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Column: Superteams + Super Rookies + Lavar Ball = 2017

It’s a new year. It’s a time to set resolutions, buy gym passes that will be cancelled in February, and reflect on accomplishments from the previous year. Sometimes those accomplishments manifest themselves in a college degree, other times through a shocking amount of McDonalds receipts recovered from the car console. Many welcomed 2017 with open arms after a rough 2016, and while 2017 certainly had its unsavory moments, it wasn’t all that bad.

The word of 2017 in sports may well be ‘superteam’. It’s not a new concept, star athletes have certainly assembled to dehumanize the competition in years past. In 2017, however, the superteam has cankered Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and especially the National Basketball Association. The average man, at the sight of  Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry joining forces or Brandin Cooks joining Tom Brady‘s receiving corps, rapidly recedes in maturity to a cringe-worthy playground cry of “That’s not fair!” While it’s not unbeatable, he’s right: it’s not fair.

The superteam phenomenon can either be the best or worst thing for sports. Any respectable and normal person would cheer for, say, the Phoenix Suns while they take on a full-strength Golden State Warriors team. It can make 2018 either the year of the Evil Empires or the year of the Underdog. If the successes of films such as Rudy or Seahawks apparel sales after Super Bowl XLVIII are any indication, it looks like an underdog year is more favorable.

One particular superteam, the New York Yankees, comes from the center of another remarkable phenomenon across sports in 2017: phenomenal rookies. New York outfielder and 2017 AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge stepped up and led the American League with 52 home runs. His counterpart, NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, smacked 39. Next season, Judge will team up with Giancarlo Stanton to soil countless pitchers’ pants. In the NBA, rookies Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell emerged as the heirs-apparent to superstars LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. There are always dominant and impressive rookies, but perhaps never as widespread as in 2017. Even Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster has shown that the future of the NFL is in good hands.

With the President being who he is, it should be no surprise that society is making more room for loudmouth braggadocio. If Trump himself is not the embodiment of such, don’t fret, there’s always Lavar Ball. There’s nothing more to know about him outside of the fact that he has stated and reiterated that he believes he can beat the greatest basketball player of all time in 1v1. Stunning. Perhaps no family has garnered as much attention in professional sports as the Ball family (the Plumlees exude charisma, but just couldn’t grasp it). As relatively quiet and actually boring Lonzo Ball starts at point guard for the Lakers in a heavily scrutinized rookie season, his brothers are busy stealing things in China and leaving one of the top universities in America to play AAU 2.0 basketball in small-town Lithuania.

Their prominence, most of it thanks to their father, has led to an explosion in popularity for high school basketball recruiting and YouTube channels such as BallIsLife, which often feature highlights of the Ball brothers and dominant high school prospects, which may or may not include the Ball brothers.

This year was, in short, a preparatory year. New, dominant talent emerged in the major sports. Evil Empires assembled, ready to be toppled by underdogs in their proverbial X-Wings, and the Balls set themselves up for an underwhelming 2018.

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