SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Springtime and birds chirp, flowers bloom and the Cubs are back in blue, and everyone else is suddenly coming for them. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us as always. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT: Oh, good morning, Scott. I am - I'm afraid of that mesmerizing, intimidating voice of yours right there. They are coming for the Cubs, aren't they?
SIMON: Yeah. Well, it's one of the first...
BRYANT: It's not something you get to say very often.
SIMON: (Laughter) I've - not in 108 years. All right. What are you looking forward to in this baseball season?
BRYANT: I'm looking forward to seeing how the Cubs respond. They are the best team in baseball. They're the world champions, as we finally get to say after all this time. They were the best (unintelligible)...
SIMON: I'm sorry. I - we had a bad connection. Could you say that again?
BRYANT: (Laughter) Say that again.
BRYANT: The World Champion Chicago Cubs.
SIMON: Oh, now I hear it. Go ahead, Howard, yes.
BRYANT: And so actually for the last two years, they've been the best team in baseball and now in a third. It's one of the things that is very, very difficult to do in the National League especially, which is to win a championship after winning a championship - repeating. It hasn't happened in 40 - more than 40 years. The last team to do it was the Big Red Machine, 1975 and '76.
BRYANT: In the American League, we've seen it. The Yankees have done it. The Toronto Blue Jays have done it. But in the National League, very, very difficult. So to see how the Cubs respond, to see how they deal with being champions, to see if that fire is still there and all the luck that happens too that you need to win, the Cubs are going to be - they were a story last year, and they're going to be a story again this year.
SIMON: Yeah. My family and I are going to be at the game in Wrigley Field, first game, home game, on Monday night. And if Joe Maddon is listening, I'm ready. OK, Joe? Just signal me in the stands. I'm ready any day. You know, I can pitch, I can pinch hit, whatever.
BRYANT: Angling to get on the field yet again, Scott Simon.
SIMON: Yes, absolutely. Let's go to basketball. In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers took apart the Boston Celtics. In the West, the Golden State Warriors have won thu, thu, thu, thu (ph) 13 games in a row. Kevin Durant should return tonight. Are we looking at another Cleveland-Golden State matchup down the road?
BRYANT: Well, it looked pretty bad for a while for the Cavaliers because they hadn't been playing well. They hadn't been doing the things that they had done. But then again, who do they have? They've got the best player in the game. They've got LeBron James. And when you have LeBron James on your team, suddenly all of your ailments can go away in a night. And they went out to Boston last Wednesday, and they destroyed the Celtics, who were tied with them for first place in the East. And you have the Warriors who didn't even have Kevin Durant because he was injured, and they go out and win 13 in a row without him. And now he's back tonight, and once again, it looks like the question is going to be what it's been the last two years. Can anybody beat these two teams four times before they meet each other? It's never happened in the NBA history before where you've got two teams that meet for a championship three straight years. So this is pretty remarkable.
It's no question that the best team in the NBA is the Golden State Warriors. And they are the team to beat. But LeBron James has been to the NBA Finals six straight years, and he's doing something that Michael Jordan never did. He's doing something that only Bill Russell had done before, to go to the finals this many times. It's a fascinating matchup because you would like to think that somebody could challenge these two teams. But right now, they are head and shoulders above everybody else. In the West, it'll be fun to see what happens. In the East, I think that once LeBron starts to go into that playoff gear, I don't think anybody can beat him.
SIMON: He's kind of been saving himself, hasn't he?
BRYANT: Well, he has to. He's got a lot of miles. You forget that he's been in the game since 2003, and yet, he still keeps carrying the franchise. I want to see it. I think everybody wants to see it, unless you're in San Antonio, but Warriors Cavaliers three will be fantastic.
SIMON: All right. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks so very much, Howard. Talk to you soon.
BRYANT: My pleasure.
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