There’s an entire mythological universe I’ve created

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That summer, director Spike Lee offered Kobe the role of Jesus Shuttlesworth in the movie “He Got Game.” The role was perfect — top high school basketball player must choose between getting his estranged father’s prison sentence reduced by playing college ball at the governor’s alma mater or going to the school of his choice.

“We were kids,” said his high school friend, Kevin Sanchez. “We still listened to our parents back then.”

In 2000, Kobe released a corny rap song — “K.O.B.E.,” featuring Tyra Banks — that absolutely bombed. He was dropped from his record label soon after. Only embarrassing YouTube videos of Kobe performing at All-Star Weekend in a leopard print hat and leather suit remain of his rap career.

¡°There’s an entire mythological universe I’ve created.¡±
– KOBE BRYANT
“I was like super shocked when he came out with that K.O.B.E song,” Sanchez said. “That really wasn’t him.”
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Sanchez was one of the best rappers in Philadelphia back in the 1990s. He’d hang with Kobe at lunch, after school, working with him on his rhymes. They’d find battles on South Street, in the Gallery (an underground mall), at Temple University or in this barbershop on N. 54th and Wynnefield Avenue. Kobe’s rap name was “The Eighth Man.”

“I was a battle MC. I hunted every top MC in the city and battled them,” Sanchez said. “He’d come with me and watch me just destroy everyone.”

After high school, they started a rap group called Cheizaw, signed a record deal with Sony and spoke on the phone almost every day. “We’d freestyle for hours. He could beatbox,” Sanchez said. “I remember when he blocked [Michael] Jordan’s shot. He was going crazy. He called up and was like, ‘I need to be charged up. I need to freestyle for like 45 minutes.”

Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings came up very empty against the Packers on Saturday.

Think again about what happened here. Zimmer — who coached Deion Sanders and Darren Woodson in Dallas — volunteered the fact that Rhodes was supposed to cover Nelson, until players decided on their own plan. Newman — who was a rookie when Zimmer became the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, who followed the coach to Cincinnati and Minnesota, who lobbied for Zimmer as a head coach and once said the coach could be enshrined in Canton based on what he had done to make teams better — apparently was part of a group that decided not to listen to him in this instance.
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Evidently, so was Rhodes, whose development into a Pro Bowl corner has largely been on Zimmer’s watch, and who said after the game the Vikings’ defensive backs settled on the plan not during the game, but in practice last week.
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“We felt as a team, as players, we came together, and we felt like we’d never done that when we played against the Packers,” he said. “Us as DBs felt like we could handle him. That’s how we felt as DBs, that we could stay on our side and cover him. In the beginning, we’d always played against them and played our sides, we never followed, so that’s what we felt as DBs. That’s what we went with.”

Because of injuries to each player, Rhodes hadn’t faced Nelson since Nov. 23, 2014, so it’s tough to use history as a benchmark. But that isn’t the main point here. Players whom Zimmer has developed, who would be seen as some of the coach’s star pupils, suddenly decided not to follow a game plan — and apparently not to tell Zimmer, defensive coordinator George Edwards nor defensive backs coach Jerry Gray about it. Did they lose faith in the scheme after a 34-6 loss to the Colts last Sunday? Did they think their ideas wouldn’t be heard if they approached coaches with them?

Tony Romo asked a mic’d up Ezekiel Elliott ‘Did you just jump in the Salvation Army Bucket?’

Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott was mic’d up when he celebrated a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by jumping into a giant Salvation Army kettle behind the end zone. Somehow, this makes a truly fun touchdown celebration even more delightful.

Elliott is congratulated by several teammates, including Tony Romo.

“Did you just jump in the Salvation Army Bucket?” Romo asked, laughing.

“Yeah,” Elliott said.

“You’re stupid,” Romo replied with a good-natured shove.

“I had to,” Elliott says. “It’s classic.”

Elliott comes to an important realization after he sees the replay of the celebration.

“Hey, I just broke the rookie touchdown record,” Elliott said.

We see this play out every draft with quarterbacks. Some 6’6 schmuck who can’t hit the broad side of a barn moves up on draft boards because scouts hear the Six Million Dollar Man sound effect when they see his throwing motion and he can palm a pumpkin. Seems lots of scouts and GMs prioritize quarterbacks looking the part over their actual play. They are more concerned with how well a quarterback can wear a suit than what he can do in pads.

Granted evaluating college players, especially quarterbacks, is no easy task. It’s an inexact science. That shit is hard. There’s only about half a dozen people on the planet who are really good at being NFL quarterbacks.

But with Osweiler the red flags were there. I personally would have been extremely reluctant about entrusting a guy who has a tattoo with a glaring grammatical error to excel at the most cerebral position in all of sports. But hey … he’s 6’7.

On the other end of the quarterback evaluation spectrum we have Dak Prescott. After a two game slump, Dak got back on track with that whole “exceeding expectations” thing he’s been doing this season.

Dak with his best Russell Wilson impression with 32 completions and not hitting 300 yards.

Week 15 fantasy football inactives watch: Who’s in, and who’s out?

To help you set your lineups and avoid starting a player who won’t take the field, we will post fantasy-relevant updates and analysis here as NFL teams release their Sunday inactive lists before kickoff. Any rankings cited in this column come from our ESPN Fantasy staff ranks.

Have a tough call to make in DFS? Our experts debate players with similar salaries across multiple positions to help you decide on the best picks.

Fantasy football cheat sheet: Start and sit tips
All of the best fantasy football advice and relevant information for Week 15 from our Insider experts, and all in one place.
Ruled out before Sunday

RB Darren Sproles (concussion), WR Marquess Wilson (groin), WR Allen Hurns (hamstring), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (concussion), LB Derrick Johnson (Achilles), WR Donte Moncrief (hamstring), S Harrison Smith (ankle), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle), WR Julio Jones (toe), WR Danny Amendola (ankle), LB Brandon Marshall (hamstring), S Karl Joseph (toe), RB Melvin Gordon (hip), RB James Starks (concussion)

Kalif Raymond (3:05 p.m.): Raymond, who has averaged 10.2 yards per punt return over the last two games, is a surprise inactive today for the Broncos. Jordan Norwood, whose three fumbles on punts this season were a large reason why Raymond was activated in the first place, will likely get a chance at special teams redemption.

San Francisco 49ers (2:40 p.m.): Colin Kaepernick is still the No. 1 quarterback for the 49ers, but the identity of his backup has changed. For the first time this season, Christian Ponder will be active for the team, with Blaine Gabbert sitting Week 15 out.

DeAngelo Williams (11:58 a.m.): There had been a lot of talk about Williams returning from his knee injury this week, but he will miss his sixth straight game, despite not having been listed on the Pittsburgh injury report headed into the weekend. Le’Veon Bell owners who might have had some butterflies about some of his workload getting stolen by Williams need not fear.

Indianapolis Colts (11:55 a.m.): With both Denzelle Good (concussion) and Joe Reitz (back) being inactive for today’s game, the Colts will have to start three rookies on the offensive line: Joe Haeg, Ryan Kelly and Le’Raven Clark. As a result, Andrew Luck may not have as much time to throw the ball downfield as usual.

Adrian Peterson (11:50 a.m.): As previously reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Vikings running back has been activated for today’s game, and will start for the Minnesota Vikings. Matt Asiata, who had been questionable to play with an ankle injury, is also active, and should split time in the backfield with both Peterson and Jerick McKinnon.

Chicago Bears (11:45 a.m.): NT Eddie Goldman (ankle) reinjured an ankle that had previously caused him to miss six weeks of action this season, and will not play in Week 15. The defense will also be without CB Bryce Callahan (knee).

Theo Riddick (11:40 a.m.): A wrist injury will indeed keep the Detroit running back out of action today. Dwayne Washington is likely to get (pardon the pun) the lion’s share of carries in the backfield, though Zach Zenner (concussion) is active.

Jeff Fisher: ‘I want a chance to play the Rams’

“I want a chance to play the Rams.”

Those words came directly from Jeff Fisher in an exclusive interview with Charissa Thompson set to appear during FOX’s Sunday pregame show.

The Falcons All-Pro receiver has been ruled out for Atlanta’s game against the San Francisco 49ers because of the sprained toe that kept him out of practice all week, the team announced.

Kiffin, who also joined Saban’s staff after being fired as USC head coach (in 2013), will remain with Alabama through the College Football Playoff. The Tide will play Washington in a Peach Bowl playoff semifinal on Dec. 31.

“We are pleased to be able to hire an offensive coordinator with the pedigree and experience of Steve Sarkisian,” Saban stated in a release. “He has a tremendous offensive mind and is someone we believe will do a great job of teaching and developing our football team on the offensive side of the ball. He has been a great asset to our coaching staff this season and brings a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to his job. Steve will be a phenomenal addition to our coaching staff and someone who can seamlessly transition into the job with a full understanding of how our organization works.”

Sarkisian was fired by then-USC athletic director Pat Haden after reportedly arriving for team meetings while intoxicated. He checked into rehab shortly after being dismissed. Sarkisian later filed a lawsuit against USC, alleging he was discriminated against because of a disability.

Prior to taking the USC job, Sarkisian led Washington to a 34-29 record as head coach from 2009-13.

Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams suffers sprained ankle vs. Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams suffered a leg injury on Sunday that sent him to the locker room and the team quickly announced that he was questionable to return with a right ankle injury. He was later downgraded to out, despite jogging back out of the locker room to join the team on the sideline.

Williams, 32, has been the leading rusher for the Steelers during the 2015 season in Le’Veon Bell’s absence, racking up 899 yards and an NFL-leading 11 touchdowns in the first 15 games of the season. He had just eight yards on five carries against the Cleveland Browns before he suffered his injury, which immediately looked serious and drew Mike Tomlin out on to the field to check on the veteran running back.

Team doctors helped Williams off the field and he wasn’t able to put any weight on his right leg. He was taken to the locker room shortly thereafter.

Over the last four years, a whopping 22 teams have changed head coaches. Eleven franchises — the Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins, Raiders, Buccaneers, Bills, Bears, Browns, Eagles, 49ers and Titans — have done it at least twice, counting interim selections.

During this time span, these clubs have posted winning records on only 10 occasions. Their combined record is 199-257 and only five of them have made the playoffs one year after making the change.

No team has cycled through more head coaches recently than the Browns, who fired their third head coach in four years this offseason. Owner Jimmy Haslam paid Rob Chudzinski the remaining $10.5 million over the three years remaining on his contract after sacking him in 2013 and will still have to pay Mike Pettine for two more years as well. No coach has lasted more than four years in Cleveland since Bill Belichick in 1995.

Though the Browns are the most egregious example of this phenomenon, few teams allow coaches ample time to reshape the organizations they inherit. Look no further than Chip Kelly, who the Eagles fired last week less than one year after owner Jeffrey Lurie gave him total control over player personnel.

Theo Epstein couldn’t have expected Jake Arrieta to turn into a Cy Young contender

Last spring, we brought a member of one team’s analytics department to speak to ESPN baseball employees about his job. I asked him later what his bosses said he could and couldn’t talk about, even in an off-the-record gathering. “Nothing about the amateur draft,” he said. Years ago, Beane felt college players were a market inefficiency, that high school players were essentially getting overdrafted; his studies on the subject were pretty basic. Imagine the work teams put into the draft these days compared to 15 years ago — from analytics and research to scouting that now itself includes more analytics.

All this means front offices are smarter and on more of an equal footing of knowledge than in 2003. Back then Lewis wrote, “It is the nature of being the general manager of a baseball team that you have to remain on familiar terms with people you are continually trying to screw.”

Throughout his career, Sandoval has struggled to stay in shape, gaining and losing weight with dramatic fluctuations. But since leaving the Giants, his weight gain greatly diminished his mobility and range at third base and contributing to a career-worst .658 OPS in 2015.

Over the past few months, Sandoval has shed “significant” weight, according to Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Neither the team nor Sandoval has divulged specifics, but after principal owner John Henry’s widely derided comment this past spring that Sandoval’s body fat was only 17 percent, the exact number is almost beside the point with two months left before spring training.

The proof, for now, is in a picture that circulated on Twitter this week. Sandoval, standing in front of the batting cages at the Red Sox’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida, looks almost svelte.

By bringing in Chris Sale, the Red Sox now have seven big-league starting pitchers. They’ll almost surely trade one or more. Eventually.

After David Ortiz posted to Instagram that Chris Sale’s trade to the Red Sox got him “thinking,” Dave Dombrowski downplayed any speculation about a potential return for the beloved slugger.

Jackson’s stat line against the two toughest teams on his schedule: 511 yards passing

Those two games were against overmatched opponents, though. Then-No. 2 Florida State came next, and Jackson dismantled the Seminoles with ease. He recorded 362 yards and five total touchdowns in three quarters in a 63-20 victory that sent a clear message: Jackson had to be considered the Heisman favorite.

How could he not be after producing 18 touchdowns in three weeks? The yards and touchdowns kept piling up, including a whopping performance against then-No. 5 Clemson; Jackson compiled 457 yards and three touchdowns in a last-second, 42-36 loss.

Jackson’s stat line against the two toughest teams on his schedule: 511 yards passing, 308 yards rushing, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

His season did not end as prolifically as it began, with consecutive losses to Houston and Kentucky that some thought might curtail his Heisman chances. Still, Jackson won ACC Player of the Year honors from the media and coaches, and he took home the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Maxwell Award.

“To be able to stand up here with all the former winners, I’m extremely proud to represent this class and Louisville as their first Heisman Trophy winner,” said Jackson, who wore a Louisville-red velvet blazer with shiny black lapels. “For my teammates, it’s an award for all of us. I can’t wait to cherish it with all of you.”

Jackson became the youngest player to win the Heisman at 19 years, 337 days — just five days younger than 2013 winner Jameis Winston — and just the fourth sophomore to take home the trophy. He joins Johnny Manziel (2012) as the only Heisman winners to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy in 14 of the past 16 years.

When he heard his name called, Jackson said his heart started racing.

“Man, I almost cried,” he said. “To hear my name called with all those great players, I was overwhelmed.”

His coach, Bobby Petrino, said after that ceremony that he was “very nervous” for his quarterback.

“I had no idea how the vote was going to come out,” Petrino said. “I want you to know how proud I am of Lamar. He’s a young man that prepared extremely hard, went out on the field and played as hard as he possibly could and did a great job being a leader for this football team.”

Jackson credited his mother, Felicia Jones, and said the trophy will go anywhere she decides to put it. Jones raised Jackson as a single mom and would put on football pads to help her son work on his game when he was a kid.

“Everything I do is for my mother,” Jackson said Saturday.

NFL Coach of the Year race: Jason Garrett leads, Bill Belichick looms

In his six-plus seasons as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett has been called a lot of things. Overmatched. Unqualified. A Jerry Jones “puppet.”

But the way this Cowboys season is going, Garrett should have a new label when it’s all said and done: NFL Coach of the Year.

The Cowboys have played 100 games of the Jason Garrett era. While it hasn’t always been easy, Dallas is currently as good as it has been in decades.

The pass rush in Dallas and New England. The run defense in Oakland and Washington. A new injury in Seattle. The NFL’s likely playoff field is full of holes.
If the season ended today, Garrett should win the award in a walk. He lost his starting quarterback and his backup quarterback (that’s right — remember Kellen Moore?) in training camp and opened the season with a fourth-round rookie under center. A Cowboys team that went 4-12 last season rebounded from that August body blow to go 11-1 so far and clinch a playoff spot on the first weekend in December.

“It’s going to be like the old days in this game. It’s great to see this coming back after so many years. It seems like everybody the last couple of weeks has been talking about the Raiders and Chiefs game. That’s the way it should be because those games were something special. It seems like Denver has been the Chiefs’ rival for a long time. But that’s not the way it always was.”

McCoy was with the Panthers from 2000 to 2008, the final two years spent as the passing coordinator and quarterbacks coach. In 2001, he was the wide receivers coach during Steve Smith’s rookie season.

In 2003, he helped Carolina reach the Super Bowl for the first time. He still vacations with former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme.

“A lot of the things I do today, I learned in Carolina,’’ McCoy said.

While this is a business trip for McCoy, his wife Kellie and two children (Olivia and Luke) are making the trip with the team so they can visit old friends.

MMBM: Robert Griffin III still can’t win in the playoffs

We’re required to remind you that these strong takes are SATIRE. Sorry, not sorry. All spelling errors are intentional, we think. — The editor.

Wellcome to the Monday Morning BM, just a word of warning your probably not prepared to handle the strong football takes and barrelfire NFL truths that you never knew your Mondays were missing. This column is written for and by a REAL fan of the NFL. Its designed to be read on your Monday Morning commode break after a long Sunday eating bad-for-you food and drinking beers. If you care more about SPELLING then you do about TELLING theres the door because this columns not for you.

In a league where the only constant is change, its nice to be able to rely on familar things like the mailman, the paperboy, and Elite QBs winning in the playoffs. This wild-card weekend went to all the familar names, as Aaron Rogers, Russell Wilson, Ben Rothlisberger, and the guy who wasnt Brian Hoyer all outlasted their inferior counterparts.

Another constant is that Robert Griffin III can not win when it counts. Griffin has two division titles, and zero playoff wins just like Andy Dalton, but for some reason we dont talk about him the same way because of PC. But in realty (where I live), its a safe space free from excuses. Theres such a thing as “intangibles”, and they have very real implicatons on the outcomes of games. Whether its Griffins will to win, or his abilty to detect a pass rush- RG3 has allways struggled when it comes to things he can neither see nor feel.

Some of you will think your being cute, and point to the fact that Jay Gruden benched him, and that its unfair to blame him for Washingtons second half collapse in a game that he didnt even play in. Well I would ask you to show me the part of the Neuremberg trials where they let every war criminal off because he was just following orders. And Frankly, Griffins terrible record in big games as a backup has him looking alot more like the second coming of Reich then the third.

By remaning on the bench quietly he is endorsing Jay Grudens decision-making. A real leader would be standing on the table screaming to get in the game, not hobknobbing with his teammates on the sideslines wearing street clothes. If he were innocent of being bad wouldnt he want the opportunty to testify instead of hiding in silence? What would he have to hide?