Knobler

'My Country Is Misery:' The MLB Stars Who Are Too Scared to Go Back Home

After a trying first half of the season, Carlos Gonzalez just wanted to relax with his family during the All-Star break in July. But as he sat around the pool at his house in Florida, the topic no Venezuelan can avoid kept coming up. "Venezuelans, we only talk about politics now," the Colorado Rockies right fielder said a week or so later. "There doesn't go one day that we don't say anything about a political issue. That's it. If you see someone from Venezuela, it's the first thing that comes up." The conversations aren't easy, because what has gone on in their homeland this year hasn't been easy. The marches and battles in the streets are a constant in their lives, no matter their views on the underlying issues and even though they have the safety of distance.
Jones

Whatever Happened to O.J. Mayo? Not Even Some of His Closest Friends Know

With the exception of a TMZ airport ambush and a handful of Instagram posts from the other side of the world, NBA fans haven't heard a word from O.J. Mayo since last July, when the league announced his dismissal for an unspecified violation of its anti-drug program. One year later, it seems no one in or around the NBA has heard from him, either. That's the takeaway from 10 months of reporting, in which attempts to reach nearly 40 of Mayo's former teammates, coaches, agents, GMs and players union reps turned up little more than a parade of no comments—when they responded at all. Most of our dozens of calls, emails and Twitter messages were never returned.
Gaine

The Baffling Story Behind Kris Bryant's Ultra-Rare $20,000 Baseball Card

Terry Dulin had one of the most colorful and grandiose collections of rare Kris Bryant prospect cards on the planet. A full-time food broker who deals baseball cards on the side, Dulin stood to gain quite a bit of side money by showcasing the collection at the 2015 Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular—one of the largest baseball card shows in America. But during the convention, another unnamed collector introduced Dulin to a card that begged to be added to his already sizable collection: a 2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Black Wave autograph card. Dulin had never seen or heard of this card before and was a bit skeptical of the owner when he saw it.
Davis

From Last Chance to the American Messi: The Rise of Rose Lavelle

It was September of last year, and the next great American soccer player was being given one last chance. Paula Wilkins, head coach of the Wisconsin women's soccer team, was in her office in Madison on the phone with Jill Ellis, head coach of the U.S. women's national team. Ellis wanted to bring Rose Lavelle, Wilkins' star, into camp. She'd watched as Lavelle dominated at the U-20 level and had seen flashes of brilliance from the player in previous looks with the senior national team. But Ellis had also seen inconsistency. And injuries. One time, it'd be a thigh strain. The next, a tweaked calf. Ellis hadn't yet been able to use Lavelle in a game.
Weitzman

Scoring Sensation Russ Smith's Message to NBA Doubters: 'I for Damn Sure Belong'

It's around 11 p.m. in China when Russ Smith answers the phone. His team, Luoyang, of China's National Basketball League, had a game earlier in the evening in Beijing, and he only recently returned to his hotel room. He's tired and wondering whether to join some teammates at a hookah lounge to celebrate one of their birthdays. He's still getting used to life in China and hasn't gone out with them yet. Instead, he's been spending most of his off time in his room toggling between game film, TV and movies.
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