Summer sports highlights

There were many sports story-lines throughout the 2016 summer that The Guilfordian was not able to cover.

These stories ranged over the spectrum of sports, from remarkable championship moments to the loss of people that were keystones of the sports world.

Perhaps the most memorable of these storylines was the inevitable rematch of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors in the National Basketball Association Finals. This year almost had a sense of déjà vu from the year prior when the Warriors took a 3-1 game lead in the series and were one game from clinching back-to-back championships.

But the King was not going to let that happen.

Forward LeBron James and guard Kyrie Irving both closed out the last three games of the Finals in phenomenal fashion, most notably in Game 7, as James fulfilled his promise of bringing a championship home to “The Land.”

In the improbable series comeback, the Cavaliers became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals. While both James and Irving posted remarkable game numbers in Games 5 and 6, it will be Game 7 that will be remembered throughout history.

In Game 7, James posted a triple-double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and Irving added 26 points and six rebounds.

But it will be the last 1:51 that is imprinted in every sports lover’s brain, as James trailed down forward Andre Iguodala to make what is perhaps the greatest block in NBA history.  Fast forward to 53 seconds remaining, where Irving sank the go-ahead three to hush the Warriors crowd and take a 92-89 lead.

After James iced the game away with a free throw and time had expired, the Cavaliers bench rushed onto the floor to celebrate what many thought to be impossible.

James was named the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the third time in his career and held the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy close to his chest in what many consider was his career defining moment.

“Cleveland, this one’s for you,” James exclaimed to the watching world.

A fan could feel the sincerity of that statement through the television screen. That one certainly was for “Believeland.”

There was one other major sports championship that wrapped up prior to the NBA Finals, and this one happened on the ice.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, winning the series in five games over the San Jose Sharks.

It was a roller coaster year for the Penguins, who had replaced previous coach Mike Johnson for Mike Sullivan just six months prior.

Following the championship run and Game 5 win, star center Sidney Crosby was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, given to the Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP.

Crosby did not lead his team in points, goals or assists in the playoffs, but his impact was evident both on and off the ice. Without his leadership, the Penguins may have been absent from the postseason.

“I mean, how can you ask for anything better than this,” said forward Phil Kessel, who led the Penguins in the playoffs with 10 goals and 22 points. “Winning the Cup is what you dream of and what you play for.”

Of course, while the summer provided many of these amazing moments, the sports world unfortunately also had to say goodbye to icons in the sports world.

One of these icons “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.”

He was “The Greatest.”

He was Muhammad Ali.

After a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Ali passed away at the age of 74 on June 3, 2016.

While Ali could perhaps be labeled the greatest athlete of all time, the heavyweight champion was also known for so much more. On top of this title, he was an inspiration and activist, who had an impact on so much more than sport.

“Believe me, he didn’t die,” said former heavyweight great and rival of Ali George Foreman to Fox 26 in Houston. “He’s still alive. Whenever someone tries to make a stand about anything (or) stand up for something they believe in, it’s like we’ll be (seeing) another Muhammad Ali.

“He’s alive forever.”

The world also lost another sports pioneer in the form of Pat Summitt.

Summit was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011 and passed away on June 28, 2016.

Summitt was the head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team for 38 years and currently holds the record for most college wins with 1,098 to go along with eight national championships.

President Barack Obama put it best in a statement following her death, discussing how her legacy was much more than her wins and championships.

“(Summitt’s) legacy is measured much more by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat’s intense competitiveness and character and, as a result, found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder and live with courage on and off the court,” said Obama.

After such an impactful summer and start to the fall sports seasons, one can expect even more major storylines to break throughout the rest of 2016.

In the wide world of sports, news breaks every day, and no one ever knows what may happen next.