As someone who grew up in Buffalo, I know all too well the feelings that flowed through the veins of the fans gathered inside Vancouver’s Rogers Arena Wednesday night, as those fans watched the Boston Bruins raise Lord Stanley’s Cup on their home ice.
I grew up with those feelings.
After losing a second Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Finals, the Canucks, and the city of Vancouver, can officially join Buffalo and Cleveland in a miserable place for fandom: sports purgatory. Continue reading
No one entered this year’s NBA Finals with more on the line than Dirk Nowitzki.
Everyone expects LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to win at least one, if not several championships together in Miami. Jason Kidd had already remarkably led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back Finals in 2002-03, and now, with his Hall of Fame resume intact, was just a member of Nowitzki’s deep supporting cast, along with Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry.
But for Nowitzki, these Finals were everything. A chance to redeem himself from the 2006 Finals, when he and the Mavericks let a late lead in Game 3 – and a 2-0 series lead – slip away and lose the series in six games. He then lost in the first round three of the last four years, including the dramatic upset of the top-seeded Mavericks by Baron Davis and the Golden State Warriors in 2007.
Now, after a brilliant performance through the first three rounds of this year’s playoffs, Nowitzki found himself in a position to forever alter his legacy – something that, after the Mavericks’ recent playoff failures, something that seemed like an impossibility just a couple of months ago.
Of course, Nowitzki managed to do just that, playing brilliantly again throughout the series and leading the Mavericks to their first-ever championship, and one of the bigger upsets in Finals history. So now, with the Finals over – and, unfortunately, with a lockout looming that could wipe out much, if not all, of next season – it’s the perfect time to assess just where Dirk ranks among the greatest players in the history of the league: Continue reading
After Ian Mahinmi, of all people, hit a jumper to end the third quarter that all five Miami Heat players on the court were begging him to take, the Dallas Mavericks took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, putting them 12 minutes away from ending the most fascinating NBA season of my lifetime.
But even then, with just 12 minutes separating the Heat from an inglorious ending to what was supposed to be the season that kick-started a dynasty, you expected them to make a run. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat are more capable of scoring quickly than any team in the league, as they proved repeatedly by taking over the end of games repeatedly to beat the Celtics and Bulls on their way to the Finals.
But as the fourth quarter began to wind down, as Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki began making shot after shot, as the Mavericks kept finding a way to get a hand on loose balls, even if only to tip them out to one of their teammates on the perimeter, you slowly began to realize what was happening: the Miami Heat, in the biggest game of their season – and for most of the players involved, easily the biggest game of their entire lives – were quitting before our very eyes. Continue reading
After all of the drama and buildup to the Summer of 2010, to “The Decision” and the Miami Heat’s subsequent pre-championship celebration, there was no other way this season could end. There was no way that this team, this galaxy of stars, couldn’t find a way to matter from those beginning days last July right through to the final seconds of this 2010-11 season, one that is shaping up to be one of the greatest in NBA history.
But no one – and I mean no one – could ever have hoped, or even dreamed, that the final chapters of this story would play out quite like this.
I was covering the first round of the MLB draft Monday night, which kept me from watching Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I was disappointed, because there are few things in sports better than playoff hockey, but planned to keep track of what was happening in the game on Twitter.
Then I saw this tweet from the National Post’s terrific sports columnist, Bruce Arthur: ”Nathan Horton looks like he got hit by Mike Tyson, in his prime. Eyes flickering. Christ.”
After that, I wasn’t so upset that I’d missed Monday’s game, which saw Horton, a forward for the Boston Bruins, get knocked out cold on a vicious cheap shot in the middle of the ice by Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome.
It’s the same old story with hockey, the same tired back-and-forth that seems to play out once a week now. One player takes a cheap shot on another, hits him in the head and gives him a concussion. Then a debate ensues about whether or not the hit was legal, whether or not it was a cheap shot, whether or not it was right.
But none of that addresses the true problem with the sport moving forward: now that concussions aren’t a dirty little secret anymore, the game either needs to change, or risk becoming irrelevant. Continue reading