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Saturday Sports: NBA draft, Olympic doping

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KURTZLEBEN: LeBron James gets a new teammate, his son. French players dominate the NBA draft. And decorated swimmers question the integrity of the Olympics. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us now to discuss all of this. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning. How are you, Danielle?

KURTZLEBEN: I'm great. Now, for casual fans, this week's NBA draft didn't have too many familiar names, but one of the picks grabbed all the headlines - Bronny James, drafted 55th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, that means Bronny is now teammates with his dad, LeBron James. Howard, is this a heartwarming story about family or a cautionary tale about nepotism?

BRYANT: Well, it's a little bit of both. I mean, it's also a hilarious example of how the Los Angeles Lakers happen to dominate everything, even though they're really not that good anymore. We spent the whole year talking about the Lakers as an eight seed, and now we're talking about the 55th pick in...

(LAUGHTER)

BRYANT: The 55th pick in the NBA draft.

KURTZLEBEN: That was easy to miss in the headlines, yeah.

BRYANT: I think the place where we really should be in the NBA draft is at number one where - number one in the rest of it, where you've got - the French are dominating. Last year, you had Victor Wembanyama taking over the draft, and this year, you've got Zaccharie Risechar (ph) - Risacher - I can't even pronounce his name anymore - I'm ruining his name - and Alex Sarr. These two players are great young players, and we're really moving toward the internationalism of the game. I mean, the game has been global before. But when you think about the NBA draft, you usually think about college, but now you're thinking about France. That's the real story.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. And how did France become this incredible source of basketball talent?

BRYANT: Well, I mean, France is - they've always been good players. I mean, you're looking at Tony Parker, a very good player. You're looking at Rudy Gobert. But once again, the international rise of the game - these players are growing at a -they're playing professional so much younger than the NBA players. The development in Europe is so different. You look at a guy - you know, moving a little away, but you look at someone like Luka Doncic as well, who's been a pro since he was - what? -14-years-old. They are just developing players very differently than we do in the United States.

KURTZLEBEN: Well, finally, speaking of France, let's turn to the Olympics, which are in Paris next month. Earlier this week, former Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt both testified to Congress that they had lost faith in the World Anti-Doping Agency's ability to curtail cheating. How much of a shadow does this cast over the upcoming games?

BRYANT: Well, it's - doping is always there. And I think - I found it fascinating because once again, you know, WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, they are up against it. We saw a few years ago - you know, the Russian team gets busted for doping. I love the fact that that Michael Phelps is doing this. I love the fact that these athletes are saying, hey, enough is enough. But on the other hand, you have a number of athletes who are also saying, Look, at some point, the cheaters are always going to be ahead. I would like to see a doping czar. We still have never had it. And maybe it's just time.

KURTZLEBEN: That's Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Howard, thank you.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.