Caitlin Clark stands on her own after stellar Elite Eight performance

Caitlin Clark has a bright future ahead of her.

There’s a big phenomenon when conversing about sports to find the next big thing, or who a younger athlete could become when she or he reaches their potential. Kobe Bryant or LeBron James having a Michael Jordan-like arch dominated conversations for over a decade. The name of baseball’s next great power hitter in the post-steroids era is still up for grabs. And as I was watching Iowa’s Caitlin Clark absolutely pick apart a stout Louisville team in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight on Sunday, I couldn’t think of a great comparison. She’s truly one of a kind that’ll break basketball’s mold after she retires.

The best basketball comparison is Steph Curry. The production looks the same, their presence is similar, and how opponents defend them, mostly unsuccessfully, has comparable qualities. Yet, it’s plain to see how Clark and Curry play the position completely differently. Just as Mike Epps has joked, Curry plays the game like a 10-year-old with how he hoists the ball in the air and runs around the court. He’s the best perimeter shooter to ever hold a basketball, so that blacktop, free-flowing nature works for him. Clark’s game is much more refined, more like an assassin carefully, yet diabolically, picking her spots. Clark just calls her own number frequently, evidenced by her 41 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, three steals, and 8-for-14 clip from beyond the arc in the win over the Cardinals. Those video-game numbers were the first 40-point triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game ever, men or women.

Then it hit me when I mentioned video games, as I think one day Clark will follow in the footsteps of Candace Parker, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi to be a cover athlete for 2K or another basketball game. Joe Burrow is primed to be a cover athlete for the Madden franchise in the next few years. And I think he’s the proper comparison for Clark. His personality is flashy, but it’s business and nothing other-worldly on the battlefield. Those traits are executed to a level where you know you can put an entire game plan behind them delivering on the field. Clark is the exact same type of athlete. A comparison at all could be seen as unneeded, as Clark can stand alone as one-of-one. It makes it easier to recognize her greatness with contemporaries.

Much like Burrow’s professional career, he’s been close to a championship but hasn’t lifted the Lombardi Trophy. Clark is two wins away from bringing an NCAA Tournament championship to the Big Ten, a rare sight these days. Burrow did win a college championship with LSU and Clark looks poised to dominate the WNBA whenever she decides to leave Iowa City. And just like Burrow’s time with the Bengals, Clark will likely have to go through the biggest behemoth in her respective sport to get to the title. Burrow slayed the Patrick Mahomes giant once but lost in the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, he couldn’t repeat that feat. Undefeated South Carolina women’s basketball has to go through Maryland to get to the Final Four on Monday night, but did you read the first word of this sentence? As great as the Terps are, they’ve lost six more games than the Gamecocks have all year at 28-6, including a 25-point blowout at the hands of Dawn Staley’s team four months ago.

Of course, there are similarities between a quarterback and a point guard in how they facilitate offense. If there’s an offensive position for Iowa where Clark doesn’t touch the ball, it’s probably a fast break she’s not involved in. The best quality about both Burrow and Clark is how they both elevate everyone around them. They understand the spotlight is the brightest on them and don’t shy away from it. And in Clark’s case, last night’s performance will only add to her status as one of the best college basketball players of all time. And if anyone can take down South Carolina, it’ll be Iowa on the backs of another legendary game from the Mayor of Iowa City.

The Great Debates tournament: Elite 8

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We have arrived at the Elite 8, and this round is going to be a good old-fashioned slobber knocker.

Start these debates at a party with strangers and the host will kick you out because mingling would cease, and rage would consume the event. If a sports-talk radio show took these topics, gave each one week, and let the listeners call in and argue, the program would be able to fill every show for the summer with content.

You could walk into any sports bar in America and have people screaming at each other from end to end. Each one of the remaining debates deserves to win, but in the spirit of this entire bracket, something has to be the best.

So would you rather have your mind blank out arguing about Biggie and Tupac, Shaq and Kobe, the 1996 Chicago Bulls and the 2016 Golden State Warriors, or one of the other remaining arguments? Let us know!

Be sure to go to @Deadspin on Twitter and vote on which argument you would most like to waste hours of your life screaming at another human about. If you want to catch up, check out the full field and the Sweet 16.

First Take Region No. 1: LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan

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For some the choice is obvious, for others it’s the type of sports debate that makes you feel like your T.V. is slapping you in the head at 10 a.m. Whether you hate or love this classic, it will make you feel something.

Michael Jordan is the face of the modern NBA. He took the interest that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird injected into the league in the early 80s and used it to build the first athlete economic empire. The NBA was selling its individual stars to market the games so Jordan’s agent — David Faulk — took it one step further with his client. He wanted Nike to market Jordan like a tennis star. Like a singular athlete.

LeBron James had seen the success of this his whole life and set a plan into action early. He signed a $90 million deal with Nike before he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then, James has started a fast-food pizza restaurant and also owns a production company that remade both Space Jam and the early 1990s classic House Party.

These two are true A-list celebrities. Not just sports famous, but pop culture icons like Michael Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson, etc. Also one has the highest points per game average in NBA history and the other holds the record for total points scored.

– Stephen Knox

First Take Region No. 2: iPhone vs. Android

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The green bubble vs. the blue bubble.

Fashion dictates that anything a person walks out of the house with can be considered stylish if put together with intent and flaunted with confidence. However, there are usually some base requirements.

For a rapper in 2003, it meant wearing a jersey that extended to at least their mid-thigh. In the early 2010s, it meant the tighter the jeans the better for young people. Who cares if they want to procreate later in life?

Phones have been part of that as well, but in the aughts, it was mainly young people with their Razors and Sidekicks. Nowadays, an iPhone is almost considered as standard as a man wearing a tie to a business interview. How dare a group chat be besmirched with the site of that ugly green bubble. If you don’t have air pods, can you even hear?

For all of those white commas hanging out of people’s ears at the grocery store, there are still some people who are willing to part with standard formalities. They don’t need facetime, iCloud, or a phone that slows down when a new version is released.

Samsung is on its 23rd Galaxy and the NBA is advertising the new Google Pixel 7 during every game, so there are still many android users among the general population. Are those people tacky, or are they seeing with their third eye?

Stephen Knox

Siskel & Ebert Region No. 1: Cats vs. Dogs

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Let’s be a little more creative than splitting this down the gender line. You know cat people, I know cat people, and there are certain people who are just cat people. But this isn’t about which version of a crazy cat person or Best In Show dog obsessive is worse. It’s about the animals themselves.

The nicest dogs are as great as the nicest cats, and ditto for the worst dogs and worst cats. I just think your average run-of-the-mill (not puppy mill, please, responsible practices for both species) dog is better than an average cat. The upside of felines is less maintenance. You don’t have to walk them or make sure to let them out every so often. With dogs, you get to bring them outside and on camping trips and a lot of other places. (Probably too many, but again, let’s focus on the animals, not the terrible owners.)

I don’t know who prevails in cats versus dogs, but I do know who wins in journalists versus cats and/or dogs, so I am aware of just how pervasive this argument is.

– Sean Beckwith

Siskel & Ebert Region No. 2: Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo

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The people who think Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi eventually bring up Ronadlo’s dating history as if that’s supposed to sway an argument. Is it really about who he’s fucked, or are you fucking him? No judgment. Just be open with yourself. Ronaldo is a genetic freak who was created to score goals and serve as a role model for how not to handle stardom.

Messi is an artist, a savant, a genius, but he’s slight. And the argument folds in on itself from there. The internet has taken this debate to places no discussion should go, and it’s beyond personal for a lot of people (mostly Real Madrid and Barcelona fans).

From a purely GOAT point of view, Messi vs. Ronaldo is the best-running GOAT debate we’ve ever had. The era of men’s tennis that’s winding down right now is close, but Ronaldo and Messi took turns winning accolades and trophies for basically two decades.

– Sean Beckwith

Pardon The Interruption Region No. 8: The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

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At the time, Stone Cold was the biggest wrestler ever, by far, at least in terms of his ability to draw money. He chugged beers, talked shit, and did it with as much charisma as anybody. That’s why it was so alarming when The Rock showed up with just as much cachet, if not more. It was one of those feuds that made fans not want to pick a side.

Of course, we did, and if you chose The Rock, good for you. It goes without saying who won the post-wrestling career arc, though I feel like things could’ve gone differently for Austin without the injuries. I mean there’s a chance this debate could still go to Stone Cold, but it’s less dependent on his future actions and more about how many Black Adams the People’s (but not Box Office) Champ has in him.

– Sean Beckwith

Pardon The Interruption Region No. 3: 72-win Chicago Bulls vs. 73-win Golden State Warriors

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The 73-win Golden State Warriors are the model of modern-day basketball. Predicated on poetic off-ball movements by the Splash Brothers and Draymond Green at the nexus of his mental and physical peak, they remain the Platonic Ideal for modern basketball. The 72-win Chicago Bulls were the gold standard. Two decades earlier, the Chicago Bulls Triangle offense starring Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were the model of consistency. In a more physical, stagnant league, Jordan was as automatic from midrange as anyone has ever been. Each team’s stans swear the other team couldn’t hang in the other’s NBA. They’re probably both wrong though. The Phoenix Suns are proof that the Bulls could still flourish today behind hyper-efficient mid-range scorers while Golden State’s analytically superior floor spacers would eat against defenses composed to battle in the trenches instead of around endless screens on the perimeter. These contrasting play styles are ripe for endless debate, which is why there have been so many through the years.

– D.J. Dunson

McLaughlin Group Region No. 1: Biggie vs. 2Pac

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Yes, Tupac Shakur was more famous. Biggie was great playing himself on Martin, but Tupac was an actor capable of owning movies. He was bigger than simply a musician. Tupac was a star.

His personality was a force both for good and bad. He could make some truly profound statements about the state of the world, but he also went to jail for sexual assault and reveled in an out-of-control persona.

Biggie was about the music, and few have ever spit better bars into a microphone. We only got two solo Notorious B.I.G. albums. His debut — Ready to Die — was of the same quality as The Chronic and Illmatic. The next one — Life After Death — was a strong project but fell just a bit short. As a musician sometimes it’s hard to get back to the hunger and raw storytelling of a debut album. Unfortunately, we never got to see him try again.

Two young people, gone too soon, who left indelible marks on American culture.

Stephen Knox

McLaughlin Group Region No. 3: Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O’Neal

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The greatest rivalry of the aughts. Forget Ja Rule and 50 Cent or the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. After the turn of the century, everyone was tuned into The Real Housewives of Downtown LA.

A dynamic duo that has never been matched in the NBA. Two superstars in their MVP prime playing alongside each other, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. One had a Nintendo 64 game and the other advertised Nestle Crunch Bars and had a signature sneaker at Famous Footwear.

When playing together they were dominant, but to say their relationship had its “frosty” moments would be like saying February in Minnesota is brisk. Bryant didn’t appreciate O’neal’s offseason training and O’Neal did not appreciate any time that his name was in Bryant’s mouth.

If the Portland Trail Blazers could have made just a couple of more shots in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, those two likely go down as the most disappointing duo in the history of the NBA. Instead, the Blazers were as accurate as Tim Tebow at practice and a dynasty was born.

The people of Los Angeles are firmly on Bryant’s side and have been for a long time. For the rest of the county, this is certainly a “pick ‘em situation.

Stephen Knox

The Great Debates tournament: Sweet 16

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It’s Sweet 16 time. The primaries are over and it is time for the general election. In real-life debates, this is about the time when candidates would be making disingenuous retorts about each other’s bad-faith arguments.

Since this is a debate about debates, I guess you can just argue more strenuously with other Twitter users about which argument is better between who is the world’s supreme basketball player/human between Michael Jordan and LeBron James, or if Breaking Bad or The Wire is the television show most worth binge watching every summer.

Unfortunately, since the people have spoken, just like during primary season, we have to bid farewell to some memorable candidates. So, as we have done with Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders, and 776 different republicans in 2016, we say goodbye to “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie,” the Chicago vs. New York pizza rivalry, and Skip vs. Stephen A. (soccer fans, we see you.)

Be sure to go to @Deadspin on Twitter and vote on which argument you would most like to waste hours of your life screaming at another human about. If you want to catch up, check out the full field and the round of 32.

First Take Region No. 1: LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan

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For some the choice is obvious, for others it’s the type of sports debate that makes you feel like your T.V. is slapping you in the head at 10 a.m. Whether you hate or love this classic, it will make you feel something.

Michael Jordan is the face of the modern NBA. He took the interest that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird injected into the league in the early 80s and used it to build the first athlete economic empire. The NBA was selling its individual stars to market the games so Jordan’s agent — David Faulk — took it one step further with his client. He wanted Nike to market Jordan like a tennis star. Like a singular athlete.

LeBron James had seen the success of this his whole life and set a plan into action early. He signed a $90 million deal with Nike before he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then, James has started a fast-food pizza restaurant and also owns a production company that remade both Space Jam and the early 1990s classic House Party.

These two are true A-list celebrities. Not just sports famous, but pop culture icons like Michael Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson, etc. Also one has the highest points per game average in NBA history and the other holds the record for total points scored.

– Stephen Knox

First Take Region No. 5: Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson

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These are two forces that the world of boxing had not seen before or since. The time in their careers when they were most dominant was short-lived, but that handful of years left a mark by which boxers are still measured.

Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson were heavyweight boxers. This is a division in which ferocious punishment is both endured and delivered. These large men swing as hard as they can at each other. Yet, in their prime neither fighter took much damage.

Ali had near ballet movement in the ring in the 1960s. At 200-plus pounds, no one was able to close in on him. For those who believe he didn’t have power, the men he knocked out that decade might have a different opinion.

When Ali first beat Sonny Liston in 1964, he took the Heavyweight Championship from him. Sonny Liston was the baddest man on the planet and didn’t come out for the seventh round. Until Ali was stripped of his title for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War over religious objections, of his nine title defenses only two went to decision.

Tyson bulldozed his way through the heavyweight division in the mid-1980s. He was quite possibly the scariest man alive because he was knocking people out before a bag of popcorn could be popped. Fame and ego took Tyson’s Heavyweight Championship as opposed to a military draft, but at his best, his hands were real weapons.

In 11 Heavyweight title defenses — one of course the loss to Buster Douglas — only three of his victories lasted longer than six rounds. At only 5 foot 10, Tyson turned the heavyweight division into heavy bags.

At their peak, Ali and Tyson were the two best to ever put on the gloves and boots.

Stephen Knox

First Take Region No. 14: Best sports era

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It’s easy to romanticize the past. Times were simpler, the air was fresher, and sports were played by real men. Yes, can we please return to an era where point guards got dry-humped after stepping across half-court, Joe Theisman got crumpled into a heap of flesh and bone by Lawrence Taylor every other play, and pitchers threw curve balls until their arms fell off.

The last time two of my favorite teams were relevant was the ’90s, but I’ll be damned if I want to bring back the option, or 7-footers sweating all over each other, trying to see which team can make the most hook shots. Your dad, and, well, myself, might scream at the television when an edge rusher gets flagged for tackling a quarterback, and we overcorrect for past mistakes. Yet, give me high-octane offenses that put the best athletes in space as opposed to seeing what team can win a game of tug-of-war.

– Sean Beckwith

First Take Region No. 2: iPhone vs. Android

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The green bubble vs. the blue bubble.

Fashion dictates that anything a person walks out of the house with can be considered stylish if put together with intent and flaunted with confidence. However, there are usually some base requirements.

For a rapper in 2003, it meant wearing a jersey that extended to at least their mid-thigh. In the early 2010s, it meant the tighter the jeans the better for young people. Who cares if they want to procreate later in life?

Phones have been part of that as well, but in the aughts, it was mainly young people with their Razors and Sidekicks. Nowadays, an iPhone is almost considered as standard as a man wearing a tie to a business interview. How dare a group chat be besmirched with the site of that ugly green bubble. If you don’t have air pods, can you even hear?

For all of those white commas hanging out of people’s ears at the grocery store, there are still some people who are willing to part with standard formalities. They don’t need facetime, iCloud, or a phone that slows down when a new version is released.

Samsung is on its 23rd Galaxy and the NBA is advertising the new Google Pixel 7 during every game, so there are still many android users among the general population. Are those people tacky, or are they seeing with their third eye?

Stephen Knox

Siskel & Ebert Region No. 1: Cats vs. Dogs

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Let’s be a little more creative than splitting this down the gender line. You know cat people, I know cat people, and there are certain people who are just cat people. But this isn’t about which version of a crazy cat person or Best In Show dog obsessive is worse. It’s about the animals themselves.

The nicest dogs are as great as the nicest cats, and ditto for the worst dogs and worst cats. I just think your average run-of-the-mill (not puppy mill, please, responsible practices for both species) dog is better than an average cat. The upside of felines is less maintenance. You don’t have to walk them or make sure to let them out every so often. With dogs, you get to bring them outside and on camping trips and a lot of other places. (Probably too many, but again, let’s focus on the animals, not the terrible owners.)

I don’t know who prevails in cats versus dogs, but I do know who wins in journalists versus cats and/or dogs, so I am aware of just how pervasive this argument is.

– Sean Beckwith

Siskel & Ebert Region No. 4: Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson

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In 1984 a person’s answer to this question likely depended on pigmentation. If Bruce Springsteen made you want to shake your booty you were likely a Larry Bird fan. For those who preferred Rick James, Magic Johnson was probably the player for you.

Both are two of the best players in the history of the NBA. There were similarities in their basketball strengths, but they did not play the same way.

Bird was the prototype for the modern NBA forward. Give him a crack of daylight and that jump shot is falling right out of the bottom of the net. However, if the defense cheated to close in on him, he can flick a pass over an opposing player’s head or around their back for a quick assist. He was tenacious on the glass as well, averaging 10 rebounds a game for his career. Bird would also hit the ground like Dennis Rodman for a loose ball.

Johnson combined power and speed at guard in a way that the NBA had never seen, and wouldn’t again for some time. At 6 foot 9, Johnson had the Lakers’ offense rolling at a 100-meter-dash pace from the opening tip to the final buzzer. He bullied smaller players and dribbled by bigger ones. Johnson’s priority was to find the open man, but as strange as his shoulder heave of a jump shot looked, it worked. Bird never attempted 3.5 threes per game, but Johnson did once and made 38.4 percent of them.

They not only ruled the NBA for most of the 1980s but globalized a sport that televised the NBA Finals on tape delay the year that they were drafted.

Stephen Knox

Siskel & Ebert Region No. 6: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels & Vince McMahon

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Did Survivor Series 1997 have to go down that way?

Bret Hart was on his way out of the WWF but was still the world champion. He had to relinquish the belt before bolting for WCW. Nothing could have been worse during the Monday Night Wars for WWF than Hart showing up on Nitro with its World Championship belt.

Taking the Wrestling with Shadows documentary’s word for it, Hart would never have left for WCW with the belt. He was willing to relinquish it but on his terms since he had reasonable creative control over the final days of his contract. Hart certainly didn’t want to lose in Canada to Shawn Michaels after an anti-Canadian storyline that the WWF had been building for months alongside Hart’s anti-American one.

However, a payoff like that is how pro wrestling works. The fans get riled up about the over-the-top storylines and performances, and there is eventually a payoff. There was no better payoff for WWF fans than Hart losing the title in Canada to Michaels before he left for WCW.

Hart didn’t want to do it. He instead agreed to a disqualification that allowed him to keep the belt and then cede it to the company on Monday Night Raw.

Vince McMahon didn’t find that satisfactory even though he agreed to it — per the surreptitiously recorded conversation he had with Hart in the documentary. Instead, McMahon ordered the bell to be rung and the belt was given to Michaels. Hart spit in the face of McMahon, who was standing ringside, then later punched him in the face backstage. And with that, the Attitude era was off and running.

Stephen Knox

Siskel & Ebert Region No. 2: Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo

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The people who think Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi eventually bring up Ronadlo’s dating history as if that’s supposed to sway an argument. Is it really about who he’s fucked, or are you fucking him? No judgment. Just be open with yourself. Ronaldo is a genetic freak who was created to score goals and serve as a role model for how not to handle stardom.

Messi is an artist, a savant, a genius, but he’s slight. And the argument folds in on itself from there. The internet has taken this debate to places no discussion should go, and it’s beyond personal for a lot of people (mostly Real Madrid and Barcelona fans).

From a purely GOAT point of view, Messi vs. Ronaldo is the best-running GOAT debate we’ve ever had. The era of men’s tennis that’s winding down right now is close, but Ronaldo and Messi took turns winning accolades and trophies for basically two decades.

– Sean Beckwith

Pardon The Interruption Region No. 8: The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

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At the time, Stone Cold was the biggest wrestler ever, by far, at least in terms of his ability to draw money. He chugged beers, talked shit, and did it with as much charisma as anybody. That’s why it was so alarming when The Rock showed up with just as much cachet, if not more. It was one of those feuds that made fans not want to pick a side.

Of course, we did, and if you chose The Rock, good for you. It goes without saying who won the post-wrestling career arc, though I feel like things could’ve gone differently for Austin without the injuries. I mean there’s a chance this debate could still go to Stone Cold, but it’s less dependent on his future actions and more about how many Black Adams the People’s (but not Box Office) Champ has in him.

– Sean Beckwith

Pardon The Interruption Region No. 12: SEC vs. the field

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This relatively new debate arose along with Nick Saban’s run at Alabama. The SEC learned how to game the system, which is 85 percent of college athletics and has more or less run the sport of college football since, fuck, I guess Pete Carroll’s USC tenure. Fans in the South, hell people in the South, like to remind the rest of the country that their ways are the best ways.

However, this debate is about football, not whether COVID will rise again. I’m desperately rooting against all those jackass SEC fans who show up to games dressed like they’re going to a party at the plantation because I can’t take it anymore. The conference pride is taking on a tinge of something else, and we need a respite. (Paging Lincoln Riley.)

– Sean Beckwith

Pardon The Interruption Region No. 3: 72-win Chicago Bulls vs. 73-win Golden State Warriors

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The 73-win Golden State Warriors are the model of modern-day basketball. Predicated on poetic off-ball movements by the Splash Brothers and Draymond Green at the nexus of his mental and physical peak, they remain the Platonic Ideal for modern basketball. The 72-win Chicago Bulls were the gold standard. Two decades earlier, the Chicago Bulls Triangle offense starring Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were the model of consistency. In a more physical, stagnant league, Jordan was as automatic from midrange as anyone has ever been. Each team’s stans swear the other team couldn’t hang in the other’s NBA. They’re probably both wrong though. The Phoenix Suns are proof that the Bulls could still flourish today behind hyper-efficient mid-range scorers while Golden State’s analytically superior floor spacers would eat against defenses composed to battle in the trenches instead of around endless screens on the perimeter. These contrasting play styles are ripe for endless debate, which is why there have been so many through the years.

– D.J. Dunson

Pardon The Interruption Region No. 7: Breaking Bad vs. The Wire

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The anti-hero vs. an unflattering portrayal of America.

Both Breaking Bad and The Wire ran for five seasons. Breaking Bad actually first aired during the last few months of The Wire’s final season.

Your preference between these shows usually boils down to how you like your television world. Do you prefer that they revolve around a person or a more macro concept?

The Wire is a show about — as creator David Simon calls it — “the fall of a great American city,” A show about how, before judging the people on the corners selling drugs, one must take a look at how they got there. How their city, state, and country can turn kids into shotgun-wielding thieves.

Breaking Bad is a show about the fall of a person. Walter White is a sympathetic character at first. He is a school teacher who needs money because of a life-threatening illness — another dig at America’s shortcomings. However, in the process, he turns into a murderous drug kingpin.

While both shows are considered among the best of all time, The Wire achieved critical acclaim in the years after its final episode aired. It got buried during HBO’s golden era of television in the early 2000s. Breaking Bad was highly lauded throughout its run on cable television airwaves.

Stephen Knox

McLaughlin Group Region No. 1: Biggie vs. 2Pac

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Yes, Tupac Shakur was more famous. Biggie was great playing himself on Martin, but Tupac was an actor capable of owning movies. He was bigger than simply a musician. Tupac was a star.

His personality was a force both for good and bad. He could make some truly profound statements about the state of the world, but he also went to jail for sexual assault and reveled in an out-of-control persona.

Biggie was about the music, and few have ever spit better bars into a microphone. We only got two solo Notorious B.I.G. albums. His debut — Ready to Die — was of the same quality as The Chronic and Illmatic. The next one — Life After Death — was a strong project but fell just a bit short. As a musician sometimes it’s hard to get back to the hunger and raw storytelling of a debut album. Unfortunately, we never got to see him try again.

Two young people, gone too soon, who left indelible marks on American culture.

Stephen Knox

McLaughlin Group Region No. 4: Marvel vs. DC

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It’s been fascinating to watch the polarity of Marvel and DC’s trajectories over the last decade. On one side of the comic book franchise rift, Marvel has created the greatest shared universe known to mankind. The DCEU has manifested the messiest shared universe in the film industry. The Snyder-verse, Ezra Miller’s cult, Sad Batfleck, and the revolving door of Warner Bros. overlords, have made it impossible to keep track. Marvel has made it impossible to keep track due to their overcomplicated series of interconnected streaming series, movies that continue streaming series storylines, and multiple timelines. Marvel has hit a rough patch, but DC Comics and Marvel Comics have been in a tug-of-war for supremacy for decades. How will it end? Until we get Marvel’s starting five against DC’s starting five in a final showdown, this supes battle will rage on.

– D.J. Dunson

McLaughlin Group Region No. 3: Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O’Neal

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The greatest rivalry of the aughts. Forget Ja Rule and 50 Cent or the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. After the turn of the century, everyone was tuned into The Real Housewives of Downtown LA.

A dynamic duo that has never been matched in the NBA. Two superstars in their MVP prime playing alongside each other, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. One had a Nintendo 64 game and the other advertised Nestle Crunch Bars and had a signature sneaker at Famous Footwear.

When playing together they were dominant, but to say their relationship had its “frosty” moments would be like saying February in Minnesota is brisk. Bryant didn’t appreciate O’neal’s offseason training and O’Neal did not appreciate any time that his name was in Bryant’s mouth.

If the Portland Trail Blazers could have made just a couple of more shots in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, those two likely go down as the most disappointing duo in the history of the NBA. Instead, the Blazers were as accurate as Tim Tebow at practice and a dynasty was born.

The people of Los Angeles are firmly on Bryant’s side and have been for a long time. For the rest of the county, this is certainly a “pick ‘em situation.

Stephen Knox

McLaughlin Group Region No. 7: Tom Brady tuck rule

Blue steel

Letter of the law vs. spirit of the law. That is the tuck rule game.

Tom Brady absolutely fumbled that football during the final game at Foxboro Stadium in 2002. It was ruled a fumble on the field. Anyone not blinded by New England Patriots fandom or the blowing snow would agree, but that is not the decision that the referees came to after a video review.

According to what would become known as “The Tuck Rule,” Brady kept possession of the football. He had already started a passing motion, so even though he cradled the ball like a runner, by rule the play should have been called an incomplete pass and the Patriots kept the ball.

A technicality that set the greatest dynasty in NFL history in motion.

In baseball, the “neighborhood play,” prevented situations like this. A base runner called out at second while a double play is being turned is still out if the defender’s foot wasn’t on the bag. If the foot is near the bag, we get the picture. The base runner was beaten to the bag by the defense. These days a play like that is reviewable and if the defender’s foot isn’t on the bag the runner is safe.

Is that better for the game or worse? With the tuck rule — which no longer exists — is reasonable doubt enough to overturn what looks like a clear win for the defense?

Stephen Knox

The best NBA action you missed last night

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Mavs v. Pelicans: The Mavericks mounted a furious comeback against the Pelicans, to try and overcome a 25-point fourth-quarter comeback but fell just short. They went 10-18 from the 3-point line but still ended up losing the game 113-106. The Mavericks’ performance behind the arc explains how they got back in the game, but there is no explanation for Brandon Ingram biting teammate Jose Alvarado.

Thunder vs. Suns: With no Kevin Durant for the Suns and no Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the Thunder, Phoenix still rolled to a 132-101 victory. The story of that game though is what happened before the player introductions.

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Raptors vs. Clippers: The Clippers won 108-100, good for them. They needed that win. But this was another game in which the most interesting action was not between the lines. After the game, Fred VanVleet unloaded on referee Ben Taylor in an expletive-filled press conference. Seriously, don’t play this video around your kids.

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Grizzlies vs. Lakers: Given the circumstances, the best possible night to retire Pau Gasol’s number. The franchise that traded him to the Lakers in 2009 was in town. Anthony Davis was spectacular scoring 30 points and pulling in 22 rebounds in a 112-103 win that has the Lakers as the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference postseason picture. However, watching Pau’s number in the rafter next to Kobe Bryant’s was a sad reminder of Kobe’s absence on a night he surely would have been in attendance.

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