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Vikings believe it’s their year

It’s about time, you might say. The Minnesota Vikings, born in 1961 with zero championships on their resume, believe 2018 is the year they finally win the big one. The first Sunday in February in U.S. Bank Stadium the Super Bowl will be here, a home game, and if you can play your games right, just maybe you can finally reward your long-suffering fans.

When I first started covering the Vikings in the fall of 1978, they had just completed a run of four trips to the Super Bowl. I was surprised to learn that I was the first Black sportswriter to cover the Purple People Eaters.

It was not easy. As a young Black single guy driving a yellow Corvette, I was accused of being a drug trafficker.

My persistence paid off. several of the Black players — Ahmad Rashad, Greg Coleman, Matt Blair and others — liked seeing me around and demanded from Mike Lynn that I receive the same treatment the other reporters received.

Fast forward to 2017. I’m still covering the Vikings’ every great win or loss over the time I have witnessed, from Met Stadium in Bloomington to the Metrodome in 1982 to U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.

Last week’s mini camp was successful. All the players were here: veterans, rookies, free agents, and Mike Zimmer returned. Zimmer took two weeks away from the day-to-day football business to rest his weary eye — he has had eight surgical procedures for a detached retina.

Quarterback Sam Bradford talked about his first mini camp.”It’s been good. I thought we got a lot of good work in nice to finish things up. I thought we had really good workouts and a good spring from start to finish and worked on a lot of situations. So I think we gained a lot.”

Bradford again is going to start at quarterback. Injured veteran Teddy Bridgewater is making progress, however. Last year the Vikings had six Pro Bowl players, five on defense and one on special teams. Adrian Peterson, who was hurt most of last season, is now gone, so offensively things will be very different in 2017.

Stefon Diggs, third-year receiver from Maryland, is ready to go. “It’s been good getting back with the guys,” said Diggs, “working on the fundamentals and working on the little things. Just doing the little things the right way just trying to be the best team player I can be.”

One of the NFL’s top defensive players is defensive end Everson Griffin. The Pro Bowler had a strong mini camp. “Camp for me is building that confidence over again and getting back to the details,” Griffin said. “The best teams, that’s what they do best. They pay attention to the details and they communicate the best.”

The Vikings announced that Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad, two of the greatest Vikings receivers in franchise history, would both be honored as 2017 Ring of Honor inductees. There are 23 players in the Ring of Honor. Jim Finks, Bud Grant and Jerry Burns are also among those honored.

One day the late, long-deserving Dennis Green will be so honored, with eight playoff teams in 10 years and over 100 career wins. After all, it was Green who drafted Randy Moss when all other NFL teams passed on him. Moss is number two in NFL history with 156 career touchdown receptions.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

The Warriors — simply the best !

OAKLAND — It’s no secret, start spreading the news: the Golden State Warriors are the champions of basketball. They completed the greatest playoff run to a championship in the 71 years of the NBA Finals.

The Warriors 129-120 win in game five gave them an NBA best-ever 16-1 record. Need I say this Warriors group is special? Last year’s 73-9 best-ever NBA regular season mark was somehow overshadowed by Cleveland’s stunningly dramatic NBA Finals game seven 93-89 win.

NBA Finals LeBron & Rihanna!

Golden State wanted their title back and signed All-Star Kevin Durant away from Oklahoma City so a team as talented and as explosive as the Warriors suddenly had two former NBA MVPs in Stephen Curry and Durant, both young, talented, hungry and in their 20’s.

Let it be known whenever two former MVPs had played together previously, a championship soon followed. In history it’s happened three times: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson with the Lakers; and Julius Erving and Moses Malone with Philadelphia.

Let’s celebrate!16-1

Not only did they match it, Curry and Durant swept the Western Conference playoffs, sweeping Portland, Utah, and 61 win San Antonio 4-0 4-0 4-0.

Golden State had a bullseye on Cleveland all year, matching up in the NBA Finals for a record third straight year — one at 12-0, the other at 12-1.

Durant and Curry were unstoppable; Durant scored 30 points or more in all five Finals games, averaging 35 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He was unanimously selected the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP. The Warriors finished 31-2 in their last 33 games. For three years in the regular season, 67-73-67, the Warriors are the best ever.

James vs Durant

Their speed, movement, and ability to share the ball and play together, combined with their will and ability to shoot accurately from long range has had this league and its coaches staying up late hours trying to find ways to slow them down.

LeBron James was remarkable in defeat, however. He scored 41 points in game five and averaged a triple-double for the Finals. He’s the first player ever to achieve that. James has now slipped to 3-5 in the NBA Finals. Is Durant now the game’s best player?

These are the first Finals where four players averaged scoring 25 points per game. Durant, Curry, Kyrie Erving and James. Warriors Coach Steve Kerr missed several games this year with back issues. Assistant Coach Mike Brown, who twice was fired by Cleveland, did a remarkable job in his absence. Kerr returned for game two of the Finals and wins his second title in three years. All five Warriors starters are in their 20’s — get use this Dub Nation.

All Photos by Bruce Yeung

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

There’s no stopping Golden State!

OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors are on a mission, and that mission is to cement themselves as among the greatest teams in NBA history. They are halfway to the greatest Championship post-season run in NBA history.
After smashing the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers 113-91 and 132-113 in the first two games at Oracle Arena of the 2017 NBA Finals, it’s no secret they are as good as advertised. Golden State is the 33rd team in NBA Finals history to lead 2-0 in the Finals. Twenty eight of the previous 32 times, the team up 2-0 has won the Championship.

Both wins over Cleveland were similar in the sense that the Warriors blew open the games in the third period. In game one, the Warriors had just four turnovers. Kevin Durant scored 38 points with eight rebounds and eight assists. Stephen Curry had 28 points and 10 assists.

Let me remind you that the Warriors already are the greatest NBA team over three years in terms of regular-season wins. Over the last three years the Warriors have won 67, 73 and 67 games in the regular season — that’s 207 wins. In 2015 they beat Cleveland four games to two in the NBA Finals. Last year Cleveland shocked the world by rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to grab the crown in an epic 93-89 game seven.

That loss denied the Warriors’ confirmation as the greatest single-season championship team ever. You see, they had the record 73 wins but no title. The Chicago Bulls, 72-10, won the NBA Championship and is regarded as the greatest team in NBA history. You can argue and debate it, but the fact remains that to finish first you must first finish.
By not winning the title last year after winning all those games and to have had history and the championship in their grasp has tormented this team. Signing All-Star Kevin Durant virtually made this team unstoppable. And to have the opportunity to beat the same Cleveland team that took their championship away has made the Warriors focused.

 Michael Jordan- Scottie Pippen


Michael Jordan- Scottie Pippen led Bulls to three straight titles.


This team with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant is the best team I’ve seen since the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen-Dennis Rodman Chicago Bulls, who won three NBA Titles in a row in the late ’90s.

LeBron James, as great as he is, can’t be counted out. Last year he led the Cavaliers all the way back from a 2-0 and 3-1 deficit to win Cleveland’s first championship of any kind in 54 years.

But this Warriors team is virtually unbeatable. They finished the regular season 15-1. Since the playoffs have begun, they are the first team in NBA history — that’s 71 years — to stand 14-0 and two wins shy of a 16-0 unbeaten run to the title. The Los Angeles Lakers finished 15-1 to capture the crown.

The Warriors’ system is predicated on movement spacing and sharing the basketball. When you can combine hard work, talent, and a great system, and you are well coached, you win 29 of 30 games, which is what they have done. Take it to the bank: Cleveland may get one game or two, but I don’t think they can beat this team four times in five games.
In game two, Durant scored 33 points with 13 rebounds and five blocked shots. Curry had 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. LeBron James had a triple double also with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and a game-high 14 assists. Former Timberwolves star Kevin Love had 27.

James, with 18 career playoff triple doubles, eight of them in the Finals, ties Magic Johnson’s record with the Lakers also with eight in the Finals. James and Curry both had triple doubles — that’s the first time that’s happened in the Finals. Cleveland is the first team to trail 0-2 in back-to-back NBA Finals.

With Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green, stranger things have happened, and I have seen some strange things happen. After all, this is just a game of basketball. However, with Head Coach Steve Kerr back directing his team after a marvelous job by Mike Brown stepping in, it’s a matter of time and games. The Warriors will win it, because there’s no stopping the Warriors.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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