Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) holds the Vince Lombardi trophy following the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Bay won 31-9. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

Happy 44

I've said this before, 44 is a cool number.

Hank Aaron was cool. So were Willie McCovey and Pops Stargell.

George Gervin was cool. So was Pete Maravich.

John Riggins was cool. So was Brian Bosworth. (At least he was until Bo took his manhood on a Monday night.)

But the coolest 44 of them all is wearing it better than all the rest.

Happy 44th birthday to Tom Brady, who may have the GOAT résumé across all of sports, friends. Think about that.

Sure, he does not have as many titles as Russell, but his individual numbers dwarf Bill's.

He may not have the numbers of an Aaron but he crushes him in the W's and rings.

He may not have the highlights of MJ, but he never had a sidekick like Pippen, and when Brady left his Hall of Fame, GOAT-contending coach, Tom was a Super Bowl-winning quarterback but MJ was just another forgettable Wizard.

So enjoy an extra scoop of avocado ice cream, TB12, because you are truly an all-timer.


Bronze finish

Congrats, Simone Biles, on winning bronze. More importantly, congrats on tying Shannon Miller for the most Olympic gymnastics medals ever.

At 24, it likely was Biles' last event, because a 27-year-old Olympic gymnast is like a 13-year-old heart surgeon. Sure, it can happen, but it ain't bloody likely. (Side question: And speaking of dates, why is this still the Tokyo 2020 Games? We all know it's 2021, right?)

Which circles back to the original point: Congratulating Ms. Biles, because goodness knows anyone who raises anything but unequivocal praise her way right now comes under the steamroller that is the morality mass of easy takes and social media mob mentality.

And in the ever-changing world of perception meeting reality and reality becoming more about perception, the traditional sports narrative is changing right before our eyes in terms of mental health details and topics.

Big picture, that's a good thing. A great thing even. We should be more aware of the struggles of those around us, be they mental or physical.

But I also wonder, big picture, especially considering what I do for a living, what are the boundaries these days?

Can we say someone choked or is that a possible slight to their mental state? Can we praise someone's mental toughness or is that like body shaming only in the mental range of things?

This is not in jest or being sarcastic. Truly. I seriously wonder about the yang to the yin of this conversation, because can we praise someone for admitting they are not mentally ready to compete and then praise someone for being mentally tough enough to overcome their fears in the same realm?



Crazy money

OK, we know the NBA ratings were dreadful. They were down more than a third across almost all of the playoffs from 2019 numbers. (It's apples to pineapples to compare these playoffs to the bubble numbers of 2020, and even then they were only marginally better.

But the numbers being bounced around certainly scream that the owners believe there is still tons of gold in these NBA hills. In the first 90 minutes of free agency, which started at 6 p.m. Eastern Monday, there was $1.1 billion agreed to in deals and contracts.

Yes, billion with a "B."

Chris Paul, at 36, signed a four-year, $120 million deal. Jarrett Allen signed a $100 million deal with Cleveland. Quick, without Google, tell me one thing about Jarrett Allen, other than he's worth nine figures and plays for the Cavs. I'll wait.

There were more.

> Will Barton got a two-year, $32-million-a-year deal. Yes, Will Barton is worth $16 million a year, or roughly $500K a game. Do you know for which team Will Barton plays? Again, I'll wait.

> Utah gave its 34-year-old point guard who likely will start next season on the injury list more than $24 million per year over the next three years.

> The Knicks spent more than $130 million total on Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and Evan Fournier. Seriously.

Those are the deals of which we know for sure.

The ones affecting Mader's beloved Hawks — a team that grabbed my attention with a fun albeit unfulfilled postseason run — are more complex.

First, there is the expected. Hawks all-star point guard Trae Young is working to finalize a max deal. This makes sense in the nonsensical financial world that is the NBA, because perspective is important.

Young will get a max rookie extension in the five-year, $171-million neighborhood, which is a very nice neighborhood, and that deal could escalate by $30 million over the life of the deal depending on Young's performance.

The Hawks have to get this done. First, Young was, this side of Giannis, right there with Devin Booker as the breakout star of these playoffs. Second, for all the great mid-to-minor moves the Hawks' front office has made, they dealt Luka for Young, and letting Young walk would be a death knell. Period.

Big money for sure, but warranted for his importance to the franchise. (Now debate away whether you think Young is a 1A player on an NBA champ, because that's a fair question considering his size and subpar defensive skills.)

The other Hawks conversation centers on John Collins, the power forward who is a restricted free agent and wants a max deal that would start at $28 million. Yes, an Atlanta sports scene in which John Collins makes $28 million per and Ronald Acuña Jr. makes $7 million per is the perfect definition of Atlanta sports.

So, do you pay Collins and push chips and roll with maybe the deepest roster in the league but one not built for the Big 3 bully-ball that is the modern-day NBA postseason?



This and that

— Speaking of the Olympics, and of basketball, the US men's team advanced to the semis with a win over Spain on Monday. Still, this US team is majorly perplexing. If you lined up all the players from the US team and the Spain team and picked teams like we were at the "Y" the US would have at least the first eight picks and maybe more. (Would you trade Jrue Holiday for Ricky Rubio in a normal game? Of course not.) And Spain would have eliminated the US if Kevin Durant were not a 7-foot 2-guard who is the most unstoppable offensive weapon since Kareem. How is this possible? Is it effort? Is it desire? Is it coaching? And if it's either effort or desire, isn't that some way also about the coaching?

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on a big — literally — get for UT's recruiting efforts.

— Wow, rotten news that LSU quarterback Myles Brennan suffered 'a severe' injury and will require surgery on his non-throwing left arm. Egad. I'll tell you this, 95% of the news that comes from college football over the next two weeks will not be good. Injuries, arrests, suspensions, non-reports, ineligibility discussions, you name it. Sorry, Vader.


Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday — even at the beach.

Since Gene Hackman — who is 91 years young and has been retired from acting for 17 years — was trending on Twitter this morning, let's start here:

True or false, Gene Hackman could have applied as Norman Dale and gotten almost any high school basketball coaching job in the late 1980s.

True or false, we are through the looking class when the phrase "mentally tough" is apparently on the offensive list.

True or false, Trae Young is worth $40 million a year.

True or false, Trae Young will win a title in Atlanta.

True or false, the US men's basketball team should let LeBron be a player/coach.  

As for today, and beyond being TB12's 44th, let's review.

On this day in 1936 Jesse Owens started the single best Olympics effort ever, delivering the first of his four golds in Berlin in front of Hitler and the Nazis.

Speaking of Hackman, "Unforgiven" premiered on this day in 1992. Excellent movie. Better than excellent.
In honor of TB12, let's do the Rushmore of biggest draft steals. Go, and enjoy the day.