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The Good Press - Issue #61: Refresh

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The Good Press

June 23 · Issue #61 · View online

A newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind


A fresh new champion is guaranteed in the NBA, some thoughts on Olympic athletes chasing their dreams, and always trying to seek refreshment when you can

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Good Press, a newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind.
Thanks for reading. I hope you find this issue to be worth your time.
Comments and reader suggestions are always welcome. You can reply to the newsletter right from your email if you would like to share your feedback.
Basketball's rather unexpected final four teams (Graphic: Sarah Grillo/Axios)
Basketball's rather unexpected final four teams (Graphic: Sarah Grillo/Axios)
Refresh
When I touched upon the NBA playoffs a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that this year’s basketball playoff picture features a lot of new and refreshing teams as opposed to the usual suspects. None of the final eight teams left had won a championship or even competed for a championship all that recently.
We’re now halfway through the playoffs and we’re down to the final four teams, and the top-seeded teams in each conference have both been ousted. Amazingly, it’s only the second time since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976 that both #1 playoff seeds were eliminated before reaching the conference finals.
The Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks upset the Philadelphia 76ers and my Brooklyn Nets, respectively, in thrilling Game 7 wins on the road. The Hawks and Bucks now play a best-of-seven series in the Eastern Conference finals for the right to face the winner of the Western Conference finals (either the Phoenix Suns or the Los Angeles Clippers) for a shot at the championship.
When Kevin Durant chose to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019, Nets fans (myself included) dreamed of playoff performances in June, chasing down that elusive first Nets NBA championship. Even though he had recently ruptured the Achilles tendon in his right ankle weeks before his Nets contract was signed, betting on a talent like Durant was a no-brainer.
With KD in the fold, the Nets were considered strong championship contenders in the 2020-21 season because of his long-anticipated return. That was a refreshing feeling, especially for me as a fan who hasn’t seen any of the pro teams I root for win a championship, other than when the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup a few months before my sixth birthday.
While very few athletes have ever successfully recovered from Achilles tendon surgery and looked like the player they were before the injury, very few athletes in any sport in history have ever come around like Kevin Durant. What he was able to show this year was a breathtaking display of fortitude.
With fellow superstars Kyrie Irving out with an ankle injury and James Harden hobbling and playing gingerly through a serious hamstring injury of his own against Milwaukee, in the end, the Nets’ 2021 championship aspirations fell almost solely on the shoulders of Durant in a major way.
In a pivotal Game 5 in Brooklyn with the best-of-seven series tied at two apiece, Durant played a game for the ages, helping the Nets erase a 16-point second-half deficit to win a nail-biter of a game. With 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks, Kevin Durant showed the whole world that he hasn’t lost a step, even on a surgically-repaired leg in his age-32 season.
The clock ultimately struck midnight on the banged-up Nets in Game 7, however, and despite the Herculean efforts of Durant, my hopes of seeing one of my favorite teams win a championship will have to wait another year.
How close did Durant come to putting the team on his back and carrying the Nets almost single-handedly to the next round? Maybe a couple of shoe sizes.
Kevin Durant's incredible shot to force overtime in Game 7
Durant made one of the most jaw-dropping shots in recent memory in Game 7, but his size-18 shoes were just barely touching the three-point line, meaning his shot was a game-tying two instead of a series-winning three. Brooklyn just ran out of gas as both teams huffed and puffed to the overtime finish. It was a tough pill to swallow for Nets fans, who now have all offseason to ponder “what if” about how things would’ve gone with a healthy Irving and Harden, or if just one more shot had fallen… or any number of coin-flip plays.
But even amid a grueling seven-game series, there was still a particularly nice moment of levity between the Bucks’ P.J. Tucker, who is friends with Durant, and Durant’s mother, Wanda, in Game 7. Momma Durant was even able to briefly break Tucker’s “game face” after the two exchanged some trash-talk.
KD's mom Wanda Durant exchanges lighthearted trash talk with P.J. Tucker
In Other Words
Losing the big game hurts, but it’s not the be-all-end-all in life.
Sure, you play to win the game, but it is still just a game, no matter how big.
Big sports losses can break your heart, but there’s always another game to play in the future, another season, another chance to win the ultimate prize.
I would’ve loved to see these Nets find a way to eke it out against Milwaukee, but it just wasn’t meant to be this season. KD remains as great as ever, and an interesting profile, as Sam Anderson of New York Times Magazine found out.
Kevin Durant and (Possibly) the Greatest Basketball Team of All Time | by Sam Anderson, NY Times Mag
With Durant, Irving, and Harden all under contract for next season, the Nets have a chance to refresh and regroup with a normal-length offseason and get back at it in the fall, and perhaps those other superstars who bowed out of the playoffs early will benefit from a return to a more normal schedule, too. As far as the remaining four teams? All would be great stories as champions.
Next month, the previously-delayed Summer Olympics are expected to take place in Tokyo, even as the world continues to battle a pandemic that is still wreaking havoc in places that aren’t vaccinated at the rates that the U.S. is.
For Durant and Harden, in particular, it appears they are not satisfied with ending their summer basketball earlier than expected, and both players have reportedly committed to play for Team USA in July on the Olympic stage.
While I’m not sure whether the juice is worth the squeeze when it comes to the risk/reward of holding the Olympic Games this year, it’s looking pretty likely at this point that the Games will happen. The biggest reward is for the many athletes who only get a shot at Olympic glory once every few years. It’s hard not to pull for those athletes, especially the ones getting one final shot.
One of those athletes who I’ll be following is 35-year-old Allyson Felix, the American sprinter who recently qualified for her fifth Olympic Games.
American Allyson Felix rallies in the 400-meter race, qualifying for her fifth Olympics at age 35
Felix, who made her Olympic debut at age 18 in 2004, is a six-time gold medalist and three-time silver medalist, and she’s already announced that the Tokyo Olympics will be her last. Already one of the most decorated sprinters in history, she runs with a different motivation this time around.
In November 2018, Felix gave birth to her daughter Camryn via an emergency C-section 32 weeks into her pregnancy due to complications with preeclampsia. Both mother and daughter are doing well now, thankfully, and little Camryn was even able to watch her mom shock the world at the trials.
It was far from an easy road back, however. Beyond the health complications, Felix and former sponsor, Nike, had an ugly dispute that ended with her leaving the brand and Nike belatedly overhauling maternity policies in the aftermath. Now with a new sponsor and her eyes wide open, she’s aiming to make her daughter proud and cement a legacy behind just her personal glory.
"I want my legacy to be one of someone who fought for women," says six-time Olympic champion | CNN
Allyson Felix Knows What Really Makes the Olympics Run | Profile by The New York Times
“My daughter was born two months prematurely,” Felix recounted in the NY Times profile above. “We started out in the NICU, and during that time I was like: ‘Does competing still mean that much? My daughter is literally fighting for her life; do I really need to find a way to go do this next workout?’ And the answer I arrived at was: This is now bigger than sport. It’s not just about me running fast. It is about doing very specific things — advocating for women — seeing how this … makes sense beyond ‘I need more medals.’ Because I don’t.”
“The idea of working for four years for 21 seconds [of race time] and if you mess up, having to wait another four years: That is very heavy. In 2008, when I was expected to win a gold medal and didn’t, there was no part of me that could be okay with that. I feel much more at peace with things now. I’m going to be okay whether I get that gold medal or not. I now know that’s true.”
A chance to watch mom at the Olympics (Photo: Ashley Landis/Associated Press)
A chance to watch mom at the Olympics (Photo: Ashley Landis/Associated Press)
Allyson Felix is just one of many amazing Olympic stories, and I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds. I’d feel better about it all if we were truly fully post-pandemic, but I will be watching if the Games are on TV as expected. There are only so many opportunities for these athletes to compete, after all. Your mileage may vary, but hopefully, the reward does outweigh the risks.
Parting Thoughts
It’s good to be back. I stepped away from the keyboard entirely last week. It was refreshing to be able to throw myself into full-time busy city life again. It’s better to be busy than bored most days. I’ve been working hard when I have to and taking it easy when I can. Finding time to write this week was a pleasure; that was a goal of mine moving to an every-other-week schedule.
It’s nice to be able to find refreshment any way you can. Maybe it’s a nice glass of water, iced tea, or lemonade on a hot summer day. Maybe it’s a fun date night out and about in the city. Maybe it’s a whole day of doing nothing.
Maybe it’s an interesting or inspirational story that you come across and you bookmark to share with your newsletter community in the future. I still have nearly a dozen stories saved for later that I haven’t found an issue to include them in! Some of them are practically over a year old if you can believe that.
You never know what will pique your interest and be something so refreshing that you can’t help but share it with others. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and writing The Good Press gives me a chance to do something I enjoy.
How refreshing is that? Stay cool out there. Make the most of the beautiful summer weather when you can, just don’t forget to pack an umbrella.
Till next time,
-Jon
Previously in The Good Press
Issue #60: Pause
Issue #59: Play
Issue #58: The Speed of The Game
Catch up quick: The Good Press full online archive
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