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The NBA Can Come Back Now. Should It?

Hot Takedown talked last week about what the NBA’s restart would look like, but not all of its players seem ready to return. We discuss the concerns raised by Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving after a call with 80 other players on the Orlando bubble system and whether playing games will distract from the important cultural conversations happening right now around racial justice and inequality. Irving, who is also a players association vice president, has a reputation in the NBA universe that may be affecting how people perceive his leadership on this issue, but he may also be using his voice to advocate for and shield less well-known players with similar, and very legitimate, concerns. We don’t necessarily think there’s a right answer to whether playing games and drawing attention on the court to vital issues like police brutality and racial justice is more powerful than not playing and making space for activists where sports otherwise would be. But since it seems like the NBA will restart regardless, we think it’s important to have these conversations that center the players’ concerns. It will strengthen their ability to make an impact on what the league does — and what the public sees.

Next, we talk soccer! Specifically the return of the English Premier League, where there is a lot to play for — just not the title. We discuss the race for spots in the Champions League, which may be even more open this year because Manchester City is, pending an appeal, barred from European football. As a sign of the times, Neil is just happy to have soccer to watch; Geoff is rooting for recently promoted newcomers Sheffield United, while all Sara wants is for Spurs to finish ahead of Tony Chow’s beloved Arsenal. But there’s a lot on the line financially for both Spurs and Arsenal as two of the traditionally bigger and more monied clubs. Making it into the Champions League or Europa League would boost the transfer market prospects of two clubs that will both need a fair bit of help rebuilding. There’s drama at the bottom of the table, too, for those who are looking for more schadenfreude in their soccer. Aston Villa and Bournemouth have brutal schedules compared to Watford and West Ham, but an extra game to play could make the difference for Villa staying up. We all agree, however, that scrappy Norwich is relegation bound.

Finally, we have a no-limit Rabbit Hole all about poker with special guest Maria Konnikova. Maria is a New York Times bestselling author and contributor to The New Yorker with a doctorate in psychology. She decided to learn how to play poker to better understand the role of luck in our lives, and she joined us to talk about why poker is a great vehicle to learn about probability, what it teaches us about decision making and the difference between playing at the Jersey Shore and Montecarlo. Her new book on the subject, “The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win,” is available June 23.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.