Lighting the Flame

July 1, 2021

By: Carlos Alvarez

Good Morning,

Welcome to July 2021, the month where dreams come true. And it didn’t take long. Two celebrations in today’s newsletter kickstart the greatest month in sports. Let’s light the flame on an epic 31-plus days ahead.



Lighting the Flame for July 2021

Photo: Clive Rose / Getty Images

It’s the Month Sports Fans Have Dreamed Of, And It Starts Now


There were more than 100 days in 2020 where we waited patiently without sports. Patiently, in our homes, hoping for a return to normalcy. But normalcy took much longer than expected. After a a calendar year unlike any other, sports have come back with the same relentlessness as all of us. They’ve delivered must-see moments that feel even more special, more appreciated and more exciting in jam-packed arenas after knowing a world without. And now, the 2021 sports comeback makes its biggest splash yet… July.


This month has been circled on our calendars ever since last year’s Olympics were postponed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A delayed start to the NBA and NHL seasons brought their respective finals into July as well, combining league overlaps for a perfect storm of sports. In the next 31-38 days, nearly every sport imaginable will have its moment in the sun. Championships, trophies, tears, medals and celebrations will infiltrate your news feeds at a pace you’ve never experienced. And you’ll need a single source to capture it all. This barrage of athletic abundance will test the limits of our time and coverage. But that’s a good problem to have.


We started this newsletter in Summer 2018, just three years ago this month. The Olympics — and all that comes with it — are the reason why we created The Sportsletter. In an attempt to bring sports fans a quick daily rundown of the vast sports world each morning, we’ve burned the midnight oil to capture late endings, dramatic finishes and must-see moments so you can start your day and stay informed. With the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and The Sportsletter Team based in the United States, the boundaries of our time zones will make for some interesting nights, but we’re committed. We’re 13 hours behind, but you’ll always be three steps ahead. Opening ceremonies begin in just three weeks, and we’re ready. We hope you are, too.


Welcome to July 2021. It’s a sports fans’ dream come true…


The July Sports Rundown

Ongoing: Stanley Cup Final

Ongoing: NBA Finals

Ongoing: Wimbledon

Ongoing: Tour de France

Ongoing: Euro 2020

Ongoing: Copa America

July 4: NASCAR at Road America

July 6: The Match: Part 3 (Celebrity Golf)

July 10: UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3

July 12: MLB Home-Run Derby

July 13: MLB All-Star Game

July 15: PGA: The Open Championship

July 18: Formula 1: British Grand Prix

The Olympics (July 23 — Aug. 8)

July 23: NHL Draft

July 24: Boxing: Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder 3

July 27: NFL Training Camps Start

July 29: NBA Draft


To celebrate this untamable stretch of sports, we’ll be running giveaways, contests and games all month long to test your sports knowledge and keep the excitement flowing. Stay tuned.



The Finals Go Through Phoenix

Photo: Harry How / Getty Images

Suns Win the Western Conference Finals Behind Chris Paul’s 41-Point Takeover


After a 16-year NBA career, Chris Paul is finally heading to the NBA Finals. Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals brought CP3 back to L.A. for another chance at a closeout, and in a tight game through three quarters, he left no doubt. The Clippers cut the lead to seven in the third quarter before Paul scored 14 of the next 16 points in an absolute takeover. He finished by matching his playoff career-high with 41 points and zero turnovers. The other Phoenix starters — Devin Booker (22), Jae Crowder (19), DeAndre Ayton (16) and Miles Bridges (9) — combined for 66 points as the Suns’ starters obliterated the Clippers’ starters by 41 (107-76).


Chris Paul’s Stats (Game 6)

41 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 0 turnovers

FG: 16-for-24 | 3-PT: 7-for-8


“Going to a new team. Everybody (was) staying the course all year…. Damn, this feels good.” — Chris Paul


Facts: Phoenix & The Finals

It’s the Suns’ first trip to the NBA Finals since Charles Barkley lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1993. The franchise has only reached the NBA Finals one other time (1976). They’ve never won it. They’re also the first team in NBA history to reach the Finals after a playoff drought of a decade or longer (2010). They’ll have home-court advantage as heavy favorites against either the Bucks or Hawks.


Watch: Chris Paul Powers Suns to NBA Finals With 41-Point Takeover


Tonight’s Schedule

Gm 5: Hawks at Bucks (8:30 pm ET)


Additional Storylines

Yardbarker: Chris Paul Brings Out Lil Wayne to Celebrate Phoenix Suns NBA Finals Berth

CBS Sports: Patrick Beverly Ejected From Game 6 After Shoving Chris Paul From Behind

USA Today: Chris Paul Leads Suns to NBA Finals With Brilliant Closeout Performance



A Mississippi Moment

Photo: Jamie Schwaberow / Getty Images

#7 Mississippi State One-Hits #4 Vanderbilt to Win College World Series (9-0), 1st National Title in School History


A blowout in the College World Series! After Vanderbilt won Game 1 by a landslide (8-2) the Mississippi State Bulldogs outscored them 22-2 in Games 2 and 3, concluding with a resounding 9-0 shutout in the finale on Wednesday night. Vandy was in pursuit of back-to-back titles, but MSU pitcher Will Bednar threw a no-hitter through six innings while the Bulldogs piled on the runs. Relief pitcher Landon Sims went the final three innings, giving up just one hit in the eighth. Bednar won the CWS Most Outstanding Player.


Bulldog Bats: Logan Tanner and Kellum Clark both hit home runs in the 7th, and Clark’s three-run dagger was the exclamation point.


Fun Fact: It’s Mississippi State’s first NCAA national championship — across all sports — in school history. After 11 CWS appearances, the drought is over.


Watch: Mississippi State Shuts Out Vanderbilt in Game 3 (9-0) to Win 1st College World Series


Additional Storylines

MLB: Will Bednar Unhittable En Route to CWS Crown

USA Today: Mississippi State Shuts Out Vanderbilt to Win School’s 1st National Championship

ESPN: Mississippi State Throws Combined 1-Hitter Against Vanderbil to Win 1st College World Series



The Bolts Can Taste the Cup

Photo: Scott Audette / Getty Images

Lightning Take Game 2 (3-1) Behind Vasilevskiy’s Brilliance, Extend Stanley Cup Final Lead (2-0)


That’s two up, two down for the defending champs. The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night thanks to a stellar performance in net from Andrei Vasilevskiy (42 saves), but Game 2 was tighter than Game 1. Tied at 1-1 nearing the third, Blake Coleman broke the tie with a ridiculous shot in the final seconds of the second period. Ondrej Palat added the insurance goal with under five minutes to play in the third. The series heads north to Montreal for Games 3 and 4, but there’s a tall task ahead for the Habs.


Watch: Lightning Win Game 2 Behind Vasilevskiy’s 42 Saves


Stanley Cup History: Only five teams have ever won the Stanley Cup Final after falling behind 0-2 in the series, but two of those four were — you guessed it — the Canadiens. Montreal rallied to beat Detroit (4-2) in 1966 and Chicago (4-3) in 1971.


Upcoming Schedule

Gm 3: Lightning at Canadiens (Fri. 8:00 pm ET)


Additional Storylines

NBC Sports: Lightning Ride Vasilevskiy, Coleman Goal to Steal Game 2

The Athletic: Canadiens Denied Request for 10,500 Fans at Bell Centre for Stanley Cup Final Games



⚾️ MLB: Trea Turner Hits for Cycle on 28th Birthday

Happy birthday, Trea Turner! The Nationals’ shortstop completed his record-tying third career cycle on Wednesday with a triple in the sixth inning. He became just the fifth player in MLB history to hit three career cycles. It was also Turner’s 28th birthday. The Nats beat the Rays (15-6).


🎾 TENNIS: Kenin, Andreescu & Bencic Exit Early

More stars are leaving Wimbledon after early upsets. (4) Sofia Kenin, (5) Bianca Andreescu and (9) Belinda Bencic all lost in Round 2 by straight sets on Wednesday. They joined (3) Stefanos Tsitsipas and (6) Serena Williams as the biggest names to suffer early exits from the All England Club.


🚴♂️ TDF: Pogacar Wins Stage 5 Time Trial

Tadej Pogacar secured his fourth career stage win at the Tour de France on Wednesday, clocking in a 32-minute speed run of the 27.2 kilometer time trial. The reigning Tour de France champion is just nine seconds behind race leader Mathieu van der Poel.



🏈 Unraveling the Tom Brady Mystery

Thanks to Tom Brady, the NFL industrial complex has a mystery to try to solve in the dead of the offseason. What team was Brady talking about when he said one team was sticking with “that (expletive)” instead of signing him in free agency? (CBS Sports)


⚾️ Kyle Schwarber’s Historic HR Streak

Nationals’ LF Kyle Schwarber has stolen the show in late June with a torrid home-run streak that’s flown under the radar. He’s hit 12 home runs in the last 10 games, as well as 16 HRs in the last 18 games, which puts him on a list with Sammy Sosa (1998) and Barry Bonds (2001). (MLB)


🏀 Injured Stars: Who’s In Control?

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s knee injury leaves Hawks-Bucks series in limbo after Game 4. It’s tied (2-2), but injuries to both superstars — one from each team — leave us questioning who will win the East. (FOX Sports)



Question of the Day

Yesterday we asked: Which city do you think you deserves the nickname “Titletown” in 2020-21?


The Sportsletter team is in favor the small-market underdog. “Champa Bay” lives on.


73% — Tampa Bay (Lightning, Bucs)

27% — Los Angeles (Lakers, Dodgers)