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U.S. Open Starts Monday, Basketball Says Goodbye To Darryl Dawkins


Now it's time for sports.


SIMON: Is there any more room on Serena Williams's mantle for another trophy? The U.S. Open starts Monday, start dusting. And remember the man who shattered glass in a basketball court, Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us now from the studios of New England Public Radio. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Tickets for the U.S. Open women's final sold out this week before the men's tickets.

BRYANT: For the first time ever.

SIMON: You can see why, can't you?

BRYANT: Well, absolutely. You look at the most compelling - Serena Williams is the most compelling athlete in sports today. She's the most compelling tennis player - male or female. You look at the history that she's going for to win 22 Grand Slams to tie Steffi Graf.

And it's not just those numbers either, it's the fact that the way she wins and the few times that she loses, it's the most compelling thing to watch right now. And it's not also - it's that and I also - when I look at Serena, you also see a lot of anguish, the stress of winning, the stress of playing. It's one of the beauties of her and Rafa Nadal and a few other athletes. LeBron James is like that to a lesser extent as well where they actually let you know how hard it is to win and how much strain they go through instead of acting as though - as ballplayers have to - that nothing affects them, that they're unbeatable. They have to believe it. But Serena shows it on her face, and I just love watching this. If she gets this Grand Slam, it's going to be one of the most fun things to watch. I'm looking forward to going.

SIMON: I got to note she's piling up the hardware at an age when a lot of previous champions have retired.

BRYANT: Well, exactly. And to do this in your 30s is not something that tennis players do. You have to remember these players turn pro when they're 13, 14 years old, so she's been playing 20 years. And most players are gone before they turn 30, never mind winning Grand Slams.

SIMON: Moving to baseball - intense races for the post season, but the team that spent, I think as much money as Iran's nuclear program to try and get the best pitching staff on paper, the Washington Nationals, are close to falling off the table. What happened?

BRYANT: They are. Well, this is what happens when you've got all these expectations to win, and they're only a game over .500. They might not even make the playoffs. I think it's going to cost Matt Williams his job most likely, and I go back to when they were getting cute trying to win a few years ago when they limited Stephen Strasburg - you can't be cavalier with these opportunities to win. They don't happen that often, and if they don't make the playoffs this year, it's going to be quite a fall for a team that everybody thought coming out of the winter meetings that they were going to steamroll. Who knew that they'd be behind the Mets? They're nine games out of a playoff spot right now, and it's really not that hard to make the playoffs in baseball anymore.

SIMON: Let's take a moment to remember Darryl Dawkins, the man who was to the dunk what Dizzy Gillespie was to bebop. He died this week of a heart attack, only 58.

BRYANT: Very, very sad story, and we talk about statistics in baseball so much and statistics in basketball and data, data, data - but Darryl Dawkins made basketball fun. He was one of those people that made you watch for who he was - incredible talent, incredible character, but most of all one of the reasons why you actually turn on the TV - incredible athlete.

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

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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