LAS VEGAS – Brock Lesnar fought seven times in the UFC from 2008 to 2011, five of them here in Vegas, the promotion’s corporate home and biggest stage.
It included his three greatest victories: capturing the heavyweight title against Randy Couture, defending it against Frank Mir at the high-profile UFC 100 and winning another via arm-triangle choke submission over Shane Carwin, a finish that showed depth and development from a guy who arrived from the WWE as much a novelty as anything else.
“This city has been great to me,” Lesnar said.
He returned this week for UFC 200, ending a four-and-a-half year absence in which he returned to pro wrestling in part due to diverticulitis that made preparing for MMA fights nearly impossible. During his “retirement,” he’d come here occasionally to find a sense of regret, or unfinished business, or something weighing on him.
His first run through the UFC was an unqualified success, despite the 4-3 record. It was also a serious grind, a pressurized pursuit of proving himself as a true fighter and a true athlete that seemed to once haunt him. “The circus,” as Lesnar used to call the WWE, can pay the bills. It’s still a circus though.
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – He’d wake up starving. Literally. A three-, four-hour workout the night before – jiu-jitsu, boxing, wrestling, whatever – would be followed by no food, just water and a fitful sleep, stomach screaming for substance.
When he’d wake, a body crying in pain. He’d climb out of bed, toss on some running shoes and hit the road … two, four, six, eight (miles). Maybe 10, maybe whatever was needed. Only then could he get breakfast: a couple egg whites and a tiny bowl of cereal that would satiate nothing.
Nate Diaz would be cutting weight, always, it seemed. The scale loomed over everything. He was the UFC’s Swiss Army knife – lightweight, welterweight, catch-weight. Need a guy to fight, on notices short or long, at this weight or that?
Diaz was ready to punish his body in ways that not even stepping into a cage could match. He was 6-foot-1, fighting at 155 pounds, fighting for a chance for bigger bouts and bigger checks.
And it drove the fury that now, with his star turn arriving following his March victory over Conor McGregor at UFC 196 and in advance of their August rematch at UFC 202, has Diaz looking to challenge everything.
“It already has.”
Diaz was impressed, sort of.
In 1974, two years after Title IX passed, yet decades before it stopped being ignored, Pat Summitt was named the head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee.
She was 22. She got the job because she'd just become a grad assistant, the previous coach quit and there really wasn't anyone else who wanted the position. The salary was $3,000 a year. Duties included driving the team van, washing uniforms and sweeping the practice floor, which was available around men's intramural schedules.
The daughter of a disciplined dairy farmer who believed hard work yields opportunity, the younger sister of three older brothers who never gave her an inch in backyard games, she saw in Knoxville something special. "Just call me Pat," she told her team, because some were no younger than her.
Eight NCAA championships, 1,098 victories and incalculable lives impacted later, Pat was still how she was referred. On Tuesday, Pat Summitt passed away at the age of 64. In August 2011, she announced she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
That two football stars received a favorable decision with their hometown prosecutor is hardly a shock.
(The) Justice (System) isn’t blind and has never been.
Privilege matters and while Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones lack the family or class status traditionally associated with the term, they have something else going for them – fame. They were both prep stars in Monroe, La. area high schools before heading to the University of Alabama, where they just won the national championship.
That was enough, or partially enough, for a prosecutor to cut them a break that, even if it may be correct (time will tell), cited the wrong reason for how it came about. The whole thing is that circular.
Jerry Jones, the Ouachita Parish District Attorney, declined Monday to prosecute any of the men.
He had a legal reason for doing so, a lack of evidence that would make individual prosecution challenging. Namely, yes, there were two guns stuffed under the seats, but who actually owned them (or the drugs) and who, if anyone, actually knew one of the firearms was stolen?
OAKLAND, Calif. – When the improbable, seemingly impossible, was done, when Cleveland’s championship was, at long, long last, won, LeBron James simply went to his knees and wept. There was nothing else to do.
Wept for the accomplishment, his Cleveland Cavaliers defeating the Golden State Warriors here Sunday, 93-89 in Game 7to become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit. Wept for the performance, 27 more points, 11 more assists and 11 more rebounds to cap a three-game stretch (averaging 36.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 9.7 assists while facing elimination) as great as any player, ever.
“Just knowing what our city has been through, Northeast Ohio has been through,” James said. “You could go back to the Earnest Byner fumble, [John] Elway going 99 yards …”
CLEVELAND – LeBron James has come for the Golden State Warriors, come for Steph Curry, come in ways in which neither Steph nor his teammates have an answer because there is no answer. He's come for their title, come for their shiny record, come for the MVP trophy and the Larry O'Brien, too. He's come for their reputation.
Arena clad in black, wall again at his back, and here was LeBron asserting his will on the Warriors in Game 6, 41 more points, 11 more assists, eight more rebounds and another night of saying not now, maybe not ever.
That was no conspiracy here on Thursday, Mrs. Curry. That was the King.
"I just play," he claimed.
It's the Californians who are supposed to be cool, the Clevelanders who crumble in the crucible. Script flipped.
On Sunday in Oakland, it all goes down, 3-3 in the series now, Cleveland the first team since 1966 to trail 3-1 in the NBA Finals and force a Game 7. The Cavs will try to become the first ever to win it.
"I just didn't want to come out," James said.
Athletically speaking, LeBron James has never been the underdog, or if he ever was, it was long, long before the world began paying attention to him when he was about 15.
Bigger, stronger, faster … blessed with the best training and the backing of corporate America … hailed and hyped by the media as a teen … expected to dominate and then proving dominant. The Chosen One, “Sports Illustrated” dubbed him when he was a high school junior; it sure got that correct.
He elicits few sympathies and even fewer warm feelings. He lacks the smile of Magic, the humor of Shaq. He wasn’t introduced to the world in the engaging, welcoming way of Michael … come fly with me.
And he hasn’t always helped himself. When he couldn’t win in Cleveland, he bolted to Miami. When he won, twice in Miami, it was perceived to be because he had a stacked deck. Now that he’s back in Cleveland, maybe some feelings have thawed but only so much. He’s still the physically imposing one.
This would be an unforgettable, impossible-to-dismiss performance. This would be the signature accomplishment of his career.
This would be LeBron James … underdog (sort of).
There should be no denying his brilliance, although plenty do.
CLEVELAND – Steve Kerr smiled at the question and then playfully batted away the suggestion that he was employing some coaching motivation trick the other night. Who me?
The Golden State coach said he was just being accurate when, after a humiliating 30-point loss in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, he called his team soft, said his stars needed to show up and gave cover to the media to tear into Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson by claiming they deserved it.
This, Kerr said, was not strategy. This, he said, was not something out of the Phil Jackson/Gregg Popovich playbook. Nope, no way.
“Just telling the truth,” Kerr said with that smile.
He could afford to smile after a 108-97 victory here in Game 4 pushed the Warriors to a 3-1 lead in the series. They can close out Cleveland and capture consecutive NBA championships Monday in Oakland.
Steph went for 38. Klay added 25 more.
“We felt threatened,” Kerr said. “I think we came in here [for Game 3] and for whatever reason thought, ‘OK, we’ve got this.’ And they kicked us in the teeth, obviously. … Tonight we were threatened and we responded well.”
CLEVELAND – It used to be you needed to watch only the last five minutes of an NBA playoff game. Now it’s the first five.
For reasons no one can quite figure out, the NBA playoffs have gone from tense one-possession games and dramatic buzzer-beaters to a series of back-and-forth blowouts that are good for nothing but making sure America is getting a good night’s sleep because it doesn’t have to stay up to watch the fourth quarter.
“I think back to last year’s run, every game was close,” Golden State’s Harrison Barnes said. “I think the first two games [of the NBA Finals] were in overtime. Everything was coming down to the wire. This year, it’s just been the complete opposite.”
“It has been happening a lot,” agreed Cleveland’s J.R. Smith.
Golden State leads Cleveland 2-1 in the Finals, and the three games have been decided by an average of 26 points. The non-competitve results are equal opportunity. The Warriors won Game 2 by 33, then lost Game 3 by 30, a 63-point swing.
So the numbers are there. The playoffs have been boring thus far. Does anyone have any idea why?
“Each team that has had a lopsided victory was extremely physical on the defensive end,” Smith said.
Better tune in early.
CLEVELAND – Late in the third quarter, with Cleveland deep in its Game 3 domination of Golden State, Stephen Curry scooped up a dead ball and decided to try to dunk it long after the whistle.
Perhaps it was out of boredom. Perhaps he wasn’t taking the game seriously. Perhaps it was a chance to remind himself what making a basket felt like.
It didn’t matter. LeBron James promptly jumped up, blocking the meaningless shot, sending Curry humbled back to the floor. Cleveland wasn’t going gently into the summer, wasn’t conceding anything. “I didn’t want him to see the ball go in,” LeBron said.
It was one more rejection, one more miss, one more night in the NBA Finals when the league's unanimous MVP failed to show.
Cleveland 120, Golden State 90, and suddenly this is a series. It's still 2-1 Warriors, but Friday’s Game 4 here looms large and everyone is wondering when Steph is going to get going.
“I have to play 100 times better than that,” Curry acknowledged after a 19-point effort that saw him score just two points in the decisive first half. He’s averaging just 16 a game in the Finals (down from 30.1 in the regular season) and hasn’t cracked 20 in a game yet.