Conclusive …..

Conclusive …

In aftermath of the Golden State Warriors’ (3-4) loss in the NBA Finals and the way in which the defending champions relinquished their title, has the sports’ world talking as the newly crowned champions the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-3) hold sway of the NBA world. Finals’ MVP and now a three-time champion , LeBron James now feels vindicated after the franchise’s triumph and the promise of bringing a title to his home state. The Akron , Ohio native fulfilled the promise and now has fans who once taunted for his departure from the Cavaliers now calling him ‘ The King’ once again . For the Cleveland Cavaliers’ team owner Dan Gilbert and his partners have seen the franchise’s value rise over 60% in the last four years, with the biggest increase coming immediately after James rejoined the Cavaliers. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ franchise is now worth in excess of $1.1 billion , though their value places them mid-table among the league’s thirty teams .

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Two consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals and the belief appears to be , Cleveland can now dominate the league , but specifically in the Eastern Conference for years to come. As to how many years is actually dependent upon how long LeBron James will continue his career in the league. I firmly believe the twelve-year veteran is now seeking personal goals , winning at least three more titles, three League MVP’s to add to his tally of four . Yet James’ biggest personal achievement could come from his being biggest earning player in NBA history . Having accumulated an estimated $300 million fortune, James’ business tentacles now stretches across a wide variety of entrepreneurial endeavors. LeBron James will likely become a billionaire before his NBA career has ended , with the player now the highest earning athlete in the league and one of the most recognizable faces in the world of sports. Not since Michael Jordan’s reign over the NBA , has there been a player so enigmatic , as athletic and as dominant in this league. Fans may now be seeking a team and player rivalry which are reminiscent of the intense rivalries seen between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics . I do believe those years are long gone and in our rear view mirrors and they are unlikely to return to the NBA !

Golden State’s fall from the heights of the basketball world to the point where many might now be questioning the heart of this team might well be justified. I firmly believe the title was lost for the Warriors , when the referees interjected themselves in the series far more than fans have come to see in previous NBA Finals . In particular during games four , five and six, when there appeared to be anomaly of outrageous calls favoring the Cleveland Cavaliers when they were in the process of mounting their now historic comeback from a 3-1 deficit . Golden State crumbled, while Steph Curry’s play and leadership continued to falter along with his teammates following in tow. The loss of Draymond Green from game-six , was far more telling than anyone would career to admit, but the player went all out in game-seven , as he fought valiantly in seeking to retain the Warriors’ hold Los their title. Cleveland Cavaliers’ four point 93-89 victory sealed Golden State’s fate and brought a title to Cleveland. Green’s thirty-two points in the contest led all scorers in the game. The defeat now leaves the Golden State Warriors and their fans wondering what might have been and whether or not the chase of the single-season record for regular season wins was actually worth it. To a degree there was a great deal of complacency seen during the NBA Playoffs by the Warriors , but this loss to the Cavaliers came down to who wanted the series’ victory more , without apportioning blame squarely on the shoulders of the referees.

There has to be a great deal of disappointment among the coaching staff of the Golden State Warriors , especially with head coach Steve Kerr . Having been fined $25,000 by the NBA for his criticism of the officials and pointed accusations at LeBron James , the thick skin one might have felt was a shell of invincibility with the Warriors had indeed began to crack. This off-season , there are likely to be some changes among the team’s lineup and I firmly believe Andrew Bogut will no longer be a part of the franchise’s future. Bogut’s best years are now behind him and limited availability in the Playoffs was clearly of no advantage to the team. Yet the biggest decision facing Steve Kerr and Warriors’ GM Bob Myers , is whether not they will allow Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli to become free agents or seek to retain both players who were vital to the team’s success during the regular season. The NBA salary cap will increase significantly this upcoming season rising from the current level of $63 million to a proposed $78 million with the luxury tax set at $92 million . Teams will aggressively seek to sign marquee free agents this off-season , very much in a similar vain witnessed last season and the year previously.

Dustin Johnson claimed the first Grand Slam Major of his PGA career having won the US Open at the Oakmont Golf & Country Club , Oakmont , Pennsylvania by a four-stroke margin . The American saw his rankings move up in the world, while also move up the FedEx Cup standings . However, the controversy which resulted in round four stemmed from the officials of the United States Golf Association (USGA) seeking to penalize Johnson for what they believe was an attempted stroke when the player’s club never actually struck the ball while it was on the green. They were either seeking to add insult to injury or as usual , the USGA and PGA in particular are just showing how truly incompetent they remain. Jordan Spieth , Jason Day and Rory McIlroy never made an impression during the tournament and the final leader-board indicated nothing more than Johnson’s margin of victory and his taking the almost $1.8 million first prize . Golf is in need of a great deal of excitement and it is now being provided by the top three players in the world with Jason Day , Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy leading the way.

Phil Mickelson no longer competes to win , merely turning up for what appears to be a guaranteed paycheck , just as long as he finishes in the top twenty -five of a PGA sanctioned event. Tiger Woods remains missing in action and milk carton’s with the player’s image will soon be going on display . Granted , Woods is now too old to be thought of as a missing and exploited child , but I can’t help but wonder what is next for the former world number one golfer ? It has been over eight months since his last appearance in a PGA event and over eighteen months since his last victory world worldwide . It goes without saying if Woods isn’t competing or winning a Major Grand Slam tournament, then fans of the sport are not necessarily interested in the game.

With golf now being part of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro , Brazil , it will be interesting to see which of the top-ranked golfers will be competing in the events . The Zika Virus remains at the forefront of the news within Brazil , even with the assurances being given by the Brazilian government. Dilma Rousseff , the country’s President has been deposed , amid claims of corruption , mismanagement of the country’s economy as well a litany of claims not substantiated. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent in Brazil on the staging of the Summer Olympics and IOC President Thomas Bach has now began to assure the world the staging of the event will take place without their being any major setbacks. That is of little assurance to many who believe the country has not dealt with the epidemic appropriately or the possibility that the nation’s security forces are ill-prepared to deal with a possible terrorist attack . If the staging of the games are to be a success then it will be incumbent on the country , the IOC making sure all necessary precautions are taken in safeguarding not only the athletes competing but also the guests entering Brazil to attend the Olympic Games.

Maria Sharapova might well be the best known female athlete to have become embroiled in the use of a banned substance. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has proposed a two-year suspension of the Russian tennis star which seems to have the backing of the ITF as well as the WTA , but the Russian Olympic Federation as well as the country’s President Vladimir Putin have called into question the harshness of the suspension of Sharapova. The tennis star offered her apology to her fans and the WTA when the news first broke of her having tested positive for Meldonium , a prescriptive medication commonly used in the rehabilitation of muscle fatigue. The drug has been on the banned list of substances by the IOC for over two years and Maria Sharapova’s explanation concerning the matter remains ambivalent , making absolutely no sense at all. In the midst of this all the Russian Olympic Federation is now questioning the ban by the International Track & Field Association (IAAF) of the Russian track and field team . Several of the athletes who face a mandatory two-year ban are world-class track stars , several of them ranked among the top-ten in their events and thought of as medal contenders at the upcoming games in Rio de Janeiro , Brazil.

This ban instigated by the IAAF might seem draconian and harsh without flexibility as to the decision rendered. Yet it should be noted the Russian Olympic Federation itself , while admitting no responsibility of any wrongdoing have admitted there has been a breakdown in their testing protocols for many of their track stars and other athletes. From my own perspective , I believe the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have been correct in their stance in stamping down on offenders and the associations who have yet to fallen into line with the testing protocols now in place and mandated by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) ! Russia has been one of the biggest offenders in the blatant use of banned substances in the world of track and field athletics over the past three and a half decades. It remains at the epicenter of the rampant widespread use of banned substances along with several Eastern bloc countries . However, it should be noted a number of US born athletes in recent years have also tested positive for the use of a banned substance. Track stars Tyson Gay , Justin Gatlin , Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones are the most prominent names known the public but the most well-known of all remains former seven-time Tour de France Champion cyclist Lance Armstrong . Ambivalence and hypocrisy remains commonplace within the IOC , IAAF as well as within the numerous federations affiliated with the International Olympic Committee.

Maria Sharapova will likely seek an appeal of the ruling of her suspension by taking her case directly to the Council For The Arbitration on Sports (CAS) based in Lausanne , Switzerland which also happens to be the headquarters for the IOC. Many of Sharapova’s contemporaries have not voiced their opinions publicly , but there is the belief the tennis superstar knew all along her actions were contrary the rules of the WTA and that of the IOC. I certainly hope an appeal by Maria Sharapova will not be upheld, as it would certainly open the floodgates for other athletes seeking to overturn decisions concerning their suspensions which were certainly warranted.

With the NBA season now over and baseball now in full swing the Summer months will now take center-stage with Olympics being the focal point for what will be a billion-plus audience watching this two-week spectacle. While I have always been ardent sports’ fan , in light of the recent political events around the world , there will be more the expected anticipation of the events taking place in Rio de Janeiro , Brazil .

In the aftermath with the events of the NBA Finals , do you believe the end result with the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the title was a satisfying end to the season ? Also, with the heightened alerts now taking place around the world because of the recent terrorist attacks taking place , do you believe the Summer Olympics in Brazil can turn out to be a tremendous success ?

Tophatal …. 2016/06/21

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My observations for what their worth …

My observations for what their worth … Flights of fancy being what they are this is the time of the year, which gives thoughts to what will happen next in the sporting world. I have still not engratiated myself with the goings on within NASCAR, as I believe it to be a second-tier sport, filled robotic characters and a lone female said to represent the best that the sport has to offer. Personally, I believe the best Danica Patrick has to offer, is less of her inside a car and more of her, without her fire retardant suit, naked lying on a Persian rug, suggesting something provocative she would like for her male partner to come up wit a sexual act showing a great deal of initiative in performing that said ” act “ . That’s my take and I will stick with it ! However, I can understand the selling point of NASCAR, but to my mind having the most prestigious race on your schedule , the Dayton 500 begin your year of racing makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, especially when the thrill and excitement of the race easily forgotten, to make up for a mundane series, building up to a pape- weight crescendo of the final event at Homestead , Florida, and that is without delving into the format that decides the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Champion .

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Baring all, for her art form or is she not as talented as many claim her to be ? NASCAR driver Danica Patrick.

This year within NASCAR their fans will get to witness the good , the bad and the downright ugly side of the sport and I believe it is the one thing that keeps them so engrossed in a sport now struggling to maintain its presence on the sporting landscape from a television viewership standpoint and struggle to go beyond its current demographics.

So Tiger Woods is back to struggling on the PGA Tour ? And I was under the impression with his recent signing of a multi-year , multi-million dollar endorsement deal , things were back on track as this era’s once most dominant golfer had righted the ship and he was ready to make a spirited attempt to increase his tally (fourteen) of Grand Slam Majors’ wins , as he seeks to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ tally of eighteen career Grand Slam victories. The less consistency shown by Woods , the less likely it will be for him to pass his idol and add to his own legacy . That asides, it certainly doesn’t help that Woods has shown himself to be now , a mere mortal , rather than the most intimidating golfer on the PGA Tour . His ranking has taken a tumble while Irishman, Rory McIlroy has become the ” new wunderkind” on the PGA Tour as well as the number one ranked golfer in the world , a ranking that I believe will not be regaining anytime soon ! Such has been the dominance of McIlroy not just on the Tour, but also worldwide, where he is now challenging Woods in terms popularity, visibility and earnings on and away from the course , albeit , McIlroy still has a long way to go, before he can match Woods’ sexual avarice and wealth.. Do the two go hand in hand , might I ask ?

If there is nothing else to be said for Tiger Woods, it has been that he has kept us all constantly entertained throughout his almost two decades as a professional within the PGA ranks. Hard to believe in that time the headlines concerning the players has reached the highest of highs and then sank to the lowest of lows . Other than the indignities suffered by Mike Tyson , Lance Armstrong , Alex Rodriguez and O J Simpson , I can think of no other athlete whose own self inflicted wounds and utter stupidity has led to such a rapid decline with not only their character coming into question but also their ability to perform at the highest level possible. Simpson’s incarceration lets him off the hook to perform having already retired at the time of his alleged criminal offense , but I cannot help but wonder , how proficient was he in the kitchen with a paring or carving knife and what role did Al Cowling play in that infamous homicide ? The question was never really broached or answered by anyone much less come under the investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department , Homicide Division . I guess crime dramas on television do get it right some times, but in reality, the justice system becomes blind where the alleged assailant just happens to be a high-profiled athlete or celebrity. Simply go ahead and pick your poison.

The ” No Fun League ” , not sorry about the intended pun ! With the NFL having ended its regular and postseason in something of a spectacular fashion , that this league and sport continues unabashed , with the year-round volley of stories , covering all of the teams and the ensuing drama as it unfolds , then fed to the fans and public alike.

How will the new Superbowl champions fare during the off-season as the coaching staff of Bill Belichick and GM Nick Caserio assess the current roster deciding which players are likely to be kept and the players thought to be superfluous to their needs will simply be jettisoned .

This much we do know , as long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady continue as a coaching quarterback tandem, the England Patriots’ continued strive for ” Five “ will
continue
to be reality . You cannot deny those facts when placed in-front of you and that even after the stupidity of Spy-gate and now ” Deflate-Gate ” and the cries of foul. Does anyone truly believe the New England Patriots are the only NFL team to have practiced such antics in light of the claims being made ? Check all of the anger, acts of surprise at the door , show some damn intelligence and maturity of for once. There have been maneuvers in this league to get ahead and an edge, ever since this game came into being and only an idiot would try and contend otherwise .

This is certainly not the NFL so many of us grew up on anymore , as some have repeatedly stated , this league has become a business and it is in the business first and foremost to make money, , where winning affords those the privileges of wealth , notoriety , great deal of acclaim. Some of it will either be positive or a great deal of it negative. If you want the uncensored truth , then be prepared to handle it, welcoming or not , just don’t cry off , to bitch and whine continuously like a petulant child , perhaps out of jealousy, because things are not to your liking.

There are now so many plot-lines unfolding of which the biggest might be the decision likely to be made by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft as the franchise has the first pick in the first round of this draft. The consensus appears to be, the top two players in this NFL Draft are Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston , the last two recipients of the Heisman Trophy . Whether or not Buccaneers’ GM Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith concur on their choice in taking one of the two quarterbacks mentioned , will be now be a matter of great deal of conjecture and debate . Mariota might well have been the best quarterback in College Football this past season , but his showing in the national championship game belied those claims . Winston for his part, remains an individual lacking maturity , discipline and leadership , without delving into the issues of character , honesty and whether not the Seminoles’ quarterback (Winston) has the aptitude to play at the next level or lead a team with any degree of authority.

If there were any doubts in the minds of the fans of Peyton Manning this past season might well have been the last played by him in the NFL, then they were firmly put to rest with the four-time League MVP informing the front office of the Denver Broncos that he would be indeed back for his eighteenth season in the league. Longevity asides , Manning is a likely first ballot Hall of Fame player beyond all of his accomplishments on and off the field of play.

Manning’s return was of the utmost importance to the Broncos’ plans this off-season , as it would provide them with the guarantee they sought to proceed with any major plans to revamp their roster . Any thoughts that the quarterback might well have been willing to forgo his $2,500,000 million roster bonus , to walk off and simply retire , might well have been valid, but it appears pride amongst other things has been the driving force behind this decision. For two successive postseasons , Peyton Manning’s performances have been lackluster by even his own lofty standards. The loss to the Indianapolis Colts during this past postseason was not only stunning in its manner , but also by the margin of victory over the Broncos, as it further emphasized why the Colts’ fans are now extremely happy with Manning’s successor , Andrew Luck .

It will be strange entering into this off-season , watching how the Denver Broncos now proceed in going about things , as this franchise , within the space of two years, has literally fallen from being a contender , to a team now in transition with a new head coach , Gary Kubiak and a veteran quarterback in the twilight of his career , looking for that one last glimmer hope to add to his already astonishing career and legacy. John Elway as Head of Football Operations for the franchise will undoubtedly be mulling over a number of moves likely to be made. What we do know for sure , as the lead executive in charge of the franchise’s personnel operations . his reprieve was the return of Peyton Manning, as anything short of that would have been viewed as disastrous .

In the past eighteen months, we have witnessed the travesty of a sport having grown in popularity , now floundering in its own ineptitude , brought on by an executive who has become egotistical , self-absorbed in the belief the sport he presides over remains his brainchild for him brandish to the rest of the sports’ world . UFC President Dana White , who governs the sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) like an Emperor wielding a scepter waiting for everyone to do his bidding. Dictatorial in nature, would not even come close to describing White in recent months , with his criticism of fighters , opposing promotional entities and even the sport of boxing , which has been bedeviled by its own incompetence and lack clear direction for the past decade. With recent return to the octagon by former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva , the stage had been set for the return of MMA’s most honored and recognized champion . His two losses to current champion Chris Wiedman have been the only recent blemishes on an astonishing career. Silva’s clash with Nick Diaz at UFC 183 was something of a one-sided and uninteresting contest, between the braggadocios talent of Diaz against the wily veteran skills the Brazilian , Anderson Silva.

The former champion came away with the victory , but in the aftermath of it all, the victor tested positive for an illicit banned substance prohibited by UFC. Silva declared his innocence , stating he did not take any substance banned his sport , but his explanation seems to be a little condescending and hard to believe. White for his part, has not leveled any type of criticism this time around, after haranguing Anderson Silva once before, knowing that another slight could possibly lead to one of the biggest draws in the sport walking away for good .

With the UFC Welterweight Division awry and no charismatic athlete within the division there is now a void that is sorely missed with the long-term sabbatical of Georges St Pierre . Having vacated the title he once held, St-Pierre and fans of the sport have seen that title exchange hands in two successive and uninteresting bouts between Johnny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler , the current champion within the division. Add in the fact , White misjudged the backlash with his non-too believable excuse after Jon Jones tested positive for cocaine use , prior to his most recent title defense , for which the UFC President has yet to explain how and why the Light Heavyweight title bout was allowed to proceed , in light of the UFC having been made aware of the positive test, prior to Jones’ defense of his tile against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182.

Money may well have been the determining factor behind White’s decision to go ahead with the bout, as it was the marquee contest on the PPV broadcast, which had been a sellout reaping several million dollars for UFC ,as a major financial windfall. By all estimates, the overseas’ rights to UFC 182 , netted the sport’s governing body an estimated $45 million, though those figures are on the conservative side. UFC as the governing body , rarely discloses final sales’ figures for many of their scheduled events, unless they feel it is necessary to do so . Consider the fact however, the UFC brand is now a billion dollar ($1,000,000,000) behemoth , where its gross revenues for 2013, exceeded $1.45 billion worldwide . That figure is likely to be surpassed in 2015, if their projections are met, given the pace of their schedules and proposed fights being lined up by the UFC’s promotional arm, , affiliates and through their well oiled sales and associated business concerns.

Dana White has a great deal to answer for at present and none of it, can be said to be viewed, in a positive light.

As a fan of the Atlanta Braves, to suggest I was extremely disappointed with their lackluster showing during last season would be an understatement ! Team manager Fredi Gonzalez and his managerial staff were as complacent as the players they managed over the course of 2014. The fact that this team barely challenged the Washington Nationals for divisional supremacy within the NL East , leads me to believe there was a great deal more than complacency being exhibited by the players. Fredi Gonzalez’s approach was never to demand more from his team , instead being reliant on the fact they would be able play themselves out of trouble which clearly was never the case , as seen by a number of their results.

Missing the MLB Postseason was nothing short of disastrous and the fact Fredi Gonzalez managed retain his position, might well have been the biggest surprise of all , with the Braves entering the the start of the season as a legitimate favorite to win the NL East. Braves’ GM John Hart and team President John Scheurholz have set about revamping the roster , leading to the departures of Jason Heyward and Justin Upton . If this was meant to be a money-saving exercise or simply the front office looking to save face, then the fans might now be asking, what is likely to happen next ? It remains to be seen which player currently on the playing staff, will be seen to take up the slack after two of the more prominent and productive players on the Braves’ roster from last season have been traded elsewhere.

Members of the Braves’ managerial staff and the front office might well believe that the reashaping of the team , was the .best way to move forward , but my question would be at what cost to the long and short-term future of this franchise ? The loss of both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton could prove to be devastating in the long run, if players such as Freddie Freeman , Evan Gattis , Chris Johnson , Andrelton Simmons and BJ Upton are not able to produce this upcoming season .

Chances are , management will place enough faith in these players , along with the likely promotion of a number of youngsters from within their farm system to get the job done alongside a number of the veterans now part of the roster. The team’s Spring Training schedule could go a long way in determining how good the Braves are likely to be , before they begin their regular season slog of one hundred and sixty-two games , with their opener against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark, Miami Florida , as part of a three-game road trip beginning on the 6th April , 2015. All thirty teams within MLB (Major League Baseball) will have begun their regular season sojourn as of that date.

When the NBA resumes its schedule the two dominant teams from within the Eastern and Western Conference will be the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks . Few could have foreseen that either the Hawks or Warriors would be playing such great basketball, while fearing no one at home or on the road . Such has been the dominance of these two teams , there now seems to a great deal of talk as to the legitimacy of a potential NBA Finals’ match-up between the two franchises . Personally, I do not place a great deal of credibility in such a premise , not when there is the entire second-half of the season still be played, where injuries could factor into a teams’ final standings and overall play heading into the NBA Playoffs.

With a slew of games taking place on the 20th February , with the previous night’s opening soiree’ as a precursor , teams will have to up their game and presence with play having resumed. For James Harden and the Houston Rockets their season has been extremely good , with Harden now seen as a legitimate candidate for League MVP after a stellar first half to the season, where he has been the leading scorer in the NBA.

The Houston Rockets will get the chance to further legitimize their League MVP candidate’s credentials when they take on the take on their instate and conference rivals the Dallas Mavericks on Friday evening at the American Airlines Center in Dallas , Texas,.

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Though 2015 is still in its infancy, what are you most looking forward to on the sporting calendar this year ? Also , which stories do you feel as a carry-over from last year, will still be ongoing throughout this sports’ season ? Simply leave a comment as you see fit on this and anything else you feel to be relevant to the subject matter.

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Tophatal ….

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(1) Jeff Gordon celebrates after posting the fastest time to win the pole position during qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. Gordon a four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion will retire after the 2015 season , leaving one of the most impressive racing resumes` in the modern era of the sport. However, he will still be involved with NASCAR with the day-to-day operations of Hendrick Motorsports where he is a minority stakeholder in the racing outfit as well as the joint-owner o teammate’s Jimmie Johnson race vehicle. AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Stephen M. Dowell

(2) Carl Edwards , right, talks with Ricky Stenhouse Jr . before qualifying for the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Daytona Beach, Fla. AP Photo/Terry Renna

(3) Danica Patrick talks about how unpredictable the Daytona 500 will be and how she’s prepared for the 2015 season. Patrick has yet to win a race at the highest level of NASCAR’s elite racing series. AP Photo / Terry Renna

(4) Racing celebrity, Danica Patrick poses along a Florida beach for the Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit 2008 issue. Courtesy of SI .

(5) LA JOLLA, CA – FEBRUARY 05 : Tiger Woods walks off the course after withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open due to injury at Torrey Pines Golf Course on February 5, 2015 in La Jolla, California. Wood issued a public statement , stating he would be taking a long leave of absence from the PGA Tour to recuperate from his latest bout of ill-health and to work on his golf game. i Donald Miralle/Getty Images/AFP

(6) Denver Broncos’ owner , Pat Bowlen (left), is seen here alongside the team’s quarterback Peyton Manning and Head of Football Operations , himself a former player with the Broncos, John Elway . Manning made the decision to return for an eighteenth season in the NFL, the last three with the AFC West based franchise . A disappointing postseason in 2014 played a part in the decision, but the loss in Superbowl 48 to the Seattle Sehawks left an indelible mark on Manning’s playoff legacy, where his one Superbowl victory with the Indianapolis Colts has been his lone success in the postseason. Getty Images North America / Martin Walker

(7) UFC President Dana White is seen here at the podium while he addresses the media as UFC Heavyweight Champion , Cain Velazquez seated, listens as the executive speaks concerning the upcoming bout between Velazquez and Junior Dos-Santos at UFC . Courtesy of MMA Inc .

(8) Atlanta Braves’ GM John Hart , left , team President John Scheurholz , former team manager and Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Cox . In an off-season of upheaval , several players have left the franchise via trades initiated by Hart and Schuerholz . Jason Heyward and Justin Upton were two of the most high-profiled and visible players who were traded during the off-season to the St Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres, respectively. AP Photo / Mark Shaw

(9) Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, left, looks to make the defensive play against point guard Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks . These two teams currently have the best two records in the entire NBA with Eastern based Hawks firmly seated atop of the Eastern Conference with Warriors holding the same position in the Western Conference. A potential NBA Finals series’ match-up is now being discussed in some circles, because of the dominance shown this season by both teams. Curry and Teague are just two of the primary reasons by behind their respective teams’ success this season . Getty Images / Paul Morris

(10) James Harden and his Houston Rockets’ teammate Dwight Howard are seen here during an NBA game in the first half of the season. Rockets’ head coach Kevin McHale has his team playing an up-tempo style, giving the Rockets one of the best records in the NBA . AP Photo / Chris Moore

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From left to right , Jon Jones , Anderson Silva and Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre .