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Saturday Sports: Lamar Jackson, Lakers, Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks

Dec 14, 2019
Originally published on December 14, 2019 10:40 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Lamar Jackson and his historic season. And in the NBA, you've got a collection of powerhouses. LA, but Clippers and or Lakers, and fear the deer. We're joined now by ESPN's Howard Bryant.

How are you, Howard?

HOWARD BRYANT: I'm fine, Scott. I was going to say that never gets old, but it kind of does get old.

SIMON: Oh...

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...Oh, oh. Well, I have an opportunity to say it once more this morning.

BRYANT: You'll be saying it all season, to be honest.

SIMON: I'll be saying it all - oh, my God. I didn't think I could begin this early. Let's talk about Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, the most electric player in football right now. His team's got the best record. He leads the league in passing touchdowns, just broke Michael Vick's season record for most rushing yards by a quarterback.

He's the next MVP, I think, almost for sure. And he was - there's a tradition about quarterbacks where this is concerned - he was kind of overlooked in the draft, wasn't he?

BRYANT: He wasn't kind of overlooked. He was at the last - he's a Heisman Trophy winner who was at the bottom of the first round. And let's face it, the controversy or the reason - one of the reasons why Lamar Jackson is being talked about so much is that so many people at the beginning of his career thought he should be converted into a wide receiver, that he shouldn't even play the position. And that's what's been really fascinating about watching how good he is and how dominant he's been. And it's not just that he's electric and fun to watch. But the Ravens are also, along with San Francisco, probably the best team in football.

But I think that the real question goes back to this quite - this idea of the institutional racism that's gone on with quarterbacks. It's one thing to miss on Joe Montana or Dan Marino or even Tom Brady, who was 199th pick in the draft back when he was drafted. But to say that Lamar Jackson should be converted is to say that he shouldn't play the position at all. And I think that's one of the areas where you really - where Lamar Jackson's supporters feel vindicated because he has been absolutely fantastic.

SIMON: And does his success say anything about where football's headed?

BRYANT: It does. And it should, at least, because the game is so fast that you have to sort of - the technology and the culture of the game is outstripping its racism in a lot of ways because you need somebody back there who can actually move because these guys are fast, and they're coming to kill you. You can't just stand back there like you're a pair of shoes. You've got to be mobile. You've got to be athletic. And that's where the game is headed.

SIMON: We got just a minute to talk about basketball. In the West, the Lakers and the Clippers are atop the standings. LeBron James is still the king, even in his 17th season. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are really clicking on the Clippers. What's making these teams click?

BRYANT: Well, I think you've got that deal that everyone was waiting for. Anthony Davis didn't know if he was going to go to the Celtics the last couple of years, didn't know where he was going to go. He engineered a move to the Lakers. And now you've got a revived LeBron James and Anthony Davis dominating. They're 23-3. The Bucks are 23-3. They've got the reigning MVP with Giannis. And they've won 17 games in a row. But let's also not forget the Clippers are tremendous. And Philadelphia 76ers are also very good. The Celtics were 10-0 at home, and the Sixers broke that streak the other night. You've got four really, really good teams.

And I think what everybody would like to see - at least I know I'd like to see it - is the battle for LA in the western conference, where you've got the Clippers and the Lakers because you've got, of course, Kawhi Leonard there, as well. Terrific matchups this year and four really good teams. We'll see if anybody else can join that group.

SIMON: Howard. Howard.

BRYANT: Yes?

SIMON: Fear the deer.

BRYANT: (Laughter) I knew that was coming. Actually I didn't know that was coming. I - we're going to hear it a lot.

SIMON: ESPN's Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.