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Sports

Ivey: North Carolina’s win the latest in redemption trend

| Thursday, April 6, 2017

Redemption. So hot right now. Redemption.

That’s what one could say about the current sports landscape. In the past year we’ve seen teams who came up short on the biggest stage of their respective sport, only to return to that stage the very next year and end up taking home the crown.

On Monday night, North Carolina became a member of this group when they defeated Gonzaga 71-65 in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game.

A year ago, the Tar Heels played in the national championship game against Villanova, losing on a buzzer-beating shot on the final play of the game. It was the most heartbreaking way a team can lose a basketball championship.

North Carolina came into this season with one thing on their mind: redemption. They rebounded from the most soul-crushing of defeats and made it back to the title game, this time winning it all.

You could see from the expression on the faces of the players that this title meant something extra because of what happened last year. It’s a look we’ve seen a lot recently.

Back in January 2016, Clemson lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game. The Tigers came up short by only five points, and used the close loss as motivation. During the 2016 season, Clemson finished with a record of 12-1, an ACC Championship and a return trip to the College Football Playoff. After shutting out Ohio State in the semifinal, the Tigers got exactly what they wished for in a rematch with Alabama in the national championship. During most of the game, it looked as if Clemson would once again come up short against Alabama, but the Tigers used a late second-half run to take the lead with about four minutes left, a lead they would quickly give up. With about two minutes left, quarterback Deshaun Watson led Clemson on a remarkable drive that ended in a touchdown with one second remaining in the game. Clemson had capped a remarkable redemption season with a national championship.

In June 2015, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games in the NBA Finals. Lebron James and the Cavs responded by returning to the Finals the next year, once again against the Warriors. After falling behind in the series 3-1, the Cavs won Games Five and Six to set up a Game Seven for the championship, which the Cavs won 93-89. Cleveland had fallen from the mountain, but got up and climbed all the way back to the top.

The Kansas City Royals lost the 2014 World Series to the San Francisco Giants. In 2015, the Royals went through an entire 162 game schedule with redemption on their mind, and made it all the way back to the World Series. Against the New York Mets, the Royals won the series in six games to complete the long road to the championship.

Being so close but coming up short, then rebounding and winning it all the very next year adds a little extra flavor to the already sweet taste of a championship.

It’s happening more often, so who will be the next team to redeem themselves?

The favorite has to be the Golden State Warriors. After losing the NBA Finals in a seven-game heartbreaker, the Warriors are arguably better than they were last season thanks to the addition of Kevin Durant. When Durant gets healthy again, I wouldn’t want to play the Warriors in a playoff series.

Alabama is another good pick. The Tide will undoubtedly be among the favorites to win next year’s national championship, and the added-on effect of seeking redemption after coming up just short the year before will make them even more dangerous.

The Cleveland Indians are a World Series favorite this year after losing in last year’s World Series, and it will be interesting to see how Gonzaga will rebound after losing Monday’s championship to the Tar Heels.

Redemption must be on their minds.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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