Saturday Sports: Wimbledon, NBA Off-Season

Jul 13, 2019
Originally published on July 13, 2019 2:34 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

No matter what else is happening in the world, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: A new name on top at Wimbledon and lots of new jerseys on a lot of NBA free agents. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.

Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. And welcome back.

SIMON: Thank you very much. Good to be back. And a new champion - women's champion - at Wimbledon, Simona Halep, a great young player from Romania.

GOLDMAN: Wow, 6-2, 6-2 she beat American Serena Williams in less than an hour. And she keeps Williams from tying Margaret Court's all-time Grand Slam singles title record of 24. You know, Scott, there'd been a lot of talk about whether Serena would be nervous again on the brink of history. She lost two Grand Slam finals last year, and nerves did play a part. But let's be clear. This was not about Serena being nervous or making a ton of unforced errors. This was all about Simona Halep's dominance in her first ever Wimbledon final. She won with her speed and her court coverage and aggressive ground strokes. And afterwards, she was asked if she'd ever played better, and she said never.

SIMON: Well, (laughter) I have to take her word for it.

GOLDMAN: There it is.

SIMON: Let me - I understand men are playing, too - the same old names over and over again for 20 years. God bless them.

GOLDMAN: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic again and again and again. And tomorrow's final, Novak Djokovic against Roger Federer, along with Nadal, who Federer beat in the semifinals - those big three players, all in their 30s, Federer pushing 40 - they continue to have this iron grip on their sport. Including tomorrow, they will have won the last 11 Grand Slam singles title. And as a mid-20s year, Scott, it's been more like the past 15. But it's just unprecedented, I think, in all of sport.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: You know, the normal narrative youth comes along and replenishes, but that hasn't happened yet in men's tennis.

SIMON: OK, the NBA offseason - unusually active, let's put it that way. And it's changed the - changed how we see the NBA at the moment. Just as people were getting excited about the Toronto Raptors, their main guy Kawhi Leonard decides to decamp for the LA Clippers.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: And then a lot of major stars begin to move. The league looks entirely different in the space of two weeks.

GOLDMAN: Amazing, yeah. Decamping, to put it mildly. It continued late this week, too. Oklahoma City traded guard Russell Westbrook, the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player, to Houston, where he'll reunite with guard James Harden, the 2018 MVP. Scott, there were 15 all NBA players named last season. Those are the best of the best. Six of them have changed teams since the NBA finals ended last month. Without question, as you say, the most stunning league-shifting offseason in NBA history.

And it makes me wonder, are the days of dynasties where players still, you know, stay put for a while and grow together and create an unbeatable team - for instance, the Golden State Warriors of the past five years - are those days over?

SIMON: I like dynasties, or dynasties, as you say in your family. I think they make championships worth winning. I mean, beating the Golden State Warriors made the championship worthwhile. Beating the Michael Jordan Bulls, the Bill Russell Celtics - defeating a team that just comes together for a year or two - somehow, it doesn't mean as much.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, I think it's a valid concern. A lot of fans are feeling that, you know? The fans in Toronto, as you say, they just cleaned up the confetti from their title celebration. And the question is, how will all this movement affect fans' connections to players? On the other hand, with more great players spreading throughout the league, more fans can feel as if their team actually has a chance to win. And this can create more excitement. And let me tell you, right now, there's a phenomenal buzz about next season, which is still more than three months away from starting.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.