A big sports event far from the cage or ring is often described as a battle, a fight, or a showdown. The athletes are regularly referred to as fighters, combatants, and warriors. Their demeanors are described as tough, hard-nosed, heart of a champion.

Essentially it all boils down to qualities we expect and praise in athletes going for an NBA playoff win, or a Kentucky Derby, or a UFC title. There is that strong thread of competitiveness tying together the spirit necessary to compete at the highest level.

MIKE CONLEY takes a wicked elbow, fracturing his face and the Memphis Grizzlies superb point guard missed Game One versus Golden State. He came back wearing a protective mask and turned in a superhero performance, leading Memphis to a  crucial road win, changing the tempo of the series. It doesn’t get any better in describing a tough as nails comeback than Conley. Literally taking a punch (inadvertent but nonetheless) shaking it off and shaking up his team’s dynamics with a triumphant return. It was like all the best of old school playing out in the present; Kirk Gibson limping to the plate for the Dodgers, Willis Reed forcing every step onto the Madison Square Garden hardwood for the Knicks, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar somehow going on and at it in TUF 1.

LEBRON JAMES & DERRICK ROSE the two former MVP’s showed why they have been awarded that title with game winning last second baskets in back-to-back games. First Rose, then James, bang, bang in an exchange of anything you can do, I can do better. Exactly the the things expected from two of the best, what fans want whenever two stars are are on a collision course, lose one round, come back to win the second.

GARY STEVENS almost won his 4th Kentucky Derby two weeks ago finishing second aboard Firing Line. It continues a “made for the big screen” return to racing that started two years ago after a seven year absence due to knee injuries. All this at age 52 far past most top flight jockeys time limit in the saddle. He doesn’t always have to win (though he would beg to differ), to sustain an already Hall of Fame career. When be could’ve stayed in the NBC broadcast booth is Couture-esque, doing it his way as long as he wants.

SERENA WILLIAMS is capable of winning any tournament any time she steps on the court. Best of all time? As with any great in any sport, that can always be debatable, but what isn’t is that the Queen of Tennis brings a ferocity of unflinching desire mixed with intimidation not unlike the Queen of MMA Ronda Rousey does every time she goes in the cage.

TOM BRADY has been scrutinized over the last few days more than the New England Patriots great has ever been praised, even with 4 Super Bowl rings. It is at a time like this where a team sport star becomes that lonely, singular figure as if he was a fighter cornered. Where to go? What to do? Every sport has that legendary guy who has to go through these moments. In no way is this deflated football hubbub comparable to violating steroid rules, but Brady like Anderson Silva will both be repairing their image and legacy for the next months. Like all the excellent ones they probably will.

These are some of the gritty, clutch athletes who, spark that competitive fire within through their own motivation. Fighters all.


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