Each day during the sports pause stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, NESN.com will publish a diary full of random thoughts, opinions, takeaways, and other cool tidbits we’ve stumbled across in the absence of actual games. Because why not? We’re all in this together. There’s no way around it. This year has pretty much been the…NESN Diary: Gianna Bryant Would Have Set WNBA On Fire (And Other Random Thoughts) — NESN.com
There’s no way around it. This year has pretty much been the worst for sports fans around the country. And all that started with the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Well today would have been Gianna’s 14th birthday. I wasn’t a Los Angeles Lakers fan. Actually, you could call me the opposite, being from Mass. and taking the Boston Celtics’ side of the storied rivalry. But still, the Bryant family, especially Kobe’s wife Vanessa, have been on my mind a lot through this quarantine. The pandemic is difficult enough to deal with alone, never mind while mourning the loss of your husband and daughter. Vanessa posted a beautiful tribute to Gianna today, and it broke my heart. I obviously have no personal connection to the family beyond that of a basketball fan. And a women’s basketball fan. And for those who find themselves in the middle of that Venn diagram, the loss of Kobe and GiGi means so much more. It really felt like those two were destined to change the WNBA forever. GiGi was being groomed by her father to become one of the most influential basketball players of our generation, I know it. With a man like Kobe, taking the interest he did in the women’s game, it seemed like great things were coming. You were starting to see the effects of him using his platform to show people that the WNBA is cool. And Gianna’s skill and dedication would have polarized the league. Gianna won’t go on to play for UConn, or get drafted to play for the Los Angeles Sparks and build on her own legacy. Because even as a 14-year-old, that legacy already was established. That girl could hoop. Rest in peace, Mambacita, and happy birthday. Here are some of today’s biggest storylines in sports. — Keeping with women’s sports, they took quite a blow Friday. A federal judge ruled against the United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s lawsuit for equal pay after a five-year fight against the U.S. Soccer Federation. A spokesperson for the four-time World Cup champions said that while they’re shocked and disappointed with the decision, their fight isn’t over. I also am shocked and disappointed with the decision, but my girls will see you in appeals court. — The Boston Bruins signed Jaroslav Halak to a one-year contract extension Friday, locking up some security at the goaltender position. He was set to be an unrestricted free agent, but instead will make $2.25 million in his third season in Boston. Here’s what the B’s salary cap situation looks like now. — The NBA’s Board of Governors held a conference call and got quite a bit done. The league reportedly is indefinitely postponing both its draft lottery and combine. There’s no word on the NBA Draft yet, but it’s anticipated that that will be put off until August or September as well. And this season’s events aren’t the only ones affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On that call, the league reportedly discussed starting the 2020-21 season in December. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but I think if it goes that route, the NBA might actually enjoy the benefits of a later start to the season. I wrote about this idea back in March, but the league would have less time competing with the NFL and the NBA Playoffs would absolutely dominate ratings in the summer when there’s nothing going on but the dog days of the baseball season. I’m into it. Let’s experiment and see what sticks. — As news circulated the last few days about the NHL using “host cities” to finish out the season in centralized locations, the league got a lot of pushback from players. The league reportedly is now looking into ways to play the season by allowing teams to stay in their home markets. — After the NFL Draft, quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s chances to start for New England improved thanks to the oddsmakers at FanDuel Sportsbook. That won’t stop speculation of either Andy Dalton or Cam Newton getting brought in by Bill Belichick. — The Patriots selection of Division II safety Kyle Dugger was a fascinating one. Even his own college coach was surprised. But he’s expected to be an excellent punt returner and if that doesn’t sell you on him, watch this video of Dugger demolishing a running back. — And now for some happy news. Our friend Jerry Remy, NESN’s Red Sox broadcaster, is feeling good after resuming his cancer treatment. Thanks to Massachusetts General Hospital for taking great care of him. — And I’ll leave you with this. It’s not necessarily news from the day, but I really enjoyed this piece from NESN’s Mike Cole about how this May will be the most important month in the history of American sports. Tweet of the Day: There is a very steep price I’d pay to hangout with the crew of the ESPN show “The Jump” with Rachel Nichols. There’s probably never a dull moment with that cast of characters. Example: Tracy McGrady trying to deal with getting a bat out of his house.