SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
All the breaking news over the - overnight includes sports.
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SIMON: It takes something big for basketball to make news this late into the baseball season. The trade to send Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas from Boston to Cleveland is huge. But will it now be called off? Howard Bryant of ESPN and ESPN The Magazine joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT: Well, it's an honor to be with a noted B-Boy legend, Scott Simon.
SIMON: Well, I like to think I still have time to make that legend. Will the hip injury to Isaiah Thomas, which everybody knows about, now void this trade?
BRYANT: Well, it could. And this is a big deal. This is a really big deal because I think both teams need this deal to happen. The Celtics need it to happen because they don't have the star power of a player like Kyrie Irving. And if they want to be a championship-level team, you need those players. And the Celtics last year were a number-one seed over Cleveland. But they simply weren't talented enough to beat Cleveland.
And Cleveland needs this to happen even more than the Celtics, in my opinion, because you've got a superstar, Kyrie Irving, who after playing in a championship for the third straight year with LeBron James just came out and said, trade me. I don't want to play with this guy anymore. I don't want to be in Cleveland. So if this trade doesn't go through, what do you do if you're the Cavaliers? The last thing you want to do is to start the season with two players that don't - well, one player that doesn't want to play with the best player in the game.
SIMON: Yeah. I want to ask you a question - something ugly that came up this week surrounding this trade. So even if the trade is voided, a few jerks who claim to be Boston fans burned Isaiah Thomas' jersey. They called him disloyal. Now, this is a man who played right after finding out his younger sister had died in a car accident. LeBron James went off on Twitter to say the man was traded. When we decide to do what's best for us, it's cowardly.
Man, do what you feel is best for your profession, love, family, happiness. What do you make of that display on behalf of some fans?
BRYANT: Well, I think there's an ugliness that's taken place across the culture and, certainly, in sports. We've seen this when LeBron James left. When he left Cleveland to go to Miami, we saw them, Cleveland fans, burning his jersey, calling him disloyal. We saw when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City to go to Golden State, we saw videos of a guy with an AR-15 firing bullets into Kevin Durant's Jersey. And so there's this ugliness. And it's something that I don't think is innocent.
And I think it really does speak to a lot of this ownership that people feel that they have over these athletes. And also, I think in a really disturbing sort of identification with ownership in sports, at least - and you can hear it in the language, too, Scott - that they refer to the players as assets and inventory and pieces instead of players, instead of the athletes that they are. I don't think it's innocent. I think it's pretty dangerous. And I think it should stop.
SIMON: Speaking of which, Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor...
BRYANT: (Laughter) Speaking of dangerous.
SIMON: Yeah - will meet up and try to cause each other permanent brain damage tonight in Las Vegas in a spectacle I refuse to call a sporting event. You and I weren't even going to talk about it. But yesterday, The New York Times reported that the Association of Ringside Physicians has questioned whether the Nevada State Athletic Commission should have even sanctioned this whatever it is. They say that they really fear somebody's going to get hurt. Why is this event still going on as planned?
BRYANT: Well, it's the spectacle of it. I think that - I'm really one of the wrong people to talk to about this. All my mixed martial arts fanatic friends will say to me that it's actually safer than boxing. I understand the socioeconomic and the historical elements of boxing from the American story, the coming up from nothing and making yourself something. But I don't understand mixed martial arts. This is a spectacle thing. You want these two fighters to go at each other.
And also the money is ridiculous. You've got - it's at hundreds of millions of dollars that are at stake here. And you're looking at one of the biggest Pay-Per-View events of all time. And so I don't understand the necessity of it in 2017. But the one thing we can say about it is that it's gigantic business.
SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.
BRYANT: My pleasure.
SIMON: And tomorrow on Weekend Edition Sunday, we'll hear more about the May-mether (ph) - (laughter) Mayweather-McGregor whatever it is. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.