2016 | The Year Of The Underdog - Story No. 4

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© SportsCafe

2016 | The Year Of The Underdog - Story No. 4

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Faizan Qadiri


After West Indies, Bangladesh, and Del Potro, our next story takes us to the Land of Dreams where in a matter of a few months, two teams playing two different but very American sports, showed the world that the "American Dream" was still alive.

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A year before last, a team by the name of Golden State Warriors emerged out of nowhere with a style of basketball that was not only attractive but extremely effective as well. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green had shown shooting abilities that mere mortals could only dream of. In the 2015 finals, they came up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs were banking on one man -  Lebron James - who had left Cleveland to ply his trade in rewarding Miami shores in 2010 after spending 7 years in Cleveland. But it proved to be an anti-climax as the best player in the world disappeared in the finals, not for the first time in his career, as the Warriors subdued the Cavs 4-2 to take home their first Championship in 40 years.

I came back [to Cleveland] for a reason. I came back to bring a championship to our city. That's what it was all about.

LeBron James, after returning to Cleveland

The next year King James came back with a renewed sense of vigour, and it appeared that the star was finally going to lead the team to their first title. On the West coast, however, the Warriors were smashing record after record, and when the two teams met on Christmas day 2015, the entire basketball-watching world switched their attention to California. The Warriors won by a slender lead of six points, but the difference in class was evident to the naked eye. The second game in Cleveland ended in a rout as the Champions defeated the hosts 132-98. The Warriors finished the regular season with an incredible 73 wins and just 9 losses. So when the two met in the finals, after winning their respective divisions, it was quite clear who the favorite was.

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Even before heading to Cleveland for Game 3 and 4, Golden State had won both the games at the Oracle Arena by double-digit scores, getting triple digits on the board in both games. After winning Game 3, the Cavs were put to the sword as Golden State took a 3-1 lead in the series with a win in Cleveland. Here is when it got interesting. No team had ever won an NBA finals after being 3-1 down in the series. Not the 1951 New York Knicks. Not the Jerry West (the guy on the NBA logo) led Los Angeles Lakers. Not even the Kobe Bryant-led 2008 Lakers. It was understood that at 3-1 down, you are virtually out of the Championship race.

For us to be able to end this drought, our fans deserve it. The game always gives back to the people that are true to the game

James after the finals

READ : 2016 | The Year Of The Underdog - Story No. 2

Over the next two games, however, LeBron was about to show the world why he is put in the same bracket as the basketball legends of the past. In Game 5 in the Oracle arena, James and Kyrie Irving both scored 41 points - the first teammates in history to score 40+ points in the same game in the Finals. Game six saw James score another 41 point to go with his 11 assists to tie the series at 3-3. But they still had to go to the Oracle Arena, that the Warriors had converted into a fortress, again. But James and the Cavs were not to be denied this time. He scored 27 points to go with his 11 assists to bring the Championship to Cleveland for the first time in their history.

The second story was declared as the biggest sports story of the year by the American Press Association. While most non-Americans might struggle to understand the sheer relevance of baseball, it is a sport that everyone in the world would quickly associate with America. Even if one can't appreciate the beauty of the sport, he can enjoy the story about the ultimate underdog winning a Championship in over 100 years - losing seven finals in between. In the World Series, the Cubs played seven thrilling games against the Cleveland Indians, who were in the hunt for a Championship of their own for the first time since 1948 which meant that the combined droughts had lasted 176 years. Knowing that it might be the last time one of them had the chance to end their title drought, the two sides took the series down to the wire with a decider required to pick a winner.

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The Cubs, however, had something more than just the jinx of past defeats to break through - "The Curse of the Billy Goat". The story goes like this. In 1945, Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis attended Game 4 of the World series with his pet goat "Murphy". Some of the other fans complained about the odor of his goat and Sianis was asked to exit Wrigley Field, the home ground for the Cubs. An angered Sianis put a curse on the Cubs stating, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." The curse had worked, and the Cubs had failed to make it to a World Series since 1945.

Cleveland won three of the first four games convincingly, with two of the wins coming at the Wrigley field. In Game 5, the Cubs managed to squeeze out a 3-2 win but having to play the two remaining games in Cleveland, it looked like the dream was over. However, the Cubs shocked everyone by taking a 7-0 lead after just four innings to give themselves a chance at redemption. The final match of the World Series was scheduled at the Progressive Field, with 38,104 people attending the event live and millions glued to their television sets to witness a historic game.

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At the end of inning 7, of the 9 innings game, the Cubs led the Indians by 3 runs. But that is when the curse hit them. Rajai Davis struck a home run, which got his team two runs, after Brandon Guyer had scored a run in the same innings. With no more runs being scored, the game went into over-time. The drama wasn't done yet. Like the famous 2008 Wimbledon final, the rain gods had a say in the game as well.

We're the best team in baseball. . . for a reason. . . Stick together and we're going to win this game

Cubs player Jason Heyward was heard telling his teammates during the rain delay

READ : 2016 | The Year Of The Underdog - Story No. 1

When play resumed the Cubs found their rhythm scoring two runs in the innings to set themselves up for the win. However, it wasn't going to be that easy to break the curse. Rajai Davis followed up on his eighth-innings heroics to score another home run (1) to bring the Indians to within a point of the Cubs. But the Cubs were not going to be denied this time and closed out the game to win the series 4-3 and end the 108-year wait for the title. Ironically, it was on the 46th anniversary of Billy Sianis' death that the curse was finally broken!

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