Coaches and PT’s work together to keep athletes strong after injuries

By Zoe Collins Rath
Medill Reports

Despite hours in the gym and weight room, practices and taking good care of their bodies, elite athletes still sustain physical injuries that can take them out of their sport for as much as a year.

One of the most common injuries is a torn ACL, one of the four crucial ligaments to stabilize the knee. Girls of all ages and women are more prone to ACL tears. The focus for these injuries are often seen in basketball and soccer players, but gymnasts need to be included more in the conversation.

“My concern is watching a kid who doesn’t fully understand their body and the way to properly land,” said gymnastics coach DeAvera Todd a coach in Atlanta but a former UIC Flame. “They could blow their knees out because there is no strength in the quads and glutes to protect them from extremely hard skills.”

Video: Exercising and strengthening the glutes is one way to help prevent ACL tears. (Courtesy of DeAvera Todd)

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The man behind the murals: Jonas Never on painting sports murals, his process, and working in public

By Gurjit Kaur
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — While everyone else was watching Tiger Woods play, Jonas Never spent his week at the Genesis Invitational painting the legendary golfer. Never, a prominent Los Angeles muralist, grew up imagining he’d become a baseball player or run a bar — like Sam Malone from “Cheers.” However, after he tore his rotator cuff, labrum and bicep tendon, he turned to art, realizing it was more fun than any of the other subjects he was learning in college.

Never has built a large following and has become famous for his incorporation of pop culture, celebrities and athletes in his work. Besides Woods, he has painted well-known murals of other professional athletes, including LeBron James, Ronda Rousey and Kobe Bryant. As he worked on finishing his latest piece near the 2nd hole at the Riviera Country Club, Never reflected on his unique start, his typical workday and shared which player he’d like to paint next.

Your work first got attention in the sports world when you did a mural of Stuart Scott after he died in 2015. Did you imagine it would lead to a career?

I really didn’t expect the Stuart Scott mural to turn into a career. I’d always played sports growing up. I had spent so much of my life bartending too, that every night you would see SportsCenter come on, and Stuart Scott made a big impact on me. When I did [the mural], it was really cool to see the sports world come together and the way his daughters flew out from Canada to come see the wall. I realized that there was something powerful about doing sports murals.

A mural of ESPN sports broadcaster Stuart Scott by Jonas Never above the Melody Bar & Grill in Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Never/Twitter)

What’s something people don’t realize about creating murals?

Most people don’t realize it’s a long workday. It’s not the whole stereotype of an artist being a stoner. You’re not in the studio with a bottle of booze. You’re climbing ladders, you’re in the sun. It can get tiring. Hell, some days I’m painting both here and doing a Kobe mural at downtown. I feel like I’ve run a marathon, my legs are all shaky from 12 hours on a ladder. You can’t drink after. You have to approach it almost like these guys who are teeing off at seven in the morning if you’re going to get stuff done the next day.

The progression of Never’s Kobe Bryant mural at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Never/Instagram)

Are 12-hour days typical?

If there’s a deadline, absolutely. Otherwise, some days you really have it when you get up, and you can paint for hours. Other days, you have to know when to call it when it’s really not there. And when you’re doing public art, there’s social pressure to get it done well. If you’re in your studio, any mistake, any lazy day, people don’t see; but when you’re painting in public, people can. Now with Instagram, like the one I’m doing downtown, someone posted a photo last night of the new mural and I’m like “Oh no, it’s not done.” It’s a little more exciting that way, I guess. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard.

Is it frustrating when your work is posted on social media before it’s finished?

It’s different. I wouldn’t say frustrating cuz it’s fun to be part of the process, like I met you out here painting. You get much more interaction and much more satisfaction being part of a community.

How did you decide what you wanted the mural of Tiger to be?

Any time where you’re working with a situation as big as the Genesis Invitational, you don’t get a lot of say. But they had a really good idea with Tiger’s legacy, they wanted young Tiger and current Tiger [in the mural]. If I’d done this on the street, I probably would have done young Tiger morphing into current Tiger, like a 3D-effect almost. But this is a country club, you want a more postcard-y photo. I figured, current Tiger, looking over the young Tiger [would] put a smile on his face watching him drive. I thought that was more warming and more Disney-like.

Going off of that, generally do you get a lot of say in what you paint?

I always try and keep some level of artistic integrity. I’ll turn down a job that I don’t want to do, or I think it’s a bad idea. I’ve turned down a lot of the Kobe and Gianna murals because people are capitalizing on the tragedy. I have kind of a sliding scale of the less they pay, the less say they have. If there’s something that I really want to do and there’s no paycheck, I’ll still do it. But if the money is ridiculous, then I’m a lot more open to painting what they want.

Any advice for someone wanting a career as a muralist?

You don’t really know where opportunities are going to come from, like the Stuart Scott one I did for free, just for fun. That led to a million opportunities, and I found more often than not, the really low-paying, or the ones I want to do end up leading to a lot more business. So I think that’s why it’s important to find something you really care about.

What about for someone struggling to become successful?

Bartend, waitress, do something at night so you can paint during the day. Then you’re not relying on taking every job to make your art career work. You’re not going to paint murals at night anyways.

Do you have a dream mural?

I really want to paint Pat Tillman, the old Arizona Cardinals football player somewhere in Tempe. He was the one killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. His little brother is one of my good friends. I mean, you can show me any city on the map, and I’ll find something that I really want to paint there.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Finished mural of current Tiger Woods smiling at his 16-year-old self from his PGA Tour debut in 1992. (Gurjit Kaur/MEDILL)


Photo at top: Muralist Jonas Never working on the Woods’ mural, capturing his legacy at the Riviera Country Club. (Gurjit Kaur/MEDILL)

Kobe Bryant’s legacy and presence felt throughout a meaningful NBA All-Star weekend

By Keith Giagnorio
Medill Reports

Every event of the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was blanketed with melancholy air. Seemingly every show, contest and person associated with basketball’s most star-studded weekend paid homage to the late Kobe Bryant, as well as his daughter Gianna.

“It’s still very fresh in people’s minds and in people’s hearts, so he definitely has a big presence here,” said first-time All-Star Jayson Tatum, who idolized Bryant and had been training with him in recent years. “There’s so many Kobe jerseys here and tributes, as there should be.”

On January 26, the heartbreaking news that Kobe, 13-year-old Gigi, and seven others died in a helicopter crash sent people all over the planet into shock and mourning. Just three weeks later, the basketball world gathered in Chicago to compete on a stage where Bryant had long shined brightest: the NBA All-Star weekend.

Even though the Lakers legend is no longer here, there was no question that this weekend was all about Kobe. His larger-than-life presence inspired countless tributes and invoked the sharing of memories and stories about him throughout the weekend.

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Big men steal show at skills challenge

By Arman Tondravi
Medill Reports

Jimmy Butler may be in a little bit of debt following Bam Adebayo’s three point shooting at the NBA’s skills challenge.

“That’s $1,500, so I’ll be expecting my check in the mail,” Adebayo said. The money Adebayo is referring to stems from a bet he and his Miami Heat teammate Butler placed earlier this season, with Butler fining Adebayo $500 for every game Adebayo doesn’t attempt a three point shot.

Adebayo was the first to sink the concluding three-pointer in each of his three rounds during the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday night, and afterward he let the public know about the ever-evolving role of the modern big man.  

“It just shows where this league is going,” said Adebayo. “It’s scary because, when you got guys that are 6’10”, classified as centers or power forwards, I don’t believe it’s any of that anymore.”

Adebayo could not help but smile from ear to ear as he accepted his trophy, a trophy he intends to dedicate to his mother. Adebayo’s victory marked the third win in the past four years for a big man, following a stretch which encompassed no big men ever winning the award since the event’s inception in 2003. 

Adebayo’s counterpart in the finals, Domantas Sabonis, echoed Adebayo’s sentiments on the state of big men in the modern game.  “It’s just showing how the game is changing and how big men and power forwards are basically bringing up the ball,” Sabonis said. “It’s more of a point guard position.”

Adebayo went on to poke fun at Miami Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra about an advanced role in the Heat offense moving forward. “I’m just saying, I had to end this with threes, so I can take top-of-the-key threes maybe,” said a joking Adebayo. 

Adebayo finalized his conference by pointing to the ever-changing landscape of the NBA, while also paying homage to one of the games current greats. 

“I mean, K.D. is 7 foot,” he said, referencing Kevin Durant. “So is K.D. a center?” 

Photo at top: Bam Adebayo addresses media following Skills Contest victory. (Arman Tondravi/MEDILL)

Tiger Woods: The man with hundreds of shadows

By Michaela Schirra
Medill Reports

Among the silence and birds chirping at Riviera Country Club, spectators waited with baited breath to see Tiger Woods swing.

From hole to hole, massive crowds of fans trailed and cheered for Woods as he attempted to conquer the course at the Genesis Invitational.

Spectators follow Woods as he plays Hole 2 on Thursday. (Michaela Schirra/MEDILL)

Coming off his Master’s win in 2019, Woods served as tournament host at the Invitational, an event the California-native has never won. 

During a press conference on Tuesday, Woods talked about the event’s impact on the TGR Foundation in addition to his expectations for the tournament. 

“It’s been tremendous for us to be able to come back to this area where it all started and to have this type of event,” Woods said. 

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The life of an NBA team PR person at All-Star weekend

By Jake Meister
Medill Reports

Whether Luka Doncic was behind the podium at the Rising Stars Media Day, All-Star Media Day or after the actual games, one man stood by his side as if his life depended on it.

It essentially does.

Scott Tomlin is the Director of Basketball Communications for the Dallas Mavericks. Anytime Doncic, the second-year Mavericks star, spoke with the media during All-Star weekend, Tomlin  was never too far away, and listened closely to ensure no conversation went in a direction that could tarnish the team’s or his young superstar’s reputation.

“He’s always with me,” Doncic said. “He’s a great guy, and always takes care of me. There’s a lot of media.”

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Patrick Reed’s fans say the golfer is misjudged and misrepresented

By Clara Facchetti
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Calm. Human. Outspoken. Opinionated. These are some of the unfamiliar words that fans used to describe American golfer Patrick Reed at Riviera Country Club this week.

Reed was in L.A. to play in the Genesis Invitational, where he finished in 51st place at 2 over par. Plagued by college rumors that accused him of cheating in golf and stealing from teammates (which he always denied), and several career incidents, most notably a recent one involving sand tampering at the Hero World Challenge last December, Reed has had to deal with an unsavory reputation.

Yet he is not entirely disliked, as a small but nonetheless fierce fan base followed him from hole to hole at Riviera. Reed’s fans said they were drawn to many of his qualities, such as his humanity, relateability and strong mental game, as well as his performances in golf.

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New All-Star Game format brings out the best in both teams

By Evan Brooks
Medill Reports

The much-anticipated debut of the new NBA All-Star game format was a hit, as  Team LeBron beat Team Giannis, 157-155, in what turned out to be a very competitive and highly skilled basketball game.

All-Star games are typically high-scoring affairs with little stakes, but with the new format — in which each of the first three quarters was a separate contest to win six-figure checks for charity and the final period was an untimed race to a designated target score — the ending felt like a playoff game. Team Giannas led Team LeBron 133-124 heading into the final period. The target score to win the 69th All-Star game was set at 157, by adding 24 points to the leading team’s score in honor of the jersey number the late Kobe Bryant wore in the second half of his career. The fourth period quickly turned from friendly to fierce.

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Uncovering the Michael Vick of NBA 2K

By Yousef Nasser
Medill Reports

The mere sight of it took NBA players gathered for All-Star Weekend to a simpler time. The timeless, slick white box contained Madden 2004, a video game with a legacy that speaks for itself.

“That’s the greatest Madden game that came out,” Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine exclaimed.

“It’s one of the best video games of all time,” Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon declared.

Gracing the cover of Madden 2004 is then-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. HIs digital avatar in the game is a force that’s virtually unmatched throughout the sports gaming world.

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Gone but not forgotten: Jimmy Butler returns to Chicago with more than basketball in mind

By Evan Brooks
Medill Reports

For Jimmy Butler, moving on has become pretty common in his NBA career.  Butler has packed bags and said goodbyes three times already, moving on from the Bulls to the Timberwolves to the Philadelphia 76ers. One goodbye he will never say is to the city that embraced him from Day One: Chicago, Illinois.

Butler was the last pick of the first round in the 2011 draft by the Chicago Bulls. He spent six seasons there before his eventual exit, giving Bulls fans memorable moments on the court. What was even more impressive was the work Butler was doing off the court around the city of Chicago.

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