🎉 Yahoo! It's Friday! I'm headed to Camden Yards tonight (and Sunday) for the Orioles' biggest series in years. Email me if you'll be there, would love to say hey. Go O's!
🏈 Eagles stay perfect: Amazon's "TNF" debut got off to a slow start, but the Eagles pulled away from the Vikings in the second half behind Philly native D'Andre Swift's career-high 175 rushing yards. Final score: Eagles 34, Vikings 28.
⚾️ Bloom out in Boston: Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, forever linked to the Mookie Betts trade, was fired on Thursday after four up-and-down seasons that included two last-place finishes (and potentially a third this year).
🏴 The NFL's new home: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been given official status as the "Home of the NFL" in the UK in an expanded partnership that will see least two regular-season games played there every year through 2029.
🏈 Luck's return to football: Andrew Luck is back — kind of. The former No. 1 overall pick is coaching part-time at Palo Alto High School while pursuing his Master's in Education right across the street at Stanford, his alma mater.
See what else is trending on Yahoo Sports.
THE MINNOW VS. THE WHALE
In a time when money rules college sports like never before, one school stands out for the money it doesn't have, Jeff writes.
Meet the minnow: Louisiana-Monroe, which plays in the Sun Belt, heads to College Station this weekend to play SEC behemoth Texas A&M. And though they'll both be on the gridiron, their respective finances suggest they're hardly playing the same sport.
Expenses: ULM Athletics' operating expenses in 2021-22 totaled $20.5 million, ranking dead last among the 107 public FBS schools for which Sportico obtained financial records. The Aggies ranked sixth, at $177.7 million.
Coach salaries: ULM will pay Terry Bowden, son of Hall of Famer Bobby, $430,000 this year. Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher makes $9.15 million annually.
Consider this: The Aggies spent $2.98 million on football recruiting alone this year. Meanwhile, Warhawks AD John Hartwell agonizes over financial minutiae like whether ULM should lease or buy their ice machines.
Looking ahead: There's a growing belief that the new-look SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 (i.e. the "Power Four") will ultimately break away from the NCAA and form their own super league, of sorts.
When you look at a game like this one, with $20.5 million on one side and $177.7 million on the other, it's not hard to see why.
But for now, uneven tilts remain a staple of early-season college football, with 2-0 ULM listed as a 36.5-point underdog. They're not backing down, though.
Here's coach: "We are the littlest school with the smallest trophy box," Bowden, who inherited a 0-10 team in 2021, told Sportico. "But why does that have to affect our performance on the field?"
THE NBA LOOKS TO THE FUTURE
First on Yahoo Sports AM: You're getting this news before anyone else! Some would call it a "Scoop," others an "Exclusive." Both make me cringe, so let's just go with "First on Yahoo Sports AM."
The NBA knows how to market its stars as well as, if not better than, any other sports league. Now, it wants to start promoting them before they even get there.
What's new: The NBA is launching a new initiative today called "Future Starts Now," which will showcase the next generation of stars in a centralized hub on the NBA app.
"Future Starts Now" will feature everything from live game broadcasts and highlights to behind-the-scenes content and player interviews.
The league will also be unveiling new dedicated social media handles to help fans follow the action.
The strategy: The NBA wants to make its app a one-stop shop for all things basketball — not just NBA content. One way to expand beyond the league? Cover the prodigies who could one day be the faces of it.
We saw this last year when the NBA App began streaming Victor Wembanyama's French League games ahead of him becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The NBA App also streamed Peach Jam games for the first time this summer, showcasing America's best high school prospects during the annual Nike event.
Top prospects are now building their brands on social media and becoming household names at an early age, almost demanding that the NBA step in and start telling their stories.
"We see and hear from our fans that they want a central home for 'where is the next generation of players playing,'" says NBA senior VP Andrew Yaffe.
The global game: The NBA is a global league, both in terms of its talent and its fan base. So naturally, "Future Starts Now" will cater to both domestic and international audiences.
"There are more prospects than ever in more parts of the world than ever — and more opportunities than ever to tell those stories," says Yaffe.
"We can bring American players to our global audience, and we can bring global players to our American audience," says Yaffe.
By the numbers: To give a sense of the demand for this type of content, Wembanyama was the eighth most-viewed player on NBA social last season — as a prospect. Of course, generational talents like Wemby are rare but the point is this: when offered a glimpse of the future, fans are going to tune in.
Launch event: To tip off this new initiative, the NBA App will stream this weekend's Nike World Basketball Festival in New York City, featuring some of the world's top prospects.
BEHIND THE LENS
Each week, we'll be going "Behind the Lens" with Getty Images to get the backstory on the most spectacular photographs in sports.
This week's photo: Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins dives over Texans cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. for the score during Baltimore's 25-9 victory on opening weekend. Sadly, Dobbins tore his Achilles later in the game, ending his season.
Photographer: Patrick Smith
Date: September 10
📸 Behind the lens: We asked Patrick to take us behind the scenes. What's it like shooting NFL games? Where was he positioned for this shot? What equipment and technique did he use?
Patrick Smith: For NFL games, we tend to cover them as a team — two photographers and a remote editor. We each take one side of the field and move up and down our designated sideline to follow the action. For this shot, I was in one of my favorite spots: the corner of the end zone.
The goal when photographing any sport is first to find a clean background. A compelling action photograph can easily become distracting with a busy, messy background. With a clean background, a powerful moment stands outs and becomes great.
This image was taken in a sequence of photographs, made possible by the mirrorless cameras being used today that shoot 30 FPS (frames per second). Not long ago, professionals were using digital SLR cameras that topped out around 16 FPS.
Equipment: I was using three Canon R3 camera bodies with three lenses — 400mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 — the latter two being on my shoulders. This helps get the close pictures from a far distance, a mid-range perspective and a wide angle, respectively.
Technique: I knew the ball was coming my way and switched from my long lens to the midrange 70-200mm lens. I had no idea Dobbins would go airborne, so I had to adjust at the last second, an important skill for any photographer hoping to capture big moments.
THE MLS STRETCH RUN HAS ARRIVED
The MLS stretch run has arrived, and with five weeks left in the regular season, nearly every team is still alive, Jeff writes.
How it works: MLS adopted a new postseason format this year, expanding the field from 14 to 18 teams and introducing a wild card round. The top seven seeds per conference qualify for Round One, now a best-of-three series. The eight and nine seeds play a single-elimination wild card match.
Where things stand: The No. 1 seeds in each conference are all but locked up, but the remaining spots are up for grabs in extremely tight races.
West: St. Louis, in their inaugural campaign, leads second-place Seattle by seven points. The rest of the conference is a logjam, with 11 points separating 2nd through 13th. Only three-win Colorado is totally out of it (albeit not yet mathematically).
East: Cincinnati is nine points clear of New England and the only team that's clinched. The rest of the conference is pretty stratified: Nos. 2-7 are separated by eight points and Nos. 8-14 are separated by seven points. As for four-win Toronto… there's always next year.
NBA2K24 PLAYERS, RANKED
NBA2K24, the 25th edition of the iconic NBA2K franchise, came out last week. To celebrate, here are the 18 players with a 90 rating or above, led by the reigning Finals MVP:
Nikola Jokić: 98 overall rating
LeBron James: 96
Joel Embiid: 96
Kevin Durant: 96
Steph Curry: 96
Luka Dončić: 95
Jayson Tatum: 95
Jimmy Butler: 95
Kawhi Leonard: 94
Devin Booker: 94
Damian Lillard: 94
Anthony Davis: 93
Ja Morant: 92
Donovan Mitchell: 92
Zion Williamson: 90
Kyrie Irving: 90
SEPT. 15, 1978: ALI'S FINAL VICTORY
45 years ago today, Muhammad Ali defeated Leon Spinks by unanimous decision for the final victory of his career,* avenging his stunning loss from seven months earlier to recapture the heavyweight title.
America was watching: 63,350 fans packed into the Superdome to watch the "Battle of New Orleans," a then-record attendance for indoor boxing. And its rating of 46.7 meant nearly half of American televisions were tuned in for the bout.
⚾️ 1950: 10-time All-Star Johnny Mize had his sixth and final three-homer game, still tied with Sammy Sosa and Mookie Betts for the most all-time.
🎾 2022: Roger Federer announced his retirement from professional tennis at age 41, calling it quits after 24 years and 20 grand slam titles.
*Ali retired the following June but later returned for two more fights — losses to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick — before hanging up the gloves for good in 1981.
WATCHLIST: SUNDAY FUNDAY
Early window (1pm ET): Packers (-1.5) at Falcons (Fox); Raiders (+8.5) at Bills (CBS); Ravens (+3.5) at Bengals (CBS); Seahawks (+4.5) at Lions (Fox); Chargers (-2.5) at Titans (CBS); Bears (+2.5) at Bucs (Fox); Chiefs (-3.5) at Jaguars (CBS); Colts (+1) at Texans (Fox)
Afternoon: 49ers (-7.5) at Rams* (4pm, Fox); Giants (-4) at Cardinals (4:25pm, Fox); Jets (+9) at Cowboys (4:25pm, CBS); Commanders (+3.5) at Broncos (4:25pm, CBS)
Sunday night: Dolphins (-3) at Patriots (8:20pm, NBC)
More to watch:
🏈 CFB: No. 7 Penn State at Illinois (Sat. 12pm, Fox); No. 14 LSU at Mississippi State (Sat. 12pm, ESPN); No. 8 Washington at Michigan State (Sat. 5pm, Peacock); No. 11 Tennessee at Florida (Sat. 7pm, ESPN); Colorado State at No. 18 Colorado (Sat. 10pm, ESPN)
⚽️ NWSL: Red Stars vs. Angel City (Sun. 6pm, CBSSN)
🏁 F1: Singapore GP (Sun. 8am, ESPN)
🏁 NASCAR playoffs: Bristol Motor Speedway (Sat. 7:30pm, USA)
🏉 Rugby World Cup: Seven matches (Fri-Sun, Peacock) … Group stage.
*Fun fact: Matthew Stafford (first pick in the 2009 draft) vs. Brock Purdy (last pick in the 2022 draft) marks the first time in NFL history that the No. 1 pick and Mr. Irrelevant face off at QB.
Aaron Rodgers, 39, was the NFL's oldest starting QB before his season-ending injury. Now, three 35-year-olds will take the mantle.
Question: Can you name the three 35-year-old starting QBs?
Hint: Russell Wilson is 34, so I just saved you a guess.
Answer at the bottom.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Vikings superstar Justin Jefferson needed just 52 games to reach 5,000 receiving yards, tying Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for the fastest player to that mark in NFL history and joining Randy Moss as the only players to do it before turning 25.
Wild stat: Jefferson (5,134 career receiving yards) already has more receiving yards than any player in the 102-year history of the Bears — and he's only played three seasons plus two games! Chicago's all-time leader is Johnny Morris, who played flanker and halfback from 1958-67.
Trivia answer: Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins