In the 2015/16 NBA and EPL season Leicester City and Golden State Warriors have broken records and defied the odds. Both are amazing stories in their own right but which is better? We argue for both sides and then let you vote at the end!
Leicester City-By Matthew Rastočić
Leicester City- The story that has captured world sport. They sit on the cusp of greatness and immortalising themselves in football history by winning the English premier league title. They have fought against cash-strapped teams such as Manchester United and City, Arsenal and Chelsea, and not only have they matched it with them, they have hit them out of the ballpark. It would be, undoubtedly, the greatest sporting achievement the world has ever seen, for a number of reasons.
Leicester City were an incredible 5000/1 chance of winning the Premier League at the start of the season after only just managing to remain in the premier league the previous season, mainly due to the fact that their squad containing largely unknown players, with a few having had premier league experience with bigger clubs before being let go. Their most expensive signing of the summer was N’Golo Kante, brought in from Caen, in France’s Ligue 1.Their starting line-up cost a grand total of £22.5 million. Last summer, Manchester City signed English International Raheem Sterling from Liverpool for £49 million, with three big clubs spending: Arsenal ($400 million), Manchester City ($400 million) and Chelsea ($419 million). Finally, to put Leicester’s odds into perspective, English bookmaker Paddy Power currently has it 100-1 that an alien life form will be confirmed on Earth next year.
So why were Leicester City at such long odds to win the Premier League title? For a number of reasons. One of these is that in the last 20 years of the Premier League, only four teams have won the title: Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. These are the teams that are injected with millions upon millions of dollars every season, have the highest name players, and the highest profile managers. A team like Leicester should have had no chance of the winning the title, yet they are defying all the odds.
What makes the Leicester story such a fairy tale is the fact that they survived season 2014-2015 by the skin of their teeth. By the time April 2015 had come around, they had only 4 wins to their name. Remarkably, Leicester picked up 19 points of their last 24 available, keeping them up for season 2015-2016, which we all know to be the history maker.
Their manager, Claudio Ranieri. Laughed out of Chelsea in 2004, replaced by Jose Mourinho, who wrote himself into the history books with Chelsea only years later. Before Leicester, he managed the Greek national team, a team that lost to the Faroe Islands under his tutelage. So how is it that he can suddenly become a manager of a side that may potentially be on the brink of winning his title? What his brief stint with Chelsea taught him was how to get results when the odds are against you. He knows that it is not the team who plays the best football that gets the 3 points, rather, the team who scores the most goals.
The game plan of Leicester City is simple. Win the ball back, and attack with devastating pace. They could very easily play a possession based style of play, keeping the ball and fashioning opportunities by tight play and clever through balls. But they haven’t done that. Leicester are a team that is bottom of the league in terms of passes per shot, sitting at an average of 32. This is astonishing, and clearly shows their attacking intent. They have thrown out the old coaching manual, and are writing a new one themselves. However, to play in this way, you need quality players.
Speaking of quality players, let’s take a look at the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Vardy, only 6 years ago, he was playing for Halifax Town, in the fifth tier of English football, now he is leading the line for a Leicester team destined for greatness. Mahrez, recently announced as the PFA player of the Year, also experienced a rise to fame of late. Before signing with Leicester, he was playing in the second division of French football, now he has been voted by his fellow players to be the best in the league. Jamie Vardy (£1m) and Riyad Mahrez (£450,000) have been involved in a remarkable 56 goals so far this season, and there is still 3 games to go.
The Leicester story is quite remarkable, and it is one which will not be mirrored for decades at least, if not centuries. People will be telling their grandchildren about this incredible feat, and it has captured the world’s imagination from the day it took off.
Golden State Warriors-By Ben Pascuzzi
The Golden State Warriors’ 2016 season, although it has not yet concluded, has been one of the most successful ones in recent memory.
Their season was so successful, in fact, it was the most successful season in the history of the NBA, even eclipsing the great Chicago Bulls team of 1995/96, where they finished with a stunning record of 72-10 in the regular season. But the Warriors bettered that, with a record-breaking 73-9 2015/16 season.
Although most still consider that Chicago Bulls side to be the greatest side that has taken foot on a basketball court, the Warriors don’t deserve, after this incredible season, to not be considered to at least be up there with that great side.
And not only was this season a great one for the team, but it was also a great season for some of its players with regards to individual awards and records.
Star point guard Stephen Curry smashed his own record set in the 2014/15 season for most 3-pointers made in a season, with 402 for this season 2015/16.
But it hasn’t just been Curry who has been the key to the Warriors success, in fact, it has been one of the greatest team efforts we have seen a while.
Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, are the first couple of names you think of as some of the major contributors to the Warriors success along with Curry.
That’s the one thing that has set the Warriors apart from the rest, and that is they don’t just rely on a single player, in fact, they can rely on their bench to keep the momentum going, such is the depth that coach Steve Kerr has developed for his side.
And what Steve Kerr has done with his side in, you wouldn’t guess it, his second season in charge? Unthinkable! He leads his side to a championship in his first season last season and it looks like he will start his NBA coaching career with two championships in his first two seasons in charge of the Warriors, quite unimaginable you’d think.
But it’s in Kerr’s history to have success, as he played a big role for that great Bulls side in the 1990’s, and there’s no doubt he’ll be hoping to orchestrate the Warriors in future seasons to have similar success to what he had with the Bulls all those years ago.
The one thing that made Kerr and his Warriors stand out from the rest was their game plan, and that was playing small. Many NBA ‘experts’ highly criticised this game plan and the game of basketball had long been one to give it to the big boys in the paint and let them fight for it.
What Kerr was able to do was develop high-class perimeter shooters who can knock down the three on a consistent basis and spread the floor with precision and fluent passing. And better yet, they can do it again and again and again as by playing small, they are more capable of replicating this on a consistent basis than what they would be able to do if they fielded a more tall lineup.
They still host big bodies such as Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli who play the roles of the bench when the Warriors want to play a bit bigger, but as they play mainly small, they are able to spread the court with such rapid and fluid ball movement.
They are also able to bring the ball up the court fairly quickly, often catching taller teams on the hop and thus creating more open shooting opportunities.
It is this fast-paced game-plan which has set the Warriors apart from the rest and let’s not forget how good they are on the defensive end.
The Warriors defend the three nearly as good as they are able to shoot from it, and that forces their opponents to settle for a 2-pointer whereas the Warriors will often hit back with a three down the other end of the floor.
That’s why the Warriors are so good in this day and age, and it is why they are shaping the way the game of basketball will be played in the future.
They defied all critics last season to win it all and although many criticised their win as lucky, they have again proved them wrong this season as they smashed what was even recently thought to have been ‘untouchable’ records, and in doing so, have an incredible opportunity to win back-to-back championships.
That’s what has set the Warriors apart from the rest and although under great scrutiny from many experts, they have still been able to be so successful and continue to change the way the game of basketball is played, some saying that the Warriors have changed the way basketball will be played for many more years to come.
So, what do you think is the bigger story? VOTE BELOW!