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9th April 2021

Sport’s Rising Stars

Following Jude Bellingham putting in a special performance far beyond his years against Manchester City in the quarter finals of the Champions League, we take a look at some sport’s rising stars, starting with the man himself.

Jude Bellingham

When talking about Jude Bellingham, it’s easy to forget that he is just 17 years of age. Born in Stourbridge, not too far from Nifty HQ, the young lad has taken the footballing world by storm. To say the game has come naturally to him would be an understatement. During his academy and scholarship years he always played in higher age groups, turning out for Birmingham City’s under 18s at just 12 years old. To many, including BCFC fans like myself, much of the skill he is showing now was to be expected. Having said that, I think even the most die-hard blues fans can admit that even we couldn’t foresee just how easy he would make it all look.

Last year he became the third-youngest player to ever represent England and just last week he played a full 90 minutes against arguably the best midfielder in the world, Kevin De Bruyne, and he more than held his own, being labelled by many pundits as one of the best players on the pitch. He would have also been on the scoresheet were it not for some questionable officiating.

Although having been known in the football world for some time, it felt as if that game at the Etihad was the moment he really announced himself to the world, and the world stood up and took note. Who knows what Jude could become – the sky really is the limit. One thing’s for sure, more records will be broken, more accolades will be won, and I’ve got a sneaky feeling there will be an England captain’s armband along the way.

LaMelo Ball

Ball by name, ball by nature. During his debut season in the NBA, 19-year-old LaMelo averaged a very impressive 15.9 points per game, backed up by 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds. These are very respectable numbers anyway, but they become incredible when you take in to account the fact he plays for the Charlotte Hornets, a team who have never won the NBA Championships.

Labelled by some as the future of the NBA, LaMelo’s playing style is adored by fans all over the world. He plays entertaining basketball, while showing immaculate court sense and maturity far beyond what his age would suggest.

Proof of this came in January when he became the youngest ever player to get a triple-double, in a performance which sent shockwaves through the sport and got the seal of approval from his boss, and the greatest ever, Michael Jordan.

MJ, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, uttered an opinion which I’m sure was echoed on Basketball courts all over America – “he has exceeded expectations”, and if the GOAT says it, it must be true!

We haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to LaMelo Ball’s potential and we anticipate him to be a key figure in basketball for years to come, and there will probably be a few championship rings thrown in to the mix.

Coco Gauff

Bursting on to the scene might be a phrase that gets thrown around too much these days but when we’re talking about Coco Gauff, it seems they’re the only words that will do her justice.

During the summer of 2019, one of tennis’ most famous names, Venus Williams, was drawn against little known 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the first round of Wimbledon, in a game that would go down in the history books. Most people had Williams down for a routine win, but what happened next, was anything but.

Coco dismissed the seven-time Grand Slam winner in straight sets and stunned the sporting world. This performance was just the tip of the iceberg as she went on to reach the fourth round of tennis’ biggest tournament before being beaten by a ruthless Simona Halep.

Although she was now out of the tournament, this felt much more like the beginning than it did the end, and the whole of the sporting world knew it had witnessed something spectacular and that a new superstar had been unearthed.

Coco is yet to pick up a title, but we know it’s more of a case of ‘when’ than ‘if’ and we, like many others, tip her to achieve great things in the very near future.

Devin Haney

Aged just 22 and already boasting an unblemished record of 24-0, with 15 KOs, Devin Haney is destined for greatness.

He became one of boxing’s youngest ever titleholders at the age of 20 and his meteoric rise has been down to his vast variety of punches and his incredible movement around the ring, making him a nightmare to actually land a punch on. Oh, and he’s also recently been trained by Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, who himself bosses an unfathomable boxing record – 50 and 0 to be precise.

In November last year he showed his true class when he defended his WBC lightweight title with a dominant win over Yurirokis Gamboa. The judges’ score cards portrayed how one-sided the fight was, and this was the moment when Haney had easily brushed aside another opponent, while barely breaking a sweat.

Haney’s next fight will surely be his hardest yet by some distance, as he takes on former three-weight world champion Jorge Linares. However, we expect him to handle his business and get the W. Then who’s to say he can’t unify a division which many boxing purists have down as the toughest in the sport? We certainly wouldn’t bet against him.