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The Concordian’s top moments of the year in sports

Our staff members revisit the most captivating moments of the year in sports

Maggie Morris – Managing Editor

In 2021, I did something I never thought I’d do: I cheered for the Habs. As a lifelong Sens fan, I’m used to facing adversity, but the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs tested me in a way I had never experienced before. Ultimately, when the Canadiens were matched up with the Leafs in the first round, it made the decision significantly easier. The Leafs suck. 

The Habs’ playoff run made Montreal come alive in a way that it hadn’t since early 2020. While it’s always more fun to watch your own team achieve that level of success, it was still so cool to be a part of. Honourable mention to the European Football Championship, which assured me that I will never be able to break my British boyfriend’s heart the way that final did. 

Guillaume Laberge – Music Editor

As a French Canadian and a hockey fan since the age of five, it’s hard not to put the Montreal Canadiens’ unbelievable Stanley Cup finals run as my favourite sports moment of the year.  They had such an improbable Cinderella story with them coming back from a 3–1 deficit against the Toronto Maple Leafs (what a choke) and then beating powerhouses like Winnipeg and Vegas along the way. Their win in game six of the semifinals over Vegas was definitely the climax of their run, and the fact that it happened on Quebec’s national day made the story feel unreal. It’s a game we Habs fans will remember for a long time. I’ve been following the Habs closely for about 15 years now and never have I felt more joy and excitement following them over the summer. 

Liam Sharp – Sports Editor 

Having no fans in attendance during UFC fights was an experience I will never forget. Sure, all sports are ultimately better off with spectators, but being exposed to MMA without the deafening crowd noises and reactions was weirdly satisfying. Hearing the heavy breaths, the strikes landed, and coaches’ instructions in excruciating detail throughout a bout was something I’ll probably never get to witness again unless I’m fortunate enough to be octagon-side in the future (or unfortunate enough to experience another global pandemic). 

Without fans, Max Holloway’s beatdown of Calvin Kattar on Fight Island to start the year tops my list. With fans, Rose Namajunas’ flash knockout versus Weili Zhang perfectly encapsulated why this sport can be so endearing. 

Gabriel Guindi – News Editor

Other than the Canadiens making the finals, my favourite sports moment had to have been the Milwaukee Bucks winning the NBA championship. In this day and age of NBA super teams usually winning it all, I found it refreshing that a traditionally-built, smaller market team got to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. Especially for Giannis Antetokounmpo, his loyalty to the franchise by staying with the Bucks and not scampering off to a bigger market team based purely off hype, was gratifying not only for him, but for the city of Milwaukee who haven’t welcomed a professional sports title in over 50 years.

Maria Bouabdo – Assistant Sports Editor

Excluding the Habs’ playoff run, this was my favourite sports moment. Not because it’s amazing or impossible to do, but because of the exact opposite.

Brandon Duhaime is a clumsy and relatable Minnesota Wild rookie, as you can see in the clip. I think it’s pretty rare for hockey fans to watch professional athletes and relate to them on the ice. Like have you ever heard someone say “I could totally pull that off” when talking about Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby? I doubt it. However, a lot of us can 100 per cent say that we have enough skills in the clumsiness department to pull off what Duhaime did. So that alone makes him a 2021 icon for me.

 

Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

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Sports

Colour Commentary: The demise of the traditional NBA centre

The NBA has morphed into a purely shooting league, ultimately isolating the traditional big man

I was watching an NBA preseason game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Orlando Magic, and something happened that seems to be a recurring trend in the NBA. Pelicans centre Jonas Valančiūnas received two quick-triggered technical fouls, ultimately leading to his ejection midway through the third quarter. These weak calls weren’t warranted because when I say weak, I mean that they were extremely soft calls towards a seasoned centre in the league. 

Yeah, Valančiūnas can hit the occasional three-pointer, but he’s a traditional meat and potatoes style player who is highly effective in the paint. Though slightly more grizzled than most current centres, he knows his role. He gets rebounds both offensively and defensively, plays defence, initiates in the pick and roll, but with the way modern basketball is played and officiated in the NBA, Valančiūnas is hindered to a certain point.

It’s a shame that traditional centres like Valančiūnas are dwindling. Long gone are the days of Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We will never again witness a team’s playing style tailored for dominant big men like Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan. Not only were these guys the biggest physical players you could lob the ball to, they would secure the win for their respective teams come crunch time.

Basketball is more spread out than ever before, resulting in more long-distance shot attempts from the three-point line. If you add the way referees have begun to call more fouls on centres while favouring shooters, traditional centres nowadays have less control in the paint. They’re now drowned out, becoming backup vocalists instead of lead singers.

Over the last few years, the number of three-point attempts has more than doubled from 14.7 in 2002-03 to 34.6 in 2020-21. Teams like the Houston Rockets have adopted a “small ball” style that doesn’t require a traditional centre. This style prioritizes speed and agility over size and encourages players to shoot from outside.

Refereeing has also become stricter on big men, preventing them from using their size in certain situations. Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid is arguably the only dominant traditional centre left and his team usually receives more personal foul calls in a game than most NBA teams.

You’re probably thinking “Well, Nikola Jokić is dominant, how about him?” Though Jokić is as dominant as a centre gets, he isn’t a traditional centre. He can pass on a dime, space the floor, and is a consistent shooter from deep. Many young centres are now trying to adapt to this model but I shed a tear when I see older players try to change and end up throwing bricks from deep.

The way Embiid soaks up rebounds and scores underneath the basket at will, and with such authority, proves there’s still a chance for big men in today’s NBA. But the centre position will never return to its former glory.

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Sports

Colour Commentary: Takeaways from the Draymond and KD interview

Dissecting the Bleacher Report interview between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant

In mid-August, Draymond Green, the eccentric power forward for the Golden State Warriors, participated in an interview with NBA superstar and former Warriors teammate Kevin Durant, who has since taken his talents to the Brooklyn Nets. The interview has amassed over three million views and has been the subject of many debates among fans since its release. 

The fact of the matter is, people love to see athletes banter among themselves because it reveals a side of the players that’s difficult to capture in a professional setting, especially with journalists they have no real personal affiliations with. 

In the 24-minute conversation that premiered on Bleacher Report’s YouTube channel with Durant, Green was the journalist-player hybrid and, for the most part, excelled as an interviewer. 

Even the best sports journalists couldn’t do what Green was able to in this interview. He does an excellent job of breaking down Durant’s walls by keeping things conversational while clearly articulating and thinking through his questions. Even Durant couldn’t help but acknowledge how excited he was for the discussion in a clip that was inserted in the final seconds of the video. 

The interview was also successful because it involved two influential people in the league with a lot of history who are extremely intriguing to basketball fans for dissimilar reasons.

Green’s confident demeanor and outgoing personality had an enormous impact on the Golden State Warriors and their championship success on the hardwood over the last decade. Off the court, Green’s exposure with the media has led many NBA fans to believe he would also prosper in sports broadcasting when he ultimately decides to retire from playing professionally. 

Durant, on the other hand, is an enigma to the media and basketball fans alike: someone who has lived and breathed basketball since he could walk, dominated the scoring aspect of the game like no one before him, all while seemingly never letting the crowd in on what he’s thinking. 

The interview dives deep into Durant’s past and the duo’s experiences as teammates. The segment that got the most attention by far was when they shared their perspective on their infamous altercation during a regular season game in 2018 the night many fans concluded was the game Durant unofficially decided he was leaving the Warriors in free agency. 

Green and Durant hash things out and speak on how things developed behind closed doors in the interview. Most notably, they come to the consensus that the Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers were largely to blame for not letting the dust between the two settle naturally after the incident. 

So that settles the campfire debates about their viral confrontation once and for all, right? Many fans on social media think so, but the truth is that it’s not that simple. 

It’s easy to take what the athletes said as fact, especially considering they’re discussing an event that happened nearly three years ago. And maybe their side of the story has some elements of truth to it, but as viewers we are only getting one piece of the puzzle. 

As sports journalists, it’s our job to objectively cover stories in a way that minimizes ulterior bias, to do everything in our power to find all the puzzle pieces to a story and put them all together. Frankly, covering an altercation by only referring to one frame of reference could be misleading to the public.

People who were looking for the truth about the altercation need to recognize that this interview was just one flashy piece to a story that will take years to fully understand. It was a fulfilling piece to an intriguing puzzle, but it’s far from over.  

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Sports

Major sports leagues’ power rankings

 Looking at the most dominant teams in all major sports leagues

While it’s been a tough year for sports with COVID-19, we’ve been lucky enough to witness a championship in all four major sports. With two of the four major sports leagues already into their seasons, one having recently concluded and one on the verge of starting, let’s take a look at the top five teams in their respective sport.


National Basketball Association (NBA)

  1. Utah Jazz (27-8) 

No one would have expected the Utah Jazz to be sitting comfortably in first in the NBA standings. Led by all-stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, this team has been firing on all cylinders, winning 23 of their past 27 games. The Jazz are out for vengeance after losing seven games to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of last season’s postseason.

  1. Brooklyn Nets (23-13)

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have been on fire this season, averaging 121 points per game. On the other hand, their defence has been a different story. However, it’s been improving every game. It’s championship or bust for this superteam.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (24-11)

The Lakers will always be near the top of the NBA standings as long as LeBron James is healthy. However, they have looked a bit lost recently; losing four of seven Anthony Davis went down with a calf injury. The good news: it’s not supposed to be long-term. A healthy Lakers team in the playoffs is the team to beat.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers (24-12)

The Clippers have been almost unbeatable when both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are in the lineup. The problem is actually to have them both dressed up at the same time, as they have had multiple injuries.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (23-12)

Team leader Joel Embiid has been a pleasure to watch this season and has been playing like a MVP candidate. Could a deep playoff run finally be in store for a 76ers team with so much to offer? Only time will tell.


 National Hockey League (NHL)

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-4-2)

The Maple Leafs have been the hottest team in the NHL recently, with Auston Matthews leading the way. The superstar is leading the NHL in goals with 20 in 18 games. Can he score 50 goals in the shortened season?

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-4-1)

The reigning Stanley Cup champions came out of the gate hot. Even with some injuries, the core of this team looks as good as ever. Winger Nikita Kucherov is also inching closer to a return. Watch out.

  1. Florida Panthers (13-4-4)

The Panthers might have the most underrated offensive duo in the NHL with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Chris Driedger has also been a revelation in goal, while starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has been underwhelming.

  1. Vegas Golden Knights (13-4-1)

The Golden Knights have been getting consistent offence throughout their lineup. However, the main reason for their success has been Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s leading the league in almost every goaltending category.

  1. Boston Bruins (12-5-2)

The Bruins always seem to be near the top. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak are playing like the best line in hockey and are wreaking havoc in the loaded East division. Not to mention their great goalie tandem.


Major League Baseball (MLB)

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Who’s going to stop the Dodgers? Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price and newly acquired Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer. All of this with the best batting in baseball. Good luck to everyone else.

  1. San Diego Padres

The Padres conquered the offseason, signing Fernando Tatis Jr. to the longest deal in baseball history while also trading for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. The Padres may be on their way to dominating baseball for years.

  1. New York Yankees

It’s going to be interesting early on for Yankee fans. This team looks dominant on paper, as they finally have a healthy Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. If Gerrit Cole performs as usual and Corey Kluber shows glimpses of his 2017 self, it’s game on.

  1. Atlanta Braves

Last season, The Braves were one game away from the World Series without their superstar Mike Soroka. A healthy rotation mixed in with a dominant offence led by Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. is going to be a joy to watch.

  1. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are going to be one of the most exciting young teams to follow. Their roster is as deep as anyone, and the acquisition of Lance Lynn may be the most underrated move of the offseason.


National Football League (NFL)

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As reigning Super Bowl champions, the number one spot is theirs to lose. Back-to-back championships are entirely possible.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

The core will be returning, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes is going to be hungrier than ever. The Chiefs will be the odds-on favourite to win it all next season.

  1. Buffalo Bills

It’s finally time for everyone to respect the Bills. With a dynamic young quarterback in Josh Allen, talented receivers and a top 10 defence, this team’s future is bright.

  1. Green Bay Packers

Could Aaron Rodgers force a trade to end his tenure with the Packers if they don’t fulfill his needs in the offseason? Time will tell, but the clock is ticking on the Packers’ championship window.

  1. Los Angeles Rams  

The Rams boast an elite defence with Aaron Donald leading the pack. They just needed an upgrade on offence to really emerge as Super Bowl contenders. Getting Matthew Stafford was perhaps the answer.


 


 

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

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