by Julian Spivey
Best Athlete: Stephen Curry
A couple of months ago I was fairly certain I was going to give Athlete of the Year to a horse – American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner in almost 40 years, which I’m sure would’ve caused some virtual eye rolling. Then NBA MVP and maybe the most liked athlete currently in the entire country Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) somehow got even better during the offseason. After a month and a half of the 2015-16 season Curry is averaging 32 points per game and his team started the season 24-0 before losing. He’s surpassed LeBron James, at least temporarily, as the best player in the game and seemingly can’t be stopped at the moment.
Honorable Mention: American Pharoah
Best Coach: Ned Yost
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost is berated quite frequently by baseball media and fans alike for his managerial style and decisions. Yet, Yost has led the Royals to back-to-back World Series appearances and the team’s first championship in 30 years. Yost’s Royals are an absolute pleasure to watch play – in 20 years of watching this game I’ve never found a team to be more entertaining or fascinating. The Royals play a perfect team game utilizing every single man on their 25-man roster (which they proved in the five game World Series in which all 25 members played) and make their gains with fundamental baseball of solid hitting, excellent base running and the best shutdown bullpen in baseball. Yost’s use of all of these things has been postseason excellence. By the way, this award wasn’t even close… Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is my honorable mention and Luke Walton’s interim coaching while Kerr’s been out with a back problem has shown NBA coaching might not be all that important.
Honorable Mention: Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors)
Best Team: Kansas City Royals
This is the hardest year-end sports award I have ever had to give out because both teams deserve it more than just about any team I’ve ever awarded the honor. The Kansas City Royals in Major League Baseball and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA both exemplify exactly how I feel sports should be played – as a complete team game where the entirety of the team shines more gloriously than any of its parts singularly. I’m giving the honor to the Royals because they reached the pinnacle of their sport in two consecutive years and came out on top the second time after heartbreaking defeat the year before. The Royals play a style of baseball I’ve never seen before – basically a version of small ball with a dominant, shutdown bullpen at the end of games. I’ve been a baseball fan my entire life and I’ve never had more fun watching a team than the Royals of the last two seasons.
Honorable Mention: Golden State Warriors
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Jordan Spieth
Anybody who followed the sport of golf knew before 2015 that Jordan Spieth was a good golfer who would compete to win many tournaments and quite possibly a major here or there – but I’m not sure people expected a surge like he had in 2015 where he proved himself as the sport’s next great golfer. Spieth came out on fire winning the first two majors of the golf season – the Masters and U.S. Open – and had some thinking a calendar Grand Slam (winning all four majors) was possible. Spieth wouldn’t go on to win either the British Open or PGA Championship, but he did have top four finishes at those capping off one of the greatest seasons in the history of the PGA Tour and giving the sport something to cheer on for many years to come.
Honorable Mention: Jake Arrieta (MLB – Chicago Cubs)
Best Game: World Series Game 5
It would seem impossible that a World Series that only went five games (meaning the losing team only won once) could become a classic one, but that’s exactly how the 2015 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets felt. Despite the Royals ultimately winning the series, both teams had a chance to win just about every game and when game five went to the ninth inning with Mets ace Matt Harvey pitching one of the all-time great World Series games and three outs away from forcing a game six the series really turned into an instant classic. The Royals had proven themselves to be the comeback kings all postseason long, being behind or even on the brink of elimination for most of October. Harvey was pretty much unhittable in game five, but the Royals somehow managed to scratch out two runs (with the game tying run coming in as my “Best Play of 2015” below) in typical Royals fashion. The game would go into the 12th inning when the Royals stunned the Mets bullpen for five runs and their first World Series title since 1985.
Honorable Mention: Belmont Stakes (American Pharoah wins Triple Crown)
Best Moment: Jeff Gordon’s final win
This is admittedly the most biased choice I’m going to make all year as a life-long Jeff Gordon fan, but the NASCAR legend truly went out on top at the greatest racetrack of his career Martinsville Speedway winning his 93rd and final career race in early November, which clinched a spot for him in the championship race (which Kyle Busch won). It was the feel-good sports moment of the year and watching him celebrate like a young gun who’d never done it before was enough to put a smile on even the most stringent of Jeff Gordon haters’ faces.
Honorable Mention: American Pharoah winning first Triple Crown since 1978
Best Play: Eric Hosmer taking home on infield out to tie World Series Game 5
The best play in sports in 2015 turned out to be the most important one, the riskiest one and had it gone the other way might have been one of the dumbest plays of the year. New York Mets ace Matt Harvey couldn’t be touched in game five of the World Series. Mets manager Terry Collins infamously (but really it was the right decision) left Harvey in for the shutout in the ninth inning. The Kansas City Royals in their typical scrappy fashion made the Mets life hell in that inning. This culminated with Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer on third base with one out. Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit a grounder to Mets third baseman David Wright for an easy second out, but then Hosmer broke for home for either the tying run or the game ending third out, which would’ve forced a game six and given the Mets real life in the series. Hosmer had bet on Mets first baseman Lucas Duda being incapable of making a perfect throw and when the throw sailed over the catcher’s head and Hosmer scored he was proven right. The Royals would go on to beat the Mets in 12 innings in the game to clinch the title.
Honorable Mention: Malcolm Butler clinches Super Bowl for New England Patriots with goal line interception
Best Upset: Holly Holm over Ronda Rousey
There were a couple of mesmerizing upsets in the world of sports that nobody seemingly saw coming and I’d like to award them as A & B, but if I’m only choosing one I’m going with Holly Holm thoroughly obliterating Ronda Rousey in their title bout in November. Rousey had never lost a UFC fight and had never really even come close. She was the most dominant fighter – male or female – in the sport. And yet from the start of their bout together Holm came out looking like the better fighter and eventually knocked Rousey unconscious early on in the second round. It wasn’t just the biggest upset of the year, but really put an end to the whole Rousey is unbeatable mystique. Holm over Rousey is my choice, but Roberta Vinci ending Serena Williams’ shot at a calendar tennis Grand Slam at the U.S. Open was right there with it.
Honorable Mention: Roberta Vinci upsets Serena Williams at U.S. Open
Most Overrated Sporting Event: Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao
If you surveyed 100 people on what was the most overrated sporting event of 2015 I’m almost 100 percent certain every single one of them would say the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao title fight. It was a fight that some, now laughably, deemed “Fight of the Century.” In reality it wasn’t even the best fight of the year. Basically what happened was Mayweather danced around the ring, like he always does, for the majority of the fight, landed a few punches and then won the event when it went to the judges. Mayweather/Pacquiao was supposed to save boxing. Instead it hammered home the final nail in its coffin.
Honorable Mention: National League Championship Series: New York Mets embarrass Chicago Cubs
Most Overplayed Moment: Deflate-gate
I’d be highly shocked if the answer to this year-end question was any different if you asked 100 people. The NFL “Deflate-gate” scandal involving the New England Patriots deflating footballs in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts was the biggest story made out of a non-story potentially in the history of sports. It was a nine-month long saga that quickly made everybody roll their eyes in annoyance. The NFL-led witch-hunt culminated in a four game suspension for living legend and Patriots QB Tom Brady before a judge using some common sense overturned it. The whole incident thoroughly embarrassed the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Floyd Mayweather’s Perfect Career Record
by Eric Fulton
Best Team: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors won 67 games last year. Lose their coach Steve Kerr to an injury. Started with their undefeated run. They are the best team in sports, by far, and it is not even close.
Honorable Mention: Kansas City Royals
Best Athlete: Stephen Curry
Reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry has surpassed LeBron James, at least temporarily, as the game’s best player. Leading the Golden State Warriors to the top of the NBA and it looks like they will stay there for a while.
Honorable Mention: Jordan Spieth
Best Coach: Ned Yost
Ned Yost led the Kansas City Royals to their first World Series championship in three decades. He really did a great job getting the best of his players and proved how great of a manager he was the last two years.
Honorable Mention: Steve Kerr
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth won two of golf’s four majors (Masters and U.S. Open). Almost won the calendar grand slam in golf. He’s far and away the best golfer and seems to have longevity if he can stay healthy and continue to play well.
Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson
Best Game: World Series Game 1
Game one of the 2015 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets was one of the longest games in World Series History. The game set the tone for the series. The Mets seemed to have the upper-hand early, but the Royals proved to be tougher than the previous year.
Honorable Mention: Super Bowl 49
Best Play: Francis Owusu’s no look touchdown catch
Stanford receiver Francis Owusu made a great play on a ball he could not see against UCLA during the college football season. It is a play that you can’t do over and over again.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Rizzo’s foul ball catch
Best Upset: Roberta Vinci over Serena Williams at the U.S. Open
Serena Williams was going for the calendar grand slam, but she was upset by little known Italian Roberta Vinci in the semifinals.
Honorable Mention: Holly Holm defeating Ronda Rousey
Best Moment: American Pharaoh winning the Triple Crown
For sports fans born after 1978, this was one of the top things to watch on our bucket list. The moment he won the race, all of us knew we witnessed history. Now the question is how long before we see another horse win the Triple Crown?
Honorable Mention: Jeff Gordon’s final race
Most Overrated Sporting Event: Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacqiuao
This was supposed to be a fight for the ages. Some people said it may have saved boxing. It turned out to be a complete joke and may have killed boxing forever.
Honorable Mention: Women's World Cup
Most Overplayed Moment: “Deflate-gate”
This was a story that seemed to grab the attention at perhaps the wrong time. In the end, it never cost the Patriots a championship and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ended up not having to serve any type of punishment.
Honorable Mention: LeBron James being a one man show vs. Warriors in the NBA Finals
by Julian Spivey
Serena Williams was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year on Monday, Dec. 14 and the entire Internet seemed to burst open in controversy at the announcement.
The majority of the Internet seemed to be in the middle of the Williams vs. American Pharoah fight – with fans of the Triple Crown winning horse irritated that the first Triple Crown winner in almost 40 years was beaten and Serena Williams fans fighting back with the quickly annoying “a horse isn’t a person and therefore can’t win.”
The whole feud quickly got on my nerves for many reasons, which I will bring up right here.
Before I get into the argument I will admit that Serena Williams would not have been my choice (I’ll get to my choice a little later on), but I do believe is a good choice. I can argue that she’s not the right choice while still accepting this. Williams won three of the four tennis grand slam tournaments in a sport she absolutely dominates and has for more than a decade.
American Pharoah would not have been my choice for the SI honor either, but I would’ve chosen the horse over Williams.
Let’s start with the “a horse isn’t a person” theory, because that seemed to be at the middle of the controversy. The reason why this theory quickly became annoying and irritating is that we all realize American Pharoah is a horse. But, a lot of us realize that he was also a valid option for the award and was in the running among nominees for the magazine’s honor. Because of this he was eligible for Sportsperson of the Year despite being a horse. And for those of you saying American Pharoah isn’t a person … the magazine reserves the right to change the name of the honor and actually did this year. Prior to this year the Sportsperson of the Year was either Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year depending on the sex of the athlete. American Pharoah could’ve qualified for Sportsman of the Year. And those of you saying he isn’t a person and thus isn’t eligible are using the easiest defense you possibly could to deflect getting into the actual meat of the debate between two solid choices.
By the way, while every year a human has won the award it hasn’t always been an athlete or a singular person. Three previous times the honor went to an entire team, four times the honor has gone to a coach and once the honor went to a league commissioner. Also, it should be noted that the honor isn’t always considered as Best Athlete of the Year, but rather given to the individual that “most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.”
Why do I think American Pharoah was more qualified for the honor than Serena Williams?
A Triple Crown winner had not been crowned in almost 40 years and not only that but American Pharoah also became the first horse in the illustrious history of horse racing to ever win the “Grand Slam” by winning the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. American Pharoah might be a once in a lifetime horse. Serena Williams may be the best female tennis player ever, but she was really no more dominant this year than in many years over the course of her career. In fact, the reason many are using for Serena Williams winning the honor this year was on the back of her three Grand Slam titles, which is something she also did 13 years ago in 2002. Williams was typical Williams in 2015. Maybe she’s held to a higher standard, but I believe that’s fair.
The most irritating part of the feud was the fact that those people who believe American Pharoah was a better choice than Serena Williams were hit with the claim of being sexist, especially by online magazine Salon in an article by Mary Elizabeth Williams (whose opinions I have enjoyed and agreed with in the past) and really the part of the article that implies sexism is the title (and frequently editors choose those and not the writers; something many outside of journalism fail to realize).
There are valid reasons for believing American Pharoah deserves the honor over Serena Williams, as I stated above, and the claims of sexism are merely an overreach by a liberal magazine taking their liberalness too far (note that I do enjoy much of Salon and I am liberal).
But, you want actual sexism? Look no farther than Serena Williams’ cover for the Sportsperson of the Year honor. Sports Illustrated is a sports magazine, except for that one issue of the year when they feature women in skimpy bathing suits (also sexist), and is honoring Williams for her athleticism and yet the cover photo of her is as a Beyonce-ish sex symbol in a legless one-piece outfit and not a photo of her playing tennis. Last year when San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner won the award he was photographed in his uniform, the same with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning the year before. If anybody is being sexist here it’s Sports Illustrated, which continues its poor history of showing female athletes as objects.
The last thing that irritated me about the Sportsperson of the Year was the response I got on social media when I shared who my choice would have been – NBA MVP, champion and superstar Stephen Curry. The Golden State Warriors sharp-shooter has put together one of the greatest years in the history of the NBA and truly has revolutionized the game with his three-point style of play that has the Warriors of the last two seasons as one of the all-time great teams already. Curry has also become maybe the most likable athlete in the entire country, which a NBA player likely hasn’t been since Michael Jordan retired (and unlike MJ absolutely nobody seems to dislike Curry).
The response I got from multiple people when I said I would’ve chosen Curry was that an athlete in a team sport should not receive the honor when an individual sport athlete had a year at least as good. I don’t believe an athlete should be punished for playing a team sport, which make up the bulk of popular sports in this country. It just doesn’t make sense how having teammates could hurt an athlete’s chances at Sportsperson of the Year. If anything shining brightly on a team, especially a great team, should help an athlete’s chances. Sports Illustrated also doesn’t believe this to be the case, because a team sport athlete has won the honor 28 times (almost half of the honorees), including the three previous honorees.
So here’s where I stand: Serena Williams is a good choice for Sportsperson of the Year. American Pharoah would’ve been a better choice. Stephen Curry would’ve been the best choice. And, most people making a fuss about the entire thing are doing so without using solid reasoning and frankly some common sense.
by Eric Fulton
On Monday (Dec 7), three finalists for the 2015 Heisman Trophy were announced for the top individual award in college football. Here are the finalists and my ranking of how the ballots should have been cast.
3. DeShaun Watson (QB-Clemson)
DeShaun Watson is the key figure in Clemson going undefeated and participating in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff. He has completed about 70 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,512 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
2. Christian McCaffrey (RB-Stanford)
Christian McCaffrey has been the main offense threat for this year’s Pac-12 Champion Stanford. He had 461 all-purpose yards against USC Saturday night and broke Barry Sanders’ record for most all-purpose yards in a season. It was a record that has stood for nearly three decades. McCaffrey has 3,496 yards with the next closest player being over 1000 yards behind him.
1. Derrick Henry (RB-Alabama)
Derrick Henry was clutch for the Crimson Tide in November and December. He rushed 38 times for 210 yards and three scores against LSU on November 7th and then backed that performance up with outstanding games against in state rival Auburn and Florida. In those games, Henry rushed an average of over five yards a carry totaling 460 yards. He has scored 22 touchdowns this year and just missed becoming the first running back in the history of the Southeastern (SEC) Conference to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. (He finished with 1,986 yards rushing).
A quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy in the last five consecutive years (Cam Newton-2010, Robert Griffin III-2011, Johnny Manziel-2012, Jameis Winston-2013, and Marcus Mariota-2014).
McCaffrey and Henry will be looking to become the first running back to win the Heisman since Mark Ingram of Alabama won it in 2009.
The winner will be announced Saturday night and you can catch it live on ESPN.
Who do you think should win the Heisman?
by Eric Fulton
With the College Football Playoffs Final Four officially being unveiled later today, I thought it would be nice to take a crack at who deserves to make the big show. There are a lot of teams with good cases, but these are the four I think the committee will go with …
4. Michigan State
The Spartans are a team that seems not to get respect in most of the country, but they just keep winning. They defeated an Iowa team in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday night that entered undefeated but untested throughout much of the season. Meanwhile, Michigan State has huge wins over rivals Michigan and Ohio State on the road. They are battle tested and they have proven that they can play and beat the best teams in the country.
After their shocking defeat at the hands of a bad University of Texas team in the Red River Rivalry Game, Bob Stoops’ Sooners have been unstoppable. They have not lost a game since the failure in Dallas and winning against three really good opponents has really boosted their chance to make the final four. The Big XII got shut out of last year’s final four. But with the Sooners handily winning on the field this year, it looks like there will be a representative in this year’s playoff.
Most of us thought after last year when the Crimson Tide lost to Ole Miss, the dynasty was over. Same thing this year. Well, most of us have been proven wrong again. Alabama is still Alabama. Seems like they are even better after a loss. Derrick Henry has been playing huge since the LSU game on November 7th and has become the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and should be a major force in these playoffs.
The Tigers are having the greatest season in their history. They seem to have a big chip on their shoulder. After being ranked first, being undefeated and winning their conference tournament on Saturday night against North Carolina they are the undisputed team in the playoff. Deshawn Watson has played great all year long. Plus big wins over Florida State and Notre Dame are a major boost to why they deserve to be number one in the nation.
There are two teams who can possibly steal the show if the committee chooses to throw some controversy into the mix: Ohio State and Stanford.
by Preston Tolliver
“It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
The line was first written by Neil Young for his song, “Hey Hey, My My,” and would later be the defining line in Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, paving way for broody teenagers the world over to use it to define their, well, broodiness. The line hasn’t been particularly relevant since April of 1994 when Cobain shot himself, but it’s one that’s come to mind when watching the two greatest basketball players of their generation – Kobe Bryant, the enigmatic godchild of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Tim Duncan, the drab and oft-boring “Big Fundamental” of the San Antonio Spurs – enter into the twilight of their careers. Since they were drafted – Kobe in 1996, and Duncan in ’97 – the two have become masters of their respective positions on the court. Kobe would, upon Michael Jordan’s retirement in 2003, lay claim to the title of the NBA’s best active two-guard; Duncan, on the other hand, has risen to argumentatively the greatest power forward of all time. But, as Father Time is wont to do, it’s given Duncan and Kobe two ways of exiting the hardwood: to burn out, or to fade away, and, just like their careers over the last 20 years, their swan songs couldn’t be any different.
Everyone likes to make the LeBron James comparison, but what Kobe Bryant has been is the closest thing we’ve seen to Michael Jordan if Michael Jordan were human – driven almost psychopathically to win and win with the ball in his hands, almost at any cost, yet undeniably flawed. In his career, Kobe’s had no shortage of huge moments – his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors, willing the Lakers into overtime and then over the Phoenix Suns in 2006, and of course, his five rings, the most recent of which came in 2010 when he and Pau Gasol sought revenge against the Boston Celtics in a rematch of the 2008 Finals. And like Jordan kept the likes of Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton from the hall of champions, Kobe would close those doors to other chip-worthy players as Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady.
Here's what Kobe and Michael look side-by-side, courtesy of basketball-reference.com (as of Thursday, Dec. 3):
Jordan: 15 years in the NBA; six championships; 14 all-star appearances; five regular-season MVP's; six Finals MVP's; 1,072 games played; 41,011 minutes played; .497 field goal percentage; 32,292 points (fourth all-time); 5,633 assists; 6,672 rebounds; 2,514 steals; and 893 blocks.
Bryant: 20 years in the NBA; five championships; 17 all-star appearances; one regular-season MVP; two Finals MVP's; 1,295 games played; 47,245 minutes played; .450 field goal percentage; 32,734 points (third all-time); 6,171 assists; 6,860 rebounds; 1,897 steals; and 628 blocks.
But while Kobe has always played with the same chip on his shoulder that led Mike to his six rings, his playing style was oftentimes haphazardly selfish, and although until the last three seasons he possessed the ability to will the Lakers to the win on his own, he didn’t always take the best course of action. Where Michael controlled his drive to win, Kobe was consumed by it. Sure, Michael’s last seasons were uneventful, but Kobe’s final act has proven nothing short of depressing (his 31-point game against the Washington Wizards Wednesday night notwithstanding), and the memories we’ve made of him dominating on the court are quickly being replaced by the sad image of a legend trying and failing to claw his way back into basketball lore, each air ball and clank off the edge of the backboard chipping away, bit by bit, at the legacy he’s built.
Meanwhile, while Duncan’s stats have incrementally lowered over the years, he’s accepted each newfound role under Gregg Popovich as he’s looked to shoulder less of the workload and instead rely more on the team’s other parts. Duncan is like Bill Russell in that way, and Kobe the rival Wilt. Where both Wilt and Kobe have always been about leading on paper, Russell and Duncan have always looked to lead on the court.
Now, anyone with the Internet knows that Kobe has announced this year will be his last on the NBA court, and no one would be surprised to see Tim Duncan step away at the end of this season. The two are virtually their equal in terms of career statistics – they both played close to an equal number of minutes, and while Kobe leads Duncan heavily in points and assists, Duncan smashes Kobe on the boards and in swats (as would be expected in a comparison between a guard and a forward/center).
Here's a look at Duncan's stats, again, courtesy of basketball-reference.com on Dec. 3:
19 years in the NBA; five championships; 15 all-star appearances; two regular-season MVP's; three Finals MVP's; 1,349 games played; 46,324 minutes played; .506 field goal percentage; 26,156 points; 4,114 assists; 14,807 rebounds (seventh all-time); 993 steals; and 2,971 blocks (fifth-all time).
Another important stat: Kobe’s Lakers have faced Duncan’s Spurs five times in the postseason. Of those, the Spurs took three, most recently in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs, a series which Bryant was forced to sit out due to injury. So if we’re looking at Tim vs. Kobe, as far as the postseason goes, the two are 2-2.
Now, let's take a look at how their numbers compare about a quarter of the way through the 2015-16 season (keep in mind that while Kobe was drafted a year before Duncan, Duncan is still two years the elder at 39 years old):
Bryant: 15 games played; 471 minutes played; .311 field goal percentage (84 of 270 shots); 252 points; 49 assists; 60 rebounds; 15 steals; and one block.
Duncan: 18 games played; 492 minutes played; .529 field goal percentage (73 of 138 shots; 182 points; 52 assists; 163 rebounds; 15 steals; and 29 blocks.
Duncan peaked in the 2002-03 season, averaging 23.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.9 blocks a game. This season, as 13 years on the court are wont to do, his numbers are much lower, averaging 10.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. What separates Duncan’s decline from Kobe’s, however, is the acceptance of fading into the background. While Duncan’s scoring less, he’s also shooting less, taking an average of 7.7 shots per game, compared to 17.2 in the 2002-03 season. Kobe, however, is averaging 16.8 points per game this season, in addition to 3.3 assists, 4 rebounds and .1 blocks per game. The points look impressive until you look at how many shots he’s throwing up to get those numbers up – on average, he’s shooting 18 field goals per game, and is only connecting on 5.6 of those.
The point is, if Duncan has aged like a fine wine, Kobe has fizzled like a soda left out on the counter. Tim Duncan is fading way, slowing his game until he’s ready to walk through the doors of the AT&T Center the last time, while Kobe is burning out, punching the gas in an old, worn out engine.
No one can argue that Kobe Bryant has been nothing but legendary, argumentatively a top 10 player of all time, and top 15 at worst. But like we learned in Aesop’s Fables, slow and steady wins the race. Kobe was always the hare, pushing too hard and expecting too much at the apex of his run, culminating in a standstill just short of the finish line; inversely, Duncan has kept himself a pivotal piece of the Spurs’ puzzle, contributing not where he’ll get the most notoriety, but where his team needs him, and it’s with that reluctance toward any spotlight that he has slowly trudged ahead of Kobe, who, mired by injury, rested in the grass the last two years. Now, Kobe has woken up just in time to see the greatest player of their generation cross the finish line ahead of him.