It wasn’t all VAR controversy and handball nonsense this weekend, with Conor McGregor going all wordsmith, tennis stars being (possibly) frozen solid, and LeBron reaching the pinnacle once more. Here are five sports stories you might have missed…
McGregor Slates Mayweather As He Announces Pacquiao Deal
It started off like one of those Players’ Tribune articles, or an ode to a moment of sporting mastery written 30 years after the fact, and ended similar to the famous Norwegian commentator crowing at Maggie Thatcher, Lady Diana and any other English people he could think of. It’s fair to say that Conor McGregor’s latest Instagram post was a little out of the ordinary.
The MMA star’s random stream of consciousness came after confirmation that he has agreed a deal to step back into the boxing ring against Philippines legend Manny Pacquaio in the Middle East in the near future, and featured a detailed review of the very first punch of his blockbuster fight with Floyd Mayweather in 2017.
The picture showed McGregor landing his first punch of the fight, with the Irishman eulogising about the shot in a lengthy post, claiming “It was hard for me not to dwell on the full 12 rounds that were potentially ahead of me and hold back my shots early…Really I should have just sat right thru that shot and took his head off and **** the distance…I’m upset I fully followed the rules for that fight to be honest.”
He went on to call out UFC CEO Bob Chapek for the organisation’s inability to fix him up with a fight, despite multiple conversations since February, and signed off by throwing his weight into his return to the boxing ring, “Anyways, boxing it is for now and I’m up for this… Let’s get it going, guys.”
New Balls Please, These Are Growing Icicles
Who could have known moving a major sporting event out of season could have caused so much trouble? And not just for Andy Murray, who suffered another punishing setback on his road to recovery following hip surgery.
While Muzza was being trounced by Stan Wawrinka in the first round of the French Open, countless others were struggling with the equipment and conditions, as Roland Garros played host to the tournament a full four months behind schedule.
Rafa Nadal called the plummeting temperatures in Paris “the most difficult conditions for me ever at Roland Garros,” while he added of the new Wilson balls being used at the championships, “In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow. I think it is not a good ball to play on clay.”
The British number one, Dan Evans, went one further, saying, “Some of those balls we were using you wouldn’t give to a dog to chew.” He also joined a multitude of players complaining about the cold, but stopped short of following Victoria Azarenka’s lead.
The two-time Grand Slam champion complained bitterly (get it?) about the weather to tournament organisers before donning her puffer jacket and heading to the locker room. After warming up, the Belarusian came back to make quick work of Danka Kovinic inside 61 minutes and head straight back to the more tropical environs of the locker room.
LeBron Leads Lakers To First Finals In 10 Years
For the first time in 10 years, the Los Angeles Lakers are back in the NBA Finals, thanks to their Game 5 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, which clinched a 4-1 Conference finals victory. LeBron James was unsurprisingly key to the 117-107 success, leading the way for points (38), rebounds (16) and assists (10) in the crowd-free Disney complex in Florida.
The best-of-seven final showdown with Miami Heat will pit LeBron against the club with whom he won his first two NBA titles in 2012 and 2013 before returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers and adding an emotional third ring to his collection in 2016.
While many of his former contemporaries from those Heat days have moved on, including fellow ‘Big Three’ stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, some pundits believe that Miami have the advantage of knowing King James’ game inside out. Wednesday’s Game 1 will provide the first chance to show that to be the case.
Everton Top Of The Charts… No, The Actual Charts
Everton are top of the charts. No, not the Premier League ones, since Leicester City’s 5-2 win at Manchester City unseated them on goal difference on Sunday. We mean the actual music charts.
Yes, that’s right. Miley Cyrus had to settle for second spot in this weekend’s iTunes listings as she saw her single ‘Midnight Sky’ beaten to the top of the pops by an unlikely rival. And it was all down to one cheeky Evertonian on social media, who petitioned his fellow Blues to spend 79p to get the 1984 FA Cup final release ‘Spirit of the Blues’, sung by the Everton squad of that time, to number one.
Such is the groundswell of positivity and pride in the Toffees’ perfect start to the new campaign under Carlo Ancelotti, fans immediately jumped on the bandwagon to outdo the Hannah Montana star.
The Messi-Ronaldo Era Is Far From Over
So Lionel Messi is in open warfare with Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo is part of a Juventus side whose nine-year supremacy in Serie A is being tipped to come to an end this season. The era of their dominance is over, right?
Hold your horses. On the evidence of this weekend’s action, there is still plenty to come from the majestical pair.
First off, Ronaldo netted two equalisers against Roma to salvage a point for 10-man Juve, including a mesmeric second which saw him defy gravity once more. Just as he managed in the 2018 Champions League win for Real Madrid over the Bianconeri, the 35-year-old stayed suspended in mid-air to meet Danilo’s cross from the right with a wonderful header into the far corner.
Meanwhile, over in Catalunya, Messi was beginning life without Luis Suarez with a bang, as he played a part in everything that was positive about Barcelona’s 4-0 shellacking of Villarreal. Just a couple of weeks on from the interview in which he revealed he had been desperate to leave Barca for a new start elsewhere, the Argentine magician scored a penalty and generally did a load of usual Messi magic as he showed that he still has something to offer at Camp Nou.
That new era of great icons of the game you’ve been waiting for? Maybe you’ll have to hang on another year or so. These two are far from done just yet.