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ESPN The Magazine’s NBA Playoffs Issue—on newsstands Friday—takes a deeper dive into some of the stories that have made headlines throughout this season. The issue includes thoughtful, unique and contemplative features with key players and coaches: LeBron James, Steph Curry, Isaiah Thomas, Pat Riley and Mike D’Antoni, among others:
- Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is the only NBA player 5-foot-9 or under to play in multiple All-Star games, has overcome the longest of odds to become the Celtics’ most invaluable player. Now, as he plays under the weight of unimaginable grief following the death of his sister Chyna, we tell the story of why he shouldn’t ever be doubted, whether it’s facing postseason setbacks or those who think his subpar defense makes him unworthy of a max contract.
- The NBA schedule hasn’t changed, but perceptions of its demanding nature have. That has led to the biggest issue the league hopes to address in the near future: rest—and in particular, teams resting their stars. It’s a practice that has become widely accepted around the league. The NBA’s biggest star, LeBron James, averaged more minutes per game than anyone else this season, and at 32, the science suggests his crazy workload will have an impact on his body. The question is how much—and we sought to find the answer. (Link: http://es.pn/2psyG2E)
- Steph Curry’s performance regressed this season—this much we know is true. And while there are several theories as to why, from his uneasy on-court relationship with Kevin Durant to the tension between his shooting coaches, it is clear that he has been asked to marginalize himself on a team that has undervalued him for years. Similar to improvisational jazz, Curry once captured the imagination of NBA fans—there was a freedom and joy that no one had ever seen before—whereas his performance this season would be likened to sheet music. Contributor Ethan Sherwood Strauss further examines why Curry’s game has suffered.
- Senior writer Wright Thompson had unrivaled access to Pat Riley—one of the most influential, charismatic and private personalities in the league. In “Pat Riley’s Final Test,” Thompson explores why this past season was Riley’s most challenging in 50 years, with anecdotes and insight even his wife was surprised by. The story sheds light on Riley’s five decades around the league, and why he is having so much trouble saying goodbye.
- In the NBA, strong, lasting marriages are rare, but Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and his wife, Laurel, are a true example of one. Senior writer Tim Keown shares an intricate (reader-friendly) portrayal of their love story and the bumps they have endured along the way. Quietly recognized throughout the league as an offensive pioneer, D’Antoni has helped shape the current image of the NBA. And although he will not toot his own horn, his wife certainly will. Her mission is to ensure that her husband’s legacy and influence do not go unrecognized.
Also in the issue:
- Shaun Assael looks at tennis star Maria Sharapova, returning from a 15-month drug ban but facing her biggest test yet, Alyssa Roenigk examines the workout regimen of motocross champ Ryan Dungey, and executive chef Zach Espinosa deconstructs the latest delicacy at Milwaukee’s Miller Park: a venison butter burger.
- In the latest recurring Béisbol Experience, Robert Sanchez tells the story of Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman, who chose the United States over Puerto Rico in the WBC—and suddenly shouldered more than a chip.
- In the Voices column, senior writer Mina Kimes takes on the NFL’s rookie wage scale, which keeps NFL running backs underpaid until they’re overused.