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Basketball And Hockey Playoffs Are In Full Swing


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: The NBA Finals are underway. The Golden State Warriors did a job on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first game. But hey, there are four, five, six, seven games to come maybe. We're joined now by ESPN's Howard Bryant.

Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thank you. Warriors, Cavs, Warriors, Cavs, blah, blah, blah same championship...

BRYANT: Warriors, Cavs.

SIMON: Warriors, Cavs to you my friend - these two teams have been utterly dominant for a couple of years now. What do you make of the kvetching we hear from some commentators that dominant teams are bad for basketball?

BRYANT: I think people like to complain. And I think that people don't really have a great grasp of NBA history. I think, one, if you remember how fantastic the playoffs were last season...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...When you had the Oklahoma City Thunder up 3 games to 1 and Golden State came back and won that series. And then Golden State was up 3 games to 1 and then Cleveland came back and won that series. Everybody at the end of that series, at the end of Game 7, said let's do it again, and let's just start these two teams playing right now.

And so then both teams did what they were supposed to do, and we get here. And now people are saying, oh, this is boring. It makes no sense. I don't know, Scott. I watch sports all the time. I think I'd like to see the two best teams play for a championship. I don't think it's that controversial.

And also, I think, when you watch the NBA - anybody who's ever watched the NBA throughout its history, it's always been dominated by a few teams. The Celtics and the Lakers have combined for 33 championships, and the league's only been around since 1946.

SIMON: Let's not forget the Bulls. Listen...

BRYANT: (Laughter) Oh, you mean, the Bulls that have won with Michael Jordan and dominated the entire decade of the '90s?


BRYANT: Absolutely.

SIMON: Those are guys I mean.

BRYANT: Those guys.

SIMON: And I think it makes a championship mean more.

BRYANT: Well, absolutely, it does. And I think - and I don't like diluted leagues. I don't like forced parity through salary caps and these other things. Build an organization, give me the best teams, let me watch them win. That's all I care about.

SIMON: LeBron James had to contend with something off the court this week. Somebody spray-painted a racial slur across the entrance to his Los Angeles home. Here's what he had to say.


LEBRON JAMES: No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. And we've got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.

SIMON: I'm so impressed by how compelling and outspoken LeBron James is. What do you make of his response?

BRYANT: Well, I thought it was pretty unremarkable, to be honest. I thought that everything that he said - as much as he's getting all kinds of accolades for it - it's basic. And I think I was very obviously impressed with LeBron.

Me, personally, I don't like when we have to - when these players go through this - when Adam Jones went through what he went through in Boston - and we end up asking the black guy what he felt about what happened to him. I would much, much, much rather have interviews with people from his neighborhood where this happened.

Why are we asking him as if he did it to himself? I would be - I'm much more interested in hearing from his neighbors and his residents that - in that Brentwood neighborhood because I think it defines them far more than it defines him. He didn't do anything.

SIMON: We have half a minute left for the Stanley Cup (laughter) playoffs...

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...The Penguins are up over the Predators two games, nothing. Great country stars have been singing the national anthem in Nashville, but do they have a chance?

BRYANT: And as usual, Scott, you are slighting the Nashville Predators just because they swept your Chicago Blackhawks in the first round...

SIMON: Oh, I forgot that.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Oh, yes, yes. I think it's going to be still a great series. You've got two games at home for Nashville. It's not over, but once again, these are the defending champion Penguins, and they are the signature team. It's going to be a tough climb for the Predators.

SIMON: Yeah. Howard Bryant of ESPN and ESPN the Magazine. Thanks so much for being with us, Howard.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF PELL MELL'S "EVERYTHING MUST GO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.