Opening Lines June 27th 2018

By Brent Musburger  (VSiN managing editor ) 

Let's face it. A man-to-man wager can be just as much fun if not more so than buying a ticket from a Vegas bookmaker.

Take the World Cup. I have Cristiano Ronaldo, and my VSiN running mate Amal Shah has the field for the Golden Boot, which is given to the player who scores the most goals in the tournament. Harry Kane's hat trick for England against Panamá, including a gimme at the end of the match, pushed him into the lead with five. So I trail by one, since that is one better than both Ronaldo for Portugal and Romelu Lukaku for Belgium. I was rubbing my hands in anticipation of tying it up Monday, when Ronaldo was awarded a penalty against Iran. You can imagine my frustration when goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand correctly anticipated Ronaldo's move, diving to his left to make the save.

To make things even worse for my side, Iran tied it in added time. Portugal had to settle for a 1-1 final, which dropped it into a match with Uruguay, and hello, this is a team that hasn't given up a goal yet. If I had ignored my good friend and bet before the start of the World Cup with Jay Kornegay at the Westgate SuperBook, I could have gotten Ronaldo at 16-1 to win the Golden Boot. Lionel Messi of Argentina and Neymar of Brazil were 8-1 co-favorites. But if Amal and I had taken two or three players apiece, it's possible neither one of us would win. So we continue to enjoy our man-toman wager.

I didn't play soccer, I'm not any kind of an expert, and I think they're terrific athletes. But I also think that it's far more enjoyable to bet it if you're going to watch it. I was into that match between Portugal and Iran, and not just because of my bet with Amal. I had a single on Portugal to win and a single on them score two goals. I was looking good on all fronts until the world turned upside down with Ronaldo's miss.

Fortunately, the tournament has a long way to go. And there is still plenty of value betting the tournament champion. Right after I was licking my wounds from Portugal's tie, these were the odds to win the World Cup:

450 Brazil

450 Spain

650 Germany

800 Belgium

800 France

900 England

And let's not forget México, which could still be a strong play at 2800, not to mention Uruguay 2000 and Portugal 2500.

Off of what we've seen, the knockout stage is going to be tremendous starting Saturday with Uruguay-Portugal and the possibility that we could see Brazil-Germany early next week. The ratings have not been that good for Fox, but if you've got action, then you become a faithful viewer.

- - - - -

Eight years after he made “The Decision” to take his talents to Miami, LeBron James says this summer will be much calmer.

He says he won't be inviting big sales pitches from teams coming after him. If he really wants this to be a quiet process, he would just pick up his $35.6 million option before Friday's deadline and stay put with the Cavaliers.

If you look at the odds to win next year's NBA title, the Cavs are 12-1 in anticipation of LeBron not coming back. The Warriors are even-money favorites followed by Boston at 4-1, Houston 9-2 and the Lakers 8-1.

If LeBron really craves another championship, he needs to join his buddy Chris Paul and sign with Houston. There's nobody closer to conquering the Warriors for a championship than the Rockets. Houston pushed Golden State to a Game 7, and who knows what would have happened if Paul had not injured his hamstring? If you add LeBron to that mix, you have to make the Rockets the most serious challenger that the Warriors have faced since they lost the title to LeBron and the Cavs two years ago.

If, however, LeBron just wants to set up for his career after basketball, then look to Southern California. He wants to go into show business, and he could convince someone like Paul George to follow him to a place where Magic Johnson's presence could be a magnet to link LeBron to the Lakers' glorious past. Don't forget that one of the most important free-agent moves in recent years was in Denver, where John Elway convinced Peyton Manning to sign on, and they won a Super Bowl. This is as much about Magic Johnson as it is about anyone else.

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