NEW YORK -- After three hours and two minutes, Zheng Jie won the longest women's match in the first three days of this year's U.S. Open. She won her third set tiebreaker 7-5 to win the match 6-3, 2-6, 7-6.

But when ESPN2's Pam Shriver interviewed the Chinese player moments after the victory, she felt sympathy.

"Sorry, guys," Zheng told Louis Armstrong Stadium.

There was good reason for her sentiment. Zheng had just ousted Venus Williams.

Williams, a former world No. 1 who won the U.S. Open in 2000 and 2001, is now 33. Given her injuries and medical issues, it is possible that this was her last match at the U.S. Open. Even if Williams was not ready to concede that, the topic had to be part of the conversation this night.

"I definitely want to come back for the atmosphere," she said. "I mean, next year's Open is so for away right now."

Williams, who has reached eight semifinals at the U.S. Open, is now ranked No. 60 in the world, which means she is relevant, but just barely. It has been three years since she gotten out of the second round at the U.S. Open. In 2011, Williams withdrew from the second round after being diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease.

But on Wednesday, Williams felt the some of that old fire -- the kind she had when she reached her first Grand Slam final as a 17-year-old in her first U.S. Open in 1997 -- return. Only to be denied.

"I just kept trying today," Williams said. "That's mostly what I had. Not all my balls were landing. She just played great, hitting lines baselines, winners."

After a rain suspended play, Zheng took the first set by two breaks and Williams looked shaky. Zheng's had five unforced errors to Williams' 15.

"I couldn't pray a ball in, in the first set," Williams said.

The second set saw more of the power Venus and her sister Serena are known for. It was Williams this time taking the set by two breaks on 10 winners and just nine unforced errors.

Then came the third set.

Venus Williams will eventually retire and make the Hall of Fame. When her career highlights clips are shown, Wednesday's match will not be in the package. In a career of so many high moments deep in Grand Slams, Wednesday's loss will not be all that relevant in the grand scheme of things.

For what it's worth, the third set of her match Wednesday was the most exciting set of this year's tournament thus far and may be over the course of the entire fortnight. The clothes and racquets used by the players will not go to Newport. At the very most, the set may be replayed later this week during a rain delay.

But for the fans who were there, the players involved and the officials on the court, the memories will last a lifetime.

Zheng jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first three games of the set. It would have been easy to count the 33-year-old Williams out. At her age and health status, three-set matches are a death wish.

But Williams fought back.

At 4-2, she broke Zheng to get back on serve. Zheng then broke Williams to serve for the match at 5-3. Williams returned the favor by coming back from Love-30 to break Zheng and get back on serve, 5-4.

Rainclouds returned to Queens. At every stadium but one, officials opted to halt play again.

The one was Louis Armstrong Stadium. A restless crowd that had seen rain delay most of the day groaned at the prospect of another suspension. The officials let play continue.

In game ten of the set, Williams kicked her feet around the baseline. Satisfied with what she felt, Williams stepped up to serve. She blasted the ball to the other side of the net.

15-0.

Williams held serve, and after a brief pause of no more than three minutes, Zheng and Williams each held serve again.

After 29 games, the match came down to a tiebreaker–best-of-seven, win by two.

Obviously.

Zheng lost the first point on serve. Venus followed by losing both points on her own serve. Nothing was safe anymore. As the players approached, the three-hour mark, fatigue was overshadowing grit.

Zheng held both points on her serve to go up 4-1. Williams would have to come back again. On television, ESPN2's Mike Tirico called it a microcosm of the entire third set.

Williams took an extended towel break and the fans at Armstrong sensed her message. They dialed up one last wave of support, raising the volume of their cheers.

Williams won both points on her serve, the second on a ripped second serve. She then took a point from Zheng's serve.

4-4.

Zheng held a point. Williams held a point.

5-5. Obviously. The match was not going to end any other way.

Of all the tricks in the book, after a fault, Williams rocked and fired a full swing on her second serve. She sprinted to the net to volley.

Zheng lobbed a soft stroke over the net. Williams had an easy put-away on a backhand volley.

And she hit the net.

"I should have made the shot," she said. "I think I was rushing. I rushed so badly. I just didn't make that shot."

Williams misplayed Zheng's serve at 6-5, hit a backhand wide and lost by the slimmest possible margin in the final set.

"I still feel tight because in the tiebreaker the points were very close," Zheng said an hour after the match had ended.

The script will never fit Hollywood. Venus Williams and Zheng Jie are not rivals in their prime. Like Williams, Zheng is no longer in her 20s (she is 30) and she is a former top-15 player ranked outside the top-50 (56).

The loss is added to a string of defeats Williams has experienced in what is sure to be the twilight of her career.

"I definitely wish that I was playing the third round, but it's not to be for me this year," she said. "I tried. Really, she played well. She just went for every shot. Unfortunately, I didn't play consistently enough."

If not this year, when? Williams is fading in the rankings and the intimidation in her game has been absent for three years. Her Sjögren's syndrome and various injuries have taken a step away from one of the sport's all-time greatest stars.

"If I didn't think I had anything in the tank, I wouldn't be here. So I feel like I do, and that's why I'm here," she said.

Zheng, who moves on to face No. 18 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, certainly believes Williams can still compete on tour after the marathon match. Citing Williams' big serve, Zheng said Venus "can come back quick."

Comebacks. That is what Williams does. Whether it is an injury or a disease, Williams has come back.

At some point though, the clock will strike midnight.

"I've been dealt some cards that aren't as easy to deal with, but I have to play with them," she said. "The last few months haven't been easy, coming back from the back injury, one of the more challenging injuries I've dealt with.

"I'm a fighter, you know."

The world knows that and respects it. Williams proved Wednesday night, she can still compete to a point. Maybe she cannot play with the top players in the world, but she is still a WTA player. Now, it is time for Williams to decide how much, as a former star for so long, she can do that.

Williams' singles bid is over, but her entire U.S. Open experience is not. She will stick around to play doubles with Serena. The sisters have 11 Grand Slam doubles titles, including two at the U.S. Open.

For Venus Williams the singles player, her future is unknown. If Wednesday was her last match at the U.S. Open, what a way to go out.

Even in defeat.

Full Story >>

NEW YORK -- Sachia Vickery was 5 1/2 when she told her mother, Paula Liverpool, she was going to be the next Serena Williams. Vickery watched Serena and sister Venus on TV and made tennis her life goal. She even spent a summer with their dad Richard Williams as her coach.

Thirteen years after her pronouncement, Vickery made her U.S. Open debut Tuesday and knocked off Croatia's Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, 6-4, 6-4.

"Surprisingly, I wasn't that nervous. In the first set, I just went out there," Vickery said. "As it got into the second set, I was realizing I could actually win this and I tightened up a bit, which probably didn't help for a few games. I'm just happy I pulled it out."

Liverpool, a paralegal and a flight attendant who ran high school track in her native Guyana, devoted her single motherhood to supporting Vickery and her tennis career. Vickery started playing in public parks and by 12, she was sent to Patrick Mouratoglou's Tennis Acadmey in France.

"[Patrick's] a really good guy," she said. "They really helped my game develop to a really good point. They were looking out for me those three years because I wasn't getting much help and they were there to help me and back me. I'm just really thankful that he let me train there."

Mouratoglou was not the only top level coach Vickery worked with as a child. Richard Williams was impressed enough during his sessions with her that he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2008 that she was "the next Venus or Serena on the way."

"I used to train with [him] when I was younger and he's a really good mentor," she said. "I see him occasionally because I live in Florida and sometimes I go down there to practice with him, just occasionally, but I haven't seen him in a while."

It was not long before Vickery's training turned into a career. By age 14, she turned pro and started competing in ITF events.

Now 18, Vickery is based at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., with coach Kathy Rinaldi. A victory in this year's USTA Girls' 18s National Championship in San Diego earned Vickery a spot in the U.S. Open draw.

"Honestly, it hasn't sunk in yet," she said after beating Lucic-Baroni. "I still can't believe I won the match. I'm still kind of in shock. I'm sure probably by tomorrow some time, I'll realize I won my first round, but for now, I'm so happy and I'm so excited."

The win will revive the Serena comparisons. "For the longest time she insisted on being called Serena," childhood coach Gerri Braxton told the Herald-Tribune in 2008.

Vickery takes pride in the link to her role model, but she says it is time for her to make her own name. Sachia Vickery is Sacha Vickery.

"It's great to be compared with Serena obviously. She's like the greatest of all-time," Vickery said. "She's the reason I started playing tennis. I should try and make my own mark and come out as Sacha Vickery even though Serena's a great champion. I don't even think I deserve to be mentioned in the same category as her. I'm just going to worry about being me first."

For Serena and Venus, the little girl that their father once raved about now shares the same locker room as they do. The interactions between the Williams sisters and Vickery are much different than they were a few years ago. Serena kept an eye on the Girls' 18s National Championship, knowing that a victory there would send Vickery to the U.S. Open.

"I saw Serena briefly in the locker room and she was congratulating me on winning hard courts," Vickery said. "She noticed and she told me she was following me and my results, so that was the most exciting part so far."

Venus provided a scouting report on Vickery's first-round opponent. Venus defeated Lucic-Baroni her in their two career matches.

"[Venus] was encouraging me and giving me some pointers about the girl I was playing today, which helped a lot," Vickery said.

Whether Venus' advice helped or not, Vickery, ranked 238 in the world, wowed the Court 7 crowd, and her skill is on the rise.

"My game seems to be coming together a little bit more and I'm getting more confident in the more matches I play," Vickery said. "I think I'm at a point right now I understand where my strengths are and I'm able to use it better than I was before."

That may be bad news for the rest of the tour. Just 18, Vickery has a world of potential remaining. She has already backed much of the Serena comparisons by reaching the U.S. Open at such a young age. Expectations have never proven to be her weakness.

At 5-5, Vickery isn't quite as big as Serena (5-9) or Venus (6-1). That and her calm demeanor might not project an imposing presence, but Vickery is comfortable where she stands -- on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

"Being around the players, it just gives me a lot of confidence like I belong here," she said.

One player who may not be surprised by Vickery's ascent is Julia Glushko, who happens to be her next opponent. The 23-year-old Israeli, who knocked off No. 20 seed Nadia Petrova in her first-round match, trained with Vickery at Mouratoglou.

"I know her really well," Vickery said. "She's a really nice girl and we're really good friends, so hopefully we'll have a good match."

Either way, Vickery has reached a checkpoint at age 18. Once self-proclaimed "Serena," she has her first victory on the stage Serena has conquered four times. The talent is present.

Sachia Vickery sent a message Tuesday: Bring on the expectations.

Which of course begs the question. Is she the next Serena?

Full Story >>

NEW YORK -- For more than a decade, Serena and Venus Williams have made the United States the dominant power when it comes to Grand Slam events.

Since Serena won the 1999 U.S. Open at 17, there have been 56 Grand Slam tournaments. A Williams sister has won exactly half, 23 titles, and the United States has won 27 Grand Slam championships. The next closest nation is Belgium with 11 titles.

Even with their recent success -- Serena is the world No. 1 and Venus beat 12th seed Kirsten Flipkens on Monday at the U.S. Open -- it is hard to ignore their age. When Serena's birthday comes around on Sept. 26, both will be at least 32.

But a new crop of American women is on the rise.

Meet 20-year-old Sloane Stephens and 23-year-old Jamie Hampton, Serena's two fellow Americans ranked in the WTA's Top 30.

Stephens was born in Plantation, Fla., in 1993 to Sybil Smith, a swimmer at Boston University who became the first African-American female to be named First Team All-American in Division I, and John Stephens, a Pro Bowl running back.

Stephens began playing professional events at age 14 in 2007 and by the spring of 2008, she played in WTA Tour events. In late 2009, she turned pro at age 16 and in 2011, shortly after her 18th birthday, Stephens made her Grand Slam debut at the French Open, losing in the first round.

Stephens jumped into the limelight at the 2011 U.S. Open when she reached the third round. After a second-round victory over No. 23 seed Shahar Pe'er, she fell to former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.

Stephens ended 2011 as the No. 97 ranked player in the world.

In 2012, Stephens kept the train moving, getting through all four Grand Slam first rounds. She went as far as the fourth-round in the French Open. At the U.S. Open, Stephens again lost to Ivanovic in the third round. At the end of the year, Stephens slid into the top-50, the only teenager to hold a spot.

Stephens erupted in 2013. At the Australian Open, as the No. 29 seed, she defeated Serena Williams in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. She followed with a fourth-round run at the French Open and a quarterfinals appearance at Wimbledon.

Stephens is the No. 15 seed at this year's U.S. Open. Although she nearly experienced a first-round exit Monday, as she knocked off Mandy Minella 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), Stephens is ready to take on the role of up-and-coming American.

"It's exciting to play at a home slam," she said. "I think I have to take advantage of the opportunity that was given to me, and I thought I did that well today."

Five months ago, Stephens was a teenager. Many 20-year-old Americans are starting college classes this week. Stephens is playing in her third U.S. Open.

That is not all. She is playing in it as one of her country's newest celebrities.

"I think just the whole being here at the U.S. Open is a bit overwhelming," she said. "Literally everywhere you go every single person knows who you are, as opposed to when you're at the French Open or when you're at Wimbledon. It's OK, like, you're a tennis player. That's great. Here, every person knows who you are."

Stephens won her three-set match on Louis Armstrong Stadium, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center's No. 2 court and former Center Court. As the match reached its climax, the American fan base unleashed "Sloane Stephens!" chants that rivaled the grounds' PA system.

"I think it's all positive," she said of the support. "I like being at home. It's definitely a completely different feeling than being at any other tournament for a slam. I think people, they really get behind you."

As for winning the third set, which she was down 4-2, Stephens is unsure what string she pulled to help. "I don't know. I think it was brain power. I'm not sure."

Shortly before Stephens' match, Jamie Hampton took to Court 17. Hampton's path to stardom ran a different route. She was born in Frankfurt, West Germany. in 1990 to a U.S. Army officer and a South Korean mother. As a child, her family relocated to Enterprise, Alabama, and later Auburn, Alabama.

She turned pro at age 19 in September 2009 and by mid-2010, she entered WTA events. Hampton made her Grand Slam debut at the 2010 U.S. Open, losing her first round match to number 22 seed Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in three sets.

In 2011 and 2012, Hampton found herself on the cusp. She was present at six Grand Slams in the two years, but she only reached the second round twice, at the 2012 Australian Open and 2012 Wimbledon. Neither affair saw her stick around for the third round. Hampton finished 2012 as the No. 71 player in the world.

In 2013, things clicked for Hampton. In her opening tournament of the season, the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, Hampton made a run to the semifinals before losing in two tiebreakers to Agnieszka Radwanska.

The following week, Hampton made her deepest run in a Grand Slam, going to the third round of the Australian Open. Number one seed Victoria Azarenka spoiled her Melbourne trip with a three-set win en route to her second consecutive Australian Open title.

Hampton reached another semifinal in May on clay in Brussels. One week later, she upset seventh-seeded Nadia Petrova in the third round of the French Open. Hampton's new longest Grand Slam run was halted in the fourth round by No. 18 seed Jelena Jankovic.

Hampton's career year hit a peak in the United Kingdom, where she won a grass tournament in Eastbourne in June. Along the way, Hampton knocked off top-ten players Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.

Hampton's Wimbledon was spoiled by a draw that set her up in the opening-round match against Stephens. She fell 6-3, 6-3 to her fellow American.

Hampton made another semifinal after the tournament and her current ranking of number 24 in the world is the highest she has achieved. As with Stephens, this year's U.S. Open is the first time Hampton has been seeded at a Grand Slam tournament.

On paper, Hampton looks a lot bolder than she did in previous years. She claims her ranking does not affect the way other players look at her.

"Everybody treats me the same and I'd like to keep it that way," she says.

Despite each having multiple trips to Flushing under their belt, Stephens and Hampton are experiencing different emotions and expectations at this year's event. But are the youngsters ready to step in?

"They're big shoes to fill, to be honest," Hampton says. "Those are two game-changers. Will we be like that? It's tough to say. I certainly hope so."

Hampton took the first step on Monday. She finally escaped the first round at a U.S. Open, defeating Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena 6-4, 6-2 on Court 17.

Stephens and Hampton will both play their second-round matches Wednesday. Stephens takes on Urszula Radwanska, and Hampton gets Kristina Mladenovic.

As luck would have it, the youngsters are slotted for a third-round meeting if both continue to win.

Hampton does not like to talk about hypothetical matchups, but she could not shy away from commenting on potential Arthur Ashe Stadium drama.

"Playing the American is always a little bit tougher because we know them really well," Hampton said. "You know their coaches, you know their team and everything. It definitely makes things a little tougher. We've got to get there first. Either way, I think it will be good for American tennis."

If Hampton does make it to Ashe, her youthful taste in music will show. When asked what song she would choose to come out to on Ashe, she gave a stereotypical 23-year-old answer.

"Right now, I'm kind of into the dance, electronic music. I'd probably choose Avicii right now," she said.

Stephens holds the upper hand in the head-to-head series, 2-1. She won their only meeting on hard court, a 6-2, 6-4 first-round victory at Indian Wells in 2011.

In an interesting twist, all three American-seeded women are located in the same eighth of the draw. The winner of that potential third-round matchup would likely face Serena Williams in the fourth. If that is not enough, there is potential for the winner of that match to have a date with Venus Williams in the quarterfinals.

With seeds next to their name and flag and potential marquee matchups on the horizon, Sloane Stephens and Jamie Hampton are no longer just two Americans in the U.S. Open draw. They are the future and this fortnight, they enter the bright lights of New York City.

With the red, white and blue waving in the crowds of their stadium courts, Stephens and Hampton got a taste of their new stardom Monday.

"Today, I had 75 different coaches out there because people are screaming hit the ball; hit it to her forehand; serve to her backhand; come to the net. You're just like, oh, goodness. I mean, it's tricky, but I think most of the time it's all positive," Stephens said.

She and Hampton must get used to the noise. It is coming for them. The chatter will bring expectations, pressure and nerves.

Stephens and Hampton look poised to take it at the net. That is good news for American tennis fans.

-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.

Full Story >>

At first it was an amazing play that overshadowed Lionel Messi in his own charity game.

Then it was one of SportsCenter's top plays for the month of July.

And now it's official -- Matt Eliason's bicycle kick-seen-around-the-world has earned him an MLS tryout.

As first reported on the Northwestern University sports blog Sippin' on Purple and later by David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune, Eliason has begun a one-week tryout with the New York Red Bulls.

Eliason, the leading scorer in Northwestern history, was not drafted and missed a tryout with Sporting Kansas City because of a broken foot. He was working as a corporate risk analyst at GE Capital when his college coach, Tim Lenahan, texted him to see if he would want to participate in Messi's charity game. He did.

In the 28th minute of that match, Eliason had his back to the goal when he chested a pass from French star Thierry Henry. Eliason popped the ball up, and in one swift motion he swung his leg up and nailed a beautiful shot just under the upper right crossbar.

This text will be replaced

The rest is history.

"This has given me a second life,'' Eliason told Haugh. "I think I have the ability to keep on playing.''

Trending Story: Why Soccer Is The Last Sport For Grown-Ups

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ThePostGame recently caught up with Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Jordan was testing out some maps in "Call of Duty: Ghosts" for the Global Multiplayer Reveal Event in Los Angeles.

***

ThePostGame: I know you're a huge Call of Duty guy. Are there any other guys on the Clippers who are into Call of Duty?
DEANDRE JORDAN: Eric Bledsoe was. He was super into it. Like 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m. playing Call of Duty, volume on 117. He’s definitely big into it.

Some of the younger guys played it – Eric Gordon played it. Trey Tompkins would play it. I tried to get the older guys to play it, but it’s too many buttons. They’re used to Atari.

TPG: Who's the best Call of Duty player on the team?
JORDAN: I feel like now, after those guys have left, I may be holding up the No. 1 spot. I don't have anybody else in the running, but I'll take the No. 1 title.

TPG: What was your experience like at the USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas?
JORDAN: That was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. It was great. I haven’t done anything with USA Basketball since I was like 17. This was straight NBA competition with Hall of Fame coaches.

I learned so much from those guys. Coach K. Tom Thibodeau. Randy Ayers. All those guys. Even the college coaches who were there, Coach Cal, Billy Donovan, they definitely let you pick at their brain a little bit. I love that. Jim Boeheim. Those guys were great and they helped me out a lot.

TPG: I know you were working on your defense. Any skill in particular?
JORDAN: Just being more of a leader. Communicating more on defense. Because once you get a little tired you start to just "play defense." You won't talk, you won’t say anything.

But definitely my communication as a leader. Especially on the defensive end because I know that that's where my teammates rely on me the most.

If I’m not playing defense we can win some games, but we've got to be able to win a title.

TPG: Doc Rivers said he thinks you can be Defensive Player of the Year. Do you think you could be a contender for the award?
JORDAN: Yeah, I mean, if my coach said it, then Hell yeah. That’s definitely one of my individual goals. I don’t want to win it just one time, that’s definitely something I want to win multiple years.

When your coach says something about you like that, and we haven’t even had one practice together, that’s definitely something that’s humbling. And it’s definitely going to make me work even harder because I want that and I want to back his word up.

I’m really excited about that challenge that I think he put in front of me.

TPG: How much are you looking forward to playing under and learning from Doc Rivers?
JORDAN: He's one of the best in the league, he’s a Hall of Fame coach. He's won a title, he’s played, so he knows the game. You can’t argue with that. He's coached Hall of Famers. Anytime I can talk to him and pick his brain, ask him what he thinks I need to be doing, what I need to look at, what I need to get better at, what I need to fall back away from, I’m all his. Whatever he wants me to do.

TPG: You’re really active on social media. What do you like about Twitter, Instagram and the other sites?
JORDAN: Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Vine whatever it is, people love that. And when you like to do it, it makes it even better. I’m only 25 years old, so I like to have fun. I like to hang with my family and my friends. I like to zipline. I did that and I posted it one time and people went crazy about it. It’s like, that's something that you don’t know DeAndre Jordan does -- a zipline. So it’s cool to let people in your life a little bit.

It kind of takes them off the court and gives them a different perspective, which I think people definitely enjoy.

TPG: It’s crazy to think about how much these sites are changing out culture.
JORDAN: Yeah, I remember growing up we had MySpace. My Top 8 was my crew.

When Facebook came I was like, "No, I don’t want Facebook. MySpace is my stuff." But everyone was like, "Once you go to high school and college, you got to get a Facebook." And I was like, "Nah, Facebook is weak."

So I ended up getting a Facebook and I loved it. Same with Twitter. I didn't get a Twitter until late. Instagram I got that late. Vine I just got that.

I’m just starting to get up to date with everything, I definitely enjoy it. I have a good time with it, I'm making an Instagram video now.

TPG: Speaking of videos, you've done some hilarious "Funny or Die" skits. How much of a kick do you get out of that?

JORDAN: I love it. Because if anybody knows me, they know I like to have a good time. I like to have fun, I like to prank people and I like to get pranked. So anything that stays lively and upbeat and just have fun, I love that.

I didn’t know I was really like an on-camera guy until somebody told me, "You should be on camera." I was like, "Nah, I only like to tell jokes with my friends and imitate people in front of my friends." And they were like, "No, you should do it!"

So I gave it a shot and I love it now.

TPG: What’s the best prank that you’ve pulled or seen anyone pull?
JORDAN: Oh my goodness [laughs]. I would have to say in college, one of my freshman buddies, we called him and we were like, "Hey we have a photo shoot today in the gym." I’m acting like I’m a reporter, "Yeah, bring all your practice gear and game gear. Bring a cold pair of shoes, we’re going to have a photo shoot. I already called DeAndre, I called B.J. [Holmes]. Can you be there an hour?"

And he was like, "Yeah, I’ll be there!" He calls us and he was like, "Hey, we got a photo shoot." And I was like, "Yeah, the guy just called me. I’m getting ready right now, I’ll meet you there."

He gets his stuff ready, he goes up to the gym, he’s waiting there and he’s like "Where is this guy at?" He tries to call, we don’t answer. He goes to the coach’s office and he’s like, "Coach, I’m late for this photo shoot, where’s the guy?" And coach [Mark] Turgeon was like, "What photo shoot, what are you talking about? I think DeAndre got you."

So he grabbed all of his stuff and came banging on our door and he was like, "Yeah, that was a pretty good one." [laughs]

TPG: That's great. Are people more cautious around you now?
JORDAN: Yeah, like people don’t want to sleep around me now, which is bad. And I definitely don’t want to sleep around anybody. Even on a plane, not even like a team plane, when I’m going with my brother or with my mom somewhere, I’m not going to sleep. If they go to sleep I’ll put my hat on and put my hood over it.

I don’t want anybody to get my face. Even if I’m on the plane by myself, if people are like looking at me I’m like, "No, no, this is war. You’re not going to get me."

Full Story >>

ThePostGame recently caught up with actor Dennis Haysbert. Perhaps most famous for the Allstate commercials in which he serves as the narrator, Haysbert is also a highly accomplished film and television actor. His credits include 24, The Unit, Far From Heaven and Major League.

The second annual Dennis Haysbert Humanitarian Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic presented by Allstate will take place on Aug. 26. See here for more details.

***

ThePostGame: If you could pick anyone alive for a dream foursome, who would it be?

DENNIS HAYSBERT: Oh man (laughs). Let me see. That’s a hard one. Tiger [Woods] would have to be there. Lee Trevino. There's so many. Understand this is just one group. I could mention so many names, but I really enjoy watching Ian Poulter play. Especially as it pertains to the Ryder Cup. I think he has the most heart of any player on either team when he’s playing the Ryder Cup.

There's something that happens to him, it doesn't necessarily happen to him in regular tournaments, but it's sort of like he’s coming out a shell and just plays amazingly well. I'd just like to play with him to get into his head a little bit. "Man, what happens to you when you play the Ryder Cup as opposed to playing regular tournaments?" I know how good he is and it kind of boggles my mind why he hasn’t been in the chase for a major yet.

TPG: So it'd be you, Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino and Ian Poulter?

HAYSBERT: Yeah, that’s the first group I can think of right now. But there’s other names. I’d love to play with [Jason] Duffner, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler. I’d to play with [Phil] Mickelson, I’d love to watch him around the greens.

TPG: So maybe President Obama could be in the next foursome?

HAYSBERT: Maybe, I have my whole presidential list of former presidents I’d love to play with.

TPG: Is it true that President Obama still calls you Mr. President?

HAYSBERT: I think all former presidents call other former presidents Mr. President, and it was almost as if I was actually the president because he does refer to me that way [Haysbert played President David Palmer in 24].

Of course it’s tongue-in-check, but when a sitting president calls you Mr. President, it’s pretty awesome.

TPG: You grew up in the Bay Area, how closely do you still follow the Giants, 49ers and Warriors?

HAYSBERT: Very closely. I have an app for the Giants and for the 49ers. And the Raiders. I really enjoy watching the Raiders, because I’m not a fair weather fan. And one of these days they’re going to put it together.

And the Warriors, I think what they did last year was just amazing. And I think they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. If Steph Curry stays healthy.

TPG: What's the forecast for the 49ers this year? Do you think they can get back to the Super Bowl?

HAYSBERT: They're going to have a tough battle with Seattle. But because the NFC West is so strong, if they can get through the NFC West and win the NFC West, I don’t see who can stop them.

There’s something about how coach Harbaugh coaches. Both the Harbaugh brothers. They were one timeout away from winning the Super Bowl last year. When they were down at the seven-yard-line and they called that timeout, I talked to a number of the Ravens players and they said that they had a big sigh of relief because they were out of position. And they all say the 49ers would have scored on that first play had they not called timeout.

TPG: You’ve done a lot of sports movies, what do you enjoy about those sorts of films?

HAYSBERT: In some ways I get to play some of the sports I really love. I've always been an athlete. I approach my roles as an athlete would. I stay in shape, I get my rest. I really try to get as physically fit for roles as I can because sometimes when you’re working those hours – and those hours can be crazy – you need to be on a solid foundation.

Athletics does that for me.

TPG: Your voice is so famous that Allstate runs commercials with your voice but not your image and people still know that it’s you. Do you get a lot of double takes when you’re ordering at restaurants?

HAYSBERT: Yes (laughs). And just a lot of great compliments. As soon as I open my mouth people know exactly who I am. And they say, "Oh my God, you’re the guy from the Allstate commercials."

And then they also ramble off other movies and everything else, which is always nice. It’s very interesting because Allstate is on 24/7, 365, every day you hear my voice or see me on television. It’s no wonder that people would recognize me from Allstate.

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ThePostGame recently caught up with Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. Sanders is on the cover of "Madden 25" and appears in a new Pepsi MAX commercial (see below) in which a narrator explains how fans can unlock legends in the new video game.

***

ThePostGame: We've heard a lot about the new running back features on Madden 25. What makes this years game so special?

BARRY SANDERS: In a lot of ways the running game is enhanced. Once you get the game you'll understand, but there's definitely more of a dynamic rushing game and a lot more things you can do running the ball.

And also there's a lot of legends that you can unlock with this under-the-cap promotion by Pepsi MAX. And so it was fun shooting the commercial and whoever your favorite legend is, you may have a chance to unlock them.

For not just me but for a lot of guys it's going to be a great experience to be part of this.

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TPG: You've done some work on the Heads Up Football program. What's been your role in that campaign?

SANDERS: I'm an ambassador, trying to promote safety in youth football. And just spread the word about the "Heads Up" program, get coaches trained and try to make youth football as safe as possible for kids.

TPG: Former running backs have come out on both sides of the new crown rule in the NFL. What's your take on the rule?

SANDERS: For me, I know the NFL has to do what they can to make the game as safe as possible and eliminate what they believe are unnecessary risks.

I was a little bit caught off guard by that. But I think it's something we have to live with. You have to work on it in practice and understand what is within the limits and what is going to be acceptable.

I think it will be an adjustment, and it'll be interesting to see how it's actually interpreted and carried out on the field when the season starts. I was a little surprised at that particular rule, but they must have evidence to support the fact that something needs to be done in that area.

TPG: That's just one of several new rules that has been implemented in the NFL over the past few years. In regards to safety, how has the game changed since you retired?

SANDERS: It's a physical, aggressive, violent game. They say that 20 years ago it was much more violent and dangerous. It's hard to get a handle on it. I do know that the rule changes do kind of adjust the way the game is played.

The game over time evolves. It's still a great game, and I think they have a tough job to try to oversee the game and make sure that it's still football but also make it safe.

TPG: Current and former players, as well as President Obama, have said they're unsure if they'd let their sons play football. Not only does your son play, he could make a big impact at Stanford this year. What advice do you give him about playing the game the right way?

SANDERS: He's in a great program and he's only got good coaches. That's a big help for me because I'm not a coach. He's in good hands.

Hey, look, I still love the game and appreciate the game for what it is. And he loves the game. And that's what important. He enjoys playing and it allows to go to a great university and as long as he enjoys it and as long as he sees great value in it that’s what’s important.

They play a great brand of football out there in a big conference. For him, I’m just hoping he enjoys his time in college. It doesn’t last long and so just to make the most of it.

TPG: It’s been 25 years since you won the Heisman Trophy. Does that seem like just yesterday or does it seem like 25 years?

SANDERS: It's hard to believe that 25 years have passed since me coming into the league and winning the Heisman. That was a great year for me, that was a year that my life really changed. So many things happen so fast during that time, but being a lifelong fan of football and college football it was just hard for me to leave in the middle of all of that.

To answer your question, it doesn't seem 25 years have already zoomed by that quickly.

TPG: Speaking of the Heisman, what's your take on all the criticism, hype and general interest surrounding Johnny Manziel?

SANDERS: I don't know. I think that's kind of the day in which we live. He's a pretty intriguing guy. He's having a good time. He’s not hard to find. He's enjoying his success.

I don't see him as being too much different than most guys in his position, most young college athletes who’ve had that kind of success.

I think he'll be fine. I think the best thing that can happen for him is for the season to get started and start playing football again and do what he does best.

TPG: These days social media plays a significant role in the lives of lots of athletes. How do you think things would have been different during your playing days had there been Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social networking sites?

SANDERS: That's a lot to deal with. You see why some of these coaches impose restrictions on some of these things. Certain players may get distracted more than others. And you want your team to operate like a family. And you don't want too much of what you discuss behind closed doors to get out.

So, yeah, it's definitely a difficult balance. It’s certainly something that current players have to deal with that we did not have to deal with. But I think some of the coaches definitely have to take a stand as much as possible and just make sure that, within reason, their players are focused on primarily what’s going on with their football family every day.

You want to be able to enjoy social media and technology and all those things, but you certainly don’t want it to interrupt and distract from your team's goals and your priorities of what you need to do to be successful on and off the field.

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ThePostGame recently caught up with Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anthony Bennett, the top overall selection of the 2013 NBA Draft. Bennett had just finished testing out some maps in "Call of Duty: Ghosts" for the Global Multiplayer Reveal Event in Los Angeles.

***

ThePostGame: What did you think of "Call of Duty: Ghosts" and the new multiplayer maps?
ANTHONY BENNETT: I really loved it. Just playing online, it’s got some great features.

TPG: Do you get to play "Call of Duty" a lot?
BENNETT: The past couple weeks, not really. I’ve just been going back and forth, traveling. I left my Xbox in Cleveland, so once I go back I’m going to be playing it for a while.

TPG: It’s been almost two months since draft night. Looking back on that experience, what comes to mind?
BENNETT: It was just a great opportunity. God has blessed me, put me in a position to take care of my family. So I’ve just got to keep working, do everything right.

TPG: Is it nice to be done with all the pre-Draft workouts and interviews?
BENNETT: The interviews were crazy, man. Each one went for at least two hours, every interview in every city. I’m happy I’m done with that.

TPG: Any bizarre or unusual questions?
BENNETT: Not really. They just wanted to get to know me. I told them I was a pretty cool, chill guy, so it wasn’t anything too dramatic.

TPG: What's the best piece of advice you've gotten about playing in the NBA?
BENNETT: Just always work hard on and off the court. You’ve got to take care of your body, because that stuff comes around to get you at the end. You can stay in the league for a longer period of time if you just stretch everyday.

TPG: I know you’re recovering from shoulder surgery. This offseason have you been able to work on your game or is it mostly rehab?
BENNETT: Just mostly rehab. Right now I’m kind of getting back into it, but slowly. On the court stuff, just shooting for around 45 minutes. Doing a lot of the basic movements.

Everything is going fine with the rehab process and recovery.

TPG: With you and Tristan Thompson on the Cavs and Andrew Wiggins projected to be a top pick in next year’s draft, this might be the strongest era ever for Canadian basketball players. How excited are you for the future of Canadian basketball?
BENNETT: I’m really excited. Everybody’s doing their part, going out there and working hard. We just had Team Canada training camp out in Toronto, everybody was there, putting in the work and going two times a day.

Everybody was getting better under the same roof in the same gym, pushing each other. I feel like that’s what we need.

TPG: What you guys talked about the possibility of getting together for the 2016 Olympics and maybe making some noise?
BENNETT: Yeah, that’s one of our goals. Everybody’s working for it right now, working out and doing everything right. Hoping to qualify and make things happen in 2016.

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Hanley Ramirez isn’t the only one in his family that has learned from Manny Ramirez. The Dodger shortstop's youngest son, five-year-old Hansel, flashes the swing and rocks the hairdo as well.

Besides teaching the Manny doppelganger how to rake, self-described family man Hanley Sr. enjoys playing the video game “Skylanders Giants” with Hansel and his older brother Hanley Jr., 8. Don’t fret, Dodger fans – that’s Skylanders, not San Francisco. The game allows players to seek out adventures with action figure toy characters.

“It’s a different experience every time we play Skylanders,” Ramirez told ThePostGame. “It’s a great way for me to connect with my sons and share a memorable experience with them and enjoy something that we both like.”


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The debate of nature vs. nurture when it comes to sports success gets a fresh look in a new book from David Epstein of Sports Illustrated. How much can science explain? Epstein takes a look in The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance. Here is an excerpt.

Micheno Lawrence was a sprinter on my high school track team. The son of Jamaican parents, he was short and doughy and his bulging paunch poked at the holes of his marina, the mesh top that some Jamaicans on the team wore to practice. He worked at McDonald's after school, and teammates joked that he partook too often in the product. But it didn't stop him from being head‑whipping fast.

A mini‑diaspora in the 1970s and '80s brought a stream of Jamaican families to Evanston, Illinois, which helped make track and field a popular sport at Evanston Township High School. (Consequently, our team won twenty‑four consecutive conference titles from 1976 to 1999.) As outstanding athletes are wont to do, Micheno referred to himself in the third person. "Micheno got no heart," he would say before a big race, meaning that he had no sympathy when vanquishing his competitors. In 1998, my senior year, he blasted from fourth place to first on the anchor leg of the 4×400‑meter relay to win the Illinois state championship.

We all knew an athlete like that in high school. The one who made it look so easy. He was the starting quarterback and shortstop, or she was the all‑state point guard and high jumper. Naturals.

Or were they? Did Eli and Peyton Manning inherit Archie's quarterback genes, or did they grow up to be Super Bowl MVPs because they were raised with a football in hand? Joe "Jellybean" Bryant clearly passed his stature to his son, Kobe, but where does that explosive first step come from? What about Paolo Maldini, who captained AC Milan to a Champions League title forty years after his father, Cesare, did the same? Did Ken Griffey Sr. gift his boy with baseball batter DNA?

Or was the real gift that he raised Junior in a baseball clubhouse? Or both? In 2010, in a sporting first, the mother/daughter pair of Irina and Olga Lenskiy made up half of Israel's national team in the 4×100‑meter relay. The speed gene must run in that family. But is there even such a thing? Do “sports genes” exist at all?

***

In April 2003, an international consortium of scientists announced the completion of the Human Genome Project. Following thirteen years of toil (and 200,000 years of anatomically modern man), the project had mapped the human genome; all 23,000 or so regions of DNA that contain genes had been identified. Suddenly, researchers knew where to begin looking for the deepest roots of human traits, from hair color to hereditary disease and hand‑eye coordination; but they underestimated how difficult the genetic instructions would be to read.

Imagine the genome as a 23,000‑page recipe book that resides at the center of every human cell and provides directions for the creation of the body. If you could read those 23,000 pages, then you would be able to understand everything about how the body is made. That was the wishful thinking of scientists, anyway. Instead, not only do some of the 23,000 pages have instructions for many different functions in the body, but if one page is moved, altered, or torn out, then some of the other 22,999 pages may suddenly contain new instructions.

In the years following the sequencing of the human genome, sports scientists picked single genes that they guessed would influence athleticism and compared different versions of those genes in small groups of athletes and nonathletes. Unfortunately for such studies, single genes usually have effects so tiny as to be undetectable in small studies. Even most of the genes for easily measured traits, such as height, largely eluded detection. Not because they don't exist, but because they were cloaked by the complexity of genetics.

Sluggishly but surely, scientists have begun to abandon the small, single‑gene studies and steer the scientific ship toward new and innovative methods of analyzing how genetic instructions function. Couple that with the efforts of biologists, physiologists, and exercise scientists to discern how the interplay of biological endowments and rigorous training affects athleticism, and we're starting to tug at the threads of the great nature‑versus‑nurture debate as it bears on sports. That necessarily involves trekking deep into the bramble patches of sensitive topics like gender and race. Since science has gone there, this book will too.

The broad truth is that nature and nurture are so interlaced in any realm of athletic performance that the answer is always: it's both. But that is not a satisfactory endpoint in science. Scientists must ask, "How, specifically, might nature and nurture be at work here?” and "How much does each contribute?” In pursuit of answers to these questions, sports scientists have trundled into the era of modern genetic research. This book is my attempt to trace where they have gone and to examine much of what is known or haggled over about the innate gifts of elite athletes.

***

In high school, I wondered whether Micheno and the other children of Jamaican parents who made our team so successful might carry some special speed gene they imported from their tiny island. In college, I had the chance to run against Kenyans, and I wondered whether endurance genes might have traveled with them from East Africa. At the same time, I began to notice that a training group on my team could consist of five men who run next to one another, stride for stride, day after day, and nonetheless turn out five entirely different runners. How could this be?

After my college running career ended, I became a science graduate student and later a writer at Sports Illustrated. In researching and writing The Sports Gene I had the chance to blend in the petri dish of
elite sports what initially seemed to me to be wholly separate interests in athleticism and science.

The reporting of this book took me below the equator and above the Arctic Circle, into contact with world and Olympic champions, and with animals and humans who possess rare gene mutations or outlandish physical traits that dramatically influence their athleticism. Along the way, I learned that some characteristics that I assumed were entirely voluntary, like an athlete's will to train, might in fact have important genetic components, and that others that I figured were largely innate, like the bullet‑fast reactions of a baseball batter or cricket batsman, might not be.

Let's start there.

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