What’s on deck for 2016

2015 was a uniquely remarkable year across the sporting world. We witnessed the coronation of the greatest shooter of all time, the exposing of one of the most corrupt leaders in sports; a monumental bat flip and arguably the worst play call in Super Bowl history.

With the past in the past and the year in review shows done cycling on repeat, it’s time to gaze into the future at what is on the horizon for 2016.

Right now, it’s Steph Curry’s world and we’re all just living in it.

After a pair of trips to the playoffs in Curry’s fourth and fifth season, Curry transformed into a global icon and every child’s favourite player as he was named MVP last season. He averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, connected on 44.3 per cent of his three balls and captured the Warriors first NBA title.

But that might have just been the tip of the iceberg.

Curry hasn’t missed a beat this season. If anything, he’s elevated his game to the next level and already seems like a lock for another MVP.

Buckle up for some mind-blowing Curry stats. Don’t worry, it starts slow.

  • This season his scoring is up to 29.7 PPG, while registering 6.4 assists and knocking down 44.6 per cent of his shots from beyond.
  • He has already recorded eight games of eight or more converted 3s (in 38 games), the most in NBA history.
  • Last season he broke his own record for 3s made in a season at 286. This year, he is on pace for 370.
  • In 221 free throw attempts, he has missed 21 shots.
  • Curry’s PER has fallen slightly to 31.6, barely giving him the second most efficient season of all time behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 31.82 in 1962-63.
  • He led his team to the greatest start in NBA history, 24-0.

So much for that championship hangover.

He is the greatest shooter the NBA has ever seen. He’s better than Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Reggie Miller.

Typically arenas open an hour early for fans to get in and watch athletes warm up. Well, at Oracle Arena, they open an hour and a half early so fans can find their seats before Curry and his teammates take the floor.

He wows crowds with nonchalant half court shots that seemingly don’t even graze the mesh and dazzles with mind bending ball-handling skills.

In the game, he floats across the court. The ball is attached to his hand on a string and the hometown fans are shocked when one of his 27-foot crossover step-back jumpers doesn’t fall. He has un-guardable moves with his left hand that most players couldn’t even dream of with their right hand.

At 36-3, his Warriors are on a great pace to eclipse the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the greatest regular season record, 72-10.

Repeating is always hard regardless of the sport. Prior to the season, analysts and reporters were talking about that the Warriors got lucky in last year’s playoffs; that they ran into teams with injures.

They have clearly used that as motivation and seem to be chasing down the 1996 Bulls. Despite the San Antonio Spurs only being three games back in the loss column and a healthy Oklahoma City Thunder team, the Warriors are the favourites to reach the Finals once again, setting up a possible rematch of last year’s championship.

The Warriors clipped the Cleveland Cavaliers and current NBA top dog LeBron James in six games; a series that could be the first installment of several Finals to come.

With Curry just entering his prime and James managing his minutes to allow himself to perform at a superior level, there is still plenty of time for these two planetary-stars to clash in the Finals a few more times.

While the Cavs and Warriors seem to be a lock for a thrilling cross-conference rivalry, the entire landscape of the NBA is going to shift dramatically this summer when the salary cap inflates like a hot air balloon.

The new TV deals the NBA signed will spike the salary cap from $67.1 million this season to $89 million for the 2016-17 season.

Nearly flourishing $22 million over night, teams will be able to spend money like Scrooge McDuck. Max contracts are going to be thrown at players whether they deserve it or not. Teams like the Brooklyn Nets will have to spend money or trade for players with big contracts just to break through the floor of the new salary cap.

Some players that couldn’t even dream of a four year, $80 million offer will make it rain.

Mike Conley, MAX (deal). Nicolas Batum, MAX. Rajon Rondo, MAX. Joakim Noah, MAX.

Maybe not these players in particular, but they will still fetch more than they are worth.

The free agent spending will get out of control as Twitter losses it over what absurd contract Hassan Whiteside — who finally showed signs of life in the NBA after five seasons of absolute nothing — just signed.

Oh, and the biggest superstars Kevin Durant and James will also test free agency. Brace yourself for barrage of daily updates and stories on ESPN.com this summer until this two titanic stars ink a new deal.

All inclinations are that James will stay in Cleveland for the remainder of his career. He only enters free agency to get paid his worth. James has never been the highest paid player despite being the greatest talent for over a decade. At $22.9 million this year, James is still underpaid.

Durant is a whole different kettle of fish. There is going to be an all-out bidding war to try and sign the former league MVP.

A deep run in the playoffs might be enough to keep Durant in Oklahoma City with the organization that drafted him eight years ago. Still, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks have all been mentioned as plausible destinations for the Durantula.

But really, with the new salary cap — which also jumps up to $100 million for the 2018-19 campaign — it would make sense for every team to book a meeting with Durant to see if they can lure away from Oklahoma.

As great as 2015 was, odd years just don’t carry the same oomph that even years do. Aside from the women’s World Cup and the World Baseball Classic, the large-scale international competitions land on even years.

Thankfully, it’s an even year and the greatest summer sports spectacle is back as Rio de Janerio welcomes the world August 5, for the XXXI Olympiad.

Two of the most dominating athletes headline the Games as they look to extend their dynasty.

Only if you were able to hold their 24 combined medals, would you understand how the once-in-a-lifetime athletes Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have monopolized the podium.

Phelps owns the pool. I’m not saying that he is Aquaman, but no one has seen them in the same room together.

Over the past three Olympics, Phelps racked up 18 gold, two silver, two bronze and several world and Olympic records.

Since the 2012 London Games, Phelps dealt with a DUI, got busted for pot use and pondered retirement. However, Phelps and his team announced last April that he is on track to compete in Rio and aims to add to his record medal total.

Bolt is the fastest man in the history of the planet. He is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the 100-metre dash, 200m and 4x100m relay.

Bolt, 29, is a year removed from a rash of foot injuries that slowed him down. All signs point towards Bolt being healthy and reading for Rio. He is fresh off sweeping the podium at the World Championships in Beijing last August.

This might be our final glimpse of the two greatest Olympians before they hang them up.

One of the greatest athletes in a different sport might be nearing his final 18.

The golfing world never saw an athlete like Tiger Woods before, and they might never see such an unstoppable force again.

Back in the early 2000s, the bet among golf bros before majors was, who ya got? Tiger or the field?

More often than not, Woods came out on top.

From Aug. 1999 – Sept. 2004, he spent 264 weeks as the No.1 ranked golfer in the world. He was atop the world again for 281 weeks from June 2005 – Oct. 2010. It was getting to the point where your buddy that bet the field started asking for odds.

Despite his violent swing, Woods remained healthy and was able to repeat the same action. He was the closest thing to a sure bet that golf has ever seen.

On Nov. 27, 2009 Woods’ life and career unraveled when years of infidelity plastered covers of tabloid magazines.

His marriage disintegrated, taking a leave of absence from golf to try and fix his personal life.

Seven years later, Woods has only captured 14 tour wins and zero majors, leaving him stranded in second place all time, four behind Nicklaus at 14.

At this point in his career, Woods has one foot on the banana peel and is a swing away from withdrawing from tournaments due to another injury. The intimidation factor he used to make his opponents melt in fear with on Sundays is non-existent.

Brendan Mohler of golf.com talked with Woods in November about another aging superstar, Kobe Bryant. While Mohler stated Woods never specifically mentioned his own retirement, he claimed it sounded like the wheels were turning in Woods’ mind as he prepares for his 20th season on tour.

Woods has earned the right to decide when to retire. If he wants to continue getting bumped from tours, cursing, throwing clubs and struggling with nagging injuries, then that’s fine.

Years from now — when fans reminisce about Bryant’s and Woods’ careers — we will pretend the rough final years never happened, just like an awkward first date in Grade 7.

But perhaps this is it for Woods. The new fad for legendary athletes is to announce their retirement before the end of their final season to enjoy a well-deserved victory lap to say goodbye.

With so much going on around the world, there are several fascinating storylines that will keep Canadian sports fans intrigued this year.

Can the Toronto Blue Jays keep the unstoppable nationwide momentum they built last season and make a run at second-straight division title?

The Jays waived goodbye to their intern ace David Price as he signed for seven years and $217 million with the rival Boston Red Sox, making him the most overpaid pitcher of all time. The New York Yankees added all-star infielder Starlin Castro and fire-baller Alrodis Chapman, giving them the best bullpen in the game. It will be tough for the Jays to repeat, but they still boast the MLB’s deadliest offence.

Can women’s tennis rising star Eugenie Bouchard rebound from a nightmare-ish 2015 season?

After a streak of poor tournament play to start last season, she entered Wimbledon as the defending finalist and the 12 seed. She was whacked in straight sets by Duan Yingying in the opening round. Another opening round loss in the French Open and a fourth-round exit at the U.S. Open added up to a less than stellar season for the young Canadian from Montreal.

Bouchard also went through a coaching change, a concussion and a lawsuit with the United States Tennis Association. Not the greatest year for Bouchard on or off the court, for someone who was supposed to be the next great talent to take on Serena Williams, Sharapova and Simona Halep.

She looks to be on track this season as she awaits the semifinals of the WTA Hobart International in preparation for the Aussie Open next week where the Genie Army is always in full force.

Can the Toronto Raptors win their second playoff series and first best-out-of-seven series in the franchises 21-year history?

After a heartbreaking loss two seasons ago to the Nets in Game 7 on home court, and the embarrassing performance in last years’ opening round sweep to the Wizards, the pressure is on the Raptors to break through the opening round this spring.

Making the playoffs are becoming the norm and not the goal in Raptor land. Three straight exits in the opening round could bring big changes in the Big Smoke with head coach Dwane Casey and all-star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan’s contract expiring following the season.

How will the declining Canadian dollar effect professional franchises?

The Canadian dollar has dropped to 71-cent US level; it’s lowest value in 13 years. It is projected to dive all the way down to 59 cents this year.

This could effect Canadian franchises in free agency because American born players will hesitate to sign across the border because they will be losing money to taxes and a steeper exchange, rather than signing with an American team and not dealing with all the obstacles.

There is so much to be speculated and predicted for 2016. In a world where the unexpected happens, perhaps none of these stories written here will even matter by the end of the year. The best bet is to watch, document and hope for moments you can tell your grandkids about.


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