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Baseball's Beginning, Basketball's Ending: The Week In Sports


And now it's time for sports.


KEITH: Baseball season has started, but many of the usual juggernauts are expected to underperform this year. As the regular season winds down, the NBA and the NBA perennial losers are the top-ranked team in the league. But can the Golden State Warriors stay golden through the playoffs? Howard Bryant doesn't have a crystal ball, but he'll sure try to answer anyway. He writes for espn.com and ESPN the magazine and joins us from the studios of the Radio Foundation in New York. Thank you for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Hi, Tamara. Good morning.

KEITH: So I think we have to start with this baseball game last night between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Seven hours, 19 innings. Wow.

BRYANT: Yeah, exactly. Well, the superpower is when the Yankees and Red Sox ruled the world. Those days are kind of over in the standings, but last night they did make some history. Six hours and 49 minutes, the longest home game ever in Yankee Stadium, and the second-longest game ever for the Yankees, which was seven hours back in 1962 at Detroit back at old Tiger Stadium. I don't know whether I'm happy that the fans made history or that they had to sit through it, but at the end of the day, the Red Sox did win in 19 innings, six to five.

KEITH: And I don't think there were very many fans left to see the final swings.

BRYANT: (Laughter). Well, the game got over at 2:30 in the morning, and there's a home game today. So - although writers and everybody in the cleanup crew - they're out there cleaning right now. There's a game in a few hours.

KEITH: And as you said, the Red Sox and the Yankees are not expected to be the big juggernauts this year.

BRYANT: No, I think the Red Sox are going to be a pretty good team. I don't know if they can pitch well enough to get all the way back to the World Series, which they won in 2013. The Yankees, on the other hand, are a big, big question mark. It's amazing for a team with a $220 million payroll that they are - they very well could end up in last place. But this is what happens after all those years of continuity with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte and all of those guys. That dynasty is gone and now there's a rebuilding that's taking place. And even Alex Rodriguez is not going to be able to save them.

KEITH: In basketball, the regular season is nearly over and the playoff picture is starting to come into focus. The Golden State Warriors have the best record in the NBA? Which...

BRYANT: Well, it's funny, when we talk about dynasties it's exactly right. The dynasties of baseball aren't the same, and in basketball we're not talking Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers and - anymore. Now we're talking the Golden State Warriors, a team that hasn't been to the finals since they won it in 1975. They've pretty much steamrolled the entire league. They've been fantastic. Steph Curry is the most exciting player in the league. He may win the MVP or he may lose it out to James Harden of the Rockets. But he is a lot of fun. And if you really like basketball, he's certainly the guy to watch.

On the other hand, they're in a very, very difficult conference. The Western Conference is loaded. And let's not forget about the defending champions, San Antonio Spurs. They won their tenth straight game last night. And it's going to be a very bitter pill for the Golden State Warriors and their fans to have to go through an entire season where they've been by far the best team and then not able to close the deal once the postseason starts.

KEITH: And do - I mean, obviously, you don't know what's going to happen, but the San Antonio Spurs, you just can't count them out in the playoffs.

BRYANT: No, you can't. And they're - they're also - they're the gold standard in terms of continuity now with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. And nobody likes to watch them ratings wise, but boy, they keep winning. And they are such a wonderful basketball team if you like the way the game is played. I always refer to the Spurs as basketball for grownups, the way they actually pass the ball and move and play like a team.

KEITH: And one last question, also related to basketball. A young woman named Lauren Hill died this week of an inoperable brain tumor. She was 19-years-old. What can you tell us about her?

BRYANT: Well, Lauren Hill was one of the most, if not the most inspirational sports stories of the last year. And after she was diagnosed with the brain tumor - coming out of high school, which is just such a tragedy, really brought people together. I feel like this is one of those examples where we - where sports actually does bring people together beyond the cliche and beyond the millionaires and all of that. This was a story where you had a young woman who clearly was told she had less than two years to live. The sports world revolved around - really rallied around her and the pain that she went through, and really tried to make her last several months inspirational and happy for her. I love the fact that people did say on social media, if you think about complaining today, think about her. And I think that really says it all.

KEITH: Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.