Providence College Investigates
Who Will Win NBA MVP?
Will Murphy ’23
As the NBA playoffs continue to ramp up, the announcement of awards such as MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year loom. The three finalists for the MVP award have already been announced: Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Out of the three, one player stands out for his tremendous impact on both ends of the court. While all three players are offensive superstars, Antetokounmpo is on another level on defense, as he is perennially under consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Antetokounmpo has saved the Bucks countless points with his athleticism as he’s able to cover more ground than anyone else due to his almost seven-foot stature, allowing him to erase any opponent’s scoring opportunities in the blink of an eye. His rim protection is also elite; averaging over one block per game, he effortlessly rises to meet opponents at the rim and turns them away with ease.
His defensive impact is strengthened by his consistent anticipation of where the ball is heading next, allowing him to rack up steals which often lead to highlight reel break-away dunks. Antetokounmpo’s defensive contributions cannot be overstated, and his team reaps the benefits, boasting the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Antetokounmpo also uses his unique combination of strength, size, and athleticism to wreak havoc on the boards. Few players in the league can out-rebound him, and the ability to close out possessions on defense and create extra possessions on offense is invaluable to the Bucks.
Oftentimes, opposing teams will be forced to double-team immediately when Antetokounmpo catches the ball, which helps him create easy looks for his teammates, whether it be finding cutters streaking towards the rim or shooters spotting up on the three-point line. Antetokounmpo averages almost six assists per game, which is particularly impressive considering his position.
Although Giannis’s facilitating and rebounding are equally impressive facets of his game, his ability to put points on the board may be his most valuable trait. Whenever Milwaukee is in dire need of a bucket, they know exactly who to turn to; Antetokounmpo, and more often than not, he delivers. Antetokounmpo averaged a hair under 30 points per game this year, 29.9, which was good for second in the league.
Overall, Antetokounmpo’s multifaceted impact on the game cannot be denied, nor can his indispensable value to the Bucks, making him deserving of the 2022 NBA MVP.
Patrick Walsh ’24
With the NBA regular season coming to an end, only a few players are in the most valuable player conversation. One of the most dominant players in today’s game is Serbian native Nikola Jokić.
Jokić, on paper, is a center or power forward because of his enormous size and strength. However, as the leader of this team, he has learned to play every position and dominate anywhere he is asked to play. Another star player for the Nuggets, Jamal Murray, went down with a torn ACL in April 2021. This put even more pressure on The Joker to lead his team to the postseason in hopes of a championship. Jokić is respected throughout the entire NBA because he is one of the few players who can take complete control of a game and consistently score play after play. He is most effective inside the paint because of his reachability and aggressiveness to get to the free-throw line or finish a possession with a bucket, but he can also hit shots from beyond the arch, which is why he is a dual-threat two-way player.
Jokić is going for his second straight MVP, but his resume is even more impressive than last season. Jokić averaged 27.1 points per game, 13.8 rebounds per game, and 7.9 assists this season. He has also produced a league-leading 19 triple-doubles to put him at 73 for his career and seventh most all time. Nikola Jokić has tough competition with Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, hungry for hardware. They have similar play styles to Jokić and are the best players on their respective teams. Antetokounmpo hopes to accept his third MVP award, while Embiid is looking for his first. This three-horse is as close as it gets. However, Jokić is the clear answer to get it done because he is the most consistent player out of the three and has put his franchise on the map as a postseason team that does not go quietly. He has completely transformed a franchise that struggled to win games, and he has picked up his game in the areas he is least consistent in. He now averages more steals and three-point shots per game, and he is shooting inside the three-point line at 63 percent, a career-best.
The Nuggets were recently eliminated from the playoffs by the red-hot, sharpshooting Golden State Warriors. The series went just five games, but Jokić was on his game and was able to give his team a chance by averaging about 31 points per game. As hard as it is to win MVP once, being able to continue to dominate and win the year after is something special, and Jokić is more than deserving of this award.
Who Will Win the NBA Playoffs?
Providence College Investigates
Justin Bishop ‘24
The Boston Celtics have set themselves up to be the next champions of the NBA Playoffs.
The Celtics are in their first season with their new management and front office after Brad Stevens took over as General Manager and Danny Ainge, the former GM, decided to retire after 18 years at the position.
Brad Stevens’ first move as General Manager was to fill his previous role of Head Coach and he did so with Ime Udoka. Udoka is a former player that bounced around five teams over seven years, but found his calling as a coach. He started coaching as an assistant in San Antonio under the legendary coach Greg Popovich, where he then climbed his way to the top and landed the Celtics head coaching job this past offseason.
The team started the first half of the season very slowly going 20-21, but something clicked amongst the players as they finished the season with a record of 51-31.
The Celtics made history by having the best end of season record by any team in history that was below .500 percent winning at the halfway mark. This simply means they finished the second half of the season better than any other team that was below .500 percent at game 41 of the season, in history. This proves that the Celtics can turn it on at any point down the line. They created a system where they know what works and clearly have the talent to pull off a championship run.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown need no explanation for what they bring to the table, because they both bring everything, offense and defense, they are franchise caliber players that are 24 and 25 respectively.
Two other names to keep an eye out for this series are Marcus Smart and Al Horford. Smart is a Defensive Player of the Year finalist and will most likely win it this year after being snubbed last year. Al Horford is back on the Celtics, after spending the last year with Conference rival the Philadelphia 76ers, he is a reliable big man who can play Center or Power Forward and give you 10 or more points and rebounds a night with ease.
The Celtics will face off against the Brooklyn Nets, who knocked Boston out of the playoffs last year in the first round. Notable players on the Nets are ex-Celtic Kyrie Irving and superstar/former MVP Kevin Durant.
Celtics fans will let Irving hear it in the two games in Boston and it will be interesting to see what happens, but the Celtics will win in four games and move on to face most likely the Milwaukee Bucks and then match up against the Miami Heat and then play either the Memphis Grizzlies or Phoenix Suns for the NBA Championship.
Patrick Walsh ’24
This year the Phoenix Suns will be crowned champions of the NBA.
This year’s season has been the definition of a revenge season for the Suns. They have not skipped a beat and have dominated the NBA all season, posting an NBA-best 64-18 record. That record is tied with the 1973 Boston Celtics for the sixth spot in the NBA’s best all-time records. This team is one of the most complete teams in the league because of their depth: they are stacked top to bottom.
Leading the way is three-time All-Star, Devin Booker, who averages just over 26 points per game. The veteran point guard, Chris Paul, is the backbone of this team who averages a double-double nearly every game, and center Deandre Ayton, a former number one overall pick in 2018, is a dynamic presence down low.
The Suns are made up of hardworking, strategic players who find ways to win, no matter the opponent. Some of the young players that have played major roles in the Sun’s success are Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, and Mikal Bridges. These players have stepped up to start several games because of injuries and have been able to eat up minutes and perform well so that the stars of the team are less pressured.
Some of the leaders of this team, Paul, Jae Crowder, and Booker, speak very highly of their teammates and have shown the chemistry they have created as a team all season. Having good leaders on and off the court makes a big impact on your team, providing examples for newer players as far as what is expected on and off the court.
The Suns are also backed up with an incredible fan base that loves packing Footprint Arena on game day. The players feed off the energy from the crowd and are very thankful for the Phoenix faithful. “This crowd is crazy,” point guard Chris Paul said. “It’s crazy to have all the fans in there. The energy it’s nothing like it. I told the guys this is why we fought so hard in the regular season to get home-court advantage, and I think we truly have that with our fan base.”
Last season, the Suns came just short to the Milwaukee Bucks in a series that was very entertaining. For Suns fans, it was devastating. For NBA fans around the world, it was bittersweet because one of the league’s best players of this decade, Giannis Antetokounmpo, was able to bring home his first championship. However, Chris Paul, a legend of the game, was left with nothing to show for an unbelievable playoff run.
Paul and the Suns are determined to finish what they started last season and they understand there are no other suitable goals except celebrating a trophy and raising a banner in Phoenix.
Who Will Win 2021/22 NBA MVP?
Providence College Investigates
Will Murphy ‘23
Ja Morant has begun this season with the Memphis Grizzlies scorching hot. Morant appears poised to lead the Grizzlies on a playoff run, thanks to the considerable improvements that have been evident in all aspects of his game. The three-point shot, once a hole in Morant’s game, has developed into an asset. He now makes almost two three-pointers per game on five attempts, shooting around 35 percent. Morant is even more dangerous off the bounce because defenders must respect his jumper. One crucial characteristic of an MVP is their ability to improve the play of their teammates, an area in which Morant excels. He consistently blows by his primary defender and forces the defense to collapse on him in the paint, and his vision allows him to kick the ball out to wide-open shooters at the three-point line. Morant is top ten in assists in the league, something that has been invaluable for a Grizzlies squad with many capable shooters who are comfortable spotting up and awaiting a dime from Morant.
Morant is also fearless when attacking the rim, willing to climb the ladder against rim protectors even when he’s often almost an entire foot shorter. This willingness to slash to the basket leads to countless momentum-swinging dunks that often end up as highlights on SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays. His scoring has also seen an impressive jump from 19 points per game last year to almost 27 this year, which is good for fifth in the league. What’s more is that he has been able to boost his scoring volume rather efficiently, shooting just a shade under 49 percent from the field, which is extremely impressive for a lead guard tasked with being his team’s primary shot creator.
Morant is also one of the best rebounding guards in the league, bringing down six per game. A point guard’s ability to grab rebounds is an asset for a team, allowing them to push the ball up the court quickly before the defense gets set without needing an outlet pass from a center to a guard. MVPs are not only difference-makers on offense, but impactful defenders. At point guard, he guards the opponent’s elite playmakers. His elite lateral quickness allows him to stay in front of even the shiftiest guards. He also has a knack for timing steals perfectly, in the league’s top 15 in steals per game at just under two. Morant will likely be the best player on the court each game this year, but even in games when he’s not, he will be the most valuable to his team, which is why Morant will take home the 2021-2022 MVP award.
Leo Hainline ’22
Right now, there is no better basketball player in the world than Stephen Curry. The Warriors star has led his team to a league-best 11-2 record without fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson and the team’s raw but talented center James Wiseman. No signs suggest that Curry will slow down this season and he has established himself as the rightful favorite to win the NBA’s 2021-2022 MVP award.
Curry is second in the league in points-per-game average at 28.1, trailing only Kevin Durant, who is providing 6.7 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.2 made 3’s a contest. These statistics are on pace to surpass his 2014-2015 MVP campaign numbers and are similar to his 2015-2016 statistics, a season in which he led the Warriors to a record-breaking 73-9 regular season record while recording 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.4 rebounds a game. Despite posting similar individual numbers last season, Curry finished third in MVP voting behind winner Nikola Jokic and runner-up Joel Embiid. The main factor preventing Curry from winning his third MVP this past season was the Warriors 39-33 record and failure to make the playoffs. Judging from the first month of the season, this year is a different story for Golden State.
The Warriors have a legitimate chance to grab for the one-seed in the competitive Western Conference, an achievement that would undoubtedly reward Curry with this third MVP trophy. What would make this feat even more remarkable is the fact that without Curry, the Warriors would probably be a sub-50 team. There is no single player who contributes more to his team’s success.
What further helps Curry’s case is that he has already broken NBA records this season. At only 33 years old, he has broken Ray Allen’s record for most three-pointers made in the history of the NBA. Do not be surprised if Curry continues to set and break records this season, adding to his resume and making him the clear choice for NBA MVP. Furthermore, Curry is the type of player who people enjoy watching and adds to the game of basketball. His shooting and general offensive skill is objectively fun to watch, and Curry is one of the most likable athletes in the world. This will only help his case for winning the prestigious award.
Curry’s play this season has been literally the most valuable out of any player in the league. Continued production out of the Warriors’ point guard will seal his position as the award’s frontrunner, and he will walk away from the 2021-2022 season with his third, and likely not final, MVP trophy.
Providence College Investigates: NBA
Should the NBA Logo Be Changed?
Will Murphy ’23
Yes, There’s A Better Choice
The NBA’s logo is one of the most, if not the most, recognizable logos in the world of professional sports.
The NBA has kept the same logo for upwards of 50 years since it was originally established. The logo famously consists of a silhouette of Jerry West, an NBA All-Star guard for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.
Although the NBA has never publicly acknowledged that West is the logo, it is common knowledge that it is West who is represented in the iconic silhouette. One would think that being the logo of the sport they played professionally is one of the highest honors that could be bestowed upon them.
West has publicly stated that, although he is honored to be depicted in the logo, it also embarrasses him to some extent.
In recent years, West has even gone as far as to advocate for the NBA to change the logo.
The game today is almost unrecognizable from the game that was played in the 1960s; there was not even a three-point line yet when the logo was instituted back in 1969. The NBA deserves a logo that evolves with the game and that can more accurately represent the spirit of today’s game.
Since West’s retirement in 1974, there have been countless players who have made a profound impact on the NBA, providing a wealth of options to choose from. Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and LeBron James are just a few of the players who have left a remarkable impact on the NBA.
One player, however, may be even better suited to become the new face of the NBA: Kobe Bryant.
Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for the duration of his 20-year career in the NBA. Throughout his career he racked up countless individual accolades, including 18 All-Star appearances, one Most Valuable Player award, and two years spent atop the league’s scoring leaderboard.
In addition to his individual accomplishments, he also led one of the most successful dynasties the league has ever seen to five NBA championships. Bryant has had one of the most storied NBA careers in the history of the league.
Bryant embodied the loyalty of a true star, remaining with the Lakers for his entire playing career. In every aspect of the game, Bryant’s hardworking nature was evident, which allowed him to gain the respect of opponents and become a fan favorite around the league.
Unfortunately, Bryant died in a tragic helicopter accident on Jan. 26, 2020. What better way to honor Bryant than to reward all the work he put into the league by memorializing his trademark fadeaway as the new NBA logo?
Joseph Quirk ’23
No, Keep It the Same
There is no good reason, be it social or economic, that the NBA should change their logo.
The narrative that the NBA should consider this change really began to pick up steam in the past year since the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
Prior to Kobe’s death, the discourse around altering the logo was not present, or at least it was not nearly as prominent as it is now.
I agree that Kobe should be immortalized; his behavior on and off the court as well as his impact on the sport will be forever remembered by fans and the league; however, changing a logo is a big deal for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the NBA logo has been a symbol of the league for a number of decades. The NBA as we know it today is still relatively young and the game never really exploded in popularity until the 1980s.
Jerry West is the figure on the league’s current logo. He has been one of the best guards in league history, one of the best talent evaluators in league history, and the face of the Los Angeles Lakers organization before the “Showtime” Lakers of the 80’s.
Needless to say, he is an iconic NBA player and an integral part of league history. The man nicknamed “The Logo” has represented the league for years.
The current logo is everywhere: on NBA video games, apparel, hats—that is to say, if you own or watch something NBA-based, you recognize it as the NBA.
If you change that, not only do you outdate all of those broadcasts and merchandise, but you have to pay to replace it all. You also confuse everyone who has for years associated that specific image with the league. The fans may not easily recognize the new logo. Those are just a couple of good reasons that the logo shouldn’t be changed.
All in all, there is no justifiable reason for the NBA to change its logo.
There is no controversy around it, and it hasn’t become outdated or the cause of outrage. The logo, an established visual of the league, doesn’t have to be changed.
The NFL hasn’t changed theirs in the last couple decades. Neither has the MLB or NHL, and all of those leagues, you could argue, have worse logos than the NBA.
Why change a piece of the league’s history, a change that may not help the expansion of the league to fans and could cost the league extensively financially for absolutely no good reason?
No, the league should certainly not change their logo.
PCI: Picking the NBA All-Star Game Starters
The Eastern Conference
By Cam Smith ’21
While the status of the actual NBA All-Star Game hangs in the balance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the selection process must still go on. Five starters are chosen from each conference: two guards and three frontcourt players. From the East, the guards should be Bradley Beal and Jaylen Brown. Meanwhile, the frontcourt should feature Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant.
Even though Beal is the only player on this list who currently does not reside on a playoff team, his selection should be without question. Beal currently leads the NBA in scoring with a stunning 33.3 points per game. In his first 17 games, Beal scored at least 25 points in each one, passing Michael Jordan to set a new NBA record.
Brown, on the other hand, may be a more controversial selection, as some might prefer to choose either of the Brooklyn Nets star guards, Kyrie Irving or James Harden. While either would be a fair pick, Brown’s sensational season for the Boston Celtics is hard to ignore. The high-flying guard is currently averaging 26.4 points, an over six-point increase from last year. He has also mastered the mid-range shot, averaging an impressive 56.8 percent on mid-range jumpers.
Moving to the frontcourt, one must select Embiid. The dominant center is putting up MVP numbers, averaging 29.1 points and 10.8 rebounds to start the season. He has also propelled the Philadelphia 76ers to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Right behind the 76ers is the Milwaukee Bucks, led by the astounding Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is putting up his usual impressive numbers, averaging 27.3 points and 11.2 rebounds. Although it took a little while for Antetokounmpo to adjust to the Bucks’ new offense, he has found his stride in recent weeks. A recent showing against the Indiana Pacers saw him notch his third triple-double on the season in the Bucks’ 20-point victory.
Finally, the last spot in the East’s starting lineup should go to Durant. Although Durant’s numbers are tremendous as usual, this was a difficult selection to make considering the season that Celtics’ star Jayson Tatum is having. In the end, it comes down to the numbers, as Durant holds about a two-point advantage in the points column while averaging about an assist more per game. Much should also be said about Durant’s remarkable return, as the star has picked up right where he left off despite missing all of last season due to a torn Achilles.
In a pandemic-ridden season, all five of the selected players have stood out as incredible performers. Beyond their potential selections to the All-Star team, each will continue to jockey with one another in a riveting battle for victory in the East.
By Cam Smith ’21
Over in the West, the selections are a little easier thanks to some remarkable numbers being put up by the Conference’s best. Indeed, in the West, the guards should be Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. The towering trio in the frontcourt should be none other than Nikola Jokic, Lebron James, and Kawhi Leonard.
Curry came into the season trying to navigate a new-look Golden State Warriors roster that was thrown into turmoil after his superstar backcourt mate Klay Thompson tore his Achilles shortly before the start of the season. While the pieces around him have often struggled, Curry has thrown the team on his back. The prolific scorer has done what he does best: score. Curry is currently averaging 29.5 points per game, due in part to his impressive numbers from behind the three-point and free-throw lines. He also leads the league in total points with 709.
Curry’s proposed backcourt partner in the West, Lillard, has faced eerily similar circumstances. He, too, is currently operating without his star shooting guard, CJ McCollum, who fractured his left foot in January. And again, like Curry, Lillard has dragged the hobbled Portland Trail Blazers to the current six-seed in the West. He is putting up 29.1 points per game to go along with an impressive 7.3 assists per outing.
As for the frontcourt, it is impossible not to start with Denver Nuggets star center, Nikola Jokic. The Serbian superstar is the likely frontrunner for MVP, averaging a near triple-double with 27.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 8.5 assists. He has had no shortage of remarkable outings. On Feb. 6, Jokic put up a casual 50 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds in a loss to the Sacramento Kings. The next highest scorer on the Nuggets had 14.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Lebron James, of course, is an inevitable selection. He holds the record for most consecutive games played with 16 All-Star appearances in a row, all 16 of them being starts. However, James is not simply making the team due to past performance. In his 18th season, the potential greatest player of all time is putting up 25.6 points per game, in addition to averaging eight rebounds and eight assists.
Finally, the last spot in the starting five goes to Kawhi Leonard. Perhaps the best two-way player in the league, Leonard has kept the Los Angeles Clippers near the top of the standings in the West, even as the team around him has battled injuries. He is averaging 26 points per game while also adding 1.8 steals per contest.
As in the East, each of these players will see much of one another in the future as they represent their teams in both the All-Star Game and in the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
PCI: WHO WAS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA BUBBLE?
by Joseph Quirk ’23
The NBA bubble is a unique circumstance which the league has never seen before. With a high demand for the return of sports, it also provided a big stage for a lot of players to break out and establish themselves as dominant forces. No one took advantage of this opportunity more than Devin Booker.
In the 2015 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Booker, a freshman at the University of Kentucky, with the No. 13 overall pick. This selection has turned out to be one of the smartest decisions in the history of the Phoenix Suns. Over his career, the 23-year-old shooting guard has averaged 22.5 points and 4.7 assists per game, while shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from three. Booker also scored 70 points in a game against the Boston Celtics, making it the 11th game in NBA history where a single player scored 70 points or more in one game. He is one of only six players to do so and the most recent since the late Kobe Bryant.
At the end of an abysmal 2018 season, Booker famously stated, “I’m done with not making the playoffs.” Unfortunately, Phoenix missed the playoffs in 2019 and 2020 as well. However, this season felt different. Booker had a career year, with averages of 26.6 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game on shooting percentages of 48.9 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from three. Booker had one of his more efficient seasons as well, mainly because he could play off the ball more with the addition of point guard Ricky Rubio. He also had advanced floor-spacers in Kelly Oubre, Jr. and rookie Cameron Johnson, and strong bigs in Deandre Ayton and Dario Saric.
Indeed, the Suns were winning games and in striking distance of a playoff spot. When the bubble teams were announced, the Suns made the cut and made the best of their opportunity. Booker averaged 31 points, six assists, and five rebounds on efficient shooting splits while earning an All-Bubble First Team nod. He would lead the Suns to the only 8-0 record in the bubble. The stretch included wins over talented playoff teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Indiana Pacers.
All in all, Booker has put in a superhuman effort, elevating both his individual game and his team’s overall performance. The only reason the Suns missed the playoffs was because the Portland Trail Blazers, the team just ahead of them, won a game on a last second missed buzzer-beater.
Certainly, an argument can be made for other players to be named bubble MVP such as T.J. Warren and Damien Lillard, but Booker took the Suns to a new, unexpected level. He showed up when it mattered and beat some of the NBA’s best teams, which is why he should have earned MVP.
by Leo Hainline ’22
The conclusion of the NBA regular season saw some breakout performances from players such as Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, and Michael Porter Jr. The playoffs have also brought some iconic performances, including Luka Doncic’s game-winner against the Los Angeles Clippers and Donovan Mitchell’s 57-point game against the Denver Nuggets. Any of these players are worthy of being considered the bubble’s best player, but the NBA got it right when they gave the award to the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard at the end of the regular season.
Even though the Trail Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, Lillard’s performances reigned supreme and were the best in the bubble. In Orlando, Lillard averaged 33 points, eight assists, and 4.8 rebounds. Most importantly, he was able to lead his team into the eighth seed after entering the bubble 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot.
After missing two key free throws against the Clippers in their fifth game, Lillard not only stepped up his game, but became the best player in the league. Needing to win out to have any chance at making the 8/9 seed play-in game, the Oakland native dropped 51 and 61 points in his next two contests. Lillard channeled one of his many nicknames, “Logo Lillard,” as his shooting became automatic from everywhere on the court.
He came up clutch against the Dallas Mavericks in his 61-point game, hitting an insane high-bouncing three-pointer to bring Portland level in the closing moments and then seized the victory with crucial plays on both ends of the court. He followed with scoring 42 points, leading Portland to a crucial come-from-behind one-point win against the Brooklyn Nets to seal their place in the Western Conference play-in game. Lillard then had 31 points and 10 assists against the Memphis Grizzlies to secure Portland’s spot in the playoffs.
Lillard’s most iconic moment came in Game one of the opening round against the top-seeded Lakers. With the game going back and forth all game long, it became “Dame Time” for the last seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Lillard started knocking down contested threes from way downtown. The game began to shift in Portland’s favor when Lillard buried a deep three to tie the game at 87 with five and a half minutes to go. After that happened, Lillard was locked in, and the Blazers never looked back, taking the first game 127-119 over the top-seeded Lakers.
Although the Blazers lost their next four games and got knocked out of the playoffs, Lillard’s performances were incredibly memorable. No individual player on any team made more of an impact than Lillard for the Blazers in the bubble.
Providence College Investigates: Kobe Bryant’s Best Moments
Bryant’s 81 Points vs. Toronto Raptors & Free-Throws Post-Achilles Tear
by Leo Hainline ’22
In a 2006 mid-season game that nowadays some star players would consider taking off, the Los Angeles Lakers went up against Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors in the Staples Center.
The first quarter was nothing special and Toronto was up early. Kobe Bryant was keeping the Lakers in the game, but the Raptors had a serviceable cushion for most of the first half. Nobody would guess that he would end up dropping the second-most points in a single game in NBA history. At half time, despite Bryant having 26, the Lakers were down 63-49 and looked like they were on pace to drop their third game in a row.
Instead of waiting for his teammates to wake up from their off-night, Bryant took the initiative to elevate his game to the next level.
Down double digits, who else was going to get the Lakers back in the game? Lamar Odom? Bryant knew he was that guy who had to put the team on his back. He missed the first couple of shots of the third quarter but kept shooting and one after the other, his shots started to fall. Scoring three-buckets in a row, Bryant single-handedly cut the lead. Out of a timeout, Bryant got the ball, drove baseline, pulled up, pump-faked twice, got fouled and got the bucket. He was locked in—lay-ups, mid-range, threes, it didn’t matter where Bryant was on the court, he was going to score. With a minute left in the third quarter, Bryant stole the ball and got a fast-break dunk to take the lead and the entire crowd was up on their feet.
Bryant entered the fourth quarter with 53 points and was just getting started. Bryant kept attacking, driving to the bucket, hitting jump shots, getting to the line. Halfway through the fourth quarter, he got fouled on a three and surpassed his previous career-high of 62. Staples Center was hot—every time Bryant got the ball the people rose out of their seats and started cheering.
At this point, Bryant was pulling up every possession and extending the Lakers lead to close to 20. Everyone in the arena knew that this was one of the best individual performances in the history of basketball. He knocked down his final two free throws to finish with 81, and more important to him, a win for the Lakers.
This game, where one person singlehandedly outscored the opposing team in the second half, is a nice individual memory of Kobe Bryant as a basketball player, but Bryant’s legacy will be remembered for much more than his contributions to the game of basketball, or a single game for that matter. He will be remembered for his energy, hard work, commitment, faith, and love that he spread on a daily basis. The impact he had on his friends, family, and fans is much more significant than a number in the box score.
Another game that displayed Bryant’s tenacity occured seven years later at the end of the 2012-2013 season.
During their 80th game of the season, the Lakers were fighting to secure a playoff spot. The team was playing Bryant heavy minutes for this final stretch of games, trying to make the most of what was a bit of a disappointing season. Some of their new acquisitions did not exactly live up to expectations. Regardless of the situation, Bryant was still leading the team, scoring over 27 points a game and contributing on both ends of the court.
The Lakers were in a dogfight with the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. Bryant was repeatedly banged up in this physical game. In the third quarter, he was down for about a minute after hyperextending his knee but shook it off and continued to play through the pain. Late in the game, Bryant was knocking down threes and doing everything he could to put the Lakers into the lead.
With three minutes to go, the Lakers were down 109-107 and Bryant drove in on Harrison Barnes at the top of the key. He got fouled but immediately went down, grimacing, grabbing his left heel in what appeared to be a non-contact injury. The severity of the injury wasn’t immediately clear—he still had his game face on and limped over to the bench as the Lakers took a timeout.
Once the coverage resumed on TV it was obvious that Bryant was badly injured. Under his own power, he gingerly moved from the team huddle to the foul line, putting no pressure on his left foot. Down by two, Bryant stepped up and knocked down the first free throw.
At this point, you could see the emotion in his eyes—likely not from the pain of the injury but because he knew that he would be out for the game and rest of the season, unable to help his team.
The referee tossed him the ball, and again, Bryant stepped up and calmly hit the free throw. Tying it up late into the fourth quarter in what some considered to be a must-win game on a torn achilles takes much more than pure talent—it’s takes something that’s inherent in Bryant’s Mamba Mentality. The traits that Bryant possessed in his personality and mentality never just purely applied to basketball. They apply to life, and that is partly why Bryant is respected and beloved by so many people.
The determination he had to fight through the pain and knock down those shots in this single situation is representative of the tenacity he brought on a daily basis, both in basketball and outside the game.
Bryant’s Final Career Home Game & Winning Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals
by Sullivan Burgess ’20
Before the 2015-2016 NBA season, Kobe Bryant announced that it would be his last season after missing the majority of the previous two seasons due to injury. Immediately fans began to purchase tickets to get the chance to see one of the greatest players of all-time one more time. Bryant’s farewell tour was made with applause from other team’s fans, jersey swaps with a player from every team, and retirement gifts. With each passing game, anticipation rose for the regular season finale on April 13 at the Staples Center against the Utah Jazz. The Los Angeles Lakers came into the game 16-65 and had been long out of playoff-contention, meaning this was going to be Bryant’s final appearance.
Every former Laker and celebrity that you can possibly think of were in attendance to watch the Black Mamba play in his last ever NBA game. Bryant, the final player left from the 1996 NBA draft, was ready to put on a show one last time and let everyone know, including his daughters and wife, that he was not going to go out quietly.
During the season, Bryant averaged 17.6 points per game in 66 games. Expectations were high that Bryant was due for something special, and special was just an understatement of what happened on that night. After being down by 15 at halftime, Bryant put the Lakers on his back one final time and gave one last memorable game. After scoring 22 points at halftime, Bryant exploded for 42 points in the second half to finish with 60 in his final game.
In the final minute with his team down 95-96, Bryant hit a mid-range jump shot to give the Lakers the lead 97-96. He would seal the game with 15 seconds left by hitting two free throws to make it 99-96. The Lakers gave Bryant the chance for one final curtain call by subbing him out with four seconds left to a standing ovation by the home crowd. Bryant gave the crowd one last salute before walking off the floor forever and leaving everyone with a moment they will not forget.
The other moment that will forever define Bryant’s legacy is when the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals. The two teams also met in 2008 when the Celtics took the series in six games. Boston was looking for their second title with their Big Three. Meanwhile, Bryant was ready to bring LA back-to-back championships and win his fifth overall. Going into Game Six Boston held at 3-2 advantage in the series with two chances to take the series. The Lakers made sure there would be a Game Seven after beating down on the Celtics 89-67. Bryant scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Lakers forced a Game Seven on their home court.
While Boston held the lead after three quarters with the title close in their sights, Bryant was going to make sure his team did not go out quietly. After averaging 27 points during season, Bryant scored a game-high 23 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter in a tight battle with the Celtics. The Lakers pulled ahead late in the game pulled out the 83-79 win. The series gave Bryant his fifth ring and second Finals MVP award. He averaged 28.6 points per game during the series and shot 40.5 percent from the field.
This series helped cement Bryant as an all-time great, putting him one championship behind his idol Michael Jordan. After winning his first three titles with teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant showed that he could lead a team on his own and carry them when needed most.
Kobe Bryant was more than an athlete, he was a leader, MVP, father, and most importantly a legend amongst all the branches of sports. He will be missed and never be forgotten for his actions on the court and the greatness he achieved off the court.
In Memorium: Kobe Bryant
Laker Great Leaves Behind an Unparalleled Legacy
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
I was eleven years old as I sat on the couch, eyes glued to the TV on June 16, 2010. The Los Angeles Lakers were in the midst of a dramatic Game Seven against my beloved Boston Celtics, a game that was the perfect finale to a perfect series. Fresh off a victory over the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals the previous year, Kobe Bryant was looking for his fifth championship overall. He was also firmly set on crushing my dreams.
I still remember the shot that ended it. No, it was not the game-winner, in fact there were still five minutes left on the clock, but for all intents and purposes the game was over.
Bryant took the ball at the top of the key, guarded by the Celtics’ Ray Allen. A quick jab to the left sent Allen reeling, allowing for Bryant to quickly take one dribble to the right. Somehow, almost immediately, the “Black Mamba,” true to his namesake, was in the air hoisting up his patented fade-away jumper.
The ball found nothing but net. As the Staples Center went berserk, I stormed off to my room, frustrated and angry because Bryant had the lead in the fourth quarter of a Game Seven, and there was no way he was going to give it up.
This particular moment perfectly encapsulates what everyone referred to as the “Mamba Mentality:” a mentality of hard-work, grit, and a smooth and unbreakable confidence. These traits, in addition to his basketball prowess, elevated his status to that of a living legend, one celebrated with a retirement tour unlike any other during his final season.
Truly, Bryant just seemed invincible. He had transcended the bounds between sports and pop culture. More than a basketball player, he was a cultural icon that showed that the NBA could thrive post-Michael Jordan.
That is why his death on Sunday in a helicopter crash, along with nine others, including his 13-year-old daughter and fellow basketball savant Gianna Bryant, is so difficult to come to terms with. Bryant was supposed to be around for decades to come, gracing playoff games and award shows much like the legendary Bill Russell does.
Instead, the world got a stark reminder of the fragility of life, an idea made all the more poignant by the passing of fellow passenger and former Cape Cod Baseball League coach John Altobelli. A man who, much like Bryant, devoted his life to the love of the game. Altobelli tragically perished alongside his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa.
In lieu of everything, it bears mentioning that Bryant did not lead a life without controversy. He was accused of sexual assault in Colorado in 2003, although the charges were dropped after his accuser refused to testify. On the court, he often got into spats with his teammates due to his lofty standards, most notably with fellow All-Star Shaquille O’Neal.
Nevertheless, he was the reason so many kids fell in love with the game. If the last generation wanted to be like Mike, then this generation wanted to be like Kobe: a 5-time NBA champion, 18-time NBA All-Star, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and 1-time Academy Award winner.
Bryant was far from perfect, but his commitment to the sport of basketball was unparalleled. So too was his commitment to his children. Indeed, the ill-fated helicopter was en route to Gianna’s travel basketball game, where Bryant was set to coach and Gianna was set to play. Their intended destination makes the untimely passings all the more devastating.
Ten years ago, in Game Seven of the NBA Finals, Kobe broke my heart. On Sunday, my heart broke again: for the Bryant family and for all the lives lost in the tragic accident.
PCI: Should NBA Teams Be Allowed to Rest Their Key Players During Nationally Televised Games?
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. An MVP candidate and finals MVP last season, Leonard was one of the most talked about players in the league, despite his quiet and reserved demeanor. This past offseason, Leonard shocked Canada as well as NBA twitter as he chose to team up with fellow superstar and California native Paul George on the Los Angeles Clippers.
However, Leonard’s success has been marred with controversy. Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors last offseason after losing trust with his previous team, the San Antonio Spurs.
He claimed that the Spurs’ medical staff mishandled an injury he sustained during the playoffs that forced him to sit the rest of the playoffs and most of the regular season. To help get Leonard on the court and manage his health, the Raptors and now the Clippers implemented a strategy known as “load management.”
The NBA season is long and tedious, and many players struggle to play all 82 games. While load management was relevant prior to Leonard, he brought it into the spotlight.
This season, the excitement caused by Leonard’s move to Los Angeles has landed the Clippers in numerous primetime games. However, Clippers coach Doc Rivers is less concerned about the fans watching Leonard and more concerned about his star. And rightfully so.
When healthy, Leonard alone can change a series. He is one of the best two-way players in the game. River’s main concern right now is having Leonard available for a tough run through the Western Conference playoffs. That should also be the main concern for Clippers fans. Of course, it is understandable why the NBA would dislike this.
The NBA places teams in nationally televised games because they believe the teams are interesting or good and can attract more fans or get fans of other teams to watch them. These games are meant to pull the biggest audiences and the most ad revenue of any in that week. But if a team’s star player does not play, that obviously hurts their marketability. If the player is able to perform and their reason for being inactive is rest and recovery, the league is upset. But the logic the Clippers employ is valid league wide.
While this is a business, money is still going to be made. People will still watch, and if not, they will in the playoffs. These teams hire coaches and trainers to make the best decisions for the teams to win long term and monitoring the health and well-being of their best players falls into that category.
– Joseph Quirk ’23
Load management in the NBA is defined as balancing the level of playing time in which a player utilizes in the league. This concept is terrible for the future of the NBA.
Load management is just a way to give superstar players a day off in the NBA in order to rest their talents for the playoffs. These superstars are taking off on games that are back-to-back nights throughout the week or even when the team is playing a weaker team.
One big advocate for load management has been NBA champion and small forward for the LA Clippers, Kawhi Leonard. While there is nothing wrong with a player being concerned with his health, which is always the number one focus when playing in a professional sport, there is a time and a place in which players should and should not rest.
If a player knows he is hurt and the doctors order him not to play, then he should not play; however, if he is 100 percent healthy he should be focused on playing. You do not see other elite players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic take days off for load management.
Another factor that plays into why load management is unnecessary is that it takes away from the experience of watching the game. Imagine paying a lot of money for a ticket to watch your favorite NBA player live in person, and you do not get to see him that day due to the player wanting to take some time off.
There are plenty of young players willing to play a 82 game season; meanwhile, these all-stars think they are tough and want to take some time off to rest. They need to be there to contribute to the team and help secure wins and chemistry for the ongoing season.
Without the superstars, the NBA is boring to watch and television ratings slip. The league is not doing enough to prevent these load management situations throughout the entire NBA, allowing their players to walk all over the front office.
It is time to put an end to load management once and for all to make sure all players are equally contributing to their teams.
– Sullivan Burgess ’20
Simpkin ’94 Reflects on Career
By Liam Tormey ’22
Last Thursday, the Sports Business Organization at Providence College got the chance to speak with former NBA and PC men’s basketball player, Dickey Simpkins ’94. Simpkins spoke with the group over Skype and discussed his journey from his early childhood to where he is today.
Simpkins, who grew up in Washington D.C., recalled the first time he ever picked up a basketball back in the fourth grade. He said a father of one of his classmates asked him if he wanted to play a basketball game with them that weekend. Simpkins said he went that Saturday with just a pair of shoes, and “ever since then, playing basketball started for me.”
It was a long time until Simpkins realized he was good enough to make it somewhere in basketball. His high school basketball coach told him it was a real possibility, and he said that conversation “turned a switch in my life and I started to do everything to the best of my ability.” He later was invited to an Olympic event where he got the chance to play in front of NBA scouts and he knew getting drafted was a real possibility.
Offers from Duke University, University of Notre Dame, University of Connecticut, and many more were all on the table for Simpkins, but he wanted to play in the Big East Conference or the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Without football at PC, Simpkins knew he could get his name out there.
Simpkins came to PC in 1990 and stayed all four years under head coach Rick Barnes. He said he had an unbelievable experience at PC and even got the chance to win a Big East Championship in 1994 against Georgetown University.
After the ‘94 season, Simpkins entered into the NBA draft and was selected 21st overall in the first round by the Chicago Bulls.
Simpkins remembers the first time he ever met Michael Jordan in the team facility. Simpkins was sleeping in the team facility’s lounge area when Jordan walked by him. He was half-asleep when Jordan came up to him and said, “What’s up, young fellow?” Simpkins said he thought he was dreaming until he fully woke up from his nap and saw Jordan in the locker room.
Simpkins is a three-time NBA Champion and loved his time in the league. He played seven years in the NBA before playing six years overseas. He said it was an “unbelievable experience” to be able to learn about so many different cultures.
After finishing his 13-year playing career, Simpkins wanted to get into the business side of the sports world. He has been in television as a color commentator for college basketball games for 12 years now following his career, has his own basketball development camp called Next Level Performance Inc., and has worked as a scout for both the Charlotte Hornets and currently the Washington Wizards.
Simpkins then took some questions from members of the group. When asked about how to get into the business of the sports world whether that is in broadcasting, the front office, or even as a scout, Simpkins said to “study your craft.” Finding people in the industry who are good at what they do now and replicating their qualities was a tool Simpkins thought would be helpful.
He emphasized how important it is to create and build relationships. During his time at PC, Simpkins created a relationship with current ESPN commentator and former Friar, Doris Burke ‘87. She was the reason Simpkins got his first television job at ESPN and wanted everyone in the club to know how important relationships can be.
Simpkins was really proud to be able to share some tips about his journey to the Sports Business Organization at PC. As an individual who has done so much on and off the basketball court, he was a great speaker to help the club to find ways to get into the sports industry.