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Saturday Sports: Fall Sports Ramp Up With Packed Playoffs

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Good weeks and bad, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The pandemic has packed the playoff season into the same weeks - baseball, hockey, NBA, WNBA. Don't forget about cornhole. ESPN's Howard Bryant joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine. It's really a fall frenzy, my friend, isn't it?

BRYANT: It is. And yet I hear no tears from you. Continue on, my friend - your Chicago Cubs.

SIMON: You mean - yes, thank you. I was - you know, I was trying to be adult about it, but I guarantee you there'll be lots of sobbing after the show. I had the Subway Series all planned. Both of them - both - yeah, a really great city has two teams that lose the first two games of the playoffs. Let me ask you, changing quickly, LA Lakers beat the Miami Heat by 10 points last night. They're two games up in that series. LeBron James once again on the verge of history, isn't he?

BRYANT: He is. And there have been a lot of great players - Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, all of the above - but no superstar player has ever led three different franchises to the championship. LeBron James is halfway there. There's really not a whole lot else you can say. Feel very badly for the Miami Heat, who seem a little bit out of gas and very much injured right now.

But the Lakers are the premier franchise with the premier player. And they've got Anthony Davis, who is so close to a championship right now. And he's playing like he was supposed to be one of the best players in the game, if not one day soon to be the best.

SIMON: Did the NBA do the bubble right? They haven't had any major breakouts.

BRYANT: Did everything right. It has been - when we talk about all the other sports and the problems and positives and everything else in other places, this sport, both WNBA and the NBA did the bubble right. They had a plan. They stuck to it. They did a fantastic job with this.

SIMON: And in the WNBA, Breanna Stewart on the Seattle Storm came roaring back to defeat the Las Vegas Aces last night 93-80 - 37 points for Breanna Stewart.

BRYANT: Yeah, and Breanna Stewart - not just that, but also a year coming off an Achilles injury, really remarkable and superb.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: Oldest player in the league, NBA Finals - WNBA Finals record 12 assists. It wasn't much of a game. These are the two best teams - you know, one and two, both of them 18-4 in the shortened bubble season. And you've got - with Las Vegas, you've got A'ja Wilson, who's the MVP. But last night's game wasn't much of a game after halftime. But they've got two more chances, at least. It's the best three out of five. So we will see, especially because the Aces had won their previous two meetings during the regular season. So it was a blowout last night, but I don't expect it to be that for the rest of the series.

SIMON: And all sports fans, all people have to be saddened to learn today that Bob Gibson, the most feared pitcher of his time, a true mound craftsman, has died at the age of 84. This man was feared and revered.

BRYANT: Feared, revered and great and devastating for the St. Louis Cardinals. They just lost Lou Brock less than a month ago. To lose Brock and Gibson, two of the pillars of the 1960s Cardinal Dynasty - really, really devastating. Gibson - I'll at least never forget the 1968 season - 22-9, 1.12 ERA.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: One of the great, great pitchers, and the leader of the fraternity of the Black Aces, which is the African American pitchers who have won 20 games in a season. He was a leader to so many and just a legendary pitcher and a huge loss.

SIMON: You know, I met him once at a friend's birthday party, and I spent much of the night begging him to throw a dinner roll at my chin just could I - just so I could say (laughter) I had been brushed back by the great Bob Gibson.

BRYANT: By Bob Gibson, yeah. And really difficult for them, too, considering that the Cardinals also were eliminated last night as well. Very tough day for Cardinals nation. Bob Gibson will be very much missed.

SIMON: Yeah. Howard Bryant, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: My pleasure, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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