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Kings Beat Rangers For Stanley Cup


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.


SIMON: BJ Leiderman writes our theme music. And the Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup last night. They're making a habit of this, aren't they? They defeated the New York Rangers in double-overtime. Were joined now by Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN the Magazine. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Oh. What a day in sports yesterday, Scott. Unbelievable.

SIMON: Well, the World Cup - and we're going to talk about that. But let's firstly - a moment to remember Chuck Noll, the great Pittsburgh Steelers coach who died last night. He coached the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories. What made him a great coach?

BRYANT: Well, what made him a great coach, one, was the fact that he had his players believe in him, and he was consistent. I think one of things that bothers me so much about sports today is how fungible it all is. The schedule is too long. Everything seems to run all over itself, and it all feels like it's not permanent. And Chuck Noll was permanent. Chuck Noll was a face of that franchise and the personality of Pittsburgh football that exists to this day. It is tremendous, to me, how Mike Tomlin and Bill Cowher - I mean, this team has only had three coaches since Chuck Noll - or two coaches since Chuck Noll got there, and him. He was the old-school football coach right up there in the Mount Rushmore canon with Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. He was that big.

SIMON: Yeah. Let's turn now to the hockey game last night - Kings over the Rangers. Two great goalies in this series, but in the end, the Kings had the unyielding defense.

BRYANT: And they were very good. They were just really good. There was no question that anybody who came out of the Eastern conference was going to be an underdog against whoever came out of the Western because the Western Conference was so good this year. This team was unbelievable - their speed, their depth, their luck, their aggression. I felt bad for Henrik Lundqvist, the goaltender of the Rangers, who was fantastic. He couldn't have been better and still ended up the season with a loss. But look at what Los Angeles did. They went into the first round - they were down three games to none to San Jose and beat them. They beat Anaheim in seven games on the road. Then, they played your defending champions, the Chicago Blackhawks - beat them in game seven in Chicago, and then win the Stanley Cup in a double-overtime goal, at home, by Alec Martinez - really phenomenal season. If you - my sister has watched about four minutes of hockey for her entire life and watched both - you know, both overtimes and was - edge of her seat stuff. The intensity was phenomenal, last night. They - well-deserved championship.

SIMON: San Antonio Spurs are on the verge of winning their fifth title in 15 years tomorrow over the Miami Heat. If they - how come they haven't named a candy bar after these guys?

BRYANT: (Laughing) Well, they are unbelievably consistent, and so people say, well, yeah because Tim Duncan isn't on the front page of the National Enquirer - whatever the reason - this team is going to go down as one of the great dynasties in basketball. They're not in a huge market. Nobody's paying attention the way they should. But if you like basketball - I've been saying forever that the Spurs are basketball for grown-ups. If you actually like teams that pass the ball and play the game the right way and help out each other defensively and do the things that you're supposed to do to play winning basketball instead of just having a star system, then the San Antonio Spurs are - it's basketball for you. And what they've done over the last five games has just been tremendous. I was amazed at how they have reduced the two-time defending champions up against the ropes like this.

SIMON: Only a couple games into the World Cup - already one stunning upset - Netherlands upset Spain. I'll say they did - 5 to 1. Orange is the new orange. So how did the number one team in the world get beaten by a bunch of guys wearing wooden shoes?

BRYANT: Well, let's not forget it was the rematch of the final in 2010. And the way that they did this - the first 40 minutes of the game, it looked like the final of 2010, where the Dutch simply could not penetrate the Spanish defense. And then, all of a sudden, one of the most phenomenal goals you'll ever seen - Robin van Persie's header at the forty-fourth minute. And then the second half, you really saw what a lot of people are afraid of with Spain, which was a bit of a capitulation. They're a little older. They're are a lot older. And maybe they're just not as good as they were, and it was great revenge for the Dutch - bad day for the Spanish.

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

BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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