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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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Eyes On WWE: NXT's Mount Rushmore

By @AmeenKnows

I've been away from writing for a really long time. My notes even say my last article was October 29th of last year. Interesting. Well nearly a year later, I'm back to discuss something that I've never really thought of until today. For a bit of background on this, I saw a picture of Johnny Gargano's stats from a fan made sign that stated he was the greatest NXT Superstar of All Time. I'll get to the stats later and although as of today I can't say that I agree with that fan in particular, Johnny is well on his way.

Before writing this, a lot of thought was put into who I did or didn't want to include in this list. I wanted to add a tag team like The Ascension who was responsible for the most dominant win streak in the brand's history. I wanted to include Paige who was an absolute trailblazer for the Women's division. I thought of adding the Four Horsewomen who certainly had an amazing impact on NXT's Women's Division but I couldn't pick out which one to single handedly knock one name off my personal list to be included. I thought of adding Seth Rollins, who without a doubt was the standard for what NXT would become in the future, however he just doesn't compare to the others on this list to me and I will explain why.

*Honorable Mention: Asuka

The reason Asuka is my honorable mention is because not only did she not have a single loss in NXT but she was so convincingly dominant and brought the best out of every single opponent she had ever worked with. It was tough leaving her off the list knowing how much she meant to women's wrestling in NXT when Charlotte, Becky, Sasha and eventually Bayley, were called up. Now onto my Mount Rushmore

4. Sami Zayn

-Sami Zayn was the heart and soul of NXT from the moment he stepped foot in Full Sail University's hollowed halls. The reaction he garnered week in and week out is the stuff that my generation will tell their kids about what it was like watching The Rock in his peak. I'm not trying to say Sami Zayn was The Rock of NXT but the building went bat shit insane every time they heard the "LET'S GO!" part of his entrance. However, there's a reason beyond catchy theme music and an infectious smile that gave Sami that level of popularity. The man could go. His 2 out of 3 Falls Match with Cesaro at NXT Arrival is the direct launching point of the brand and the WWE Network. Losing every big match he ever had made fans more and more eager to see him finally grip that brass ring similar to Jeff Hardy in 2008. His title win over Adrian Neville is something you can watch over and over and over again and never get tired of it. If I could show any person looking to get into the brand one match that defines the greatness of the NXT, it would be Zayn vs Nakamura at NXT Takeover: Dallas.

3. Johnny Gargano

-The man affectionately known as "Johnny Wrestling" is everything that defines an NXT superstar. I selfishly believe that he should be the first ever NXT "lifer" just necause he epitomizes what NXT is. I mentioned a sign with his stats on it so I'll just rattle them off now:

⁃ Most NXT Takeover Matches in History with his 10th at Takeover Brooklyn
⁃ Most Takeover Main Events: 5 tied with Samoa Joe
⁃ Only man to appear at 3 Takeover Brooklyn events
⁃ Longest singles bout in Takeover history at 36:07

Those are amazing stats and none of them mentioned his two 5 star classics in 2018. Johnny can do it all. He's a part of one of the greatest tag teams in NXT history. He proved he belonged in the main event when given a chance to headline Takeover: Philadelphia. The one thing holding him back is he has yet to win the big one. The NXT Championship has eluded him the same way it had once eluded Sami Zayn and with each loss it only makes the desire to see him break through grow stronger within fans. There's a lot of guys with more impressive résumés than Johnny by virtue of holding the brand's top prize but very few can compare to the excellence he has shown since arriving at Full Sail.

2. Finn Bálor

-Finn Bálor has one of the strongest cases for being the number one guy here almost by default because even with as influential as Adrian Neville was, no one has the impact and reach that Prince Devitt does. Finn, like Neville, put the brand on his back and it led to the biggest surge in support that NXT had ever seen up to that point. His era of popularity made NXT so big that he headlined the final NXT Takeover to be filmed at Full Sail to date because the company realized that this brand is simply too big to leave in Florida. Already one of the world's best when he arrived, Finn brought all the stuff that made him well respected in Japan and turned himself into a Superstar in NXT. His matches delivered time and time again whether it be against Kevin Owens, Adrian Neville or arch rival Samoa Joe. His final match on the brand with Shinsuke Nakamura is truly a gem that hasn't been discussed in a long time. Imagine that, so many good matches that people forget about one of your best!

1. Adrian Neville

-I struggled very heavily with putting Neville here instead of Bálor at number one but the top guy has a very strong case for number one. Adrian Neville is what you would call a jack of all trades. He can work the midcard programs, becoming the first NXT Tag Team Champion, which is a big deal. He can also usher in a new era and carry the brand on his back, which is exactly what he did in 2014. Earlier, I mentioned Cesaro and Sami Zayn's match at NXT Arrival as the launching point for the brand but the first ever ladder match for the NXT Championship between Neville and Bo Dallas was right next to that match in kick-starting something amazing. Neville brought a struggling Tyson Kidd who was going through a reinvention with him to the first NXT Takeover and they delivered. At NXT Takeover: Fatal Four Way they put Kidd in there with 2 new challengers in Tyler Breeze and Zayn, and he still delivered a classic performance. When it came time for Sami Zayn to take his place at the top of the mountain, Neville stepped out of his comfort zone as a face and became the antagonizing tweener needed to give Sami that extra kick in the ass and they delivered the best performance of their careers, up to that point, at Takeover R-Evolution. There were no other stars. The World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Champion weren't coming down to give ratings a boost like they had done in 2012 and 2013. Neville put the brand on his back and set the standard for what NXT Takeover events should be and they got better and better even after he was gone. Neville is the strongest pillar of these four men in stabilizing the success of the brand without help so that the others could build off of it.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

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Eyes On Wrestlemania: 5 Bad Booking Decisions

By @TrueGodImmortal

Wrestlemania is known for being a huge event in WWE. Often times, the WWE strikes gold with a number of their decisions at Mania, but there have been a number of times where we were all left scratching our heads. Today, we reflect on a few of those times. Let's get into it.

*Booker T Loses To Triple H 
Wrestlemania 19

-This was an interesting concept.
Booker was disrespected and racist elements were brought into the feud but the endgame should have been the immensely over Booker T getting his championship and winning this feud right? That was what sensible people would have done. Nope. Not WWE. WWE would see Booker lose pretty much cleanly and then drop out of the title picture period. Booker deserved better than that honestly. The fans deserved better than that honestly.

*Charlotte Ends Asuka's Undefeated Streak 

-You have momentum. You have an undefeated streak. You have a woman that is garnering some love and is the biggest women's wrestler from Japan that we have seen thus far. On the other side, you have the stale forced daughter of wrestling royalty, who is a solid performer, but who has overstayed her welcome on top of the business by a small margin. So, naturally, at Mania, you put the first performer over and keep her undefeated streak in tact while making her dominant, right? Wrong. WWE did the exact opposite and as a result, Asuka has never been the same since. This was a horrible decision to waste her Rumble win, her title shot, and a possible future match with Ronda Rousey. The WWE Mania booking struck again and Asuka has not recovered and likely won't.

*Jerry Lawler vs Michael Cole 
Wrestlemania 27

-An announcer vs an announcer. There is no reason why this match happened. Nor was it worthwhile. You can add Stone Cold. Insert other wrestlers. Still, it doesn't matter. Much like Roman Reigns headlining every event, fans just didn't want to see this match take place. It would go on for 10 plus minutes for no reason, taking valuable time that could have went elsewhere honestly on an event that was already pretty average on paper. Who won the match is irrelevant, the action in the match is irrelevant, simply put, this match is just irrelevant.

*Hulk Hogan Saves The Day 
Wrestlemania 9

-Bret Hart deserved better. It is sad that Hulk Hogan was such a spotlight stealer but that is who he was. Hogan interrupts Yokozuna defeating Bret Hart and then gets approval from Bret to go and take Yoko's moment in the sun for no reason. Hogan would end up entering the ring and defeating Yokozuna in seconds, rendering the title and the entire main event of Wrestlemania 9 as a joke IMO. Yoko should have retained his title and moved on to another feud or Bret could have retained. Regardless, Hogan as champ for a pointless three month reign made no sense.

*Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar
Wrestlemania 34

-The last four years has seen a main event that felt forced and while I can't personally pinpoint any particular time in wrestling where Mania was in a main event slump like that, this past year was pretty brutal for several reasons. Reigns is not over fully as a face. He is not a big time star in the way WWE tries to push him. That is the sad reality. However, absolutely no one wanted to see Brock vs Reigns again and yet WWE forced it on us, then made Brock win to prolong the inevitable by some months. Reigns as champion is a bad idea period, Reigns as a face is as well, and Reigns main eventing Mania in a rematch no one wants to see is a bad idea. Simple.


Monday, October 1, 2018

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Eyes On NBA: 2018-2019 Philadelphia 76ers Preview

By @TrueGodImmortal & @Phranchize19

The 76ers are a formidable team in the East who have a ton of potential and some solid young talent. After coming close to making that next step last season, the Sixers see themselves as arguably the second or third best team in the Eastern Conference and a top 3 finish seems likely if they all stay healthy. With some preseason work underway, we wanted to look at their potential record, the stars to watch out for, and what their ceiling is. Let's take a look.

*Last Year’s Record 
52-30 (Lost 4-1 to Celtics in Eastern Conference Semis)
-The Sixers could have won that series and possibly defeated the Cavs if they were forced. The Cavs faced no one quite like Embiid and Simmons together and they had the potential to make magic together in the playoffs. However, weak play from Simmons and their youth came back to haunt them, and as a result, the Sixers exited early. Could this season be a different story?

*Additions: Re-Signed JJ Redick, 
Re-Signed Amir Johnson
Picked up Wilson Chandler (via trade with Nuggets), Zhaire Smith (draft), Landry Shamet (draft)

Subtractions: Ersan Ilyasova
Marco Belineli

Best Player: Joel Embiid
X-Factor: J.J. Redick
Player to Watch For: Markelle Fultz 
Driving Force: Ben Simmons

*Record Prediction: 56-26
(Eastern Conference Semifinals or Finals)

Projected Starting 5: 
PG: Ben Simmons
SG: Markelle Fultz
SF: Robert Covington
PF. Dario Saric
C: Joel Embiid

The 76ers are a quality team out East. One of the better and younger teams of the league will only continue to grow and get better. Although extremely talented, the 76ers had trouble in free agency this year. One would assume the whole Colangelo scandal had plenty to do with this as well as not having a GM until recently (Elton Brand has been named GM). However, this team is trending upward and they will be a force for the next decade or so, but all this will depend upon the health of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Markelle Fultz could be a difference maker and with Redick off the bench, he provides a scoring threat for their second unit, alongside TJ McConnell and the other bench pieces who will need to step it up. Can the Sixers ascend higher this season? Are they a possible Finals contender? With their talent, anything is possible.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

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Eyes On Smackdown: 20 Classic Matches From Smackdown (Part 1)

By @Phranchize19

Today, we start our two part look at 20 classic Smackdown matches to honor the 1000th episode of Smackdown coming up shortly. Phranchize will kick us off with his list of 10 classic matches before True gives us another 10 tomorrow. Which matches make our list? Let's get into part 1.

*Kurt Angle vs Brock Lesnar 
Iron Man Match 
WWE Championship 
September 18, 2003

-This might be the greatest match in the history of Smackdown. Two of the best ever in the ring for an hour and they literally tore the house down. The best Ironman match in WWE history perhaps? It's that good.

*Edge vs Eddie Guerrero 
No Disqualification Match 
September 26, 2002

-Edge was in a quest to prove he was a main event guy and this match was a huge stepping stone in proving that. One of the most underrated matches in both men’s careers, but easily a top 5 Smackdown match period.

*Triple H vs The Rock 
WWE Championship 
August 26, 1999

-Triple H had not too long ago won the WWE title and was the biggest heel in wrestling. The Rock, by virtue of Austin being on the shelf off and on was the top babyface in wrestling. This match was the first ever WWF title match in smackdown history and would be a catalyst to arguably one of the greatest feuds in wrestling.

*John Cena vs Shinsuke Nakamura 
No. 1 Contenders Match For WWE Championship 
August 1, 2017

-Two legends collided for the right to go to Summerslam as the number 1 contender. This was a dream match of sorts and it lived up to the expectations. Nakamura got a much needed victory and Cena made Nakamura look like he belonged.

*Team Hell No and Randy Orton vs The Shield 
June 14, 2003

This was a huge because it marked the first time ever that The Shield had been defeated in 6 man action. Up to that point, no three man combination had come close to defeating The Shield and the pop Daniel Bryan got for overcoming his “weakest link” demons still stands as one of the best moments of Smackdown history. 

*Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho vs The Dudley Boyz vs The Hardy Boyz vs Edge and Christian 
TLC 3 
May 24, 2001

-This match made history as the first TLC match to not only be featured on free TV, but also to include 4 teams. TLC had only been featured at Wrestlemania and Summerslam up to that point so this was huge deal. The match did not disappoint as Benoit and Jericho added a new element to the match that people had not yet seen and walked away victorious.

*Carmella vs Natalya vs Charlotte vs Tamina vs Becky Lynch 
Money In The Bank Match 
June 20, 2017

-History was made yet again and this was the first MITB match on network TV. This was a rematch from the first ever Women's MITB match 2 days prior so in essence, we got two MITB matches in a span of 3 days. Carmella would make history by being the first and so far only multi-time MITB winner for women.

*John Cena vs Eddie Guerrero Parking Lot Brawl 
September 11, 2003

-Eddie and John Cena put on a fight in a parking lot brawl. The match was to be contested around a circle of cars with no rules. It was the first of its kind and of course Eddie gets away with “cheating”, but John would come out of this match as a huge threat and a semi main event player.

*JBL vs Eddie Guerrero 
Steel Cage Match
WWE Championship 
July 15, 2004

-Eddie Guerrero and JBL had a GRUESOME feud. It was about the WWE title but things got way too personal (and at times uncomfortable) but it all came to a head in this match. These two put on a stellar Steel Cage match and garnered more heat for new main eventer JBL while continuing the rivalry between Eddie Guerrero and GM at the time, Kurt Angle. The best Steel Cage match in the history of Smackdown? It has a claim for that title.

*Kurt Angle vs Edge vs Chris Benoit vs Eddie Guerrero 
No. 1 Contender For WWE Championship 
December 5, 2002

-4 men who have become synonymous with the show were invovled in the Smackdown No. 1 Contenders match and they would not disappoint. 4 different styles but a true classic match that took a lot out of all of these men. So much action was packed into this and it really put Smackdown on the map as WWE’s “wrestling show” for sure. It still owns that title.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

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Eyes On WWE: The 5 Best John Cena Matches At The Royal Rumble

By @TrueGodImmortal 

The Royal Rumble is only a few short months away. 2018 has flown by so fast. However, the history of the matches at the Rumble are all solidified, including the matches that are not the main focus. One star who has had some success at the Rumble is John Cena, a legend in his own right. Today, we look at Cena's top 5 matches at the classic PPV. Which matches are here? Let's find out.

5. John Cena vs Edge
Royal Rumble 2006

-So, there are a number of matches that Cena has been in, that I could have selected, but for me, this is probably the one that many hold in high regards outside of the obvious. Cena spent a number of years wrestling in the actual Rumble so those don't count, but for all his one on one or triple threat contests, this is the one that makes the top 5 barely. Edge and Cena had solid chemistry in the ring, but their feud was just really starting to begin, and as a result, you would see them slowly getting familiar with each other in the ring more. The match went about 15 minutes and as expected, the crowd was once again divided between these two. I didn't like the ending because Edge tapping out was probably the wrong move, but it was clear that WWE was building to Cena vs Triple H, so this was expected. A solid match, just nothing too special compared to the others on the list.

4. John Cena vs Randy Orton 
Royal Rumble 2014

-The fans were essentially not happy about this match taking place. Truthfully, the WWE should have did what made the most sense. It should have been CM Punk vs Randy Orton with Punk defeating Orton and Bryan winning the Rumble. However, WWE was not in their right mind as usual, and we got this match instead. What sticks out about this however is the fact that this match was actually really good. Cena and Orton have had decent chemistry over the years, and this was no different. Anytime Orton and Cena can turn a crowd from being bored and booing to invested and cheering, this is a success. Cena would come up short in this match, but nonethelss, he could add this match to his collection of good ones on PPV.

3. John Cena vs Umaga 
Royal Rumble 2007

-Anytime we see the stipulation Last Man Standing, we always know what to expect. It is usually brutality, aggression, and sometimes blood. This match had everything you could hope for. It made Umaga look like a monster while still making Cena look strong as always, but I had no issue with the booking of this match. Umaga looked solid, Cena looked solid, and for nearly 25 minutes, these two ripped each other apart. Cena walked away victorious, but he would never really be the same again due to this match taking so much out of him.

2. John Cena vs AJ Styles
Royal Rumble 2017

-So, the Rumble. 2017. Cena going after another title to break a record that shouldn't be broken. How does WWE book him? To win another title. Still, despite the terrible outcome, this was a great match and had both men at the top of their game. While I personally would prefer their Summerslam match to this one, but this is a very good match. AJ steals the show alongside Cena and they create a classic for the ages. Like most of his matches as time progressed, Cena would be in control and put a pointless end to the momentum that AJ was building. While AJ would bounce back soon enough, this match would see a small fall for him, as Cena used a multitude of finishers and aggression to win the match and the WWE Title, ending the reign of AJ Styles, a top wrestler in his era.

1. Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins
Royal Rumble 2015

-This was an easy choice for me. Cena, Rollins and Lesnar really went above and beyond for this match and this is a true classic. Brock was in need of a big match and Rollins needed a star making turn and this was the match to do it in. Brock, Rollins, and Cena gave us a classic that saw Seth steal the show, Cena show up as well, and for Brock to have perhaps his best match in the WWE since returning. That match was perfection in the ring and mo one expected Brock to lose, thus, the result of the match was fine. When talking Cena at the Rumble, no match is better than this one by far..


Monday, September 24, 2018

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Eyes On NBA: Media Day Highlights

By @TrueGodImmortal

Well, the NBA season is here. Media Day has arrived and the beginning of the NBA season has been marked. With that, we wanted to take a brief look at some of the teams and the feeling you get from them on Media Day. These are only my perspectives based on what was said, and the interviews. What teams stuck out the most to me in Media Day? Let's take a look.

*Toronto Raptors 

-So, the only thing that mattered for Media Day was seeing top 5 player Kawhi Leonard finally show up in his jersey. That was an amazing moment for most NBA fans, but it had to feel bittersweet as well. While many suspect that Kawhi will leave the Raptors after this season, there is a feeling that he could be persuaded to stay. The Media Day moment is honestly one of the most peculiar, as Kawhi has been more active in just this small window of time than he was last season period. Regardless, the Raptors going against any top team in the East is an instant must watch game now due to the presence of Kawhi. While Toronto has made a small bit of noise before this season, with Kawhi there, it feels like all eyes will be on them this season, for better or worse.

*Boston Celtics 

-We saw what this team was capable of last year in the preseason. The Celtics with Kyrie and Hayward back fully healthy are easily the Eastern Conference favorites and for good reason. They have quite possibly the second best roster in the NBA. If I'm comparing overall rosters, besides the Warriors obviously, the Celtics have the second best team in the NBA and the second best roster. We just discussed their season recently on the site, so no need to really go too much into it here, but they all look focused on Media Day and that could be a great sign for the Celtics fans. Will the Celtics win the East this year? It's looking more and more likely.

*San Antonio Spurs

-I opted out of putting the 76ers on this one, because we have a season preview for the team coming in the next few days. However, the most interesting thing I've seen involving another team at Media Day is DeMar DeRozan officially being in his Spurs jersey. It will be interesting to see how DeMar handles being in the system of Coach Pop along with the dynamic of the Spurs being without a number of centerpieces from their franchise history. Manu is retired. Tony Parker is finishing his career in Charlotte it seems. Kawhi Leonard, who seemingly was passed the torch from Tim Duncan is a Toronto Raptor. For the Spurs, this season is a rebuild and a new beginning. Will they continue making the playoffs? Will the younger guys be pivotal? Will LaMarcus Aldridge mesh well with DeMar? We shall see.

*Detroit Pistons

-So, you might be wondering why the Pistons are here for their Media Day stuff. I have only one reason for featuring them here and it is simple: Andre Drummond has the greenlight to shoot more threes this season and Dwane Casey is the new Pistons head coach. This is actually a sleeper team in the East to me, especially if they are able to pull off a trade to unload Reggie Jackson and maybe another piece for Jimmy Butler. The franchise has money invested in Drummond and Blake Griffin and that alone makes them intriguing in an East that is wide open. Will the Pistons make some noise this season? That is unknown, but they have every opportunity to do so.

*Cleveland Cavaliers

-The question on the Cavs is pretty simple: where do they go from here now that Bron is gone? The answer to that one might be hard. Sure, Kevin Love is now the face of the Cavs franchise, but is that a good thing? He was the face of the Wolves years ago and they made absolutely no progress, but that was before he had been to the Finals three straight times and won a championship. This will be an opportunity for Ty Lue to show his coaching prowess without Bron over his shoulder, and they have some decent pieces who could find rejuvenation this year like Rodney Hood, J.R. Smith, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, George Hill, Channing Frye, and more. Cedi Osman shows promise, as does David Nwaba and of course, Collin Sexton could end up becoming a big time player for the team. All these unanswered questions for the Cavs will soon be answered. Let's hope things work somewhat in their favor.

*Minnesota Timberwolves

-So, Jimmy Butler is on the way out. Andrew Wiggins is their investment. Karl Anthony Towns just signed a max deal extension. Those two are the centerpieces of the Wolves franchise. However, what will this team look like come October? Surely, Jimmy Butler will be traded off and there will be new pieces in place, but from where? What team makes the trade? Sources say the Wolves will ship Butler to the East, and that leaves more question marks. Will Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and all of the former Bulls players mesh well with the Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl Anthony Towns trio that they've invested in? That remains to be seen.

*Los Angeles Lakers

-So, of course. The Lakers. The team that everyone is hyping up as usual. It never fails. With all of the competition in the West, I suspect a rough go of it for the Lakers this season, at least early on. Bron is Bron, so they'll eventually turn a corner, but it seems like the foursome of Lonzo, Ingram, Kuz, and LeBron is being promoted as the starting lineup, well at least 4 of that, and the bench has Javale, Lance, Rondo, and Michael Beasley. This is such a weird team, with poor spacing and more than likely mediocre defense. The stakes are higher now and the pressure is on for the team, yet LeBron says he feels no pressure. While many Lakers fans are deservedly excited about this team, other fans are skeptical. Maybe this Lakers team could be a top 3 seed in the West. Maybe they could be top 6 seed in the West. Maybe they could even miss the playoffs. Whatever the case may be, this Lakers team will be one to watch all year for sure.

*Oklahoma City Thunder

-So, I am not sold on the Houston Rockets this year. I see Carmelo Anthony is now a Rocket, and while many people point to his spotty performance in Oklahoma City Thunder and blame Russell Westbrook, I think the issue was and has been Melo. I think you'll see this season that the duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook together alongside the returning Andre Roberson and Steven Adams with new pieces Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel could be a solid group and a possible top 3 seed in the West. If George is committed, Russ is healthy, and the pieces flow together well, this could be the year the Thunder make the Western Conference Finals again. Maybe. Time will tell, but what I gathered from Media Day is that this is a more focused team than the prior year. Where that takes them, only time will tell.

*Golden State Warriors

-The Champions. The dynasty. The quest for the fourth title in five years and to complete a threepeat. The favorites. The Warriors. This season is rather strange to me, as many seem to be overdoing their reporting stating that the Warriors feel like this could be the last year they are all together, but I think they are reading too much into it. I think the Warriors, with Steph, Klay, and Draymond are here to stay and I feel KD is not leaving just yet. I think the Media Day vibes were a little odd only because of the one thing people seem to ignore: this is the last season in Oakland for the Warriors. The end of the Oracle legacy. That itself makes this season that much more special, and now allows the Warriors to have a reason to want to win another title and go out on top in Oracle. However, I see the team staying together for another year or two, as KD, Steph, Klay, and Draymond have all expressed how important it is to be around each other and work towards that goal. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Boogie Cousins is on Golden State now. So, yeah. The overall feeling from Media Day was fun, but also the dread and knowledge that the title likely will stay in Oakland for the final time. Whether or not the Warriors stay together, this season is an end of an era.... for Oracle Arena. What better way to close it out than with a title?