It's the nail-biting, teeth-clenching, edge-of-the-seat matches that keep sports fandom so alive. The majority of the time, the most epic game finishers occur when an underdog team perfectly outplays a top-seed contender. Though everyone likes a winning story, everyone also gets behind an underdog story
This is the basis of this season's professional sports playoffs. On one hand, the NBA Finals seem to run on repeat. On the other hand, the NHL Stanley Cup Finals are a treasure chest of colorful come-up stories that make for a better read and finals match.
I think it's time to accept that winning isn't everything, but the manner in which you get there is. Diving into the two major playoffs series, here's a breakdown of the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals leading into June.
The lesson: it's important to root for the underdog. And frankly, it's a hell of a lot more fun.
Lebron vs. Dub Nation
By Game 3, the crown on Lebron James's head was looking a little dull.
The Boston Celtics pulled off two monster wins in Game 1 and Game 2, and fans everywhere began to think that this series was going to get lucky. The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't have it in them this season. Love, almost useless the parts of the playoffs he did play, sat due to an injury.
The Celtics had a chance to knock James & Co. off of the pedestal after a twisting season that left Cavs-turned-Celtic Kyrie Irving on the bench with an injury. It took seven games in a hard-fought series, but Lebron still pulled off the series in a manner that reinstated his dominance in the NBA.
After another tough seven-game series, the Rockets fell to the knees of Durant and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA semifinals. Stephen Curry's return post-injury packed an extra punch. Though James Harden and the Rockets fended off the reigning NBA Champions from taking hold of the series, the Rockets joined the Celtics in losses during Game 7.
Therefore, the 2018 NBA Finals are looking just like the 2017 NBA Finals that look very much like the 2016 NBA Finals that looked exactly like the 2015 NBA Finals.
I'm bored. I'm over turning on the television and hearing the announcers hyper-focus on James's legacy before he even retires. I'm over the Hampton Five and a clenching reign of the NBA Finals spot that leaves all other prospects just slightly too behind. There is a gaping hole where underdogs should shine in the NBA, and for all of the money that this matchup makes, it also makes professional basketball currently boring. The NBA Finals rerun says a lot about where the league is, and it also opens sports fans' eyes to this year's NHL playoffs. Underdogs galore, and a lot more to talk about than Lebron James.
Purchase NBA Finals tickets to see the dominating teams live.
NHL Thrives in Sin City
The Stanley Cup Finals aren't following suit of the NBA Finals this year. After Sidney Crosby and the Penguins pulled off the victory over the hungry Predators last year, it looked like most professional sports were stalling to find new kings to crown.
Enter the Vegas Golden Knights. A team literally in their first season, they have played their way into the Stanley Cup Finals. The team's roster is a mashup of players whose talent did not precede them. Suddenly together, once weaker talent soared forward, racking up stats that are unprecedented.
The Golden Knights fought past major NHL teams such as the San Jose Sharks and the Winnipeg Jets to land themselves in the Finals. They now face the Washington Capitals. The Capitals have a history of successful seasons that end in heartbreak. For leader Alexander Ovechkin, this hangs over his legacy, as he has not won a Stanley Cup. The win would be huge for both franchises, but the Knights' newbie run makes for a little extra in playoffs season.
After the year that Las Vegas has had, including the mass shooting at the Route 91 Festival, an underdog story is exactly what the city needed. The Golden Knights arrived with an entire community behind them. Vegas itself is not known for its professional sports or even college teams. T-Mobile Arena is used more for PBR, UFC, and concert events than popular professional sports teams. The Golden Knights filled the gap in the city, and their early success will hopefully continue to drive excitement towards the franchise.
Game 1 of the Golden Knights vs. Capitals Stanley Cup Finals has been deemed by some experts as "peak hockey." The Golden Knights won 6-4 in an epic match that included 135 shots on goal with major saves from both sides. Though Vegas won with two goals to spare, there was no major lead the entire game. The back-and-forth made for the ultimate beginning to the Stanley Cup Finals. No matter the outcome of the series, either a novice NHL team or a veteran NHL player will make history by taking home the Stanley Cup. That in itself makes the Stanley Cup Finals vastly more interesting than the NBA Finals.
Purchase NHL Stanley Cup Finals tickets to see history unfold live!
BY: Justin Felisko (PBR Senior Writer/Editor)
LAS VEGAS – How high are the stakes for this weekend’s Last Cowboy Standing, presented by Ariat, at Helldorado Days?
Major you could say.
The third PBR Major of the 2018 season has arrived and with it comes the opportunity for riders to make one final splash in the world standings before the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast takes its summer break.
While there will be multiple non-premier series events across the United States and the world this summer, none will compare to what a rider can accomplish inside the Thomas & Mack Center this weekend.
One rider can earn potentially 1,250 points toward the world standings at Last Cowboy Standing. The champion will earn a minimum of 625 world points and $100,000.
RELATED: Visit PBR.com for more information.
Each round winner earns 125 points toward the world standings, as well.
A rider needs to reach 8 seconds to advance to the next round.
Last Cowboy Standing is a minimum of two rounds and a maximum of five. At least 25 riders will advance to Round 2, with any draw spots being filled by the current world standings heading into Last Cowboy Standing if there are less than 25 rides in Round 1.
If all riders buck off in Rounds 2, 3 or 4, then all riders that attempted a bull advance to the next round.
If there is more than one ride in the final round (Round 5), then the Last Cowboy Standing will be the rider with the highest-ride score in Round 5. If there are no rides in Round 5, then the Last Cowboy Standing will be the rider with the most round points that had competed in Round 5.
The PBR Majors, which began in February 2015, have become a ticket into the World Championship race.
This weekend is the 14th PBR Major in PBR history. Entering this season, eight of the previous 11 Major winners finished no lower than 12th in the world standings.
Fans can watch Round 1 of Last Cowboy Standing beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
Current world No. 2 Ramon de Lima has spent seven weeks as the world No. 1 after winning Iron Cowboy in February.
However, even before Last Cowboy Standing was deemed a PBR Major, winning Last Cowboy Standing also propelled riders to a strong finish in the world title race.
Three of the five past Last Cowboy Standing champions finished in the Top 3 of the world standings – Kaique Pacheco (2016), Joao Ricardo Vieira(2015) and Silvano Alves (2013), while Alves also won the 2012 World Championship after winning his first Last Cowboy Standing title earlier that season.
2014 winner Guilherme Marchi finished seventh in the world standings after a right knee injury saw him lose the No. 1 spot in the world during the stretch run to the Finals.
Inaugural winner Luke Snyder finished 2011 12th in the world standings.
Here is a look at the previous champions of Last Cowboy Standing
Kaique Pacheco (2017 & 2016)
Perennial world title contender Kaique Pacheco comes into Las Vegas on the cusp of regaining the world No. 1 ranking. Pacheco has won Last Cowboy Standing for two consecutive years by going 5-for-6. Pacheco is 8-for-11 in four trips to Las Vegas for Last Cowboy Standing.
What a victory this weekend could potentially mean: Pacheco would surge to the No. 1 world ranking.
Joao Ricardo Vieira (2015)
Joao Ricardo Vieira won the two first PBR Majors in 2015, and his victory at Last Cowboy Standing had him in the driver’s seat for the World Championship. Vieira went into the 2015 summer break with a 1,002.5-point lead in the standings, but it wasn’t enough to hold off a red-hot J.B. Mauney in the final three months of the season.
What a victory this weekend could potentially mean: Vieira would move as high as potentially No. 6.
Guilherme Marchi (2014)
Guilherme Marchi won the 2014 Last Cowboy Standing to head into the 2014 summer break No. 1 in the world standings. Marchi had been the No. 1 rider for 11 of the last 12 weeks at the time of his victory. However, Marchi injured his PCL in his right knee during the victory and that injury would only worsen as the season went on.
The 2008 World Champion ultimately finished seventh in the world standings.
What a victory this weekend could potentially mean: Marchi could move as high as No. 4.
Silvano Alves (2013 & 2012)
Silvano Alves won the second Last Cowboy Standing event in Las Vegas (2013) a year after he won the Detroit LCS event.
The three-time World Champion is 11-for-23 (47.83 percent) at all Last Cowboy Standing formatted events, but it also is important to note Alves’ dominance inside the Thomas & Mack Center.
The 30-year-old won all three of his gold buckles and the 2015 World Finals event average inside the home of UNLV basketball. Alves is 27-for-36 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
What a victory could potentially mean: Alves could move to No. 6 in the world
Luke Snyder (2011)
Luke Snyder won the inaugural Last Cowboy Standing pay-per-view event in Las Vegas by going 3-for-3 with two 90-point rides. Snyder won the event with 90 points on Cooper Tires Wild & Out. Snyder won a whopping $217,500.
Repost by Jenna
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