The Plug, ‘Fight Night: Francis Ngannou’ (Episode 6): The UFC star opens up
UFC’s No. 1 Contender talks all things Stipe Miocic, Trump and the love for his people
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How do you prepare for a fight with a man who broke the world record for the hardest punch ever thrown just last month? Thankfully, The Plug doesn’t have to find out first hand from Francis Ngannou. That’s for his opponent—UFC champion Stipe Miocic. The two square off in the highly anticipated UFC 220 this weekend in Boston.
Ngannou is one of the fastest rising names in mixed martial arts and a win over Miocic would make him the first Cameroonian and African to lift the UFC title. But he’s far more than just a guy with one helluva punch. Ngannou opens up to The Plug about his journey to present day fame and President Donald Trump’s recent comments about “sh*thole countries.” From leaving his native Cameroon to pursue a life he knew was possible—a huge risk given the way of life and lines of thought there—to being homeless in Paris and how fighting became not only his life story, but now his life’s work, no stone is left unturned.
From there, the Squad discuss last weekend’s “Minnesota Miracle,” the future of Saints rookie Marcus Williams who missed the tackle, the NBA on MLK Day, and more. Tell everyone you know to subscribe to The Plug on the ESPN app!
Locker room feuds: When athletes try to run up on other athletes
Ten instances when professional locker rooms were under the threat of being breached
4:41 PMAfter the Los Angeles Clippers’ 113-102 home win over the Houston Rockets on Monday, a game in which many a technical foul was called or missed, Rockets guard Chris Paul led a Suicide Squad bunch of teammates to their opponent’s locker room to, in theory, engage in fisticuffs.
As is always the case, barring Kobe Bryant-Chris Childs and Serge Ibaka-James Johnson, the players had no intention of actually fighting (a witness told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the fight was “classic NBA” and that “none of these guys were going to fight”).
In any event, the Ocean’s Eleven-style mission got us to thinking of other times professional athletes have attempted to run up on their opponent while in the sanctity of the room in which they shower. Here are 10 instances when professional locker rooms were under the threat of being breached.
1922: Babe Ruth vs. Johnny Rawlings
During the 1922 World Series between Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees and Johnny Rawlings’ New York Giants, the “Sultan of Swat” grew tired of Rawlings’ bench jockeying, so he and teammate Bob Meusel “invaded” the Giants’ locker room hoping to scrap. No hands were thrown, but the Giants technically won the non-fight, as they won the series 4-0-1 and held Ruth to just two hits and zero home runs.
2012: Zach Randolph vs. Kendrick Perkins
Zach Randolph and Kendrick Perkins were ejected in the fourth quarter of the Memphis Grizzlies’ 107-97 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder for arguing with each other (Randolph apparently yelled, “I’ll beat your a–” at Perkins), but the drama didn’t end there. The two reportedly tried to continue the altercation in the back hallways, with Randolph crossing over to the Thunder’s side of the building, earning him a $25,000 fine from the NBA. All’s well that ends well, as the two immediately squashed the beef.
2012: Lance Stephenson vs. Miami Heat players
Lance Stephenson, then in his first stint with the Indiana Pacers, had become a thorn in the side of the Miami Heat long before he blew into the ear of LeBron James during the 2014 playoffs. Stephenson and Heat center Juwan Howard, much like the respective teams they played for, had been feuding all season, and after an on-court confrontation during the second round of the 2012 playoffs, Howard, full of old-man strength, walked over to the Pacers’ locker room to try to find Stephenson. He failed in his search, but the Heat won the series in six games and eliminated the Pacers from the playoffs the next two seasons as well.
2013: Drake vs. Miami Heat security
Longtime Heat (and Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors and Kentucky and Texas A&M) fan Drake, after the Heat’s Finals victory over the San Antonio Spurs in 2013, attempted to sneak into Miami’s locker room with credentialed media to celebrate with LeBron & Co. While not an act of an athlete attempting to barge into a locker room, the most famous musician in the world’s failure to even make it through the doors merits a spot on this list.
2013: Carmelo Anthony vs. Kevin Garnett
It was reported at the time of this incident that Kevin Garnett, who has lost all benefit of the doubt for the things he’s said over the years, said Carmelo Anthony’s wife, La La, tasted like “Honey Nut Cheerios” (La La Anthony has since denied it.) Well, Anthony did not take too kindly to another man saying his spouse tasted like a nutritional breakfast, so he headed straight to the Boston Celtics’ locker room area (and team bus) to have a “one-on-one conversation” with Garnett. Anthony was suspended by the NBA for one game.
2014: John Tortorella vs. Calgary Flames
Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella, best known outside of the world of hockey for threatening to bench Team USA players if they sat for the national anthem, attempted to enter the Calgary Flames’ locker room to confront his counterpart, Bob Hartley, in response to the two teams brawling at the start of the game. In essence, Tortorella wanted to fight the other team because his players fought the other team. Hartley was fined $25,000 by the NHL.
2014: Stephen Curry vs. Los Angeles Clippers
A year before his first of back-to-back NBA MVP awards, Stephen Curry was in the midst of just his third career playoff series when he and fellow guard Steve Blake rolled up on some Los Angeles Clippers ball boys for a comment that a Clippers assistant coach made after Los Angeles eliminated the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. That led to players from both teams convening in the hallway between the two locker rooms, and, according to former Clippers guard Jared Dudley, Curry barging into the Clippers’ training room.
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 16, 2018
The Los Angeles Police Department and Staples Center security were dispatched, but the incident calmed down from there.
2016: Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks
It appears this wasn’t the Rockets’ first — pardon the pun — rodeo. Just 13 months before Monday’s kerfuffle, a contingent of Houston players, led by habitual line-steppers Trevor Ariza and James Harden, waited outside the Dallas Mavericks’ locker room for center Salah Mejri, who allegedly insulted Ariza’s family (Mejri denied this.) Ariza, supposedly the “first one through the door” during the Clippers incident, was accompanied to the Mavs’ locker room by two security guards like he was Bill Goldberg, but the altercation ended in neither blows nor fines/suspensions.
2017: Jalen Ramsey vs. A.J. Green
What started as an on-field “fight” — if you can call one man (Jalen Ramsey) being German suplexed by the other (A.J. Green) a “fight” — transitioned to the bowels of EverBank Field, as Ramsey, the loudmouthed Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback, had to be restrained from entering the Cincinnati Bengals’ locker room after both players had been ejected. He never made it inside, but Ramsey later told the media that Green is both “weak” and “soft.”
2017: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Kevin Durant
As appears to be the trend in these almost scuffles, New Orleans Pelicans power forward DeMarcus Cousins went after Kevin Durant after both players were ejected from the Golden State Warriors’ 125-115 win at the Smoothie King Center. An amazing photo by a New York Times photographer captures the exact moment Cousins was ready to scrap. Per Times reporter Scott Cacciola: “Cousins was storming down the hallway in search of Durant, who was making his way off the court after his ejection and toward the locker room. Security officers, aware that trouble was brewing, quickly diverted Durant to a small corridor as several others slowed Cousins’ progress.” Surprisingly, Cousins wasn’t fined or suspended for this incident.
Apparently after Demarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant were ejected after barking at each other during the GSW/NOP game Boogie stormed down the hallway near the locker rooms in search of KD and had to be restrained.
h/t: @ScottCacciola pic.twitter.com/sQz9297HC2
— Warriors Talk (@JaeAzizi) December 8, 2017
Will Kanye’s new daughter influence his future art?
Kanye and Kim expand the Kardashian family empire — and welcome a baby girl
3:44 PMWell, it’s official. The West-Kardashian clan has its own starting five. Kim Kardashian West announced the news on her website in early hours of Jan. 15. Kardashian and her husband, superstar Kanye West, welcomed their third child, a healthy 7-pound, 6-ounce baby girl. “We are incredibly grateful to our surrogate who made our dreams come true with the greatest gift one could give, and to our wonderful doctors and nurses for their special care,” Kardashian West said. “North and Saint are especially thrilled to welcome their baby sister.”
West and Kardashian West are two of the most famous people in the world, as a couple and individually. But the image of them as parents appears to be very private — as much as one can be in a Kardashian world. And, whether by design or destiny, West’s been unusually silent for nearly a year. Of course, with West, cameras are always around, but the “Famous” producer, designer and rapper hasn’t made many headlines since his brief moment with then-new President Donald Trump and an onstage rant that became fodder for Jay-Z’s Grammy-nominated 4:44. Maybe West needed to fall back for a minute?
He is listed as an executive producer on Damon Dash’s new film Honor Up (set for select theaters and OnDemand Feb. 16). But musically, even if West has been privately active, he’s been publicly dormant, a strategic move that may play in his favor if, in fact, he’s been in a creative musical cave. And it’ll be interesting to see whether the birth of his third child influences his music in the ways North and Saint did. But: Until concrete evidence is provided, talk of a new Kanye project will remain just that — talk. Then again, he’s got more important duties to take care of at the moment. New babies are everything.
Lakers legend Elgin Baylor will get his very own statue at L.A.’s Staples Center
The Hall of Famer’s unveiling ceremony will take place in April
3:40 PMThirty-five years after his No. 22 jersey was retired, Los Angeles Lakers great Elgin Baylor is being honored with his very own statue for his contributions to the team.
The Hall of Famer’s statue will join the likes of former Lakers players Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson and Lakers broadcaster Francis “Chick” Hearn in Star Plaza at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. An outdoor unveiling ceremony will be held April 6 shortly before the Lakers’ tipoff against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“It’s something people have been talking to me about for some time,” Baylor told the Southern California News Group. “I don’t know how I’m going to react or anything once I see it because nothing like that has ever happened before. But I’m sure that I will enjoy it.”
Baylor entered the NBA after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958, and he averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 846 games during the course of his 14-year career. He earned his spot as a first-team All-NBA player 10 times and appeared in 11 All-Star games.
Baylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977, six years after announcing his retirement, and was the Los Angeles Clippers’ general manager for 22 years.
After being present for the unveiling ceremonies of O’Neal, West, Abdul-Jabbar and Hearn, Baylor being honored with his own statue is only right.
“I am thrilled that 60 years after the Minneapolis Lakers drafted Elgin, we are able to celebrate and honor him with a statue,” said Lakers CEO and controlling owner Jeanie Buss. “Not only is Elgin a part of the Lakers family, his contributions to the game of basketball earned him a place in the Hall of Fame. His list of accomplishments are unparalleled, and I can’t wait to see his statue at Star Plaza alongside the other Lakers legends.”
Memphis Grizzlies players and coaches share sentiments about playing on MLK Day
An event-filled weekend and win over Lakers gives team an edge going into MLK50
10:58 AMWhen NBA players live and work in a city where Martin Luther King Jr. made such an impact, they find themselves faced with a duty to defend their home court. The Memphis Grizzlies maneuvered their way to a 123-114 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday at the FedEx Forum in the 16th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration.
The day consisted of many festivities including the honoring of WNBA and NBA players during the 13th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award. This year’s recipients were Penny Hardaway, Sam Perkins, James Worthy and WNBA All-Star Swin Cash. The award recognizes dedicated contributions to civil and human rights and laying foundations for future leaders through their career in sports in the spirit of King.
The weekend was filled with events that included a discussion at the National Civil Rights Museum (“MLK50: Where Do We Go From Here”) with Cash, Grizzlies guard Mike Conley and Lakers center Brook Lopez. Before tipoff on Monday, the honorees participated in the Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium.
Sports teams often visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which houses the location where King was shot. Check out what players had to say about playing in Memphis on MLK Day while the city prepares for MLK50, the 50th year commemorating King’s death.
“When you have this opportunity to pay that respect, you do this job with the best of your ability. You give everything that you’ve got in honor of those who had to fight those fights for you and the sacrifices that they made for you. … Understanding how the organization, the city, and the community fought to get the game back on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was an eye-opening thing. It was an awareness of just how important this game is and how much it means to be played today.” – Grizzlies interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff
“This is my second time that I remember being part of MLK Day. It’s a special game, special moment for a person that did a lot for not only African-Americans but for us as a society. It’s always good to come out here and celebrate him.” – Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers
“It means a lot [to play in Memphis]. It brings a lot of my passion out and makes me want to play harder for the organization and for the Memphis fans. It’s my first MLK Day playing. It felt great. I’ve visited [the National Civil Rights Museum] twice. I learned so much about history. Coming from Canada, you don’t really know a lot because it’s very multicultural. I figured out a lot of things, like how to appreciate my culture more.” – Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks
“Coming out here every night and playing for Memphis means so much to me because the fans are great. I’ve got a lot of fan base from when I was in school. I can put up two jerseys: one for college and one for the NBA. Martin Luther King gave us a chance to chase our dreams, so I’m happy to play on this day.” – Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans
“It’s an absolute honor to play on this holiday, I think. For where we are as a world and where we’re trying to go, Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for what was right. But what really separates him is he really emphasized doing it through a peaceful manner, and all he wanted is what everyone should want and that’s equality. To be able to play on this day, especially with a sport where you get so many people from different backgrounds and different places across the world, it’s an honor.” – Lakers head coach Luke Walton
The NBA celebrates MLK Day
A game-by-game look at how teams chose to honor the civil rights icon
6:37 PMTo celebrate the life and accomplishments of civil rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the NBA offered an 11-game slate for fans on MLK Day on Monday. Outside of the live action, the 22 teams in action chose to honor King in their own distinctive ways.
The Undefeated will keep a running list of the teams’ various acts of appreciation, starting with the Charlotte Hornets vs. Detroit Pistons opening game all the way to the Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers nightcap.
Charlotte Hornets at Detroit Pistons
Before today's game, the #Pistons and @RISEtoWIN hosted a panel discussion with former athletes, law enforcement officials, and community activists, with a goal of developing a solution-oriented agenda focusing on honoring Dr. King’s legacy and creating positive change. #MLKDay pic.twitter.com/fxOCYFxEgO
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) January 15, 2018
Tim Richey, executive director @DetroitPAL, speaks about the Building Bridges Through Basketball in Detroit program and Martin Luther King Jr. Day community conversation. #MLKDay #JrPistons #ThisIsWhy #NBACares #RISEtoWIN @DetroitPistons @DetroitPolice @sayplaydetroit pic.twitter.com/uWTzjSzmOG
— RISE (@RISEtoWIN) January 15, 2018
Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers
“Together we can make a great difference in the community."
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 15, 2018
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 15, 2018
Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards
The Wizards held their annual “We are Dreamers” panel discussion, this year involving Washington, D.C.-area male leaders and 60 young men talking about the life and career aspirations of the young males and what it will take to achieve those goals. Before tipoff, Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. addressed the Capital One Arena crowd, celebrating King, who “preached positivity and love over hate.” That was followed by the singing of the national anthem by gospel singer Annisse Murillo. At halftime, the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir took the arena to church, singing “America the Beautiful.”
After the game, Wizards All-Star guard John Wall spoke with reporters about playing on MLK Day: “I’m striving to be a better African-American athlete, and just as a person first of all. I think that’s the most important thing.”
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) January 15, 2018
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"#MLKDay #WizBucks pic.twitter.com/oyk1yXqZTU
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) January 15, 2018
We hosted our #MLKDay "We Are Dreamers" interactive discussion earlier today!
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) January 15, 2018
San Antonio Spurs at Atlanta Hawks
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) January 15, 2018
— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) January 15, 2018
New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets
"Dr. King's life has inspired me to take advantage of every opportunity"
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 15, 2018
“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service…You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” #MLKDay pic.twitter.com/Gi7KUdiifx
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) January 15, 2018
Miami Heat at Chicago BullS
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 15, 2018
Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies debuted their “I Am A Man” city edition uniforms that The Undefeated’s Aaron Dodson exclusively reported on in December. The team also visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel on Sunday.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) January 15, 2018
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) January 15, 2018
Sacramento Kings at Oklahoma City Thunder
"It's powerful… it's a lot to take in."
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) January 15, 2018
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 16, 2018
Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 15, 2018
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) January 15, 2018
Indiana Pacers at Utah Jazz
“I can share what I have with others. I am not alone in this world, and I am not any better than anyone else. What I have can be multiplied with those around me.” -Gail Miller #MLKDay https://t.co/uVUmmV4BGs
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 15, 2018
Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 15, 2018
Kevin Sumlin, Herm Edwards to duel in the desert
This isn’t the first time black coaches will lead rival Division I football programs
7:58 PMTwitter asked, and we answered.
Former Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin is the new coach at Arizona. Sumlin, who was fired last November after compiling a 51-26 record with the Aggies, replaces Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats dismissed Rodriguez amid a sexual harassment investigation.
Sumlin’s hiring means black coaches will lead Arizona and rival Arizona State, which hired Herm Edwards in December. But have rival Division I football programs ever had black coaches at the same time? That was the question on Twitter.
— Ranon Sams (@RanonSams) January 14, 2018
The answer is yes. With some help from Twitter and our friends at ESPN Stats & Info, we’ve determined it has happened at least five times previously in the Football Bowl Subdivision, including when Sumlin was at Texas A&M.
Twitter gave us a head start on the list:
John Blake (preceded Bob Stoops) and Bob Simmons (preceded Les Miles) at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the 1990’s.
— Eddie Maisonet, III (@edthesportsfan) January 14, 2018
Indeed, John Blake (Oklahoma) and Bob Simmons (Oklahoma State) were with the rival programs at the same time from 1996-98. Also making the list:
2009-11: DeWayne Walker (New Mexico State) and Mike Locksley (New Mexico)
2010-12: Joker Phillips (Kentucky) and Charlie Strong (Louisville)
2014-16: Strong (Texas) and Sumlin (Texas A&M)
2017: Willie Taggart (Oregon) and interim coach Cory Hall (Oregon State)
Strong and Sumlin did not meet during their time in Texas. The traditional rivals have not played since 2011 after Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.
Sumlin brings the number of African-American coaches in the FBS to 13 out of 128 teams.
The black coaches in FBS, including Sumlin:
- James Franklin, Penn State
- David Shaw, Stanford
- Charlie Strong, South Florida
- Willie Taggart, Florida State
- Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
- Dino Babers, Syracuse
- Lovie Smith, Illinois
- Frank Wilson, Texas, San Antonio
- Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina
- Mike Jinks, Bowling Green
- Everett Withers, Texas State
- Herm Edwards, Arizona State
- Kevin Sumlin, Arizona
Was Rodney Hood’s cellphone slap worth $35,000?
A point-by-point investigation
4:26 PMOn Wednesday night, Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood was ejected from his team’s game against the Washington Wizards, a 107-104 Jazz victory, for accumulating two technical fouls for arguing with officials (an ongoing middle school beef currently taking over the league).
Seconds after he was sent to the showers, Hood walked by a man seated near the court who was either recording a video or taking a photo of the ejected (and very likely fed up) player. In response, Hood slapped the phone out of the fan’s hand, amusing the entire NBA community (except for said man) along the way.
Rodney Hood got fined $35,000 for this. pic.twitter.com/z6nybtYyQl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 12, 2018
Well, as they say, there comes a time when Keeping It Real Goes Wrong, and in this case, Hood was fined $35,000 by the NBA for the non-NBC slap heard around the world.
Which presents the question: Was it all worth it? Thirty-five thousand dollars is a lot to regular folks, but does the fine, along with the notoriety of being “that guy,” really matter to a millionaire? Here’s a seven-point investigation:
- Hood is making $2,386,864 this season, which means the $35,000 fine amounts to about 1.5 percent of his annual salary. For us normies, that’s about $700 for a person making $50,000 a year. That probably stung a little.
- Hood had been ejected for arguing with the officials, which is pretty low on the “what are you in for?” scale, so he needed to show the whole world that, like his last name, he is about that life.
- The perpetrator, the Milton Waddams-esque gentleman who was on the receiving end of the slap, was sitting near courtside in a white dress shirt and a tie. At a sporting event. He also violated the Ron Artest Rules for Not Antagonizing Professional Athletes, thus deserving what was coming to him.
- The slap is one of the more fluid motions ever witnessed. Hood, trying to perfect the no-look pass, never turns to look at the man as he swats the phone. And once the cellular device is in motion, it flips and flutters through the air like a skydiver who has just jumped out of the plane.
- As Hood knocks the phone down, he keeps walking without looking back. This is like boxer Roy Jones Jr. putting one arm behind his back levels of cockiness. Hood knew, like we all did, that Milton wasn’t about to step, so Hood had no worries about turning his back on the aggrieved party.
- At the end of the video, you can see the fan start to stand up, as if, in fact, he is about to step, but the camera pans away to Hood’s perp walk. What we all can imagine actually happened was Milton pulled up his Dockers, reached down and picked up his phone, sat down and immediately called the police.
- Milton did actually call the police.
Looking at all the facts, while Hood lost a rent’s worth of money (by Salt Lake City standards) on a move that Ric Flair was paid millions to execute weekly, he was the talk of #NBATwitter on Wednesday even while 1) playing for the Jazz, 2) against the Wizards and 3) the same night another player scored 50 points.
Hood, who should be an All-Star captain now, may have lost some money, but he earned our (read: my) respect. Plus, with his next contract, Hood is expected to make somewhere close to $20 million a season.
Yes, it was worth it.