point. His delivery was perfect. He was mobbed by teammates as the crowd chanted his name. Suddenly, a massive new wave of outsiders knew of Olson’s story. They all wanted to meet him.
“After I snapped, it definitely blew up,” Olson says. “It was incredible the amount of people who reached out.”
The following week, Olson and Hennes took a red-eye flight to New York City to appear on “Good Morning America,” daytime talk shows and a pre-production meeting for ESPN’s College GameDay in a 36-hour whirlwind before jetting back to Los Angeles for the Trojans’ next game. Olson remained steadily overwhelmed by trying to keep up with schoolwork, football practice and the increasing number of requests for his time.
“People were reaching out to Jake in 300 different ways,” Hennes says. “Someone wrote a letter to his house about booking him. Someone messaged his sister on Facebook. People reached out to USC. So the first thing we realized, there was no centralized hub to easily find and book Jake.”
Olson and Hennes thought there must be a better way. They had started to think about how to make the process more efficient when, months later, they received a request to speak to a Fresno-based business owned by an investor named John Shegerian. They met Shegerian at USC’s athletics dining hall to iron out details of Olson’s speaking appearance. The college juniors wore T-shirts and board shorts. Quebec, Olson’s guide dog, was nestled between his flip-flops.
They explained to the much-better-dressed Shegerian what a challenge it had been since September to manage Olson’s time. They told him they were trying to build an online platform to make it easier for companies to find and book interesting speakers. Shegerian thought they might be on to something. He offered the pair of 21-year-olds their first investment money and the technical assistance they would need to build their new company.
Olson and Hennes were attached at the hip for the final year of their college education as they worked together on Engage while Olson continued his career as an inspirational speaker. Hennes made sure Olson showed up on time for his fully packed schedule. Olson reminded his active friend to pace himself and occasionally eat a meal.
“He’s been a blessing in my life,” Olson says. “I cannot imagine going through college without Daniel. … He would be right there with me traveling to whatever state to speak at some random time. He would be there for me to help out with the business. I would never, ever, ever give advice to do it alone. I don’t think it’s possible to do it alone.”
Olson knows not everyone will have the same compelling life story and skill set that helped him hold down a career that netted him more than six figures’ worth of income during his time playing college sports. He believes, though, that thousands of athletes will soon have the opportunity to market themselves in a way that can at least make their lives a little easier in the short term if not fully changing them in the long term. He says it irked him that his teammates at USC couldn’t have the same chances he had while playing in college.
“What frustrated me is thinking about how other individuals were prohibited from telling their stories,” Olson says. “I can’t understand why a college athlete couldn’t go do the same thing. If they receive money for it, great. If they’re changing people’s lives, even better. I couldn’t understand. I’m not the only inspirational story. Literally, I had teammates of mine who inspired me; why can’t they go do the same thing?”
Olson is urging the athletes he speaks with to focus on monetizing their personal passions rather than signing up for whatever opportunities will put the most money in their bank account. Chasing money alone, he tells them, will lead to burnout and likely impact their performance in their sport or in the classroom. But, if managed properly, he believes the new doors being opened to college athletes this summer could have a huge positive impact. Olson says superstar athletes will have the chance to be as creative as they want to be and make substantial salaries from their NIL rights.
A player like Miami quarterback D’Eriq King — a Heisman candidate at a brand-name school — will have the chance to make more than $100,000 in his final year of college football, according to Olson and Hennes. King grew up in Houston and is the son of a breast cancer survivor. He said he’s eagerly awaiting the opportunity to do things like raise money for cancer research or return to his hometown to speak to kids or run football camps.
“Anything that can help other people get through to what they’re going through. That’s a really big deal to me,” King says. “Especially in my hometown, Houston, and Miami, my second home now, I would love the opportunity to talk to other people about my story.”
King said he and his teammates have been attending regular educational sessions set up for them by the athletic department this summer to learn about financial planning or marketing and hear from expert speakers in different fields. He said he knows it will be a challenge to balance business with an already busy agenda, but he believes he and many other players will have the support they need to turn these major changes into a positive and manageable experience.
“I think it might be a little bit of a challenge,” King says. “But I have a great support system in my family, great coaches around me, and a great support staff here at University of Miami. I think I’m ready for it.”
The top stars at the college level will likely sign with agents, which had been prohibited prior to this summer’s coming rule changes, to help them sort through deals that could reach well into the six-figure dollar range, if not higher. The majority of athletes won’t have agents or aggressive, energetic freshman roommates to shepherd them through this new landscape. Those athletes will rely largely on the bevy of tech-based companies built to simplify the process of finding endorsement opportunities.
Along with the ability to find speaking gigs on Engage, Hennes and Olson are expecting a lot of college athletes to use their site to arrange sweepstakes with fans — a service they’ve provided to pro athletes such as Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco Johnson and Isaac Bruce in the past. Fans bought $10 raffle tickets for the chance to spend a day with Owens in Miami prior to Super Bowl LIV. Bruce is currently using Engage to raffle off the chance to tag along with him for three days during his Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer to help raise money for his charitable foundation.
Engage has grown its list of speakers who use the platform from 400 to 2,100 in the past year, and Hennes says this past June was the biggest month of revenue in the company’s history. Much of that growth has come from partnering with established agencies such as RocNation and Athletes First. Engage is in the process of raising $2 million in seed funding to expand.
Part of that funding will be used to add staff in an effort to gear up for the potential addition of thousands of college athletes to their platform this summer. Olson and Hennes believe that many NCAA athletes will be sought after to speak to local businesses or youth groups in their hometown communities or be able to host pop-up events to interact with fans near campus. Hennes said he has been speaking with current college athletes on a daily basis in the past month, counseling them on how to think about sharing their stories and talking through ways to approach the wide range of options that will soon be open to them.
Engage doesn’t exclusively represent the athletes who use their site or charge them money to use the platform. It generates a profit by charging an extra fee to companies who book speakers on its platform or a service fee to fans who buy raffle tickets for the events it puts together.
There are a variety of services and business models emerging in the industry. Some companies plan to help connect athletes and brands. Some are offering to help athletic departments keep track of their athletes’ deals. Others are offering to train schools and athletes on how to build market value while following the evolving rules and restrictions.
Some companies plan to take a percentage fee of deals completed on their platform. Others are selling their services directly to athletic departments who will in turn provide them to their athletes.
Industry leaders Opendorse and INFLCR have each partnered with dozens of major athletic programs in the past year such as Nebraska (where Opendorse’s founders previously played for the football team) and Kentucky (which was among the first clients to sign on with INFLCR). Many schools view branding tools and NIL opportunities as the next major battle in the recruiting arms race. On top of showing off sparkling new locker rooms to recruits, schools are now showing them the tools they can provide to help them improve their market value. Engage signed a partnership deal with Opendorse in June that will integrate the Engage platform into the other tools that Opendorse offers to its clients’ athletes.
Olson learned during his days at USC that opportunities to make money inevitably come with potential pitfalls as well.
“There are going to be a lot of sharks out there,” Olson says. “I think people need to understand that anytime there’s money involved, especially big money, there’s going to be people who want that money, who don’t care about you, but just care about the money.”
Olson managed to avoid any major mistakes while learning the industry in college, but says he knows of stories of talent being forced into deals that made them uncomfortable, agents lying about the amount of money in a deal and pocketing the difference, or agents locking clients into unfair, long-term contracts. Hennes said he already has heard from college athletes who have been contacted by self-proclaimed marketing experts offering them questionable loans or help in exchange for upfront payments.
Many colleges have set up educational training for their athletes in hopes of steering them away from these problems. Hennes has offered advice to the college athletes with whom he has been speaking.
“Right now the message is more, ‘This is going to be exciting. You need to be really careful right now. Nothing is certain. Be careful,'” Hennes says. “It’s more trying to educate them on what I know, even though no one knows anything for certain.”
The details of what deals athletes will be allowed to pursue differ based on the state where they play. NCAA rule changes that apply to the majority of states that don’t have laws scheduled to go into effect this summer could bring their own set of specific restrictions. And all of those nuances could shift and evolve in the coming months as Congress weighs its options in establishing a federal law to govern NIL opportunities.
Sorting through those rules is just one layer of the uncertainty that comes from opening a brand-new marketplace to hundreds of thousands of athletes during an age when social media and other technology are dramatically changing the way that any influencer can interact with fans and profit from his or her fame.
Olson says building a start-up company in that environment has at times felt just as challenging as being treated for childhood cancer or learning to play college football without being able to see.
“You don’t know what to expect. You’re doing it all for the first time. It’s hard,” he says. “It’s scary devoting your whole life toward something that you have no idea if it may or may not work out. And that takes a lot of courage. It’s the same thing, kind of, going through cancer, blindness. You have no idea how it’s going to work out.”
The floodgates of change are about to open for college athletes. Olson and other entrepreneurs like him say they’ve done their best to build products that will channel that deluge in the right direction. But no one, not even those who lived through it before, knows what comes next.