TIME Basketball

Minnesota Timberwolves Select Karl-Anthony Towns With No. 1 NBA Draft Pick

Karl-Anthony Towns speaks to the media after being drafted first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the First Round of the 2015 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 25, 2015 in the Brooklyn, New York.
Elsa/Getty Images Karl-Anthony Towns speaks to the media after being drafted first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the First Round of the 2015 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 25, 2015 in the Brooklyn, New York.

The 6-foot-11 Towns averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in just 21 minutes per game

(NEW YORK)—The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns with the first pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night, the first of three straight freshmen chosen.

The Timberwolves went for the center in their first time owning the No. 1 pick. They can add him to a young roster featuring Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, who was picked first last year by Cleveland and later dealt to Minnesota in the Kevin Love trade.

The Los Angeles Lakers then took guard D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State, who was wearing a red jacket, bowtie and shoes that matched the Buckeyes’ school colors.

The 6-foot-11 Towns averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in just 21 minutes per game, as Kentucky used a platoon system in winning its first 38 games and reaching the Final Four.

It was Kentucky’s third No. 1 pick in the last six years, joining Anthony Davis in 2012 and John Wall in 2010. The Wildcats were hoping to have a record seven players picked.

It was the sixth straight year a freshman was the No. 1 pick. Russell also played just one year in college.

For weeks, Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor had been considered the top two selections. But the Lakers instead decided on backcourt help with a player who can step right in and play alongside Kobe Bryant.

Instead, Okafor fell to the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3, becoming the 19th lottery selection and 29th first-round pick — most in NCAA history — under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The Knicks ended the run of one-and-dones when they took Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 pick. The 19-year-old forward had been surging up draft boards but Knicks fans who filled parts of Barclays Center in Brooklyn wanted no part of him, booing loud and long after his name was called by Commissioner Adam Silver.

TIME Baseball

Virginia Wins 1st College World Series Title in 4-2 Victory Over Vanderbilt

CWS Finals Baseball
Ted Kirk—AP Virginia celebrates winning Game 3 of the best-of-three NCAA baseball College World Series finals against Vanderbilt at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., on June 24, 2015

Virginia's 44 wins were the fewest by a national champion since 1968

(OMAHA, Neb.) — Pavin Smith homered and drove in three runs and Brandon Waddell turned in another strong College World Series pitching performance, leading Virginia over Vanderbilt 4-2 on Wednesday night for the school’s first baseball national championship.

The Cavaliers (44-24) prevailed in the CWS finals rematch against the defending champion Commodores and won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s first title in baseball since Wake Forest in 1955.

Waddell (5-5) went seven innings and allowed only two hits after Vanderbilt (51-21) scored twice in the first. He retired the last 11 batters he faced. It was Waddell’s fifth career CWS start, and Virginia won each of them.

Nathan Kirby pitched the last two innings and struck out five of his eight batters for his first save. John Kilichowski (3-4) took the loss.

When pinch-hitter Kyle Smith got caught looking at a fastball to end the game, Kirby threw his glove and hat into the air as catcher Matt Thaiss ran to the mound to embrace him.

Virginia’s 44 wins were the fewest by a national champion since the 1968 Southern California squad had 43. The Cavaliers endured a season of injuries and tough times at midseason and almost missed qualifying for the ACC Tournament. They entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 regional seed.

The Commodores had a second straight season with more than 50 wins, and they came into Wednesday having outscored their first nine NCAA Tournament opponents 70-15. They couldn’t generate much after scoring their two runs in the first.

Smith stepped up for Virginia in Game 3 after going 1 for 8 and striking out four times in the first two games of the finals. He hit a two-run homer off Walker Buehler to tie it in the fourth, singled in the go-ahead run in the fifth and flashed defensively all night at first base.

Waddell was pitching on three days’ rest after working the first five innings of the Cavaliers’ 5-4 win over Florida on Saturday. Before that, he and Josh Sborz combined on a two-hit, 1-0 shutout of the Gators on June 16.

Sborz, who won three games and pitched 13 scoreless innings, was selected as the CWS Most Outstanding Player.

Kirby, who missed nine weeks because of injury and returned to start Virginia’s 10-5 loss to Florida in its third CWS game, relieved Waddell to start the eighth and struck out the side. With a man on first, he fanned No. 1 overall draft pick Dansby Swanson for the second out.

Swanson, the 2014 CWS Most Outstanding Player, stood with his hands on his hips and shouted “No!” as first-base umpire Perry Costello ruled he didn’t check his swing on the third strike, ending his final collegiate at-bat.

The Cavaliers also got another big game from Kenny Towns. He saved what would have been the go-ahead run for Vanderbilt in the fourth when he made a diving stop of a smash down the third-base line and threw out Tyler Campbell to end the inning. He later drove in an insurance run in the seventh.

Buehler, the 24th overall draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers, lasted only three innings in what was the second-shortest of his 15 starts this season. He allowed three hits and walked a season-high four.

TIME Basketball

Kevin Love Opts Out of Contract With Cavaliers

Kevin Love
Charles Krupa—AP In this April 23, 2105, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) looks to pass during the first quarter of a first-round NBA playoff basketball game in Boston.

The team will reportedly try to resign the forward, though they may not keep him

Following the Cavaliers’ loss to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, three-time All-Star Kevin Love is opting out of his contract with Cleveland.

ESPN reports the Cavaliers will try to resign the forward, who sat out of the majority of the playoffs after suffering a shoulder injury in the first round. It’s unclear whether the team would keep Love or engineer a sign-and-trade for him. The Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Portland Trailblazers may also attempt to sign Love.

Love joins a host of other high-profile free agents this summer, including Marc Gasol, Kawhai Leonard, LeMarcus Aldridge and Jimmy Butler. If he signs a long-term contract, either with the Cavaliers or another team, he’ll miss out on the salary cap raise of at least 30% expected to come in the summer of 2016.

LeBron James also has the option to become a free agent this year, but it’s unlikely he will do so until next year, when he can take advantage of the raised salary cap. It’s doubtful that James will actually leave Cleveland—even if he does eventually opt out—after his triumphant return last summer, during which he promised the city a championship.

[ESPN]

TIME Basketball

Appreciation: Harvey Pollack, Hoops Stats Guru

Harvey Pollack
Matt Slocum—AP Philadelphia 76ers stats keeper Harvey Pollack waves during a celebration of his 90th birthday during an NBA basketball game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Utah Jazz, March 9, 2012, in Philadelphia.

The pioneering analyst delivered new knowledge, but never forgot the fun

Sports are smarter these days, to the great benefit of all fans. We look at the games in more minute detail, and can glean strategic insights that making watching sports more engaging. Thanks to the notion that where a certain player takes his shots is just as important as how many he fires at the rim, we knew that Steph Curry was shooting 91% on left-corner three-pointers in the playoffs at one point. Let’s see if the defense can keep Curry away from his hot spot. What are the Warriors going to do to get him open there?

Across all sports, technology is unlocking secrets. Cameras tell you where every pitch landed in, or out, of the strike zone, and the angles of tennis shots. Teams own proprietary formulas to evaluate talent that are so valuable, it may seem like a good idea to hack them. In the midst of this new-agey analytics industry that has ascended over the last decade, it’s just so sweet that the man who started the stats revolution, in basketball, was a 93-year-old employee of the Philadelphia 76ers who had been working in the NBA since its inaugural season in 1946. His technological innovation on the night of March 2, 1962, when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Penn., was to write “100” on a white piece of paper and give it to Wilt, who held it up to a camera, creating one of the most iconic photographs in sports history.

Harvey Pollack, director of statistical information for the Philadelphia 76ers and the last original employee of the NBA’s first season still working in the league, died on June 23, at 93. Pollack made epic contributions to the game. He started tracking numbers that fans, players, coaches and talent evaluators now consider routine: offensive and defensive rebounds, steals, turnovers, blocked shots and minutes played, among others. He also began compiling more advanced information, like 48-minute projections, plus-minus evaluations, distances of field goals. He coined the term “triple-double.”

Today’s advanced stat gurus, who now occupy plum positions in NBA front offices, drew on Pollack’s work. “He was certainly an originator of many great ideas and concepts that, back in the day, were monumental,” said Roland Beech, vice president of basketball operations for the Dallas Mavericks. “They were definitely powerful. Absolutely, all the stats you see today owe their gratitude to him.” John Hollinger, vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, tweeted:

Thanks in large part to the best-selling book Moneyball, Bill James, godfather of baseball analytics, is more widely known that Pollack ever was. (Back in 2006, James earned a spot on TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world). But Pollack had a similar impact on his sport. While James’ annual Historical Baseball Abstract was the bible for the sabermetric crowd, the Harvey Pollack Statistical Yearbook was the sacred text for hoops quants. While Pollack came up with his share of player evaluation formulas, measured crunch time performance and pinpointed which five-man player combos performed the best, he never forgot the fun. “He just loved basketball,” said Beech. “He’d include things that had no real statistical value, but that added some color to the game. He always appreciated the fan.”

A glance through Pollack’s 2010-2011 statistical guide reveals his hodgepodge of interests: it includes a list of left-handed pro players over time, the most common surnames in NBA history, and a personal favorite, the players who recorded the most games that ended in a trillion between 1993-2010 (a player records a trillion when he enters a game and contributes no statistics, resulting in a string of zeroes next to his minutes played tally in the box score). Congratulations former Atlanta Hawks guard Mario West, who topped the chart with 79 trillions.

Sports numbers can be goofy, and incredibly insightful. And if you’re like most fans—not a hard-core stathead—they can, at times, be boring. But thanks to an innovator like Pollack, numbers matter. “We lost somebody central to the NBA,” said Beech. RIP.

TIME Formula One

Here’s Who Could Be Teaming Up to Buy Formula One

Dolphins vs. Buccaneers
Sun Sentinel—MCT via Getty Images Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins.

It could help the global sport break into the U.S. market

Stephen Ross, the 75-year-old co-founder of RSE Ventures and the owner of the NFL’s Dolphins, is looking to partner with Qatar to buy Formula One in a deal worth about $8 billion.

The investment would mean CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm that currently owns the motor racing sport, would sell its 35.5% stake to RSE Ventures and Qatar Sports Investments, according to The Financial Times. At the moment, CVC has declined to comment on any discussions, and the FIA, the sport’s regulator, has yet to receive an application to approve the transaction.

It could be the push needed for F1 to break through into the U.S. market. The global sport, worth around $9 billion, only has one race in Texas on its calendar, and has perennially struggled to gain traction among American sports fans. Now, it could benefit from Ross’ helping hand. As chairman of global property group Related Companies, Ross helped to develop New York’s Time Warner Center. He is also in talks to bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami together with English footballer David Beckham.

The interest from Qatar is also said to have heightened in the midst of the ongoing scandal at football governing body FIFA over the country’s winning bid for the 2022 World Cup. According to the FT, a majority stake in F1 would help fill the country’s portfolio in sports, an essential part of the country’s long-term ambitions. The Qatar group also owns French football club Paris St Germain.

TIME Sports

See Photos From South Africa’s Monumental Rugby World Cup Victory

It was recreated in the movie 'Invictus'

It was exactly 20 years ago, on June 24, 1995, that South Africa beat rival New Zealand to win that year’s Rugby World Cup. It was the first World Cup for South Africa, as the nation had been kept out of the competition during apartheid, so the victory was a meaningful one—but, as anyone who has seen the 2009 film Invictus knows, the game was even more meaningful for what happened off the field.

In South Africa, rugby had been seen as a sport for white Afrikaaners, but President Nelson Mandela saw that the tournament could be a chance for a broader social reconciliation. As TIME reported that May, the sport could herald a united future in which “at rugby matches, thick-necked Afrikaans players stand at attention for the black liberation and nationalist hymn Nkosi Sikelel i Afrika (God Bless Africa).” By the time the 1995 World Cup was over, that vision was much closer to being a reality.

Following Mandela’s death in 2013, TIME published an interview with Francois Pienaar, who had been captain of that 1995 team. Pienaar reflected on his relationship with Mandela, the link between sports and politics, and the moment he realized that June 24 game would go down in history:

Were you aware this was more than a game?

Not before the competition started. But in six weeks, I saw the country change. At our hotel in Cape Town, the lady who checked us in was wearing a Springbok jumper. The gentleman who served us breakfast would say we must eat because we needed to be strong. The morning of the final [in Johannesburg], we went for a run, and four black kids selling newspapers chased after us, shouting the names of the players. After the match, when an interviewer asked me how it felt to win in front of 65,000 people, I replied, “We didn’t have 65,000. We had 43 million.”

Read an interview with Francois Pienaar about Nelson Mandela’s legacy, here in the TIME Vault: A Leader and a Champion

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