The Week In Sports

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And I wait - I wait all week to say time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Tomorrow night, Game 7, Golden State versus Cleveland, dueling MVPs, Steph and LeBron. Why am I talking this way? The series that was supposed to be over quickly will go to the limit. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN the magazine joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. Love that sports voice of yours.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Howard Bryant.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: The Cleveland Cavaliers were down three games to one. They were down for the count. What happened?

BRYANT: They're down for the count. And any team in the - in NBA history who is down 3-1 - they were 0 and 32, and yet now we have a Game 7. This is remarkable. I think that obviously the suspension of Draymond Green for Game 5 and he and LeBron James going back and forth at it turned the tide. But also I think we finally are starting to see what Cleveland had been doing during the Eastern Conference Playoffs. We're finally starting to see - this is how they were supposed to play. And I think that one - I really like what former NBA player Stephen Jackson said, where he said that you're finally getting LeBron playing mad.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And Kyrie Irving has stepped on to the big stage and proven that he's a big-time player. This is one of the great things about sports. When you get to this championship moment, there's no substitute for nerves. I know we love our analytics. I know we love our data and everything else. But when you're out there on that stage, nerves take over, and then sometimes they don't. And when the nerves don't take over, you can become Michael Jordan or Larry Bird or one of these - Robert Ore - one of these great, great postseason players. There's no substitute for being into the moment, for not being afraid of the moment. And suddenly Cleveland looks like they belong.

SIMON: Yeah. I - look, I just have to have a separate question where I go - LeBron.

BRYANT: Yeah, absolutely. And 100 percent. And by the way, that wasn't a question. That was just...

SIMON: Oh, so - OK.

BRYANT: (Laughter) I mean, but - and that's what everybody's saying. You're just looking at LeBron James, and you're saying, OK, could he do anything else? And this is what it must have been like watching Wilt Chamberlain play back in the '60s - a guy whose talent was so great, who was so much more imposing and incredible. And they had a loss for words watching him play. And yet because he didn't win every year, because he didn't score every basket, because other teams won the championship, you looked at to him, and you felt like he was not reaching expectations, but the expectations are essentially impossible to reach because he's that good.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And when you're that good - and you see in Game 5 and Game 6, where you score 40 points back to back, which only had happened, I think, five times previously - you realize just the power that this guy has. And you realize the talent. You realize everything that he can do, whatever he wants in a basketball court. And then you say, well, how come we don't see that every single day? Well, maybe it's because he's human, and it's kind of hard to do that every single day.

But he's at supernova right now. I love the fact that he's playing against Steph Curry, two-time MVP. And these two - as we like to say in our sports metaphors and our cliches, these two men don't like each other. It's obvious that these two are in a real rivalry now. And the fact that there's a Game 7 after all of this - and I think Cleveland can win this. And let's not forget something else, Cleveland fans.

SIMON: Yeah, yeah. That's me. Yeah.

BRYANT: The city of Cleveland has not won a championship since 1964 in any sport. So to do this and to do it coming back 3-1 and to do it against the team that won 73 games and is trying to be recognized as the greatest team in history, it would be almost the equivalent or maybe even more impressive than the Red Sox coming back from 3-0 against the Yankees in 2004 and breaking the 86-year curse. This is really something. I cannot wait till tomorrow night.

SIMON: I - me, neither. I promised our producer I wouldn't sing "Cleveland Rocks" because I don't want to jinx the team. Quick question - let's move to baseball. Home runs aren't the game this year, are they?

BRYANT: No, home runs are not the game this year. Pitching is the game this year. And what's fascinating about this is that we all talk about the home runs and the offense, offense, offense. But look at what Clayton Kershaw with the Dodgers is doing. Look at what Jake Arrieta with the Cubs and Johnny Cueto with the Giants and Madison Bumgarner with the Giants and all of these pitchers - and Jose Fernandez, even, with the Marlins. You look at what these pitchers are doing. And then we're going back to this golden age. What are we - is it 1963 or 1968 all over again? And I still have to say with as great as all these pitchers are, Madison Bumgarner with the Giants is my guy. One game, give me Madison. Looking forward to October, even though it's June.

SIMON: Give me Jake.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: Howard Bryant of espn.com. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.