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There are places on this planet where anyone with sensibilities should not bother going. Those include: the baddest part of town, Disney World without two credit cards and to your nearest Popeye’s restaurant expecting “fast” food. And yet Doc Rivers, coach of the LA Clippers and among the league’s more perceptive people, went to a certain forbidden place anyway.

He compared someone besides LeBron James to Michael Jordan Jersey. In this case, it was Kawhi Leonard.

Doc compares Kawhi and Jordan. (Because he can, and was asked.) pic.twitter.com/WxeGQ4Sbyt

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) November 4, 2019
Last May, Rivers raved about Kawhi (who was then with the Raptors), saying he’s “the most like Jordan we’ve ever seen.” For that lapse into basketball blasphemy, Rivers was socked with some of the harshest punishment ever. No, not the $50,000 fine levied by the NBA for tampering charges — Kawhi was a looming free agent at the time and the Clippers had oodles of salary cap space — but laughter from certain corners in the basketball world.

“Kawhi is the most like Jordan we’ve seen.”

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Doc Rivers has some high praise for Kawhi Leonard. pic.twitter.com/i1R2gR1VrT

— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 29, 2019
Rivers chose to clarify the other day by saying he was merely comparing their physical resemblance and that everyone else misinterpreted the whole thing. There are other similarities, though, such as Kawhi’s refreshing insistence on employing the post-up game and embracing the mid-range jumper when analytics strongly advise players to abandon both.

The immortality of Michael Jeffrey Jordan is unrivaled in the sports world. All you need to do is take one look at the success of Nike’s Jordan Brand, or even MJ’s $1.9 billion net worth, to realize how impactful this icon still is today.

Even if you weren’t a huge basketball fan in Jordan’s prime, everybody still remembers Jordan’s iconic sports commercials over the years.

Michael Jordan Commercials

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RELATED: Michael Jordan Knows How to Settle the “Greatest of All Time” Debate

There were plenty to chose from. From comparing Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers prior to NBC’s Sunday Night Football to his numerous Hanes advertisements, Jordan is still as relevant today as he was as a player. There are tons, but here are some of my favorites that I can watch over and over again.

Be Like Mike

Is there really a better example of MJ’s legacy than Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike” commercial? Growing up in the 1990s, every basketball player wanted to be like Mike. But creating a super catchy jingle and showing MJ shooting hoops with regular kids on the playground? Absolute genius.

One listen to this, and you’ll be humming the all-time classic tune all week long.

“There is no body types more like Michael Jordan’s than Kawhi because I said his hands and his length,” Rivers said. “That (controversy) took a whole life.”

That settles it. But to stay on topic for a moment: For Kawhi to even be in the conversation with Jordan and other legends depends on whether Kawhi earns the ultimate honor that’s annually bestowed on the game’s greatest player. Doesn’t Leonard need a Kia MVP award — Jordan has five — to be classified as a generational talent?

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Kawhi Leonard ran wild on the Spurs on Halloween night.
It’s the only pat on the back elusive to Leonard, who has yet to raise that trophy, shed tears and give thanks to those who paved the way (which is the standard reaction and scenario on NBA Awards night). Yes, this is the gift the basketball gods can give to the player who has almost everything else, provided, of course, Kawhi actually earns it with a spectacular regular season.

A reasonable debate says the Bill Russell Trophy, better known as the NBA Finals MVP, is the real MVP (with all due respect to Kevin Durant’s mom). That’s because the Finals MVP — other than Jerry West in 1969 — takes home that and the NBA championship trophy. Kawhi has not one, but two Finals MVPs … and with different teams, making it all the more impressive. Should he win another with the Clippers, he’d become the first player to pull off three with three.

There’s almost no debate that, from April until now, Kawhi has dibs on the best player in the NBA. He went scorched earth through the playoffs last spring, then erased Golden State on the Warriors’ own floor in The Finals. Already this season, he’s averaging 29.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

But it comes as a major disappointment — there’s no other way to classify it, really — that Kawhi is skipping Wednesday’s game against the reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, because of the scourge known as load management. The Clippers host the Blazers on Thursday and for the second time this season, Kawhi will not play the first game of a back-to-back.

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In the Clippers’ last game, Kawhi Leonard powered them to a comeback win.
Fairly or not, the MVP award is far-reaching and richly defining to one’s legacy. To place it into context, while Kawhi won a dramatic duel against Giannis in the 2019 playoffs, the MVP score is Giannis 1, Kawhi 0.

In the 2019-20 NBA.com GM Survey, Giannis received 52% of the vote for MVP (to Leonard’s 10%). While there were perhaps some circumstances that swayed some of that vote — Kawhi will eventually partner with Paul George, who will unburden his co-star with the load when he gets healthy while Giannis is a singular star with the Bucks — the perception that Giannis is the better force and all-around talent is commonly held.

Speaking of MVP circumstances, Kawhi hasn’t had many on his side during his career to date. He was late developing into a star, he played seven of his first eight seasons in a Spurs system that emphasizes team play, and until very lately lacked the offensive pop necessary for serious MVP consideration. Last season, he finished ninth in MVP voting.

His postseason body of work is superior to his regular seasons, and again, there’s no shame in that. Had he made both free throws with 19 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals, he’d have three championships and possibly three Finals MVPs because his defense on LeBron James in that series was stellar. Instead, he missed the first free throw, and then Ray Allen hit his famous shot.

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When Paul George returns to the Clippers’ lineup, will it hurt Kawhi Leonard’s Kia MVP case?
This season is Kawhi’s best chance to win the “lesser” MVP award. For starters, he’s at his absolute peak as a player. His body is strong and healthy. His ability to score, especially off the dribble, is almost unmatched right now in the league. His defense remains elite as Kawhi is adept once again at stripping his man clean of the ball in the open floor and providing help on the perimeter and in the paint. Finally, his overall numbers, so far, are superior across the board.

It also doesn’t hurt that, for the first time, Kawhi plays in a large market. The Clippers, by virtue of their status as title favorites, will get maximum glare all season. Should they finish at or near the top in the prickly Western Conference, it would be more impressive than Giannis elevating the Bucks to the top in the East.

Kawhi’s three main drawbacks in his MVP quest are as follows:

1. George will command a portion of the offense from Kawhi and impact things once he returns. Remember: George finished third in MVP voting last season. Kawhi’s scoring average could take a hit. Voters are a strange bunch as they often “penalize” an MVP candidate who must share the load, although that never stopped Jordan (Scottie Pippen) or LeBron (Dwyane Wade) from winning MVPs in the past.

2. With load management all the rage, it’s possible Kawhi may miss a dozen games or more. Counting the Bucks game, he has already missed two of the Clippers’ first eight games for rest reasons. This comes after a preseason in which he played limited minutes. The Clippers are all about the championship this season and if that means being overly cautious with Kawhi, so be it. Plus, managing his minutes paid off for the Raptors last spring.

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3. The MVP competition is spicy. Besides Giannis, there’s LeBron, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Joel Embiid, among others, in the mix. All are off to solid starts and could have their teams in the 50-or 60-win range.

At 28, Leonard has multiple chances left to get his first MVP. He just needs to convince the basketball community that he is, indeed, the best player in the NBA. Up until this point, that hasn’t been the case, mainly because of LeBron, Kevin Durant and now, Antetokounmpo. With a push from his 2019 Finals run, along with a hot start this season, Kawhi owns pole position on the award for the first time in his career.

He’s also following the right blueprint by copying a six-time winner. If you can’t be Jordan, it makes sense to play a similar game and come as close as possible.

“He’s one of the guys that everyone looks up to from a competitive standpoint and how he approached every game,” Leonard said. “You try to nitpick what you can take from him and take it into yourself.”

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Earlier this season, former Ohio State star defensive end Nick Bosa sacked former Oklahoma star quarterback Baker Mayfield in the San Francisco 49ers dominant performance over the Cleveland Browns.

Following the sack, Bosa mimicked Mayfield’s flag plant during the Ohio State-Oklahoma game in 2017.

Well, that celebration made another appearance during the 49ers’ game against the Baltimore Ravens. However, it wasn’t Bosa planting the flag.

Former Sooners star tight end Mark Andrews caught a touchdown pass against the 49ers this afternoon and opted for the flag-planting celebration.

Check it out.

Bleacher Report

@BleacherReport
Mark Andrews catches the TD from Lamar and does Nick Bosa’s flag wave as his celebration

(via @Ravens)

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The touchdown knotted the game at 7 apiece in the first quarter.

Andrews has been on a tear this season and is easily Lamar Jackson’s favorite target. He leads the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

We’ll have to wait and see if Bosa can make a play later in the game and respond.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The phrase developed into a familiar refrain from Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
Each week of the last month seemed to begin and end with Goff repeating what sounded like a mantra:

“I need to be better.”

On Sunday, Goff finally delivered.

He passed for 424 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals 34-7 before 60,944 at State Farm Stadium.

“I was definitely better,” Goff said during a postgame news conference. “We all were.”

The Rams amassed a season-high 549 yards and nearly posted a shutout en route to a victory that improved their record to 7-5, keeping alive playoff possibilities.

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RAMS
Taylor Rapp’s first interception is a pick-six as Rams’ defense dominates Cardinals
Dec. 1, 2019
“The reality is we needed a game like this — especially after the drubbing we took last week,” linebacker Clay Matthews said.

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Matthews was referring to the Baltimore Ravens’ 45-6 rout of the Rams at the Coliseum, a game that put McVay, Goff and the defense under fire and had the Rams teetering on the verge of elimination from postseason contention.

The Rams have four games remaining and probably need to win all of them to be in contention for a third consecutive playoff berth.

Next Sunday, they play the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum. Road games against the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys precede the finale at home against the Cardinals.

The NFC West-leading 49ers are 10-2 after losing to the Ravens on Sunday. The Seahawks (9-2) host the Minnesota Vikings (8-3) on Monday night — and the Rams could use some help from division rival Seattle as they attempt to catch Minnesota in the race for an NFC wild-card spot.

But a run to the playoffs almost certainly will not happen unless Goff continues to perform as he did Sunday.

Goff had not passed for a touchdown since an Oct. 27 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium in London. The three-game drought was the longest of Goff’s NFL career.

But Goff found tight end Tyler Higbee for a touchdown in the second quarter and wide receiver Cooper Kupp in the third.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Maybe Jared Goff isn’t ready to surrender the NFL to the Lamar Jacksons and Kyler Murrays of the quarterbacking world just yet.

Goff and the Rams had been looking like last year’s news lately, going without a touchdown pass for the whole month of November, a month that ended with a resounding loss to Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday began with talk in the air about whether the Rams were in for more trouble at the hands and feet of Murray, the Arizona Cardinals quarterback with dual-threat talent like Jackson.

Then Goff, still relevant at the advanced age of 25, shot talk like that out of the Arizona sky with a hail of accurate passes that brought back memories of 2018.

With Goff’s 424 yards and two touchdown passes on 32 completions in 43 attempts leading their most dominant performance of 2019, the Rams romped over the Cardinals 34-7 at State Farm Stadium.

“Today we proved we are a strong team that’s going to respond (to setbacks),” Goff said.

He also showed that a single-threat quarterback can do as much damage as the dual threats when circumstances align.

For Goff, it was the first 400-yard game in a victory since the Monday-night 54-51 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at the peak of the Rams’ run to the NFC championship last year.

He worked hand in sticky glove with wide receiver Robert Woods and tight end Tyler Higbee. Woods finished with a career-high 172 yards on a career-high-matching 13 receptions. Higbee had his best game with 107 yards and a touchdown on seven catches, shouldering an extra load with Gerald Everett sidelined with a knee injury.

Running back Todd Gurley rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries as the air and ground portions of the offense looked the best they have on the same day.

Meanwhile, the defense, confused and overwhelmed by Jackson in the Ravens’ 45-6 win at the Coliseum last Monday night, took it out on the Cardinals’ own Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 draft pick.

Murray went down six times on sacks, Aaron Donald getting credit for 1 1/2, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Dante Fowler, Cory Littleton and Clay Matthews one each and Michael Brockers one-half.

Safety Taylor Rapp ran back his first NFL interception 31 yards for the touchdown that made it 34-0 in the middle of the fourth quarter.

“Kind of the total opposite (of the Ravens game),” Gurley said of the feeling.

Goff said it was the kind of game that could turn the tide for the Rams going into their final four games, starting next Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum, with no margin for error in the NFC playoff race.

“We needed one like this,” Goff said.

Before they get too excited, two caveats are in order:

The Rams (7-4) remain too far behind the Seahawks (9-2) and Minnesota Vikings (8-3) to climb into one of the conference’s two wildcard spots without help from other teams.

And Sunday’s dominant win came against the Cardinals (3-8-1) and a defense that ranks near the bottom of the league against the pass.

Then again, nobody had thrown for 424 yards against that Cardinals defense until Goff did it.

The Rams came out throwing and didn’t stop until they’d built their lead to 27-0 early in the second half on a 10-yard pass from Goff to wide receiver Cooper Kupp in the right edge of the end zone.

Goff’s earlier touchdown pass, a 2-yard flip to Higbee that made it 10-0 early in the second quarter, had signaled that something different was happening.

The touchdown ended Goff’s worst drought since his rookie season in 2016. He didn’t throw a scoring pass in November in losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ravens and a win over the Chicago Bears, while throwing five interceptions. He had gone 15 quarters, as well as six time zones, since his last one, Kupp’s 65-yard catch and run against the Bengals in London.

The final proof that Goff and the Rams had everything working Sunday came in the third quarter when the quarterback threw a block against Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson to spring Woods for a 48-yard gain on a play that started as a screen pass to the left before the wide receiver cut back across the field and up the right sideline.

“I typically try to discourage Jared from blocking,” Kupp deadpanned.

Kupp said Goff bounced back by staying “even-keel” emotionally.

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“It’s the nature of humans that when things don’t go your way, and you make some decisions that you don’t like, inevitably you get tight and you start to question things and (lose) confidence,” Kupp said. “For him to respond the way he did, to play free, just shows the confidence he has in the system (and) the guys around him.LDN-L-RAMS-1202
“It was incredible to see him play the way he did today.”

Said Rams coach Sean McVay: “I thought he played like he’s capable of.”

Goff had admitted during the week that “I need to be better,” and nobody argued.

He said Sunday that he had done it, at least for one game.

“I was definitely better. We all were. It was a full team effort,” Goff said. “Keeping your head down and putting in work over time will always pay off, and today we saw that.”