Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
As a child prodigy in Ontario, John Tavares heard the ubiquitous question tossed at all teen scoring machines rising from the Great White North: Will he be the next Wayne Gretzky? The answer, of course, was no, since no one will put up those kinds of numbers again—unless the NHL returns to the defense-optional posture that marked the Gretzky Era. But Long Island has witnessed the next best thing in Tavares, a rare combination of sniper-scorer and gifted passer who doesn't shy away from the heavy traffic. He may be the most electric athlete in New York, though you likely wouldn't have noticed, since he makes his home at the Nassau Coliseum. But come 2015, the Islanders will be moving to the Barclays Center, and New York City will finally get the hockey dynamo it deserves.
NYU students of the Lululemon aesthetic may dominate the St. Mark's flagship, but this branch of Greg Gumucio's egalitarian yoga empire attracts a more diverse crowd. Yoga to the People Brooklyn features a large, airy room with matte wood floors, hanging plants, and windows through which the spires of the Greek Orthodox church across the street are visible, resulting in a pleasant feeling that you are somewhere much farther away than Williamsburg. Most exciting of all—due to either the large classroom size or the discreet side entrance—students are often able to extend all four limbs without hitting one another, which, as any New York yogi will tell you, is positively luxurious. Locker rooms eliminate long bathroom and changing lines, and the showers are pristine. The studio is entirely community-supported, as are all in this chain, and offers YTTP's signature Power Vinyasa by donation, as well as Traditional Hot Yoga for a bargain $8.
Mets fans have gotten used to having their hearts broken, so when Matt Harvey strode onto the pitcher's mound at CitiField for the first time last year, they steeled themselves against him. He had the best start of any Mets pitcher and threw fastballs that broke 100 miles per hour, and still fans looked away when his face flickered across the Jumbotron, afraid of lingering too long on those deep green eyes. But the jig was up when ESPN's Body Issue with its Harvey pictorial came out: The man has a body that looks carved not out of stone but pure butter, like a glistening attraction at a Midwestern state fair. He started in the All-Star game at CitiField in July, so it was no surprise when, in August, he was banished to the disabled list with a torn ligament in his elbow. This is why Mets fans can't have nice things.
While the Nets often look more like a marketing experiment than a basketball team, the best player on a squad relentlessly promoted to appear "cool" and "hip" is a gangly, seven-foot-tall comic book nerd. Brook Lopez has the best offensive skill set of any center in the league, and the success of the Nets depends on their ability to work through him. In less elegant words: They need to give him the ball. The team's established all-stars will have to take a back seat to Lopez if the Nets hope to do more than sell hats and T-shirts. The goofy Stanford kid with the silky shooting stroke and nifty footwork has to realize the onus is now on him, no matter whose image is emblazoned on the giant banners hanging outside the Barclays Center.
If "Knicks player" were a quantifiable quality like height or speed, then J.R. Smith would be the most Knicks player. Last season's Sixth Man of the Year was equal parts exhilarating and baffling, providing instant offense, excitement, and questionable shot selection for a team that played fast and reckless. While other players may have been more instrumental in affecting the wins column—namely, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler (when healthy)—none delivered more thrills and "did you see that?!" moments than Smith. For better or worse, Smith is emblematic of the current Knicks. And for a franchise that's waking up from a depressing, decade-long slumber, having a player who can make you downright giddy is something special indeed.
Playing streetball in New York is a rite of passage. The uneven, potholed courts and unforgiving, bent rims often reward toughness as much as skill. But rites of passage suck, especially when you're just trying to shoot some hoops. William Sheridan Playground's basketball court, near the waterfront in Williamsburg, is probably the nicest public court in the city. The fact that it's bigger than a parking space puts it in rarefied air among other New York courts—it's more than large enough for 5-on-5 games. The hoops are even heights and the court is level, which means you don't have to scale a steep gradient every time your team gets a fast break. The asphalt itself is as smooth as a sheet of glass—no inexplicable crevices or mounds here. But don't take our word for it: Ask your ankles; it's their favorite court in the city, too.