A different 10-year challenge: Who won the last decade in sports?
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OK, here's what's going on right now in the world of sports:
Here's our own 10-year challenge
If you've been on the internet at all in the last week, you've seen people doing the "10-Year Challenge." You post a picture of yourself from 2009 next to a current one and everyone laughs at the differences. There have been some pretty funny takes on it, like someone writing "Edmonton Oilers in 2009, Edmonton Oilers in 2019" over two identical photos of a dumpster on fire.
I'm not that funny but I still want to parlay this meme into some easy content. So here's a different angle: let's decide who "won" the last 10 years in each of the big four North American sports leagues and predict who'll win the next 10. And let's get into some stuff along the way.
Last 10: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Easy one. This Sunday, New England's unparalleled QB/coach tandem will compete in its eight consecutive conference title game. During that time they've made it to four Super Bowls and won two. Brady was the MVP both times. Belichick's unmatched ability to constantly reinvent his strategy and tactics is why the Patriots are so good year after year.
Next 10: Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. The 41-year-old Brady's mirror this Sunday is a Millennial who threw for 50 touchdowns and will probably win MVP. Mahomes has more physical talent and dazzles fans in a way the ruthlessly efficient Brady never could. He's the perfect QB for the modern, pass-first/second/third NFL. Reid is his ideal coach — a play-designing genius whose concepts are catching fire in pro football.
Last 10: LeBron James. Three titles, four MVP awards and a Brady-like eight straight appearances in the NBA Finals. LeBron also kickstarted the era of player empowerment and superteams when he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for a four-year stint in Miami. Oh, and he brought a title to Cleveland! That miracle is one of the reasons why he's now generally considered, at worst, the second-best player of all time.
Next 10: Steph Curry. He'll turn 31 in March, but the most exciting shooter ever is still going strong on a Golden State team that can easily pick up a few more titles if everyone just gets along. Curry will start declining, but appreciation for the way he changed the sport will only grow. It's a three-point-shooter's paradise now as everyone wants to be like Steph. Let's hedge the bet with Zion Williamson, the college star whose combo of size and skills is Lebronesque.
Last 10: Billy Beane. Mike Trout was the best player, but the story of the last decade in baseball is the full realization of the data revolution the Oakland executive ushered in. Moneyball detailed Bean's methods when it was published in 2003, but it took until the last few years for "advanced" stats to gain full acceptance. These days, Ivy Leaguers have pushed ex-players like Beane out of front offices and are studying things like spin rates and launch angles. But he started all this and the last decade proved him right.
Next 10: Shohei Ohtani? Baseball is in a strange place — richer than ever but also less relevant in the culture. Changes to the way the game is played aren't helping — too many strikeouts, not enough balls in play. Maybe Ohtani can help everyone reimagine the game and return the focus to the players. The Japanese import got everyone's attention last year by both hitting and pitching as a rookie. But then he hurt his elbow just like every other pitcher seems to do, so your guess is as good as mine.
Last 10: Sidney Crosby. He won his first Stanley Cup in 2009 and also led Pittsburgh to back-to-backs in '16 and '17. He scored one of the top two goals in Canadian hockey history — the overtime winner in the gold-medal game at the Vancouver Olympics — and won a scoring title and an MVP. Crosby's struggles with head and neck injuries earlier in the decade also helped raise awareness about concussions. He should get some credit for today's safer, more free-flowing game, though there's still work to do in that department.
Next 10: Connor McDavid. He just turned 22 and he's already got two scoring titles and an MVP. Most people consider him the best player in the world. But McDavid is locked into a poorly run organization in Edmonton and hockey lags far behind football and basketball when it comes to creating the best possible environment for its stars to shine. Let's hope all that changes soon.
Montreal's backup goalie almost set a franchise record. Antti Niemi made 52 saves in a 5-1 win over Florida. That's one short of the Canadiens' single-game mark held by Carey Price and Wayne Thomas. Odd pairing — Price is one of the all-time greats while Thomas is a journeyman who was only in Montreal for two seasons.
The Roughriders' coach and GM ditched them for a much lesser title in the NFL. Chris Jones left for a job as, reportedly, a "senior defensive specialist" with the Cleveland Browns. That's below head coach and defensive co-ordinator on the org chart. Jones signed a contract extension with Saskatchewan just last week. Reports at the time said some NFL teams were looking at him, but Jones denied talking to any. Guess the follow-up question there should have been, "What about your agent?"
The Warriors scored 51 points in the first quarter. That's an NBA record for the opening period, but not for any quarter. The Buffalo Braves scored 58 during a fourth quarter in 1972. Something was in the air last night around the league because three teams scored at least 142 points. Besides Golden State's 142-111 win over Denver, Philadelphia poured in 83 in the first half to beat Minnesota 149-107 and Atlanta outscored Oklahoma City 142-126.
Michigan State's interim president is in trouble for saying something awful about victims of Larry Nassar. If he doesn't resign, there's a good chance John Engler will be fired after saying that women sexually assaulted by Nassar have been in the "spotlight" and are "still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition." Nassar is in prison, likely for life, after pleading guilty last year to molesting many athletes who came to him for treatment. Michigan State agreed to a $500-million US settlement with 332 women and girls who said they were sexually abused by the school's former sports doctor.
Gabby Daleman is ready to compete again. On the surface, the figure skater had a good 2018. She won the national women's title and helped Canada win gold in the team event at the Olympics. But in October Daleman announced she was taking a break from the sport, and she later revealed her struggles with anxiety, depression, ADHD and an eating disorder. She's doing better now and will go for her third title at this week's Canadian championships. If you want to read more, check out Pj Kwong's story on how Daleman's mother is helping her work through her issues.
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