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SI:AM | Chet Holmgren’s Summer League Debut Had Fans Salivating

Plus, what ever happened to athletes drinking milk?

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Are you ready for two weeks of NBA Summer League takes?

In today’s SI:AM:

⛹️‍♂️ Chet Holmgren’s potential

🥛 The rise and fall of milk

Midseason MLB power rankings

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Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but…

It’s important to start with a caveat here: NBA Summer League games are not NBA games. With rosters made up of rookies (many of them undrafted) and fringe NBA guys, the level of competition is probably more akin to the G-League. But also, get a load of what Chet Holmgren did last night.

Holmgren, the No. 2 pick in last month’s draft, put on a Thunder uniform for the first time in OKC’s Summer League opener against the Jazz. He ended up with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a Summer League-record six blocks in 24 minutes. He scored down low and from the perimeter (4-of-6 from three), got out in transition and made slick passes to open teammates. (You can watch his full highlight reel here.)

He looked every bit like a future NBA star, by which I mean he made the kind of plays you’d expect from a future NBA star. How Holmgren looks physically is perhaps the only thing giving NBA observers pause about his future in the league. At 7'1", 195 pounds, he looks like a telephone pole, but his physique also brings to mind a younger (taller) Kevin Durant. How he develops will be fascinating to watch, Chris Mannix writes:

“Holmgren is the most intriguing NBA prospect in years. He has the skills of an All-Star guard and the frame of McLovin. At his best Holmgren has the potential to further revolutionize the center position. A pivot that can initiate a fast break and shoot threes at the end of it? The reigning MVP tops the list of players who can do that. Might end it, too. The question is if the 20-year old Holmgren’s body will add the strength he needs to do it. [Kofi] Cockburn bulldozed him for a short hook in the first half and [Tacko] Fall moved him at will in the paint.”

This is the Cockburn play that Mannix referred to. At 7'0", 293 pounds, Cockburn has literally a 100-pound advantage on Holmgren. He didn’t need any fancy post moves to get to the hoop. He just put his shoulder into Holmgren’s chest, backed him down with three dribbles and hit an easy shot inside the restricted area.

But as the record-setting six blocks prove, Holmgren isn’t a bad interior defender by any stretch of the imagination. He has great shot-blocking instincts, as he showed with this two-handed block on Vic Law and this rejection against the 7'6" Fall. Guys like Cockburn and Fall may pose a challenge for Holmgren on the interior, but they simply can’t hang with him on the outside.​​ Check out this play where Fall retreated into the paint as Holmgren brought the ball up the floor and Holmgren just pulled up from three.

Holmgren’s strong debut makes Oklahoma City’s already promising future even brighter. The Thunder have several promising young players—like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort and Josh Giddey—with a boatload of future first-round picks headed their way. After years as one of the league’s worst teams, things are finally looking up.

The best of Sports Illustrated


Today’s Daily Cover, as part of our Strength Issue, is a fun one. Steve Rushin looks at the rise and fall of milk as the ultimate sports drink:

“From the beginning of sports, cow milk was the GOAT milk. Ted Williams, as a prospect, was fattened up with milk and milkshakes. He drank two quarts of milk after most Red Sox games. Williams’s finest year was also milk’s. Nineteen forty-one, when Williams batted .406, was the peak year of milk consumption in the U.S., according to the Smithsonian Institute of American History. That year, Americans drank, on average, 744 glasses per person, thanks to advances in refrigeration, sterilization of bottles and relentless ads…”

Also as part of the Strength Issue, Jon Wertheim caught up with Hafþór Björnsson, the former strongman and Game of Thrones actor, who has lost 130 pounds. … Chris Herring looks at the big risk the Timberwolves took in paying a steep price to acquire the type of player—Rudy Gobert—that the NBA is moving away from. … The Giants dropped and the Brewers rose in Will Laws’s midseason MLB power rankings.

Around the sports world

The expansion Coachella Valley Firebirds have hired Jessica Campbell as the first female assistant coach in AHL history. … Former Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, who died in December, was diagnosed with CTE. … The controversial Grambling State volleyball coach who made headlines last year for cutting her entire roster has been fired. … A top Russian hockey prospect was reportedly picked up by law enforcement and taken to a remote military base.

The top five...

… things I saw yesterday:

5. Tyler Matzek’s behind-the-back play on the mound

4. Bryan Reynolds’s diving catch to rob Giancarlo Stanton

3. Max Scherzer’s 11 strikeouts in his return from injury

2. Rougned Odor’s emphatic bat slam after his game-tying home run

1. Randy Arozarena scoring from second on an infield single


Ninety years ago today, Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges was shot twice in a Chicago hotel room by a woman with whom he had been romantically involved, inspiring (at least in part) which 1952 book?

Yesterday’s SIQ: On July 5, 1898, Lizzie Arlington became the first woman to appear in an American professional game in which sport?

Answer: Baseball. Arlington (whose real name was Elizabeth Stride) was signed by the minor Atlantic League as a stunt to play for multiple teams in the league and draw big crowds. (The contract she signed was sold at auction for $3,000 in 2017.)

Her only appearance came against the Allentown Peanuts on July 5, 1898, when she played second base and pitched. According to the Reading Eagle, 1,000 fans showed up to watch the game, which Reading won 5–0. Arlington pitched the final two innings in the win.

She was supposed to pitch in Hartford on July 8 for the Newark Colts, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, but the game was canceled because Hartford did not want to take the risk of losing to a woman.

From the Vault: July 6, 1959

Sports Illustrated cover showing Ingemar Johansson's knockout punch of Floyd Patterson

On June 26, 1959, heavy underdog Ingemar Johansson shocked the world by defeating heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson at Yankee Stadium. His reign on top didn’t last long, though.

Johansson had earned the heavyweight title match against Patterson by beating American Eddie Machen in his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, nine months earlier. As Martin Kane wrote ahead of the fight, Johansson didn’t approach the fight like his contemporaries would have:

“To win this fight Ingemar broke many a cherished rule of training, traditional but meaningless rules that require prizefighters to live in monkish seclusion, apart from wives and families, sometimes for months on end, restricted in their pleasures to comic books and television. These rules have been invented by trainers and managers, though doctors scorn them. Ingemar scandalized the sports world by openly enjoying the company of his parents, his siblings and his fiancée, while living in a $100,000 country home near Grossinger's Hotel in the beautiful Catskills. Prizefighters are supposed to diet on beef, preferably steaks, but Ingemar loved his herring and ice cream. Fighters are ordered to shun nightclubs but Ingemar slipped out occasionally for a bit of dancing with his girl. And then, in the ring, he scarcely boxed at all and never once threw his right hand with any appreciable force.”

That right hand that Johansson had kept secret during training ended up being what dethroned Patterson, Kane wrote:

“The right hand, hidden assiduously in prefight training and, indeed, scorned by many a skeptic as a preposterous Nordic myth, flashed through the bug-swarming mists at Yankee Stadium, crashed straight as a lance into the nose, mouth and chin of Floyd Patterson and shattered boxing's status quo.”

Kane’s story frames Johansson’s win as a changing of the guard in the world of boxing, but to assert himself as a worthy champion Johansson would have to defend his title against Patterson. The rematch finally came a year later, on June 20, 1960, and the result was exactly what observers had predicted the first time around. Patterson knocked out Johansson in the fifth round—and knocked him out badly. Here’s how Kane described the end of the fight:

“A long left hook banged into his jaw and toppled him over backward with a crash that jarred the ring. He lay very still on the flat of his back, his massive legs stretched out straight, blood flowing from a corner of his mouth, and he did not move while Referee Arthur Mercante counted the 10 seconds that ended his championship and marked his first defeat as a professional.

“For several minutes thereafter he remained there, only semiconscious, while doctors and handlers ministered to him. He seemed to have suffered a concussion, one of the physicians said.”

Johansson lost a third fight against Patterson in March 1961 in what would be his final fight on American soil. He returned to Sweden and fought four more times before retiring at age 30. He died in 2009 at age 76.

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