On May 14th, 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, thus providing each state the decision and opportunity to legalize sports betting. This decision has revolutionized the sports gambling world, propelling the betting industry into an incredibly lucrative market space. As the rate of sports gambling continues to increase exponentially in the United States, the industry’s future remains bright. But what will the lasting impact of the wide legalization of sports betting be?

Aiming to profit from the newly legal industry, 25 states and Washington D.C. have chosen to legalize sports betting and 80% of the other states are expected to do the same in the next few years. Since then, over $20 billion in bets have been placed (ESPN). In 2020, U.S. sports betting generated one billion dollars in revenue, and that number is expected to grow sixfold by 2023 (Forbes). If betting is legalized by all 50 states, the estimated revenue would exceed $19 billion a year. 

Many companies and organizations are attempting to capitalize on this rapidly expanding industry. This includes major sports leagues in the U.S. such as the MLB, NBA, and NFL. These leagues have come to understand how strong and dedicated the sports betting demographic can be and they have chosen to support that fanbase. Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s senior vice president and head of fantasy and gaming, explains the matter.

“We want to meet the fans wherever they are and so, if [betting is] how they’re choosing to engage, we want to support that,” Kaufman-Ross said. “We’ve seen the data that shows people who play fantasy sports, people who bet on sports, they are some of our most engaged fans. They consume more content than traditional fans – they watch more games and for longer periods of time.”

Partnerships between leagues, teams, and betting platforms have also exploded in popularity in recent years. The MLB’s Chicago Cubs just inked a $100 million deal with DraftKings and the NBA has secured deals with Genius Sports Group (GSG) and Sportradar. Many other organizations are following in their footsteps, with the hopes of benefitting the leagues, teams, fans, and other companies.

“The wealth of data around US sports is impressive and the customers’ appetite is massive,” Kaufman-Ross said. “That translates in fantasy-type games being hugely popular but also, from a sports betting perspective, it’s showing a higher propensity of data-driven player propositions. The leagues have made a big step towards providing real-time data to licensed league operators and that is the basis of a partnership that can be successful for both leagues and operators while delivering a better experience for the fans and customers.”

In this past Super Bowl, over 23 million Americans reported plans to bet a total of $4.3 billion (Forbes). 7.6 million of those bets were placed online, up 63% from the previous year. Due to technology’s constant accessibility, online gambling is becoming the most popular medium. An increase in gambling addictions has come with this change.

After reviewing over 140 studies and reports related to sports gambling and addiction, the National Council on Problem Gaming (NCPG) offered a statement. “Recent research suggests that gambling problems may increase as sports gambling grows explosively at the same time that mobile and online technologies evolve to create seemingly unlimited types of wagering opportunities.” Additionally, the NCPG found that sports bettors have at least two times higher rates of addiction than other gamblers, and these rates of addiction increase in an online format. This is because online gambling provides increased convenience and privacy. 

Online sports betting has also made it easier for minors to get addicted to gambling. Many minors are able to illegally create accounts and begin betting from a young age. A recent study found that 75% more students are gambling now than in 2015, but many people are now working to counteract this growing movement. Moving forward, organizations such as the NCPG are working to research the dangers of gambling addictions and educate the public. Additionally, they are aiming to prohibit TV advertisements for sports betting and to enact stricter laws/regulations surrounding the topic. If the industry is able to reduce the amount of underage gambling as well as addiction, then the future will remain increasingly bright and astronomically lucrative. Sports betting truly is sweeping its way through the nation.

Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer are the five most popular sports in the United States. These sports have maintained control over American audiences for decades, however, a new global sensation is taking over. Esports is quickly and efficiently cementing their position as the future of the sports industry, redefining society’s perception of what an athlete is, while simultaneously revolutionizing the world of sports.

Esports is a form of competition using video games and often takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams. The most popular Esports games include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO), League of Legends, Dota 2, Call of Duty, and Fortnite. Additionally, Esports has grown increasingly popular in sports simulation games such as Madden, NBA 2k, and Fifa. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has created the NBA 2K League in which each professional franchise has a subsidiary 2K team, competing for cash prizes and representing their NBA counterparts. Interestingly enough, BSBA’s own President Collin Flintoft grew up with and remains friends with Dayne Downey, also known as OneWildWalnut, who was the 6th overall pick in the 2018 inaugural 2K draft as well as the 2018 NBA 2K MVP.

In recent years, all of these Esports has exploded in popularity, breaking records year after year. Dubbed one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, Esports has grown from an estimated audience of 263 million viewers in 2016 to an estimated audience of 557 million in 2021 (Newzoo’s 2021 Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report). It is also estimated that the sport will reach an astronomically high viewership of 920 million people by the year 2024, in comparison to Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Football League’s (NFL) downward trending numbers (Juniper Research). With this increase in viewership, there also comes a considerable increase in revenue. Esports in 2021 is expecting a 14.5% increase in revenue, rising from $947.1 million in 2020 to $1.1 billion, while the industry as a whole is expected to be valued at $3.5 billion by the year 2025 (Newzoo’s 2021 Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report). Esports’ tremendous popularity in many Asian and South American countries is a huge contributor to this increase, however, America is quickly starting to play a bigger role. A large percentage of this revenue comes from in-person tournament ticket and merchandise sales, both of which have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. That being said, Esport’s online format has proven to be very beneficial during this year-long hiatus from in-person events, allowing for the industry to continue to thrive, while so many others have struggled. 

The steady viewership that Esports has encountered is in part due to the company Twitch.tv. Twitch is the undisputed leader in video game streaming platforms, featuring casual users streaming video game content from home as well as major Esports tournaments, vlogging, and music-themed streams. According to Twitch, the platform has reached 2 million monthly broadcasters and 15 million active daily users. Incredibly, Twitch has also accumulated over 443 billion minutes watched thus far in 2021, which is a 38.7% increase from last year. Twitch allows for competitive players and streamers to earn income through subscriptions and tips, in addition to the millions of dollars of cash prizes competitors can receive through tournaments. Ninja, one of the most popular video game streamers, is estimated to earn over $650,000 per month in subscriptions alone, not including his winnings and sponsorships. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Esports industry is full of money.

While viewership and revenue are certainly increasing, active participants are as well. According to the National Association of Collegiate Esports, over 170 U.S. colleges now have varsity Esport programs. Additionally, these programs are offering over $16 million in scholarships, demonstrating how lucrative this industry is becoming. At this point, collegiate Esports tournaments have attracted over 1350 schools and 40,000 players, however, both of these numbers are expected to soar. 

Another large contributor to the rise of Esports is it’s demographic. The vast majority of Esports fans are in their teens and twenties, however, the average age is trending downwards. As younger children are getting increased access to technology sooner and sooner, ages 5-12 are becoming a larger share of the market. This is also because of video games’ established popularity amongst children, as, according to the Entertainment Software Association, more than 90% of kids play video games, and 97% of boys aged 12-17 play video games. Additionally, Esports is able to capitalize on the demographic of people whose genetics impact their ability to play and succeed in a more physical sport. Esports has quickly taken over the sports industry, are expanding demographics and revenue and it doesn’t seem as if anything will be able to stop them. 

“Juzang in the paint, floater. It’s short, got it back, and ties it with three seconds to go. Gonzaga has time to do something. Suggs for the win. Ohhhhh unbelievable.” This is the final sequence of UCLA’s heartbreaking defeat to Gonzaga in the April 3rd, 2021 NCAA Tournament Final Four and the commentary heard by 15 million people nationwide by TBS announcer Brain. This historic game marked the end of UCLA’s further historic Cinderella run and while it didn’t end how the Bruin community would have hoped, there is a lot to be proud of and so much to be excited about moving forward. Bruin nation, keep your heads high. 

While UCLA stumbled through the final few games of the Pac-12 regular season, it left many basketball analysts with tempered expectations for the university’s tournament run. Heading into the tournament’s First Four play in-game as underdogs, UCLA was ready to make a statement versus Michigan State in a battle of the 11 seeds. Facing an 11 point deficit at halftime, UCLA showcased their heart and determination when they staged a comeback behind Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s 27 points and Johnny Juzang’s 21 points. The final few minutes of this game had every Bruin fan on the edge of their seats, if not standing, as the two teams dueled it out with back and forth baskets. UCLA was able to take control of this game in overtime and secure the 86-80 win, however, Johnny Juzang’s status for the next game was left up in the air after an apparent ankle injury. Luckily, the injury would prove to be insignificant, as Juzang and the Bruin’s success continued into the round of 64.

Just two days later, the Mick Cronin lead Bruins laced up their hightops for a matchup versus the 6th seeded Brigham Young University (BYU) team. This game showed us a different side of the UCLA basketball program as they dominated from start to finish en route to a 73-62 victory. The Bruins were up early due to some efficient shooting and they maintained this lead through most of the game. The three J’s, Jaime Jaquez, Jules Bernard, and Johnny Juzang, combined for 56 of UCLA’s 73 points, Juzang being responsible for 27 of them. Another strong performance out of an underdog, under-respected UCLA team. However, after this game, the basketball community began to take notice. 

Due to a surprising Texas upset in the round of 64, UCLA got a favorable round of 32 matchups versus the 14th seeded Abilene Christian University (ACU). The Bruins routed ACU by a score of 67-47 as they controlled the game the entire afternoon. Juzang, once again, had a game-high 17 points, Jaime Jaquez Jr. chipped in 12 points and Cody Riley was able to contribute 12 points as well as 12 rebounds. This was a great team victory for the Bruins, they played phenomenal defense, and showed the basketball world that they should be viewed as true threats in the Sweet 16.

Once again an underdog, UCLA came out hot in the first half versus number 2 seeded Alabama. The half came to an end on a 15-4 Bruin scoring run, resulting in a 40-29 halftime score. Alabama must have gotten fired up in the locker room, as they came out to start the second half on an 11-0 scoring run, tying the game at 40-40 in under 5 minutes. The rest of the regulation was a captivating back and forth battle between two strong basketball teams, but 40 minutes wasn’t enough to settle this contest as Alabama hit a game-tying 3-pointer as time expired. In overtime, the Bruins never looked back, outscoring the Crimson Tide 23-13 to win the game 88-78. The Bruins had six players score in double digits and had once again shocked the basketball community. Westwood anxiously awaited their Elite 8 matchup. 

UCLA was now set to battle number 1 seeded, fellow Jordan brand school, Michigan University in the Elite 8. Once again, the majority of the basketball community expected Michigan to win this game, and Bruin fans were certainly concerned after the first few minutes. UCLA fell behind 13-6 in the opening minutes and looked stagnant offensively. However, Johnny Juzang’s hand heated up once again as he carried UCLA with 28 points and secured the 51-49 victory. In the closing seconds, UCLA narrowly survived two three-point, game-winning attempts by Michigan on their way to making history as the second team ever to make the Final Four after playing in the First Four. This monumental victory prompted celebratory parades throughout the streets of Westwood. But one thing was on the Bruins’ minds: number 1 seeded Gonzaga. 

UCLA versus Gonzaga will never be forgotten. This was one of the best college basketball games in recent history, featuring the undefeated Gonzaga team led by Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme as well as the hottest team in the tournament, Johnny Juzang’s UCLA. The Bruins offense shot lights out and was able to control most of the first half, however, the Gonzaga Bulldogs secured a 1 point lead for a 45-44 halftime score. In the second half, Gonzaga started to separate from UCLA as their lead stretched. But the Bruins demonstrated their continuous determination as they battled back and tied the game with only a few minutes remaining. After a questionable charge call on Johnny Juzang, UCLA was headed to yet another overtime game. In overtime, Juzang was able to tie the game at 90 apiece, when Suggs hit the most memorable and improbable shot of the tournament, sending UCLA home, Gonzaga to the national championship, and preserving Gonzaga’s historic undefeated season.

Looking back on this Cinderella run, UCLA outperformed everybody’s expectations. They restored the UCLA basketball program to its rightful place, proved Mick Cronin’s coaching abilities, and put the whole world on notice of the future of Bruin basketball. Johnny Juzang was on the All-Tournament First Team and exponentially increased his draft stock. His status remains up in the air, but the UCLA community is hopeful he will return to run it back next season. With every other starting player set to return, Chris Smith’s return from injury and final year of eligibility as well as a strong recruiting class, UCLA is on a path towards NCAA domination. This current Bruin team has been ranked second in ESPN’s Way Too Early 2021-2022 rankings whereas last season they went unranked. Two five-star recruits in the next two years, Peyton Watson and Amari Bailey will certainly contribute to this reinvigorated basketball program and this year’s tournament success, as well as the Jordan brand deal, will certainly help the recruitment process as well. At this point, all of UCLA already has its eyes on next season. And all of UCLA has one goal: to bring the National Championship trophy back to Pauley Pavillion where it belongs. 

Recently, after Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were crowned champions of Super Bowl LV, Brady’s claim of being the single Greatest of All Time (GOAT) of the National Football League (NFL) has significantly strengthened. Additionally, ever since the popularization of The Last Dance, a docu-series featuring Michael Jordan’s prolific basketball career, Jordan has been frequently considered to be the true GOAT of the National Basketball Association (NBA) over LeBron James. Arguably two of the greatest athletes in history, Brady and Jordan are sports icons. However, there are two more names and one more question that must be investigated. Is Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo the GOAT of soccer?

While both Messi and Ronaldo each have hundreds of records to their names and have transcended the world of soccer, there can only be one GOAT. Ronaldo is a Portuguese winger and forwards that has played for Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and now Juventus. He is a 6’2” aerial threat famous for scoring header goals, is one of the fastest sprinters in global soccer, boasts quick feet and technical skills in one on one situations, and is famous for his powerful shot, also known as a “Ronaldo Rocket.” Since his professional debut, Ronaldo has accumulated mass fame and has filled his trophy cabinet to the brim. 

Ronaldo has won 5 Champions League titles, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 3 Club World Cups, 2 La Liga titles, 3 Premier League titles, 2 Serie A titles, 1 FA Cup, and one European Championship. Ronaldo is one of the most decorated soccer players of all time at the club level but is also ripe with recognition on the individual level. He is a 5 time Ballon D’Or winner, 1 time FIFA World Player of the Year, 7-time Champions League Top Scorer, and 3 time La Liga Top Scorer. Additionally, Ronaldo has maintained quite the impressive goal to game ratio throughout his career, measuring in at a staggering 0.73. 

Ronaldo is clearly a physical specimen with elite dribbling and shooting skills. He is a proven winner as he has helped every team he has played win a title. And his name will forever be seen and remembered throughout the record books amongst soccer legends: Pele, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, and Johan Cruyff. But the question remains. Is he better than Lionel Messi, the mini magician?

Messi is an Argentinian winger and center forward that has played for FC Barcelona his entire career. He is a 5’7” defenders’ nightmare, famous for his composed shooting placement in front of goal, unrivaled technique and control of the ball, keen vision, and passing, as well as arguably the quickest feet and best dribbling the soccer world has ever seen. In his lasting tenure with FC Barcelona, Messi has filled the record books and effectively made quite the claim for the coveted throne as the GOAT of soccer.

“[Messi] is a 5’7” defenders’ nightmare, famous for his composed shooting placement in front of goal, unrivaled technique and control of the ball, keen vision, and passing, as well as arguably the quickest feet and best dribbling the soccer world has ever seen.

Messi has won 4 Champions League titles, 3 UEFA World Cups, 3 Club World Cups, 8 Spanish Super Cups, 1 Olympic Games, and, arguably most impressively, 10 La Liga titles. Additionally, Messi has won 6 Ballon d’Or, the most of all time, 6 European Golden Shoes, 1 FIFA World Player of the Year, 6 Champions League Top Scorers, and 7 La Liga Top Scorers along with a myriad of other accolades. Throughout this span, Messi has also boasted a 0.81 goal to game ratio and could go assist or goalless in his next 166 matches and still have a higher goal/assist average than Ronaldo. 

Both players are undeniably accomplished and legends to this game. While fans are always pitting these two against each other, it is also important to recognize and appreciate how special these two stars really are. That being said, there is one true GOAT and his name is Lionel Messi. The main argument for Ronaldo being the GOAT is his international success in comparison to Messi’s. However, what separates Messi apart from Ronaldo is his mentality and leadership abilities. Ronaldo tends to be known as a more selfish player, the star of the team, and the man that demands the ball. On the other hand, Messi makes his whole team better. He certainly demands his fair share of the ball, but his willingness and skill to pass and assist the ball to elevate his game above Ronaldo’s. Additionally, Messi’s historic loyalty to Barcelona and incredible sportsmanship and teamwork help solidify him as the all-around GOAT of soccer. Both men have unbelievable technical skills and shine in different ways, but Messi is the all-around better scorer, assister, dribbler, and defender, thus cementing his position as the GOAT.

If the stats aren’t enough to prove this, take it from some of the top-level soccer players that competed against the two of them throughout their careers. Famous FC Barcelona defender Carles Puyol once said, “He’s well above anything else I’ve ever seen. He’s an alien.” Another soccer legend, Pele, once said, “I like both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but I don’t think there is a fair comparison here. Messi has been the best player around for the last 10 years and he is a guy who is much more present in the game overall.” And countless other big names in the soccer world have described him as the Mozart of soccer, a divine spirit, and even that he is not from this Earth. All of these greats recognize how special Ronaldo is, but also understand how Messi is the greatest soccer player of all time, as nobody has done what Messi has done to the sport. 

Both have changed soccer forever and cemented their names in the record books as the top two players of all time. With hundreds of accolades between the two of them, their names will truly never be forgotten.

These two men have reigned over global and European soccer for the majority of the past two decades. Both have changed soccer forever and cemented their names in the record books as the top two players of all time. With hundreds of accolades between the two of them, their names will truly never be forgotten. As their careers slowly start to wind down, the soccer community must appreciate every moment these athletes have given us and each one they have left to give. Because when Messi and Ronaldo retire, it will truly be the end of an era and the future soccer stars will have to live in the GOAT’s shadows for years to come.