How 5G played a role in the Phoenix Suns’ historic NBA title run

The wireless technology gave the team an edge when it came to crunching the data on its players to find ways for them to improve.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker during the 2021 NBA playoffs.

The new tools helped general manager James Jones and the rest of the coaching staff better evaluate player performance and adapt in real time. Ryan Resh, the Suns’ head of data analytics, credits 5G with “pushing the NBA’s boundaries” regarding how the coaches train and teach their athletes.

The Suns’ use of 5G is an example of one of the many different applications of the wireless technology beyond higher speeds on your phone. The technology, rolling out across the globe, is expected to transform many industries, including sports. Professional and college teams are installing 5G in stadiums and arenas to improve the on-site experience, and apps are emerging that let fans view replays from different angles or feel like they’re a part of the action. Teams are exploring ways to use 5G to improve the performance of the athletes themselves by quickly collecting huge amounts of data — something that isn’t possible with 4G or Wi-Fi.

“5G is allowing us to … take those movements and those analyses and make them so real-time that the process just becomes iterative and seamlessly flows into the working procedure of our coaches and our players,” Resh said in an interview.

While sports teams have been using analytics to improve player performance nearly as long as sports have existed, 5G is emerging as a new way to make that analysis even more effective. The key is the technology’s high speed and low latency. Cameras and sensors can collect data and provide insight in real time, letting coaches instruct their players on the fly or detect injuries before they become bigger problems. For the Suns, the intersection between 5G and athletics made its mark this NBA season.

“The 5G lab keeps the Suns on the cutting edge,” Jones said in a statement. “That cohesion provides our staff with unparalleled opportunities to efficiently unlock each athlete’s fullest potential.”

The need for real-time data is becoming more and more important in sports. Prior to the rollout of 5G and installation of sensors and cameras in arenas, players were used to waiting until the next day to review film highlighting in-game mistakes. While players and coaches still review film after games, the 5G lab offers data within milliseconds — something that once took several minutes to calculate.

“Coaching has been around for thousands of years, where coaches go out there and with their gut, they watch things,” Brian Mecum, vice president of device technology for Verizon, said in an interview. “Well, how about if we trust data, and how about if we flip it and trust what science is telling us by what it can measure?”

While Verizon is building 5G in more than 60 stadiums and arenas, its partnership with the Phoenix Suns is different. No other team working with Verizon uses 5G to help with real-time analytics.

5G helps the Suns coaching staff quickly gather and crunch data from three different tools. With a technology called Noah, the players are able to get real-time feedback, live and automated in-game data, and in-depth post-practice and game analytics. For instance, the practice center’s hoop is equipped with sensors that allow Noah to track the arch consistency, the depth and the left and right trajectory of the ball. Coaches will be able to compare subpar performance against a player’s peak, letting them know instantly what places or situations on a court have the best odds for sinking a shot.

“It gets down to centimeter accuracy, and it also has the ability to look at things in three dimensions [along] the X, the Y and the Z axis,” Verizon’s Mecum said. A player may not be able to tell in real time why their shots aren’t going in without the in-depth arc and angle analysis Noah provides.

“This team took and learned that sometimes players were spending too much time shooting, for example, they were taking too many shots and that was affecting the effectiveness of their shots,” Mecum said.

Adding Noah to the Sun’s practice facility has shown real results for the team. One younger player had a tough time consistently sinking his shots. With Noah and the tracking sensors installed in the rafters above the hoop, the coaching staff was able to show the player where his jump shots typically landed and where his performance was the weakest.

“That was enlightening to him because it allowed him to accept that his mechanics may not be as consistent as he wants them to be, which is not something that you really feel, in real time,” Resh said. “His work did eventually pay off in the playoffs, and he was our best three-point shooter.”

Another analytics source used by the Suns is called ShotTracker. Players and coaches are able to use a sensor-based system that generates shooting analytics stats to teams — and fans — thanks to a sensor placed on the ball. Players must also wear a small tracking device, and there are sensors in the rafters above the rim to pinpoint the location of the shot. Specifically, more than 100 sensors communicate to the coaches in real time what players are doing (or not). This allows both players and coaches to go back and review how many shots were taken and exactly where they were shot.

The final piece of the Suns’ technology expansion relates to lateral movement off the court. With the help of Simi’s motion capture cameras, coaches are able to track players’ abilities both before and after injuries. A returning player may feel they are back to normal, but coaches are able to see in real time if the player is healed or not by comparing the post-injury performance to the player’s baseline. The Suns are using Simi in the weight room to track static movements — but have hopes to one day use Simi to predict how players move on the court.

In the practice facilities, the Suns’ are also using Bertec’s 3D force plates in combination with Simi’s cameras. The Bertec plates, which players stand on, are able to track a player’s gait, jump and balance while Simi captures the movement in real time. Simi shows the coaches, the movement, while the Bertec plates provide data about pressure and other characteristics.

“While Wi-Fi can accomplish that, what 5G does is it makes it so fast [and] the latency is so low, that as soon as a player is done jumping, [the data is] there in front of them,” Resh said

Latency is the response or lag time between sending a signal and receiving one back, and 5G’s shorter latency is how it makes a difference in sports analytics.

“You want to reduce the delay as much as you can to give [people] real-time experiences,” said Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell. “Every little bit helps.”

3G networks had latencies in the hundreds of milliseconds, which is an appreciable fraction of a second. 4G networks, which enabled smartphones and all of the apps we use today, started with latencies of about 100 milliseconds and now are down to a range of about 30 milliseconds to 70 milliseconds. 5G aims to get to 1 millisecond, but it’s currently at about 20 milliseconds to 30 milliseconds, which is faster than the human eye blinks, Verizon’s Mecum said.

Fans are able to view a game from multiple camera angles.

An essential piece of the Suns’ practice facilities and arena is their use of millimeter wave 5G. MmWave is a band of radio airwaves that provides super-high speeds but can only travel short distances and gets blocked by objects like windows and trees. For sporting venues, though, those downsides aren’t an issue. Teams can easily install towers where needed in stadiums and arenas. MmWave’s ability to handle a huge number of devices on one network, at the same time, is ideal for fans during a game.

With the Suns’ stadium app, fans are able to receive feedback similar to what the coaches see while watching the game. The app is available to users with or without 5G phones. Seven different camera angles let fans view replays and real-time stats on the players. The app is available both in the stadium and at home. “You can go back and look at replays, and you’re in control instead of waiting for the jumbotron,” Mecum said.

Suns’ players and coaches are also able to get real-time feedback that lets them make live adjustments. The speeds needed to interpret this data captured during the Suns’ practice is only available over 5G, the coaching staff says. Neither Wi-Fi nor 4G can produce the results as quickly.

For now, the Suns are only using real-time analysis over 5G in the team’s practice facility. The NBA has strict guidelines surrounding what data collection is available in-game and doesn’t allow the kind of analysis the Suns perform in the practice facility.

The Suns aren’t the only ones interested in the numbers. Sports analytics bridges the gap between team stats and interpretation. When teams crunch data, the goal is almost always to figure out where performance fell short. After establishing areas in need of improvement, teams can optimize practice time using the data found from analytics. It’s a big business — the global sports analytics market size is expected to grow from $1.9 billion in 2019 to $5.2 billion by 2024, according to a report from MarketsandMarkets.

“When you are a professional athlete, standing on your feet just moving around a basketball court is actually considered work,” Resh said. “When you don’t have a ton of time to practice, you have to make your practices as efficient as possible.”

As the intersection between sports and analytics continues to grow, there is a need for 5G and real-time data, said Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin. Many sporting venues are incorporating 5G and mmWave to receive feedback as quickly as possible.

Perhaps the best-known example of sports analytics was captured in the 2011 film Moneyball. The movie, based on the Oakland Athletics baseball team, explained how analysis and statistics alone could lead to victories.

Brad Pitt played then-A’s general manager Billy Beane, who put together a winning team utilizing analytics and minimal funding. He studied sabermetrics, “the objective knowledge about baseball,” to rebuild the team on a low budget. Through studying these analytics, he led his team to a 20-game winning streak, the longest one in franchise history.

While the Suns can use 5G to track performance in the practice arena, the coaches aren’t able to do such analysis in the arena. Instead, Second Spectrum exclusively partners with the NBA, as well as soccer’s Premier League and Major League Soccer, to provide in-game player tracking.

After an initial response, Second Spectrum didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Players, coaches and fans can use Second Spectrum to access years of game history and find game playbacks within seconds. The company uses machine learning and computer vision to form a tracking system. It’s able to collect 3D data live from cameras within the arenas and then generate reports showing player location, player stats and the type of play in progress.

Even though the Suns didn’t come out on top this season, the conversation around what 5G has provided is just beginning.

“That real-time feedback is what we found to be the best method of teaching and learning for our players and for our coaches,” Resh said.

CNET’s Shara Tibken contributed to this report.

Correction, 11:19 a.m. PT: This story initially misstated the Phoenix Suns’ history with the NBA Finals. The team has made it three times, in 1976, 1993 and 2021, losing each time four games to two.

UFC 269 Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier: Start time, how to watch or stream online

UFC 268 is an absolute gem of a car, with two title fights.

Many consider Poirier the uncrowned champ.

But UFC 269 runs deep. Rising star Sean O’Malley features, Cody Garbrandt makes his flyweight debut and we have a host of compelling match ups all the through to the early prelims. Make no mistake, this Saturday is MMA Christmas.

Here’s everything you need to know.

The UFC 269 main card starts at 10 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. PDT) on Nov. 6. Here are all the details from multiple time zones.

The UFC now has a partnership with ESPN. That’s great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially, if you’re one of the UFC fans who want to watch UFC in the US.

In the US, if you want to know how to watch UFC 269, you’ll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN’s site:

You can do all of the above at the link below.

MMA fans in the UK can watch UFC 269 exclusively through BT Sport. There are more options if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 269 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also watch on the UFC website or using its app. You can even order using your PlayStation or using the UFC app on your Xbox.

Need more international viewing options? Try a VPN to change your IP address to access those US, UK or Australian options listed above. See the best VPNs currently recommended by CNET editors.

As always, these cards are subject to change. We’ll keep this as up-to-date as possible.

UFC 263 Adesanya vs. Vettori: Start time, how to watch, predictions, full fight card

We’re just hours away from UFC 263.

Nate Diaz returns at UFC 263.

But in terms of mainstream interest, UFC 263 heralds the return of one of the UFC’s biggest drawcards: Nate Diaz.

Nate Diaz is fighting Leon Edwards in a fight where the odds are stacked against him. To begin with, the contest is at Welterweight. Diaz is strongest in the Lightweight division where his reach and size often drowns opponents. Previous fights at Welterweight have involved other opponents who normally fight at Lightweight, like Conor McGregor and Anthony Pettis. This time he’s fighting a true Welterweight in Leon Edwards, a fighter who has dominated in that weight class. He hasn’t lost in almost six years.

In short, it could be a rough night for Diaz.

The UFC 263 main card starts at 10 p.m ET (7 p.m. PT) but here are all the details…

This year the UFC entered into a new partnership with ESPN. That’s great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially if you’re one of the UFC fans who want to watch UFC live in the US.

In the US, if you want to know how to watch UFC 263, you’ll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN’s site:

You can do all of the above at the link below.

MMA fans in the UK can watch UFC 263 exclusively through BT Sport. There are more options if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 263 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also watch on the UFC website or using its app. You can even order using your PlayStation or using the UFC app on your Xbox.

Need more international viewing options? Try a VPN to change your IP address to access those US, UK or Australian options listed above. See the best VPNs currently recommended by CNET editors.

As always, these cards tend to change and evolve. We’ll keep this updated.

Let’s do a couple of quick predictions for a change!

Returning from a failed sojourn at Light Heavyweight, you could assume Adesanya is vulnerable. But the fact is he’s yet to lose at Middleweight and Marvin Vettori presents nothing new for Adesanya.

In addition: Adesanya and Vettori have already fought once before in 2018, which resulted in a split decision victory for Adesanya. It was close but, score cards aside, Adesanya was the clear victor.

Who has improved most since that contest? Adesanya, clearly. His wrestling defence and jiu-jitsu have improved markedly since that fight. This fight will almost certainly stay standing. Expect a similar contest to Adesanya’s last Middleweight defence against Paulo Costa.

Our prediction: Adesanya by TKO.

This fight is another rematch. Figueiredo and Moreno locked horns in a fight that was ruled a draw in December 2020.

That draw was the result of docked points on Figueiredo’s part after a brutal low blow. If not for those docked points, Figueiredo would have won the fight, fairly clearly.

It was a close contest, but I expect this one to be far more decisive in Figueiredo’s favor. His punching power, his size — Figueiredo has been an absolute mauler in his UFC career. This could potentially go the distance (Moreno can really take a shot) but I expect Figueiredo to win.

Our prediction: Figueiredo by decision

People have been quick to write off Nate Diaz in this fight, mainly because he’s not had much success at Welterweight in the past and Leon Edwards is a strong Welterweight.

I expect Edwards to beat Diaz, by mixing up his wrestling, striking and cage work, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Diaz took a round or two, particularly since this is a five round fight.

This should be a fun fight.

Our prediction: Edwards by decision

MLB streaming 2021: Watch baseball’s pennant races live without cable

From DirecTV Stream to Bally Sports to MLB.TV to YouTube, there are plenty of ways to watch the last weeks of the Major League baseball season.

With about 15 games left in the season, MLB has again dropped the price of its MLB.TV season subscription, and there are also a few free ways to watch live baseball in September. You don’t need cable to watch your favorite team’s games, but your options depend on which team you follow and where you live.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has led the Toronto Blue Jays back into playoff contention, where they are fighting with the Yankees and Red Sox for a Wild Card spot.

There are two major ways to stream MLB games day in, day out without a cable or satellite TV subscription:

Depending on where you live, one of the major live TV streaming services could carry the channel that has your favorite team. Those channels, called regional sports networks, deliver almost all of the regular-season games live.

Most such services, however, carry only a handful of the 30 RSNs that show MLB games — and they’re typically the most expensive. DirecTV Stream carries the most RSNs, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan; its basic $70-a-month plan doesn’t include RSNs. Sling TV, a service that costs $35 per month, doesn’t have any RSNs for baseball. If you’re a baseball fan who needs your team’s RSN, a cable subscription might actually be cheaper than streaming.

The other option is MLB.TV, a separate service that carries every game played by every team live. It’s great for hard-core fans in general. MLB.TV costs $27 for the remainder of the season.

The big catch with MLB.TV is the local blackout restriction: You can’t watch your local team’s games live. Instead, they become available about 90 minutes after the game ends. If you’re a Yankees fan in the New York area, for example, you can’t start to watch the Yankees game until an hour and a half after the final out. Other teams’ games aren’t blacked out live, which makes MLB.TV ideal for fans who want to follow one or more of the 28 or 29 teams based in other cities, aka out-of-market teams.

Due to MLB.TV’s blackout restriction, a live TV streaming service is the best bet for following your local team. Many services carry the RSN that has exclusive rights to every regular season game, but availability varies by location and service.

In addition to the RSNs listed below, live TV services carry most if not all of the major national networks — ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS — that regularly televise matchups from different teams around the league. Details are at the top of this article.

Here’s how the RSNs stack up on each service.

Some key takeaways:

One other note: Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s to rename them. So, Fox Sports Ohio is now called Bally Sports Ohio and so on.

If you are looking to watch your local team night in and night out, DirecTV Stream is your best bet. It offers by far the most RSNs of the live TV streaming services. Philadelphia and Toronto are the only MLB cities whose RSN is not offered on DirecTV Stream. FuboTV is second with 10 RSNs, giving you only a one-in-three chance of getting your local RSN to watch baseball.

DirecTV Stream is the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get MLB Network and any available RSN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area.

Major League Baseball’s official streaming service is great for following your favorite team if you live outside its TV market. Because of the 90-minute blackout described above, however, it’s much less useful for following your local home team.

MLB.TV subscribers also miss games that are broadcast nationally on ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS. Those games are blacked out on MLB.TV, which can be particularly irksome for fans of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other big-market teams that are frequently selected for national broadcasts.

The price of MLB.TV at the start of the season was $130. With only two weeks left, that has dropped to $27. As a subscriber, you can watch out-of-market games live or on demand, and the in-market (home) team with a 90-minute delay from the end of the game.

With MLB.TV, you can also listen to home and away radio broadcasts. The radio broadcasts aren’t subject to the blackout rule, so you can listen to home team games live. MLB.TV also includes a ton of video content, including classic games, baseball documentaries and old This Week in Baseball episodes.

Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still watch baseball with the MLB app. It offers one Free Game of the Day that anyone can stream live for free.

Read our MLB.TV review.

ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service costs $6 a month or $60 a year and shows one game nearly every day of the six-month MLB season. The catch is that your local team’s games are blacked out when they appear on ESPN Plus, similar to MLB.TV. Also, the games shown on ESPN Plus are not exclusive to ESPN Plus and are also available on MLB.TV.

Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games. YouTube also shows a game a week for free.

FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 10 RSNs for baseball. It also includes ESPN, Fox and FS1 but not TBS. You can add MLB Network for an extra $11 a month with the Sports Plus with NFL RedZone add-on. Check out which local networks and RSNs it offers here.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers five RSNs for baseball, along with all five channels for national broadcasts. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and carries five RSNs for baseball along with ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS, but not MLB Network. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.

Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch baseball. You can, however, use Sling to watch national baseball broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN, and the Blue plan includes Fox and FS1. Both plans offer TBS. The MLB Network is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.

For the third year, YouTube streams some MLB games for free. For the 2021 season, 21 games will be shown as the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube. Two games remain on the schedule

For Yankees fans in the team’s market, Amazon will stream 21 Yankees games on Prime Video this season. While you don’t need to live in the Bronx to stream these games, the area where they’re available is limited — New York state, Connecticut, northeast Pennsylvania, and north and central New Jersey. You’ll need to be a Prime member, too.

Three Prime Video games remain:

The MLB At Bat app is great on phones and even better on tablets. If you bought an MLB.TV subscription (as outlined above), you can log in to your account and watch games live in the app. There is a cheaper subscription option for use with the mobile app only, but it’s limited in what it lets you watch.

You can buy an At Bat subscription via the MLB At Bat app. It costs $20 a year (or $3 a month) and lets you listen to the home or away radio broadcasts — baseball is the only sport I can listen to on the radio — and watch one game per day during the season. You can’t choose which game you want to watch; you’re stuck with the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day.

King Richard trailer: Will Smith aces as dad of Venus and Serena Williams

The Men in Black star plays Richard Williams, who drew up a 78-page plan for his daughters’ success before they were even born.

Will Smith plays Richard Williams, dad of tennis legends Venus and Serena, in King Richard. Aunjanue Ellis plays their mom, Oracene (far left). Also shown, from left, are Mikayla Bartholomew as Tunde Price, the girls’ half-sister, Saniyya Sidney as Venus, Demi Singleton as Serena, and Daniele Lawson as another half-sister, Isha Price.

In one scene, he tells his daughters that they’re representing “every little Black girl on Earth.” No pressure. But anyone who knows the Williams’ sisters story knows they lived up to it, and then some. Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Venus Williams has won seven, the two have won 14 as a doubles team, and they’re also Olympic gold medalists.

“This world ain’t never had no respect for Richard Williams,” Smith’s character says in one scene. “But they gon’ respect y’all.”

Will Smith, Venus Williams and Serena Williams are among the film’s producers. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton play the Williams sisters. King Richard opens in theaters on Nov. 19, and will be available for streaming on HBO Max’s ad-free platform 31 days.

Just 2 months ahead of Olympics, US issues do-not-travel advisory for Japan

Team USA says it’s “confident” it can safely compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The US has issued an advisory against travel to Japan.

Read more: The Tokyo Olympics: Will the games be canceled, expected start date, full schedule

Team USA said it’s aware of the updated travel advisory, but is “confident” it can safely compete this summer.

“We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan and during games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA,” the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in an emailed statement.

Last month, the US issued Level 4: Do Not Travel advisories for around 80% of all nations. The travel advisories were updated to reflect the CDC’s COVID-19 health notices about other countries. Japan was initially left off the Level 4 warning list, but was added Monday.

Read more: Vaccine passports for COVID-19: How they’ll be a part of global travel

UFC 260 Miocic vs. Ngannou: Start time, how to watch or stream online, full fight card

UFC 260 is just about to start. Here’s everything you need to know…

UFC 260 will be the second time Stipe Miocic has faced off against Francis Ngannou.

Sadly the co-main event, a compelling contest between featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski and jiu jitsu savant Brian Ortega has been cancelled after Volkanovski tested positive for COVID-19.

Here’s everything you need to know.

This year the UFC entered into a new partnership with ESPN. That’s great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially if you’re one of the UFC fans who want to watch UFC live in the US.

In the US, if you want to know how to watch UFC 260, you’ll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN’s site:

You can do all of the above at the link below.

MMA fans in the UK can watch UFC 260 exclusively through BT Sport. There are more options if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 260 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also watch on the UFC website or using its app. You can even order using your PlayStation or using the UFC app on your Xbox.

Need more international viewing options? Try a VPN. See the best VPNs currently recommended by CNET editors.

Based on previous UFC times, this is the schedule we expect…

Given how volatile and fluid previous fight cards have been in the COVID-19 era, expect this one to chop and change. Here’s where we’re at right now…

Olympics opening ceremony memes: Tonga still doesn’t give a shirt

But this year the shirtless, glossy Tongan taekwondo athlete has competition from Vanuatu. Plus: What’s with the team entrance order?

Malia and Pita lead Team Tonga during the opening ceremony. Um, yes, some viewers did in fact notice Pita’s shiny torso.

Things were a little different this year: Taufatofua wore a face mask, and he was joined by Malia Paseka, Tonga’s first female Olympian to compete in taekwondo. He congratulated his teammate and fellow flag bearer.

“A special congratulations to our Flag Bearer, Malia Paseka,” Taufatofua tweeted. “She did an amazing job leading the way for more participation of females and youth in sport in Tonga. So proud to walk along side our first ever female taekwondo Olympian!”

Fans were drawn to the Tonga team.

“Clearly the best pair of flag bearers in the Parade of Nations,” wrote one Twitter user. “You both are amazing!”

Wrote another, “**BREAKING** TONGA HAS WON THE OLYMPICS. We can all go home now.”

This year, Tonga wasn’t alone in the oiled-up athlete arena. Rower Riilio Rii from Vanuatu also pulled off the shirtless and glossy look.

“Pita, we see you and we raise you,” the official Olympics Twitter account wrote.

The countries usually file into the stadium in alphabetical order. But when you watch this year, you may wonder if you even know the alphabet. That’s because it’s in the order used in Japan.

There are also some other variations. Greece, home of the original Olympics, leads the pack, followed by the Refugee Team, athletes from troubled countries who’ve mostly been training in Kenya. The USA marches in near the end, followed by France and then Japan, the host country. (If you want to follow along, Wikipedia has the order.)

Many who were expecting the teams to march in ABC order were thrown.

“This order is bonkers,” wrote one Twitter user. “I clearly need to revisit the alphabet.”

The various sports were also displayed by performers dressed in white and blue and dubbed “human pictograms,” who re-create the icons used to depict each sport.

Wrote one Twitter user, “This live action Wii sports menu was unexpected but very much appreciated.”

Said another, “Give the pictogram team a GOLD.”

The opening ceremonies will be rebroadcast in the US on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT. The Olympics run through Aug. 8.

Skateboards containing Tony Hawk’s blood sell out almost instantly

But some want to know why they didn’t spark the same outrage the blood-infused Lil Nas X Satan shoes did.

Tony Hawk shows off a vial of his blood and a note verifying he’s allowing it to be used in the skateboard series.

The bloody skateboard idea was a collaboration with water company Liquid Death Mountain Water. The company said on its Instagram that Hawk’s blood was sterilized before being added to the paint and also noted, “Although it could arguably make the world a better place, never ever use these boards to make clones of Tony Hawk.”

A representative for Liquid Death confirmed to CNET that the paint on the custom decks was mixed with two vials of Tony Hawk’s blood. It gets weirder.

“Tony Hawk is a member of the Liquid Death Country Club,” the representative said. “So he previously sold his soul to Liquid Death via a legally binding contract, meaning the brand technically owns Tony’s blood.” Sure thing, and also, yikes! The Liquid Death Country Club appears to be a fan group that gives members perks for signing up. We can’t answer for the whole soul-selling part of it.

The skateboard is called the Hawk Blood Deck, for super-obvious reasons. Only 100 were made, priced at a blood-curdling $500, and they sold out early Wednesday morning shortly after going on sale. Some of the proceeds from the sale will go to 5 Gyres, a nonprofit aimed at reducing plastic pollution, as well as Hawk’s own organization, The Skatepark Project, which helps under privileged communities build skateparks.

That’s a hawk skull the executioner is holding, as in Tony Hawk.

The red-painted skateboard bears the slogan, “Murder Your Thirst,” with an image of the company’s “Thirst Executioner” character with a Liquid Death can for a head, holding a hawk skull. Hopefully, not Tony’s.

This isn’t the first celebrity-endorsed, blood-infused product of 2021, as weird a sentence as that is to read. Back in March, rapper Lil Nas X collaborated with streetwear company MSCHF on a quickly sold-out offering of what the company dubbed Satan Shoes. The devil-themed shoes each contain a drop of human blood, though drawn from MSCHF employees, not Lil Nas X.

But because the shoes were modified Nikes, Nike filed a trademark claim against MSCHF and the company agreed to voluntarily recall the shoes as part of a settlement. And the combination of the Satan theme and the blood triggered some. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem was among those who tweeted angrily against the Lil Nas X Satan shoes.

Some who saw the Tony Hawk skateboard wondered if he’d receive the same backlash as Lil Nas X did.

“So lil nas x can make custom sneakers with blood in them and there’s outrage, but tony hawk can make skateboards with HIS OWN blood in the paint and somehow it’s less of an issue???” wrote one Twitter user.

Fans of the band KISS will remember that back in 1977, band members also had their blood drawn and mixed with the red ink used to print a Marvel Comics KISS comic book.

US Open 2021: How to watch today’s Djokovic-Medvedev match without cable

You can watch Novak Djokovic try to cement his legacy when he plays Daniil Medvedev in the men’s final on Sunday, no cable subscription required.

The US Open Men’s Final is set to start at 1 p.m. PT (4 p.m. ET) on Sunday on ESPN.

When he plays Daniil Medvedev in the US Open Men’s Final today, Novak Djokovic will attempt to become the first men’s player since 1969 to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single calendar year.

Here’s everything you need to know to watch all the tennis live without a cable subscription.

The championship match will be broadcast live on ESPN. You can livestream the match on WatchESPN.com or via the ESPN app, but you will need to prove you have a TV subscription that includes ESPN. If you don’t have a cable or satellite TV subscription, you can use a live-TV streaming service to watch the matches live; all the services listed here offer ESPN.

Sling TV’s $35-a-month Orange package includes ESPN.

Read our Sling TV review.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes ESPN.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Hulu plus Live TV costs $65 a month and includes ESPN.

Read our Hulu plus Live TV review.

FuboTV costs $65 a month and includes ESPN.

Read our FuboTV review.

AT&T TV Now’s basic $70-a-month package includes ESPN.

Read our AT&T TV Now review.

All of the live TV streaming services above offer free trials, allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our massive streaming services guide.