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Sidney Crosby Michael Jordan comparison The Last Dance
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How valid is a Sidney Crosby-Michael Jordan comparison?

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During this sports-starved pandemic, “The Last Dance” inspired a flood of Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls-related takes. For those of us who cover other sports, it’s almost inevitable to make comparisons to Michael Jordan, and Sidney Crosby ranks as a fairly obvious choice.

Just because it’s inevitable, and will leave some people rolling their eyes, doesn’t mean it isn’t … well, a lot of fun.

But is the Crosby – Jordan comparison valid?

Current Penguins assistant coach Mark Recchi made the comparison on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central. When asked by David Amber, Recchi cites Crosby’s work ethic. He also states that while Crosby is competitive, he isn’t quite as confrontational as the apparently often-abrasive Jordan was:

Recchi estimates that new teammates take as much as a month to get used to the Penguins’ rigorous practices. Crosby’s competitiveness is a big part of that.

[More: Crosby’s preferred playoff format.]

The basics of Jordan – Crosby

When people compare stars across sports and eras, they often paint with a broad brush. Let’s zoom out before we zoom in, then.

In making a Crosby – Jordan comparison, scale is important:

  • Crosby’s hockey famous, while Jordan is and was a global icon. Also, if people aren’t saying a leader in a field is the “Michael Jordan of ____,” then they’d be using Wayne Gretzky’s name instead of Crosby. That’s not totally Sid’s fault, but it’s true.
  • Crosby piled up plenty of individual accolades, for sure. Jordan just piled up a lot more. (Crosby’s injuries surely had something to do with that.)
  • Both won multiple titles, including repeat championships. Sure, Jordan has more rings (six to three), but both paired individual dominance with team dominance.
  • They both experienced some handshake drama during their careers.
  • Each player created iconic moments, including winning Olympic gold.

“The Golden Goal” is Crosby’s answer to some of Jordan’s best buzzer-beaters:

As unfair as it’s always felt to Scottie Pippen and Evgeni Malkin, you could also say each “Batman” had their “Robin.”

Recchi stated that Crosby isn’t as “confrontational” as Jordan. That might be true, again, in a sense of scale. Even by the demanding standards star players often set, it seems like MJ was on another level.

Naturally, Crosby also hasn’t faced the off-ice drama that hounded the hyper-famous Jordan. (If Crosby made a midnight casino run, would we even find out?)

But there’s no doubt that Crosby can be a downright nasty competitor, yapping at opponents. During his earlier seasons, it made him especially polarizing to many hockey fans.

And, honestly, we only know so much about Crosby. Sure, it seems like he’s wholesome — consider the cheeky hotel room shenanigans from that HBO 24/7 series — but we aren’t witnessing hours of unaired footage of Crosby, behind the scenes.

You don’t need a documentary to see that Crosby is driven in many of the same ways Jordan was, though.

Sneaky strength

Stylistically, you can point to some key differences between Crosby and Jordan. For one thing, Crosby leans toward playmaking, while Jordan’s isolation shooting changed the NBA. (Don’t get me wrong, Crosby can shoot and Jordan most definitely could pass. I’m mainly talking about “first instincts.”)

When you drill down into what made/makes them great, one interesting thing is how they could exert their will.

In watching footage of Crosby and Jordan over the years, it’s striking how abundantly clear how hard they work. To be clear, each star produced some of the flashiest highlights we’ve seen in their sports. Yet, connoisseurs can dig into the details of their games to find even more to appreciate.

Some Jordan clips are secondhand exhausting. Crosby’s ability to possess the puck and overwhelm opponents can often be a delirious sight.

This wasn’t even the sequence I was initially searching for, yet …

Back in late April, P.K. Subban told Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean that strength is what separates Crosby. Subban would know, too, given his multiple playoff battles with Crosby.

Jordan possessed the strength to overpower opponents, particularly as his career went on. Part of that came down to adding 15 lbs. of muscle to combat the Pistons’ “Jordan Rules.” The other part boils down to doing whatever it took to win.

Crosby and Jordan evolve their games

Michael Jordan eventually needed to accept that he couldn’t always be “Air Jordan.” So, as he got bulkier and older, Jordan morphed into a dominant post player.

Much has been made about Crosby improving his face-off skills over the years, and it’s worth mentioning again. But that’s just a part of how Crosby’s found different ways to be dominant during his career.

Despite a predilection for passing, Crosby’s been willing to be more of a sniper at times, too.

Another testament to their will and skill was how proficient both Jordan and Crosby became defensively. It’s unclear if Crosby will ever reach Jordan’s defensive level. Doc Rivers called Jordan “the best superstar defender in the history” of the NBA, after all.

That said, momentum has been building for a Crosby Selke Trophy nod for some time, especially last season.

Final thoughts

Crosby isn’t famous like Jordan. Any GOAT arguments involving Crosby might feel a bit bold considering Gretzky’s impact.

And while Crosby faced mid-career turmoil with his concussion issues, he didn’t face the drama, personal tragedy, and bizarre sojourns that Jordan experienced. In other words, don’t expect Crosby to chase Major League Baseball dreams anytime soon.

… Although:

Personally, I think it’s a fun exercise to explore similarities and differences. How do you feel about the Crosby – Jordan comparison? Is there a better NHL parallel for MJ?

More: PHT picks what could be a hockey documentary version of “The Last Dance.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL decides to ‘pause’ regular season due to coronavirus

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The NHL decided to “pause” the 2019-20 regular season as the coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak continues.

NHL, NHLPA release statements explaining that the 2019-20 season will be put on pause

Here is the official statement from Gary Bettman:

“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season beginning with tonight’s games.

“The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.

“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”

The NHLPA backed that up, calling this “an appropriate course of action at this time.”

Things moved quickly after the NBA instituted a similar pause on Wednesday

The league made this announcement on Thursday after the NBA decided to suspend its own season on Wednesday. Initially, it looked like teams would play in arenas without fans (starting with the Blue Jackets and Sharks). Instead, they’re hitting the pause button.

At this time, it’s unclear when the NHL season may resume. It’s possible that the NHL would jump right to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs after things are no longer on hold, and there’s also a scenario where the Stanley Cup isn’t awarded at all for the 2019-20 season. Would play resume, but still not for fans?

Plenty of questions swirl around the season being suspended. Could this process disrupt the 2020 NHL Draft and/or combine and other activities? Pierre LeBrun speculated on TSN that a draft could theoretically be held via telephone.

Long story short, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. One thing we know for sure, though, is that the NHL did indeed put its 2019-20 season on hold in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus pandemic gives NHL little choice but to put season on hold

As you can see from NBC News’ live updates, the World Health Organization called the coronavirus a pandemic for the first time on Wednesday. At least 1,000 people have been infected in the U.S., with the latest count being that 33 people died in the U.S. Recent U.S. measures include a 30-day travel ban for much of Europe.

As painful as it might be for so many events to go on hold, the NHL and other bodies are likely making the right call. In a piece for The Atlantic, Yasha Mounk explained that social distancing is “the only way to stop the coronavirus.”

Before China canceled all public gatherings, asked most citizens to self-quarantine, and sealed off the most heavily affected region, the virus was spreading in exponential fashion. Once the government imposed social distancing, the number of new cases leveled off; now, at least according to official statistics, every day brings more news of existing patients who are healed than of patients who are newly infected.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli provided a preliminary (but in-depth) look at how this all might affect the NHL’s bottom line, from short and long-term salary cap implications to questions about insurance. There’s no denying that this is an uncomfortable disruption for the NHL and its fans, but it’s likely the best choice in the interest of public health.

Of course, PHT will provide more updates and analysis as this situation evolves.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL cancels Thursday morning skates, practices as decision looms

NHL cancels morning skates coronavirus
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(Update: The NHL decided to “pause” the 2019-20 season. Read more.)

Citing “uncertainty regarding next steps regarding the coronavirus,” the NHL announced that teams were advised to cancel morning skates, practices, and meetings on Thursday.

This comes after the NHL stated that it was considering its options after the NBA put its season on hold due to the coronavirus.

The uncertainty regarding whether the season will be put on hold or not could be cleared up as soon as Thursday afternoon. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that there could be a conference call covering the issue at 1 p.m. ET.

Several signs point to the season being placed on hold, but it’s not a guarantee yet.

The CHL and AHL rank among other leagues that are still mulling over their options. Meanwhile, other sports leagues are making decisions, including the MLS’ interestingly specific 30-day pause.

Stay tuned as this situation develops. Check out the Push for the Playoffs in the event that Thursday’s games go on as planned.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS closing locker rooms amid virus scare

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MIAMI — The NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer are closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel in response to the coronavirus crisis, the leagues announced in a joint statement Monday night.

The leagues said they made the decision “after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.” The NBA, in a call with teams earlier Monday, stressed that the move is not to ban reporters but to ensure the safety of players and staff in those areas.

The statement, in part, read: “Given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting.”

The changes, which the leagues say are temporary, will begin Tuesday – though some NHL teams began putting them into use this past weekend. The NBA said interviews with players would continue in different settings, stressing a gap of 6-to-8 feet between reporters and interview subjects.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

Meanwhile, there is already a clear sense of the new normal in the U.S.

The Miami Heat held their annual gala at a theater in Miami Beach on Monday night, albeit a bit differently than usual. The team’s three NBA championship trophies were near the entrance — with someone standing by with a bottle of hand sanitizer. And guests, when they arrived, were offered champagne by some attendants, more hand sanitizer by others.

“Until the league says something else, we are business as usual with a tremendous amount of caution and prevention to make sure everybody’s safe,” Heat President Pat Riley said Monday night. “But also, educating them that they’ve got to do the same thing.”

The NBA has calls with team medical staffs scheduled for later Monday night and a call between league officials and team owners scheduled for Wednesday to discuss next steps. The NBA told teams last week to prepare for the possibility of playing games in empty arenas, something the game’s biggest star – Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James – insists he does not want to see.

“I doubt that that’s going to happen,” Riley said. “But you have to be prepared.”

More than 113,000 people worldwide have tested positive for the disease and over 3,900 people with the virus have died, most of them in China. More than 62,000 people have already recovered. The virus has infected 600 people in the United States – including the director of the agency that runs the airports in New York and New Jersey – and at least 26 have died, most in Washington state.

The Pro Basketball Writers Association quickly responded to the leagues’ announcement by saying its membership “believes the safety of fans, players, team employees, arena workers and the media who cover the league must be protected. Our thoughts are with all people who already have been adversely impacted by the virus.

“Therefore, we understand the NBA’s decision to temporarily close locker rooms to everyone but players and essential team personnel with the NBA’s promise that once the coronavirus crisis abates, the league will restore full access to the journalists who cover the league.”

Video: Bissonnette kicks it up a notch in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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You can always count on Paul Bissonnette to take things to the next level whether it’s through his Twitter or Instagram feed.

Well… he’s done it again. This time with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:


Bissonnette, who is currently an unrestricted free agent after spending five seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, calls out Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers and Super Bowl champion, Russell Wilson in the video.

Rodgers was quick to offer his critique:

Perhaps if he can’t land another NHL contract, a movie career is the next logical step for Bissonnette.

Bissonnette is just the latest NHLer to take the challenge, earlier this month Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby joined in.

Pete Frates is credited with starting the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. Frates was diagnosed with the progressive neurological disease, which slowly affects those suffering from the illness of the use of their muscles, in March 2012. Since then Frates has organized several charity baseball games to raise money for ALS awareness, but its’ his latest creation the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has really taken off.

For those interested, here’s the link to donate to the ALS Association (United States) or ALS Canada.