Top Olympic Storylines

Phelps-Lochte

On the track and in the pool, rivalries seem to be the overwhelming theme of this year’s Summer Olympics. Coming off a historic performance in Beijing, Michael Phelps look to add more to his Olympic resume. Only three medals shy of becoming history’s most decorated athlete, Phelps faces stiff competition from fellow American and six-time medalist Ryan Lochte beginning with Saturday’s 400-meter individual medley.

Blazing Jamaicans

Defending Olympic champion Usain Bolt has long been hailed as the world’s fastest man, but recent competition from training partner and fellow countryman Yohan Blake is putting Bolt’s legacy in jeopardy. At the Jamaican Olympic Trials, Blake edged Bolt in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, setting up a showdown for the ages in London.

Backing up the Dream Team Claims

American basketball has long dominated international play — this year has been no exception. Even with an injury-plagued frontcourt, the U.S. cruised though international play behind their veteran NBA talent, but with Lakers star and team leader Kobe Bryant comparing Coach K’s squad to 1992’s Jordan-led Dream Team, anything but gold will surely be deemed a bust.

Wieber’s Quest

Following an all-around victory at the 2011 World Gymnastics Championships, 17-year-old American Jordyn Wieber spearheads an attempt to catapult the U.S. atop the women’s team podium for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games. With the help of Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney, America may rake in five plus medals en route to a historic medal haul.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Time, About.com

 

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Top 5 Tuesday: All-Time NBA Players

After an impressive 4-1 series win, LeBron James finally has the championship ring he has long coveted. The win is crucial to ultimately cementing James’ legacy as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, but for now, LeBron is on the outside looking in. As the debate rages on, THE SPORTS DISPENCER has scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s finest.

Honorable Mentions: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Russell, Tim Duncan

5. Larry Bird

A 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Boston Celtics star Larry Bird begins our countdown. Throughout his storied career, Bird found success with the help of his well-rounded playing style and high basketball IQ. With career averages of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game, Bird helped lead Boston to three NBA titles, including a seven-game series win over the “Showtime” era Los Angeles Lakers. The series was one link in the legendary saga of the Bird-Magic rivalry. Largely cited as the cause for professional basketball’s 1980s boom, the pair’s heated encounters fueled both careers. Since his retirement, Larry has remained involved in the game he loves. Bird is the first and only person to garner MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year honors.

4. Wilt Chamberlain

Perhaps history’s greatest scorer, Wilt Chamberlain posted mind-boggling numbers throughout his career. While sporting career averages of over 30 points and 20 assists per game, Chamberlain peaked in 1961-62 with a record-breaking average of 50.4 points. A quick jaunt throughout any NBA record book proves the extent of Wilt’s domination. Of the more than sixty 60-point outbursts in league history, Wilt accounted for 32, most notably a 100-point performance in March 1962. Chamberlain may lack Bill Russell’s 11 championships, but in 1960 against Russell’s Celtics, Wilt dominated the Boston big man on the boards en route to an NBA-record 55 rebounds, proving his place as early basketball’s premier player.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Behind his signature sky hook, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar soared to success throughout his illustrious 20-year career. At 7’2,” Abdul-Jabbar towered over opponents, but his finesse and footwork helped the Lakers great total an NBA record 38,387 points. On defense, Abdul-Jabbar was a fearsome shot blocker. Had the NBA tracked the stat in his early career, Kareem would likely be the statistical all-time leader, but even without it, he ranks third in history. Kareem’s size and skill translated to success on both ends of the court and ultimately earned Abdul-Jabbar an NBA-record six MVPs.

2. Magic Johnson

As the undisputed greatest point guard in basketball history, Magic found success at every level. He totaled 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game. Under his leadership, the “Showtime” Lakers took the ’80s by storm, winning five NBA titles over the course of the decade. The well-documented rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird ended in Magic’s favor. In four championship matchups between the two, Johnson won three of four, resulting in two NBA titles and a 1979 NCAA Tournament championship. A 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Magic career spanned three decades before it was tragically cut short by HIV in the early ’90s, but had Johnson continued to play, the NBA’s all-time list may have a different king.

1. Michael Jordan

Whether you call him “M.J.,” “Air Jordan,” or “His Airness” — Michael Jordan’s name is synonymous with greatness and the obvious choice to top this list. The Bulls star accumulated six championships, six Finals MVPs, five regular season MVPs, and 14 All-Star nods. Jordan totaled an NBA-record career average a 30.12 points per game en route to an NBA-record record ten scoring titles. With his signature drive, MJ proved unstoppable around the basket, and his success continued to spread on and off the court. From Space Jam to the “Flu Game,” from “The Dream Team” to “The Final Shot,” Michael Jordan idealized the NBA and earned a spot as history’s all-time great.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of The Hoops Journal, WikipediaSport in Law

Top 5 Tuesday: Locks for Gold in London

The 2012 Olympics in London may be over a month away, but it is never too early to take a look ahead. As the world’s greatest athletes prepare to vie for international competition’s most coveted prize, THE SPORTS DISPENCER has compiled a list of this year’s surest gold medal favorites.

5. Michael Phelps

After a record-breaking performance in Beijing, the “Baltimore Bullet” is poised to contend in London. Phelps is past his prime and will fall short of his eight gold medal output in 2008, but his accomplishments at the 2011 World Aquatic Championships prove he is not ready to go down without a fight. In Shanghai, Phelps earned gold in the 100 m and 200 m butterfly in addition to his golds as a member of the 4×100 m medley and 4×200 m freestyle relays. Increased competition from fellow American Ryan Lochte may hamper his odds, but Phelps’ experience and unending work ethic will help the American hero topple Larisa Latynina as history’s most decorated Olympic competitor.

4. Zou Kai

The 5’2” Chinese gymnast may not be tall in stature, but his nation expects big things of him come July. Kai walked away three gold medals in Beijing in the high bar, team, and floor events. Since then, the 24-year-old cruised to victory in both the 2009 and 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships on the high bar. His high-flying acrobatics will delight the world and secure another gold for the gymnastics powerhouse.

3. Ryan Lochte

For the first time in years, a fellow U.S. swimmer has outranked the legendary Michael Phelps. A six-time Olympic medalist, Lochte has long-lived in the shadow of Phelps, but since Beijing, the spotlight has turned to him. At the 2011 World Aquatic Championships, Lochte slayed Goliath twice en route to five gold medals including a world record of 1:54:00 in the 200 m individual medley. In London, Lochte is a runaway favorite in all 200 m disciplines aside from butterfly. If he holds to form, Lochte could join an elite class of U.S. Olympic swimming greats.

2. Usain Bolt

The Jamaican sprinter is not only the fastest man in the world — he is the fastest man in history. At Beijing, Bolt won three golds in three events with three world records. His success has led to worldwide fame and admiration, but between commercial shoots, Bolt has still kept his form on the track. Usain has lowered the world record in the 100 m to a blistering 9.58 while bettering the times in both the 200 m and 4×100 m relay. After sweeping the sprinting events again at 2009 Berlin World Championships, only a false start could slow Bolt at 2011 Games in Daegu. Since his disqualification in 100 m final, Bolt has set his eyes on redemption in London.

1. U.S. Basketball

The United States has long dominated both men’s and women’s basketball — 2012 will be no different. Led by 2011 WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, the women’s squad is a runaway favorite in London. With a talented frontcourt anchored by Candace Parker, America’s experience and talent ensure success in international play.

In men’s competition, the U.S. lineup is filled with NBA stars. Even after losses at center, Coach K’s starting lineup is projected to be Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Tyson Chandler. Coming off the bench, they have proven stars in Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. The U.S.’s unrivaled depth along with their unquestioned offensive and defensive explosiveness will allow the United States to build upon the Redeem Team’s success in 2008.

* Photos Courtesy of Boston.com, NY Times

What do you think? Anything we missed? Who would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Saturday Sports Preview

UEFA Champions League Final (2:45 ET FOX)

Two European soccer giants collide in Munich today to compete for soccer’s highest club honors. The matchup pits Chelsea against the hometown favorites, Bayern Munich. Typically held at a neutral location, today Bayern gets the rare opportunity to play for the cup in front of Allianz Arena’s home fans. If Chelsea lets the crowd stay in the game, it could be a long day for the boys in blue. Prediction: Schweinsteiger dominates the midfield in a 2-1 Bayern Munich win.

Spurs-Clippers Game 3 (3:30 ET ABC)

The Spurs have played well — remarkably well. After cruising to victory in Game 1 and 2, San Antonio seems primed to continue their sixteen-game winning streak. The Clippers, however, have been outplayed on both sides of the ball and have yet to show any signs of change. Prediction: The Spurs do what they do best and roll to an easy third victory.

Thunder-Lakers Game 4 (10:30 ET TNT)

In yesterday’s article, we discussed the Thunder’s dominance and the Lakers’ inability to shutdown Oklahoma City’s dynamic offense. Last night, that changed. The Lakers held the Thunder to a postseason-low of 39.8 percent while shooting 41-42 from the free-throw line in a 99-96 series-changing victory. If the Lakers’ defense can play at last night’s elite level, it could spell trouble for the Thunder. Prediction: Kobe leads the way as the Lakers level the series at two games each.

What do you think? What are your Saturday sports plans? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Bleacher Report, LA Times