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Saturday sports: Golden State is back; beloved columnist dies; Olympic bribery caught

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And just when you might begin to despair, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Golden State Warriors are back big time. Another day, another Olympic official convicted of bribery. Alabama football mourns a wise observer. And we're joined now by NPR's Tom Goldman - not to say you're not a wise observer, my friend. How are you?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I'm fine. How are you?

SIMON: Fine. The Warriors beat the Portland Trail Blazers last night, 118-103. They're becoming a behemoth again, aren't they?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, but not a snarling, stomping behemoth, Scott. They are a behemoth that dances you into submission, cutting and passing and fast breaking, as they did for much of their dynasty run from 2015 to 2019. The beautiful game Golden State plays is back, with great ball movement, lots of 3-point shooting by a lot of different players, including the greatest ever at that, Steph Curry. And the Warriors are a tough defensive team, too, allowing the fewest points per game than anyone. Now, all this has led to a league best 17-2 record. They're a class above. And Curry at 33 - he's even more breathtaking than...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...During the run of five straight finals. They're a lot of fun to watch again.

SIMON: And, Tom, big college game last night.

GOLDMAN: Yes, even though college basketball doesn't really matter for a few more months. But last night's men's game in Las Vegas between Duke and No. 1 Gonzaga had the feel of March Madness.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: The biggest basketball crowd in Nevada history, more than 20,000 watched Duke beat the Zags and give departing head coach Mike Krzyzewski a nice win. And earlier in the week, Dawn Staley, who is steadily building her coaching legacy...

SIMON: Wow, yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...Led No. 1 South Carolina over rival and No. 2-ranked UConn in another very early in the season but exciting women's game.

SIMON: The lady Gamecocks, right? That's what they are.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, yeah.

SIMON: A Brazilian sports official was found guilty of buying votes to get the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro. Now, on the one hand, this is about as common as saying a Chicago alderman has been indicted. But what is the significance of this official, Carlos Arthur Nuzman?

GOLDMAN: Well, the Rio Games were the first ever in South America, and Nuzman was the person mainly responsible for that. But it appears he delivered those games to Brazil fraudulently. Now he's facing a prison sentence of more than 30 years after being found guilty of corruption, criminal organization, money laundering, tax evasion. He won't serve sentence until the appeals process is over, but, you know, Scott, yet another stain on the world of global sports executives, who sometimes do everything and anything to lure the biggest and most prestigious events.

SIMON: I want to ask you about Cecil Hurt, a beloved columnist at the Tuscaloosa News who died on Tuesday. Boy, did he cover a demanding beat and beautifully - Bama football for almost 40 years. How do we remember him this week?

GOLDMAN: As a regional icon, but a man very un-iconlike to the many who knew him. The tributes from the journalists he worked with to Bama football coach Nick Saban, who can get pretty snarly with reporters...

SIMON: Oh, yeah.

GOLDMAN: He - they all described Hurt as a gifted writer, a man filled with wit and irreverence and kindness, supportive of young journalists, including our own Debbie Elliott.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: She told me Hurt was so helpful back in the early 1990s, when she was one of the few women covering Alabama sports. Debbie called him a humble, thoughtful soul. And she said, like so many people in the state, first place they went Sunday mornings after Bama games were Cecil Hurt's columns.

SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.

GOLDMAN: OK. Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.