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It's a busy week for sports fans: MLB playoffs and NBA opening week

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And, boy, is it now time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Houston Astros shut the door on the Boston Red Sox 5-zip to win the American League pennant while the Dodgers fight tonight just to keep going against the Atlanta Braves. Also, the NBA returns, but who got left off the list of the greatest NBA players of all time? Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Scott Simon, how are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: Look. I got to hand it to them. All jokes aside, the Astros are going to the World Series for the third time in five years - a remarkable run for a remarkable team, all asterisks aside.

BRYANT: Yeah, outstanding. And more than looking at it from a macro standpoint, just look at this series. A week ago, the Boston Red Sox were hitting grand slams at will.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: They came in and were destroying Houston after losing the first game. The Red Sox were up 2-1 in Game 4 with about four outs to go - or five outs to go. And then out of nowhere, Houston outscored the Red Sox 22-1 over the rest of the series. They scored seven runs with two outs in Game 4. And it just changed everything. And the Red Sox really did not respond. It's incredible that the - you know, Yordan Alvarez, the ALCS MVP, had seven hits over the final two games. The Red Sox, as a team, had five.

SIMON: Wow.

BRYANT: Remarkable run for the Astros to get to the World Series. And, of course, the manager, Dusty Baker...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Won a pennant 19 years ago with the San Francisco Giants when they lost to the Angels. And now Dusty will have a chance one more time at this - 72 years old - to try to win his first World Series as a manager.

SIMON: A chance he didn't have with the Cubs (laughter), I'll note.

BRYANT: Well, you know, it's funny you should say that, Scott. Dusty brought it up. He was so nervous about Game 6 last night...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Because he says, Game 6s are my nemesis. He was - he had a four-run lead...

SIMON: Oh, yeah.

BRYANT: ...In 2002. It was so close to winning the World Series. And then of course, a little game you might know about the next year in 2003, the Steve Bartman game.

SIMON: Oh, yeah.

BRYANT: He was the manager of the Chicago Cubs in 2003. And bizarre - the bizarreness happened...

SIMON: I remember.

BRYANT: So Dusty was very nervous about that.

SIMON: I remember, Howard. Listen, what are you looking for in Atlanta-LA tonight?

BRYANT: Well, you got to get an effort tonight from the Braves because last year at this time, the Braves had a three-games-to-one lead on the Dodgers and then lost three straight games. The Braves are home. They've got two games to win, one to get to the World Series. So their task is really simple. You got to get a game. But these are the world champions we're talking about, and the Dodgers are not going away anytime easy. They won 11-2 in the last game to keep their season alive. And so you have to beat a champion. They're not going to hand it to you.

SIMON: Yeah. NBA season's about to begin. In fact, we're at what you call the sports solstice - baseball, football, hockey. In honor of the NBA 75th anniversary, a blue-ribbon panel - not to be confused with a panel of blue ribbons - named the 75 greatest players of all time - 76 'cause there was a tie. What names were missing? I'm going to tell you I think they didn't put in enough foreign-born players on there.

BRYANT: Well, it's a little early 'cause it's still this new generation. But the biggest snubs were obviously guys like Dikembe Mutombo. The Milwaukee Bucks team's Marques Johnson and Bob Lanier and Sidney Moncrief - and those guys didn't make it.

SIMON: Fear the deer.

BRYANT: It's so subjective. And, of course, you had guys who made it now who just got here like Giannis. And so that's the - Dwight Howard, of course, should have been on the list, as well.

SIMON: Yes. Yeah.

BRYANT: Like, these - but it's still just a list. And believe me, if you're Marques Johnson or Sidney Moncrief, you know you were a pretty damn good player.

SIMON: Of course. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.