PCI: Picking the NBA All-Star Game Starters

by Jack Belanger


PCI


The Eastern Conference

By Cam Smith ’21

Sports Co-Editor

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.

The Western Conference

By Cam Smith ’21

Sports Co-Editor

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.

 

Playing Through a Pandemic

by Sarah McLaughlin '23
Editor-in-Chief


PCI


Leagues Successfully Navigate COVID Crisis

The NBA in Orlando

by Joseph Quirk ’23

Sports Staff

Back in March, the NBA suspended its season following increasing concerns over the onset of COVID-19, along with the first player to test positive, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. The NBA, more than 75% through their 2019-2020 campaign, needed to then find a way to finish its season properly and safely. They did so by investing millions of dollars into creating a fun and entertaining, and most importantly secure, “bubble” at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The bubble started with 22 teams, all either within striking distance of a playoff spot or already in one. The format was simple: each team would play eight seeding games in order to officially name those who would move onto the playoffs, which gave the outside teams a chance at the eighth seed. The Phoenix Suns, an afterthought heading into the bubble, went 8-0 in the seeding games as star shooting guard Devin Booker played some of the best basketball of his career. However, they would just barely miss out on the eighth seed to the Portland Trail Blazers, who used the bubble to revive a tumultuous season filled with underachievement. With a squad of Hassan Whiteside, Jusuf Nurkić, C.J. McCollum and, of course, bubble MVP Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers were able to capture the Western Conference’s eighth seed thanks to a victory over Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in game.

The playoffs brought a batch of equally exciting games. Two young, up-and-coming teams in the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz went to seven games in a historic first round series. Denver would defeat the Jazz and move on to face the Los Angeles Clippers, a title contender led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Nuggets mounted a furious comeback to beat the Clippers in seven games before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. In the East, things unfolded as expected until the Milwaukee Bucks, led by back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, were knocked off by Jimmy Butler and a scrappy Miami Heat team. Butler and the Heat went on to beat the Boston Celtics and advance to the Finals where they would fall to the Lakers.

It always seemed inevitable that the Lakers would win the Finals. Not only were they one of the most talented teams in the world, featuring generational stars such as Lebron James and Anthony Davis, but they also had strong veteran players such as center Dwight Howard and point guard Rajon Rondo. The title significantly helps the legacy of James, who now has four NBA titles and four Finals MVPs on his resume. Important to note is that the Lakers were also playing in honor of franchise icon Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed away in a helicopter accident earlier this year.

Indeed, the fact that anyone was crowned a champion at all in this year of turmoil is something that the NBA should be proud of.

 

The NHL in Canada

by Ryan Carius ’21

Sports Staff

On Sept. 28, the Tampa Bay Lightning shut out the Dallas Stars 2-0, ending a six-game series in an unprecedented yet entertaining Stanley Cup matchup. Tampa Bay’s victory completed a two-month playoff bubble, which began on Aug. 1 and included 24 out of the 31 National Hockey League franchises. The Lightning skipped the qualifying rounds and entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay avenged last year’s shocking defeat against the Columbus Blue Jackets, dominated the Boston Bruins, and then skated past the New York Islanders on the way to their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in five years.

The Dallas Stars fought relentlessly, especially goaltender Anton Khudobin, but the Tampa Bay offense proved too much of a challenge for the young Dallas defenders. Tampa Bay centerman Brayden Point netted 14 goals and assisted on 19 other goals, a monumental performance for the young and rising star. However, it was Victor Hedman who took home the hardware awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hedman became the first defenseman to win the Conn Smyth trophy since Duncan Keith in 2015, when the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning. In just 25 games, the 6-foot-6-inch skater recorded 10 goals and 22 points, setting franchise records for both total goals and points by a Tampa Bay defender.

Besides the championship, the most important outcome of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the success of the NHL bubble that occurred in two cities. The NHL became the first of the four major North American sport leagues to complete a postseason in the COVID-19 pandemic. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the two Canadian cities, Toronto, Ontario and Edmonton, Alberta, created an environment that ensured the safety of the players and staff. All personnel involved in daily bubble activity were divided into categories based on their roles and the people to whom they were exposed.

The NHL conducted 33,174 tests with zero positive cases among category one and category two personnel. Players, medical officials, and team and league staff members made up these first two categories. However, there were a few positive tests among category three and four personnel, which included individuals who had little exposure to the players but still participated in the bubble as hotel staff, cooks, and security officers.

The NHL and the NHL Player’s Association implemented Jan. 1, 2021 as the start of the next season. Bettman is optimistic for a “full regular season, and to have fans in the building, but there are a lot of things that have to transpire, many of which if not most of which are beyond our control before we can finalize our plans.” However, if the NHL needs to return to a bubble, Bettman can follow the success of this season to provide fans with entertaining and competitive hockey.

Going Courtside with Cayleigh Griffin

by Sarah McLaughlin '23
Editor-in-Chief


Friar Sports


Griffin Talks About Transition to NBA

by Jack Belanger ’21

Sports Co-Editor

Cayleigh Griffin ’14 can still recall the first time she ever spoke to Providence College legend Doris Burke ’87, ‘92G, & ‘05Hon. It was during her senior year at PC, and Griffin had every intention to break into the sports media industry after college. She reached out to Burke, not to ask for a job, but to make a connection, to show Burke the work she completed during internships for media companies such as Fox Sports. After all, what better opinion could you get than from the first woman to become a full-time National Basketball Association (NBA) game analyst who has been working for ESPN since 1991? What Griffin got was the start of a relationship that has helped her launch her own career into the top of the broadcasting industry.

“She is so supportive of young people trying to get in the industry,” Griffin said of Burke. “Especially young females trying to break into the field. And to have a young female that also went to PC, she was really eager to talk to me.”

With all of the accomplishments Burke has compiled over her storied broadcasting career, her lasting impact will be the path she paved for women like Griffin to have opportunities for top-level broadcasting jobs. Griffin, herself, put in the work before coming to PC to prepare for a career in media.

In high school, Griffin wrote for her local newspaper, covering high school sports whenever she could while juggling competing in volleyball and basketball at the same time. Even though PC lacked any sort of communication or journalism major, she grew up loving the College, as it is where her mother played basketball. Griffin knew she would have to create her own opportunities when it came to finding internships and hands-on experiences.

Photo Courtesy of USA Today Sports

During her time at the College, Griffin would intern as a runner during Red Sox and Yankees games for Fox Sports. She also interned for the local “Rhode Show” during her senior year and for NBC Universal. Despite working for some of the biggest networks in the country, Griffin believed her “big-break” was when a station in New Jersey contacted her to commentate for high school volleyball and basketball. This provided her with her first chance to broadcast games live.

“It was a really fluke thing that these people reached out to me. It was an unbelievable experience for me as a college student,” Griffin recalled.

It was there Griffin worked with Ed Cohen, who would later go on to become the radio announcer for the New York Knicks and a colleague with whom Griffin has continued to keep in touch. Whenever the Knicks face a team that Griffin is working for, the two reminisce about their time together calling games in front of audiences that pale in comparison to those at the sold-out arenas they travel to today.

Griffin moved on from New Jersey and got a job working for the Big East Digital Network as an on-air correspondent. After working her way up in the company for two years, she felt that she had reached her peak and it was time to move onto bigger endeavors: the NBA.

During the summer of 2016, Griffin was searching for jobs when she turned on an NBA summer league game which happened to feature the San Antonio Spurs. Coincidentally, the team posted an opening for the position as the team’s sideline reporter that same day. Once again Burke was there to lend a hand for Griffin, as she was one of several people who reached out to the Spurs on Griffin’s behalf.

Griffin was able to land an interview with the Spurs and fly down to San Antonio. Sure enough, after a three-month application process, at age 23, Griffin landed her first job for an NBA team.

In the two years she worked for San Antonio, Griffin was able to work up close with stars such as Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Some of her favorite memories include working with Manu Ginobili during his final season in the league and getting to interview Patty Mills, one of her favorite players to interview.

“[Mills] is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was always willing to do an interview. I have been so fortunate to work with teams that had players who were easy and respectful. They knew I had a job to do and they were willing to help.”

After completing two seasons with the Spurs, Griffin spent a season working for the Cleveland Cavaliers before settling into her current job with the Houston Rockets. She earned her first chance to work baseball games as a fill-in reporter for the Houston Astros. Even with the two traveling around the country every week, Griffin has been able to maintain a strong relationship with Burke.

“I see her so often at games. It’s so cool to be working with her at games at the same time. I try to take tidbits from her in all aspects. I will randomly call or text her and she will text right back. She is so great.”

Despite establishing respect from her peers, Griffin admits there are times when people will doubt her knowledge of the game even though she spends every day following the same team upclose. It is incidents like this which remind us that women still have to work harder than men just to earn the same level of respect from outsiders.

Griffin has learned to stay positive despite the detractors, though. She is quick to praise her colleagues who have been nothing but supportive and to compliment the players who make her job easier. While she may still be in the early stages of her career compared to her older counterparts, Griffin has proved that she has the talents to become a mainstay in the NBA for years to come

PCI: WHO WAS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA BUBBLE?

by Sarah McLaughlin '23
Editor-in-Chief


PCI


Devin Booker

by Joseph Quirk ’23

Sports Staff

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.

Damian Lillard

by Leo Hainline ’22

Sports Staff

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.

Bryce Cotton ’14 Wins MVP in Australia

by Sarah McLaughlin '23
Editor-in-Chief


Professional Sports


Former Friar Finds Stride Down Under

by Joseph Quirk ’23

Sports Staff

As Friar fans, we have a special appreciation for former basketball players who are recognized for their talent. This past year, former Friars standout Bryce Cotton ’14 won his second National Basketball League MVP award overseas in Australia. So how did he get to this point, and what has he done to become one of the elite players in Australia’s best basketball league?

Cotton started his professional career in the NBA with the Utah Jazz. However, his time with them was brief. In the 2014-2015 season, Cotton played 14 games with the Jazz before finishing the season with the Austin Spurs, the San Antonio Spurs G-League (at the time still known as the D-League) affiliate. Cotton proved to be not ready for the big leagues just yet. While he did average about six points per game and a rebound and assist each with Utah, his average line would turn from 5-1-1 to 22-5-5 when he got to Austin.

The 2015-2016 season was even more tumultuous for Cotton, but he kept grinding. Cotton would spend limited time with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball League, the Austin Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Phoenix Suns. It would be one of his worse years since going pro, only averaging above 20 points in his two games in China. The lack of stability severely affected him and his play.

Photo Courtesy of the Perth Wildcats

Over the next two seasons, Cotton would bounce around more, spending time in several different leagues, including his first stint in the NBL with the Perth Wildcats. 

In 2017, Cotton would finally be rewarded with what he was lacking: a more permanent and stable home. Over the last two seasons, Cotton has been tearing up not only the premier basketball league in Australia, but one of the best in the world. 

The NBL is a known source of NBA talent and even this past season some of the top NBA prospects, most notably LaMelo Ball, joined the league as opposed to going to college. 

Cotton has been averaging 23 points, four assists, and four rebounds for the Wildcats. He is the eighth American player to play 100 games for Perth, the franchise’s first two-time MVP, and the first player in NBL history to lead the league in points and steals. 

During his second MVP campaign, Wildcats head coach Trevor Gleeson said, “He’s on the whiteboard of every team that comes here, to stop.” 

He added, “What he puts up with, gets double teamed, hit defensively all the time and he still produces under pressure… and he’s unselfish.” Gleeson also expressed his surprise when Cotton did not win the award in the 2018-2019 season, during which all his numbers improved from his first MVP campaign.

During his acceptance speech, Cotton made sure to comment first on his fellow competitors for the award and his teammates. Upon arriving back with his team, Cotton said, “It feels good to be recognized for the work you do. There were a lot of great contestants for the award but I’m glad to be holding the trophy.” 

Now, while getting buckets has been a big part of the MVP’s game, it is not his entire focus. 

“Take out the scoring and I’ve improved in all other categories, especially defense, which was a big focus,” said Cotton. 

And while the ceremony was just a little more than a week ago, Cotton has his eyes on the prize. “I’m definitely excited, this is the best part of the year. Your main goal is to be the last one standing.”

Cotton and the Wildcats currently find themselves in the semifinals against the Cairns Taipans with the series tied at one game apiece. Cotton scored 42 points in an overtime victory in game one. The decisive third game will be Thursday, March 5.

Providence College Investigates: Kobe Bryant’s Best Moments

by Sarah McLaughlin '23
Editor-in-Chief


PCI


Bryant’s 81 Points vs. Toronto Raptors & Free-Throws Post-Achilles Tear

by Leo Hainline ’22

Sports Staff

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.

Kobe Bryant addresses the crowd after his final game
Photo Courtesy of ESPN VIDEO

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

Sports Staff

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.

Bryant lifts the Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2010
Photo Courtesy of Mark J. TERRILL/AP

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

by Meaghan P Cahill


Professional Sports


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. 

Kobe Bryant Los Angeles lakers dies in plane crash in memorium
Photo Courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images

A Decade of Success: PC in the Pros

by Meaghan P Cahill


Professional Sports


By Cam Smith ’21

Sports Assistant Editor

Julian Gressel providence college men's soccer
Photo Courtesy of PC Athletics

The 2010s produced a slew of immensely successful Providence College athletic teams, cementing the College’s status as a major player in the Big East conference and beyond. However, collegiate success is not the only thing that PC produced last decade, as the College also churned out a bevy of professional players who are currently finding success at the highest levels of their respective sports.

Three players that exemplify this wealth of Friar talent are Julian Gressel ’17, Noel Acciari ’15, and Kris Dunn ’16.

Gressel wrapped up his historic college career for the men’s soccer team in 2016, a season in which he scored a whopping 15 goals, placing him in the top four in scoring in the country. Following a two-goal performance against the top-seeded University of Maryland in the 2016 College Cup, Gressel was drafted by Atlanta United with the eighth pick of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

The sure-footed midfielder wasted little time adjusting to the big leagues, as he registered nine assists, third-most all time for a rookie, to go along with five goals in a first-year campaign that landed him the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year award. Since then, Gressel has only continued his success, tallying a total of 15 goals and 35 assists across three seasons for an Atlanta United team that he has helped turn into one of the best expansion teams in recent history.

Acciari, too, found collegiate success prior to entering the professional ranks. His final season with the Friars featured the first national championship in men’s hockey history, a season in which Acciari tied for most goals scored on the team with 15.

After spending four solid seasons with the NHL’s Boston Bruins to begin his pro career, Acciari signed a three-year, $5 million deal with the Florida Panthers this off-season. The deal has immediately paid dividends for both sides, as Acciari has already set a career high in goals with 17, a number boosted by a remarkable two-game stretch in December that featured back-to-back hat tricks.

Dunn, perhaps the most well-known recent PC alumni, also finished his PC career strong, leading the men’s basketball team to a NCAA tournament victory over the University of Southern California in the first round. The Big East player of the year for 2016, Dunn was drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2016 NBA draft.

Though shooting woes have marred the start of his promising career, Dunn has found his stride this season with the Chicago Bulls on the defensive end. The fourth-year point guard has locked down some of the best offensive players in the league, and trails only Philadelphia 76ers’ star Ben Simmons in total steals, all while playing almost 400 minutes less than Simmons.

‘‘I’ve been guarding my whole life,’’ said Dunn on his defensive prowess. ‘‘I know when somebody is kind of fearful. I can see it, I can smell it, and I just try and act on it.’’

Indeed, the past decade has shown that PC can produce world-class athletes, ones who can succeed against the toughest competition in their respective sports. Players like Gressel, Acciari, and Dunn will continue to serve as inspirations to the next generation of Friar athletes.

Already this year, Jack Dugan ’22, a Vegas Golden Knights 2017 draft pick, has shined for the men’s hockey team. In addition, a pair of men’s soccer players, Austin Aviza ’20RS and Danny Griffin ’20, were both taken in the second round of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft and will hope to follow in the footsteps of Gressel. The triumph of these players and many more bodes well for another decade of success beyond Friartown for PC athletes.

 

Simpkin ’94 Reflects on Career

by The Cowl Editor


Professional Sports


By Liam Tormey ’22

Sports Staff

Dickey Simpkins providence college basketball former player Chicago Bulls
Photo Courtesy of Ron Frehm/USA Today

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.

Simpkin ’94 Reflects on Career

by The Cowl Editor


Professional Sports


By Liam Tormey ’22

Sports Staff

Dickey Simpkins providence college basketball former player Chicago Bulls
Photo Courtesy of Ron Frehm/USA Today

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.