Happy Monday sports fans, it's Chris Bengel back again. It was a great weekend that -- for me -- was highlighted by the basketball world descending upon Springfield, Mass. for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The 2020 class was one of the most star-studded that we've ever seen, headlined by Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Those three players were my introduction to the NBA growing up in the late 1990s, and it was awesome to see them get enshrined.
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However, it was hard not to get emotional while watching Bryant's wife, Vanessa, deliver a heartfelt and sensational speech in his honor. Bryant's highlight package also really put into perspective just how amazing of a talent he truly was. I personally believe former Philadelphia 76ers star and fellow Hall of Famer Allen Iverson said it best: "he was second to none."
It's still hard to believe that Kobe is actually gone, but it was awesome to see him get his moment on Saturday night. We'll get more into the Hall of Fame ceremonies in a minute, so let's get things started.
📰 What you need to know
1. Explaining the NBA playoff picture and format 🏀
Like the majority of sports leagues, the COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on the NBA's schedule. The league had a 72-game regular season instead of the usual 82-game slate. Sunday marked the final day of the regular season and the final seeds were set in stone following the day's action.
Now, for the first year, we are on to the Play-In Tournament that features the No. 7-No. 10 seeds in each conference battling it out for the final two sports in the playoffs.
Elsewhere as the season wound down over the weekend, Warriors star Stephen Curry won his second career NBA scoring title as he topped Wizards star Bradley Beal for the honor. Entering Sunday's game against the Grizzlies, Curry needed just three points to secure the scoring title after Beal scored 25 points in a win over the Hornets.
Here are the seeds for the playoffs in the West, followed by the East. Notice that we are getting LeBron James vs. Curry in the play-in round(!):
- 1. Utah Jazz: First-round matchup: vs. No. 8 seed (Lakers, Warriors, Grizzlies or Spurs)
- 2. Phoenix Suns: First-round matchup: vs. No. 7 seed (Lakers or Warriors)
- 3. Denver Nuggets: First-round matchup: vs. Portland Trail Blazers
- 4. Los Angeles Clippers: First-round matchup: vs. Dallas Mavericks
- 5. Dallas Mavericks: First-round matchup: vs. Los Angeles Clippers
- 6. Portland Trail Blazers: First-round matchup: vs. Denver Nuggets
- 7. Los Angeles Lakers: First play-in matchup: vs. Golden State Warriors
- 8. Golden State Warriors: First play-in matchup: vs. Los Angeles Lakers
- 9. Memphis Grizzlies: First play-in matchup: vs. San Antonio Spurs
- 10. San Antonio Spurs: First play-in matchup: vs. Memphis Grizzlies
- 1. Philadelphia 76ers: First-round matchup: vs. No. 8 seed (Celtics, Wizards, Pacers or Hornets)
- 2. Brooklyn Nets: First-round matchup: vs. No. 7 seed (Celtics or Wizards)
- 3. Milwaukee Bucks: First-round matchup: vs. Miami Heat
- 4. New York Knicks: First-round matchup: vs. Atlanta Hawks
- 5. Atlanta Hawks: First-round matchup: vs. New York Knicks
- 6. Miami Heat: First-round matchup: vs. Milwaukee Bucks
- 7. Boston Celtics: First play-in matchup: vs. Washington Wizards
- 8. Washington Wizards: First play-in matchup: vs. Boston Celtics
- 9. Indiana Pacers: First play-in matchup: vs. Charlotte Hornets
- 10. Charlotte Hornets: First play-in matchup: vs. Indiana Pacers
2. Kobe Bryant inducted into Hall of Fame, gets his own exhibit 🏀
As I said at the top, the late Kobe Bryant was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in a star-studded class that also included Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. However, as should come as no surprise, much of the focus was centered around Bryant, given his legendary career and tragic death.
Following the ceremony, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced they will open a special exhibit dedicated to Bryant. The exhibit is called "Kobe: Basketball Life," and it was designed by Bryant's wife, Vanessa. The exhibit will feature memorabilia from Bryant's career with the Lakers, including game-worn sneakers, jerseys and championship rings. Vanessa Bryant toured the exhibit on Friday for the first time with her daughters.
Bryant is the first player since Michael Jordan to have a Hall of Fame exhibit dedicated in his honor. It's so well-deserved for Bryant to have his own exhibit. Bryant is one of the top five greatest players to ever grace an NBA court and it's not even a debate in my book.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 2021 class on Sunday. Here are some of the biggest names that will be inducted in 2021:
3. MLB winners and losers: A tale of two New York City teams ⚾
This has been a strange MLB season out of the gate. I don't think many people expected the Red Sox to have the best record in baseball. Just over a year after the franchise traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, the Red Sox are hitting .264 as a team and have an MLB-best 25 pitching wins.
It's going to be interesting to see if Boston can keep this up over the course of the entire season.
As for what's happening right now, our baseball scribes Katherine Acquavella and Stephen Pianovich have an in-depth weekend recap that features winners and losers. One of the biggest winners from this weekend has to be Albert Pujols. Earlier this month, Pujols found himself playing for a struggling Angels team and now he's on a World Series contender after reportedly agreeing to a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Here's a look at some of the other winners and losers from this past weekend's action, courtesy of Acquavella and Pianovich:
- Winner - Aaron Judge: If the Yankees are going to make noise in the AL East, Aaron Judge will have to be a big part of it. He has been healthy so far this season, and over the weekend proved how important he is to New York's success. Judge hit four home runs in three games in Baltimore to jump to the top of the MLB home run leaderboard with 12
- Loser - New York Mets: The Mets' seven-game winning streak came to an end when they got swept by the Rays, and it might not have even been the worst part of their weekend. Jarred Kelenic, who the Mets shipped to Seattle in a deal headlined by Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, made his Major League debut on Thursday. A day later, the No. 3 prospect in baseball went 3 for 4 with three extra-base hits, including his first MLB home run
4. Jason La Canfora's predictions for every NFL division winner 🏈
Don't look now, but NFL training camp is about two months away. With that in mind, our Jason La Canfora has predicted which teams could potentially win each of the league's eight divisions. This is certainly no easy exercise. While there are some divisions, like the NFC South and AFC West, that clearly have a superior team, there are divisions like the NFC East: riddled with mediocre teams.
My Eagles are currently in a regime change with a new coaching staff putting its faith in new quarterback Jalen Hurts. Dak Prescott should be back and healthy for the Cowboys, while the Giants and Washington made significant tweaks to their rosters. It honestly wouldn't surprise me if any of the four teams won the NFC East.
But enough about me. Here's a closer look at who La Canfora -- in his own words -- is the most confident and least confident in as far as predictions go:
- Most confident: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9.75) -- "The only team not mired in a rebuild or retool or rethink of some sort in the NFC South will have Tom Brady willing them to the first back-to-back Lombardis since his golden days in New England ... As long as Brady avoids Father Time's reaper, bank on the Bucs"
- Least confident: - Los Angeles Rams (5.0) -- "This could go four different ways. But I guess I will say I lean slightly to the Rams. I believe Matthew Stafford will be special there and they have plenty of tools on offense. I worry some about the departure of defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and defections from the secondary, and the lack of draft picks to replenish, but am playing a hunch here"
📝 Odds & Ends
- Barcelona defeated Chelsea 4-0 in the women's Champions League final. Barcelona scored just 35 seconds into the match and never looked back.
- Sam Houston State defeated South Dakota State 23-21 in the FCS National Championship Game. The Bearkats took the lead for good with 16 seconds left in the game when quarterback Eric Schmid connected with wideout Ife Adeyi for the game-winning touchdown.
- Rapper J. Cole made his professional hoops debut with the Rwanda Patriots Basketball Club in the Basketball Africa League. Cole scored three points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists in 17 minutes.
📺 What to watch tonight
⚾ Giants vs. Reds, 6:40 p.m. | CIN -135 | TV: MLB.TV
🏒 Bruins vs. Capitals, 7:30 p.m. | BOS -135 | TV: NBC Sports
🏒 Predators vs. Hurricanes, 8 p.m. | CAR -175 | TV: CNBC
Best thing I saw on the internet 🏅
Let's go back to Kobe one last time here. Over the weekend, Vanessa Bryant delivered a beautiful speech at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. A day earlier, she shared this heartwarming photo of herself with a photo of Kobe.