Featured

Spurs Steamroll Heat, Win Fifth NBA Championship

The Spurs reign supreme, and somehow, it’s all LeBron James’ fault. San Antonio officially becomes Title Town, Texas, while Miami’s Three-Peat dreams are extinguished like a cigar on South Beach. Oh, and Kawhi Leonard registers actual emotion! Here’s what you missed while you were watching Game of Thrones: The Flagrant 2 for Monday a.m.

140

Spurs Get One For The Thumb

It wasn’t supposed to be this easy.

The San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA Championship on Sunday night, once again dominating the Miami Heat in the Game 5 of a highly anticipated Finals rematch that ended up being a shockingly one-sided affair.

The Spurs won 104-87 behind 22 points from Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard – at 22 years old, he’s the youngest MVP since his teammate, Tim Duncan, won the award in 1999 – and a balanced (dare we say “Dad-like”) scoring sheet that included 16 from Tony Parker, 19 from Manu Ginobili and 17 from Patty Mills, who put the game out of reach with an incendiary third quarter. Then they

Featured

Don’t Stop Believin’ The U.S. Begins Its World Cup Journey

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is just five days old, but already we’ve heard from Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi and Pirlo. We’ve seen domination by the Dutch, greatness from the Germans and upsets of the Uruguayans. And we’ve marveled at the tremendous advances in aerosol technology.

139

Now, it’s the United States’ turn to take the stage in Brazil, as they open World Cup play against Ghana, looking to avenge their last two exits in this tournament – both of which came courtesy of the Black Stars – and prove the naysayers wrong. After all, most don’t seem to think the U.S. can get out of the Group Stage, and a win (and the accompanying three points) in Monday evening’s match will go a long way toward silencing those critics.

World Cup Predictions: So, How Screwed Is The U.S.?

And that’s certainly a goal of this Cup; this is a U.S. side that has weathered the storm time and time again, whether it was after a qualifying loss to Honduras, the continued questions about their “inexperience,”

Featured

Memo Saves Mexico in the World Cup

It’s Flagrant 2 time once again. So chug that coffee and get up to speed on the two biggest sports stories that everyone will be talking about today.

138

Brazil Gets The Memo

Before the World Cup began, most thought host nation Brazil would roll over all opponents en route to its sixth championship. We’re guessing Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa didn’t read those pre-tournament predictions.

El Tri’s goalkeeper had the match of his life, making save after miraculous save to help his team earn a 0-0 draw with the high-powered Brazilians. He twice turned away star Neymar from close distance – including a sprawling stop for the ages on a blistering header in the 26th minute – denied Paulinho following a loose ball in the box, and held firm while defender Thiago Silva came thundering down with another point-blank header.

The man known as Memo later called it “the match of my life,” and we’d have to agree with him. Brazil came into the match having won the three previous World Cup meetings

World Cup Death Match Who Wins the Battle Between Brazil and Germany

We’re down to the sharp end of the World Cup now, with a semifinal pitting Germany against hosts Brazil kicking off in a few hours. Germany: fairly Germanic and business-like so far. Brazil: fairly Brazilian and full of uneven flair to date. Both are world soccer powerhouses, but only one can line up at the … Continue reading “World Cup Death Match Who Wins the Battle Between Brazil and Germany”

We’re down to the sharp end of the World Cup now, with a semifinal pitting Germany against hosts Brazil kicking off in a few hours. Germany: fairly Germanic and business-like so far. Brazil: fairly Brazilian and full of uneven flair to date. Both are world soccer powerhouses, but only one can line up at the final on Sunday. Who’s it going to be?

Let’s consider.

Brazil is without star man Neymar, who had his back broken during a challenge late in Brazil’s quarterfinal match against Colombia. So a fractured vertebrate later, Brazil loses the guy who’s bagged 4 of its 10 goals so far in the tournament (That’s like one goal for every seven million Neymar jerseys sold, give or take.) And though Brazil has a dumbfounding array of other one-name dynamos at its disposal — Oscar and Bernard and Fred and Hulk and Jo — only two of them have scored.

They’ll also be without team captain Thiago Silva, who is suspended for the match after picking up a couple yellow cards. Silva’s a brute on defense and also scored the opener in the 2-1 victory over Colombia (the winner

World Cup Preview: Young Gods and Groups of Death

The 2014 World Cup kicks off Thursday, and over the next month, you will thrill to the on-field exploits of Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney and Neymar. But six months from now, what’s going to stick in your brain aren’t the bright flashes from some of the biggest egos on the planet, but rather, the sparks of shocking brilliance from the sport’s great unknowns, the moments that make you rewind the DVR and ask “Who the hell is that guy, and how the hell did he do that?

As Rolling Stone continues its countdown to the Cup, we’ve put together a list of five young players who could be destined for big things in Brazil – and the ego boost that comes with it – plus a handy cheat sheet of what you can expect from the Group Stage. Who will rise to the top, and who will go home early? We’ve got a few ideas …

Who Will Be The Breakout Stars?

Paul Pogba, France

The French midfielder is only 21, yet he’s got the vision and skills of a fully developed footy wizard. How good is he? A couple years ago,

The Rangers Stay Alive, With Help From the Hockey Gods

The Rangers and the Kings played a game of inches in the Stanley Cup Final. The Miami Heat hatched a Machiavellian plan to lure Carmelo Anthony to South Beach. Meanwhile, in Anaheim, Yoenis Cespedes launched another Cuban missile strike.

A lot happened last night. That’s why we’re here for you with the a.m. recap. It’s Flagrant 2 time.

Rangers Survive, By Thiiiis Much

The New York Rangers were granted a stay of execution Wednesday night, beating Los Angeles 2-1 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and avoiding a royal flush at the hands of the Kings.

The Blue Shirts struck first, on a deflection by Benoit Pouliot at 7:25 of the opening period – their first goal in more than 120 minutes – got some lucky bounces (and heavy pucks that stopped on the goal line), then held on for dear life in the third. It almost wasn’t enough, as the Kings came within inches of tying it up late in the final period. Like, literally inches:

That would be forward Derek Stepan sweeping the puck off the line and keeping the Rangers’ faint Cup hopes alive. Henrik Lundqvist turned away

World Cup Predictions So, How Screwed Is the U.S.

The world’s biggest sporting event is upon us, which can mean only one thing: a planet-wide spree of braying, drunk-in-broad-daylight, chest-thumping nationalistic mania and a staggering decline in worldwide productivity.

So prepare your face paint and start concocting reasons to have meetings wrap up just in time for the afternoon kickoff. But before you shell out the dough for a team USA jersey, know that you’ll probably only have three chances to wear it this summer. Sad but true. Why? Because …

The U.S. Is Screwed. Really Screwed.

Shall we move on? No? Okay. Let’s carve out a conceivable scenario in which Sam’s Army can escape the “Group of Death” and squeak past Germany or Portugal into the knockout round.

It’s not a nice thing to wish injuries on anyone, but the U.S.’s chances have been helped somewhat by the fact that German midfielder Marco Reus has been taken out by an ankle injury (okay, not really; Germany could field two threatening teams with the depth of talent they have). Also, as of this writing, World’s Best Player™ Cristiano Ronaldo is suffering from a knee injury – you can

The U.S. Beats Ghana at the World Cup … Now What

Talk about a purging of the demons. The U.S., booted by Ghana from the previous two World Cups, finally beat their unlikely nemesis last night, winning 2-1 to silence their critics and move one step closer to advancing out of the Group of Death. But it wasn’t just a win. It was a dramatic roller-coaster ride that culminated in a last-second screamer, the kind of victory that left you thinking “Right, this just might happen …”

Oh, and, of course, “USA! USA! USA!!!!!!”

The Americans led from 29th second on a slick bit of play that ended with Clint Dempsey ricocheting a low shot off the far goal post and into the back of the net (cue eruptions from Anchorage to Alabama.) The U.S. looked threatening for the next couple of minutes before fading, sadly, into a long slog of meager possession and abject passing, in the middle of which Jozy Altidore got stretchered off after suffering what looked to be a campaign-ending hamstring injury.

The second half didn’t offer much variation on the script, with Ghana dominating possession and looking the likelier team to score, which is precisely what happened

NBA Eastern Conference Finals Pacers Punch Heat in the Mouth

Is it possible the Indiana Pacers have been pulling a Verbal Kint on us this whole time, that Roy Hibbert’s three scoreless games in the playoffs so far have just been part of an elaborate con? Probably not. After all, this is an Indiana team that often struggles to smoothly execute even rudimentary offensive sets, instead relying on a stalwart defense that still led the league with a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 96.7 despite a deep swoon dating back to the All-Star break. The Pacers are fundamentally built to punch you in the mouth.

Or, more specifically, they’re built to punch the Miami Heat in the mouth, and that’s just what they did in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday. Now, Game 1 is just Game 1, and it’s helpful to remember that the Heat are 4-0 in playoff series where they lose the first game in the Big Three era (although it’s also worth noting that since 1995, home teams winning the first game of a series are 21-4). But Indiana led wire to wire, jumping out to a 7-0 lead and never letting Miami closer than four

NBA Western Conference Finals The Spurs’ Precision-Tuned Dominance

After his San Antonio Spurs mangled the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first game of the Western Conference Finals 122-105, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked if they made any special effort to get the ball into the paint with the Thunder’s primary rim protector, Serge Ibaka, sidelined for the rest of the year with a calf injury.

“No,” he said – flatly, as he says almost everything. “Sometimes it’s hard to focus on something like that, to decide you’re going to do that: you’re going to shoot threes tonight or you’re going to go into the paint tonight. You take what’s given. Play the game. Respect the game and whatever’s there, take advantage of that.”

NBA Conference Finals: The Inevitability of the Association

That’s the thing about the Spurs, who have now won 10 straight Game 1s in the playoffs: they’re not going to beat themselves by pressing or playing outside themselves, even when tempted. Without Ibaka, it was obvious that the Thunder would struggle, but there was also the glimmer of hope for Oklahoma City that getting forced out of their comfort zone might goad the generally uninspired Scott Brooks to adapt and find

The NBA Playoffs Blake Griffin’s Crotch, KD’s Mom and the Black Mamba

If the first round of the NBA Playoffs was Broadway, so far, the second round has been more like an elementary school play: Still a lot of fun to watch, but not quite as entertaining (and with much lower production values). The higher seeds had been dominant, and heading into the weekend, the lower seeds looked as if they were going to be running home to mommy.

But that’s the thing about the league; you can always expect the unexpected, and this past weekend gave us plenty of left turns … including some that took place off the court. As always, the postseason is plenty educational, so here are the 10 things we learned during round two; most notably, that Blake Griffin should start wearing a cup.

Blake Griffin Dishes on Bieber, Weed, Creed and his PED Secret

1. Ripped City: The Portland Trail Blazers looked like world beaters coming off their series win against the Houston Rockets. But against a team made up of international stars, it’s the world that’s beating the Blazers. The Spurs took a commanding 3-0 lead over Portland on Saturday, a deficit no team in league history has ever overcome. We

Flagrant 2 Spurs Beat the Heat in the Air Conditioner Game

Welcome back to Flagrant 2, your a.m. recap of the night in sports. And while we presume there were other games going on, this morning, we’re all about Game 1 of the NBA Finals

The AC went out, LeBron limped off, and the Spurs got hot at the right time, taking a 1-0 lead in the series. Grab an ice pack and let’s get right to the recap.

Spurs Stay Cool, Take Game 1

The days leading up to the NBA Finals were full of hot air, in the form of tepid “trash talk” between the Spurs and the Heat. Game 1 was full of hot air, too, but it was the kind filling San Antonio’s AT&T Center after the building’s air conditioning broke, raising the temperature inside and officially becoming a storyline.

Players covered themselves in ice packs, coaches limited minutes and LeBron James cramped so badly that he was forced to miss the final four minutes of the fourth quarter. The Spurs’ Danny Green caught fire in his absence, and San Antonio sweated out a 110-95 win.

For three quarters, Game 1 was a back-and-forth battle between the league’s two best

Topps Goes Back to the Future With the Archives Collection

Over the course of 75 years, Topps has been in the business of pretty much everything: Bubble gum, Garbage Pail Kids, cowboy collectibles, comic books, Menudo (we’ve still got our Ricky Martin rookie card) and, ever since salesman-turned-executive Sy Berger designed the first annual set of cards in 1952, baseball.

But rarely have they been in the business of themselves.

That all began to change in April, when, after a few tentative dips in the nostalgia pool, Topps dove in with the launch of the Archives Collection, a retro-leaning series of cards, clothing and collectibles centered around iconic baseball teams of the past three decades – and the company’s essentially untapped archives. It’s an ambitious step for a brand that now draws a large percentage of its revenues from so-called “entertainment products” (WWE and Star Wars trading cards, the resurgent GPK franchise, etc.), and it’s being helmed by a 24-year-old designer who admits he hasn’t collected baseball cards in years.

“I grew up a Mets fan, so I used to be into cards. I remember the hobby shops, and I’ve got binders at home. But after that, I didn’t really pay much attention to baseball cards, or collect them,” Michael Linkens,

Cut the Cramp Why LeBron James Deserves a Break

Have you ever woken up at 3 a.m. with a cramp after a night of drinking? Sure you have.

Your sad and wretched body, pickled by Fireball shots and PBR tallboys, down to its most dehydrated and salted essence, is screaming at you, enraged by the trauma you have subjected it to. And it is determined to have its revenge, firing lasers into your calves. You grasp at them wildly, trying to quiet the lighting-bright pains, flailing in terrifying contortions while trying not to wake your companion, sleeping soundly beside you. Basically, it is the worst.

Okay, you know the feeling. Now imagine trying to play basketball at the same time. Somehow, much of America seems to have forgotten this in the wake of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, San Antonio pulled off some typically Spursian old-man trickery, conspiring to have the air conditioning in the AT&T Center malfunction at just the right time, forcing LeBron James to lose approximately 10 gallons of fluids in the 90-degree heat, cramp up and miss the final 4 minutes of the game. During his time on the bench – grimacing

LeBron James Heats Up, Miami Gets Even in the NBA Finals

Welcome to the Monday edition of Flagrant 2, the a.m. recap of the night in sports.

This morning, we’ve got a double-shot of the NBA Finals, as LeBron James answered the bell (and his critics), drank plenty of fluids and carried the Miami Heat to a win in Game 2. Oh, also, bat-tossing brawls, angry millionaires in cowboy hats and Rafa reigning in France. We know, it’s a lot to take in on a Monday morning.

LeBron James is Ice Cold.

It took LeBron James three quarters to heat up in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Game 2 was a different story.

James started 1-for-4 from the field with three turnovers, but then caught fire, hitting 11 of his next 13 shots, scoring a game-high 35 and leading the Miami Heat to a 98-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Quite the way to answer those crampy critics.

James played Game 2 like he had something to prove, scoring 11 in the second quarter to cut an 11-point Spurs lead, and personally erasing a 62-59 Spurs lead by scoring eight points in less than a minute during a 14-point third quarter. And

The World Cup Meet ‘Wondo,’ the Cult Hero Who Beat Landon Donovan

The 2014 FIFA World Cup begins Thursday, when host nation (and prohibitive favorite) Brazil kicks off against Croatia. The United States will send its 23 into the fray, too, and our relatively inexperienced side will be tested early, thrown into a group that features powerhouses Portugal and Germany, plus Ghana, the squad that bounced the U.S. from the last two Cups.

And though the task at hand is daunting, the U.S. team is ready for the challenge. All this week, Rolling Stone will be profiling the soldiers of Sam’s Army, beginning with Chris Wondolowski, the cult hero known as “Wondo.” His road to the World Cup has been anything but traditional – he played at Division II Chico State, was chosen in the last round of Major League Soccer’s Supplemental Draft, and, for a time, made ends meet by working as a coach for a youth team – yet, thanks to his preternatural ability to put the ball in the net, Wondo beat the odds.

He’s won MLS MVP honors, shined against international competition, and, last month, he earned a spot on the U.S. team, ahead of established stars like Landon Donovan. Here, he discusses his

Flagrant 2 Jonathan Quick Just Saving Everything

The L.A. Kings on the verge of a Stanley Cup sweep, thanks to their red-hot goalkeeper. A dude named Lonnie single-handedly defeating the Texas Rangers. And a Medicine Man trying his hand at helping the Tampa Bay Rays.

Here’s your a.m. recap of the night in sports, the Flagrant 2 for Tuesday.

Jonathan Quick!

The Los Angeles Kings didn’t need any of their comeback magic on Monday night, handling the New York Rangers 3-0 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to take a commanding three-games-to-none lead in the series. As you can probably gather, Jonathan Quick had a lot to do with that.

The Kings keeper was phenomenal throughout, turning away all 32 shots he faced and robbing the Rangers with several sprawling saves. Like this one:

Los Angeles grabbed its first lead of the entire series with one second left in the first period on Jeff Carter’s goal (they took Games 1 and 2 in OT) then extended that lead with scores from Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards. The Rangers had chances throughout – they were 0-for-6 on the power play – but couldn’t capitalize, and the Madison Square Garden crowd,

The World Cup Matt Besler on BBQ, Bomb Pops and Bracing for Ronaldo

When the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off Thursday, 32 nations will begin the quest for the most coveted trophy in sports. The United States is once again among them, though our relatively inexperienced side faces a tough road, thrown into a group with powerhouses Portugal and Germany, plus Ghana, the squad that bounced the U.S. from the last two Cups.

But the Americans are ready for the challenge, and all week long, Rolling Stone will be profiling the players who hope to shock the world. Today, we catch up with Matt Besler, All-American defenseman at Notre Dame turned mainstay for Major League Soccer’s reigning champions, Sporting Kansas City. He’ll anchor a U.S. back line that’s light on experience, but heavy on attitude, and ready to take on the best players on the planet.

How do you prepare for a match?
I don’t have any pre-game superstitions, but I think every player has pre-game habits; I like to have a peanut butter and jelly about an hour before the game, I like to take a cold shower right after that, before I go out to warm-ups, to wake me up a little bit. I don’t have

Built Like A Gymnast Pack On The Muscle With Gymnastic Rings

Gymnastics rings are showing up in more gyms than ever before. However, many people mistakenly believe these wooden implements are only useful for athletes who use them in competition, like gymnasts or CrossFit athletes. In reality, anyone can use the rings and benefit from them tremendously, because they help simultaneously build strength, stability, and coordination like no other apparatus.

If you’ve ever watched the gymnastics events at the Olympics, you know how much strength the rings require. What you may not know about the rings, though, is how effectively they can be used to build incredible muscular size and definition. The rings may not be the first tool that comes to mind if hypertrophy is your goal, but as the incredible physiques of elite gymnasts show, ring work can help pack muscle on the upper body.

Are they easy? No, but nothing worth pursuing is. If you’re willing to start at the bottom and master the techniques and routines I outline here, you’ll find they’re a great tool for building a muscular upper body that’s every bit as strong as it looks.

Getting Off The Ground

For now, you won’t be doing any

Golfer’s Guide To Strength Training

Strength training with full-body lifts can help anyone improve on the links. Try this simple program, or send it to the golfer in your life to help them get stronger and improve their game!

Based on the “Tiger effect” on tour, one would assume that lifting is good for golfers. However, just like perfect practice, working out should be done with purpose and efficiency. Ripped biceps and abs are not necessarily going to make you a better golfer. In fact, they could lead to muscle imbalance and poor ball striking.

For golfers, I emphasize a full-body approach in developing strength of both bones and muscles, which many weightlifting programs fail to do. Also, a natural, full-body approach will not lessen your playing endurance on the links, increase injury risk, or produce fatigue—all issues that can arise from weightlifting programs. In other words, if golf is your highest priority, you want to avoid building unnecessary bulk that will only interfere with a smooth, consistent swing.

The bottom line is this: By developing stronger muscles and bones throughout your entire body, you will increase fitness and play better. A simple, safe and short routine will