After 82 games and countless memories (mostly provided by the Golden State Warriors) we arrive at the 2016 NBA Playoffs. Most are predicting that Warriors will repeat as champs, the main unknown will be who they will be facing (Cleveland look the favourite in the East right now). Until then, lets try to pick who will take out the annual regular season awards.
Most Valuable Player – Stephen Curry, Warriors
There’s very little that can be argued for anyone else OTHER than Curry, so I’m going to focus on what the Golden State point guard has done to give him his 2nd straight MVP…
30.1 points per game (lead the NBA, up from 23.8 last season)
2.1 steals per game (led the NBA, up from 2.0 last season)
90.8% free throw shooter (led the NBA, 4th season of at least 90% shooting and ended the season the 3rd all time best shooter)
45.4% 3 point shooter (2nd in the NBA, ended the season 2nd all time best shooter)
50.4% field goal shooter (only the 2nd time in NBA history that a player 6’3″ or shorter shot over 50% and attempted at least 1,500 FG’s)
402 3-point shots made (led the NBA, broke his own record for a single season by 116 made 3’s)
According to Basketball-Reference there have only been 31 instances of a guard/forward shooting better than 50% while attempting at least 1,500 field goal attempts. The thing that sets Curry apart is that of his 1,598 shots a crazy 886 were from deep (55.4%). To put that into perspective only 10 of the 31 times did a player take at least 100 3’s, as well as 8 having occurred before the advent of the 3 point line. My point is… Curry is a shooter of the likes we have never seen before, and I know they say records are meant to be broken but he averaged 5.1 made 3’s per game… the 73 wins the Warriors accumulated this season will be broken before the 402 made 3’s in a season.
I’ll finish with this… As I mentioned, Curry broke his own record for made 3’s in a season by 116 (or 40.5%). Consider what would be required to break the following records by that much from the other major sports.
NFL, Passing TD’s – Current record is 55, new record would be 78 or 4.9 per game over 16 games.
MLB, Home Runs – Current record is 73, new record would be 103 or 4.5 every 7 games over 162 games.
NHL, Points – Current record is 215, new record would be 303 or 3.7 per game over 82 games.
Most Improved Player – C.J. McCollum,Trailblazers
Many experts have given this award to Curry as well, and based on the numbers you can make that case. But I think that’s getting a bit too greedy! Apologies do go to Draymond Green who had an amazing season, increasing almost every statistical category while only playing 3 more minutes per game.
I’ve gone with McCollum for his ability to take on a role as the starting shooting guard and manage the expectations that he and Damian Lillard were carrying with the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge. In 80 games (all starts) he averaged 20.8 ppg, 2.5 3’s per game (at 41.7%), 4.3 apg and 1.2 spg in 34.8 mpg. With their Portland starting backcourt responsible for over 43% of their total points McCollum and Lillard led the Trailblazers to the playoffs with a 44-38 record. If they are to continue to improve it will be with Lillard and McCollum leading the way with what I’m sure will be a very exciting brand of basketball.
Defensive Player of the Year – Draymond Green, Warriors
I know, they’re known for their crazy free-wheeling style of offence. But they also know how to stop the opposition as well. As previously mentioned, Stephen Curry led the league in steals. Klay Thompson has developed as an above average perimeter defender. Andrew Bogut sat 12th in the league in blocks despite playing just 20.7 mpg. But there is nobody in the league that is as versatile and determined as Draymond Green.
His numbers are pretty good on their own… 9.5 rpg (13th in the NBA), 1.5 spg and 1.4 big. But it’s his ability to do whatever his team requires on the defensive end. Prior to Green’s emergence it was widely thought that LeBron James is probably the only player in the NBA with the ability to defend all 5 positions. He still may be able to, but Green does it with a passion and desire that even James doesn’t bring. If he’s out on the perimeter he’s up in the face of the guard, if he’s on the block he’s bodying the big man and keeping him from getting into the paint. Some people might think his bravado and exuberance is a sign of arrogance… most of us see an ultra-competitive buy who will do anything to help his team win. And when your teams goes 73-9 you’ve done more than your fair share.
Rookie of the Year – Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
When you’re taken as the #1 overall pick there is a certain expectation of you to perform at the next level. Towns met these and more as he put up some excellent numbers… 18.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg (8th in the NBA), 1.7 bpg (10th in the NBA) while shooting 54.3% from the field. In NBA history only Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan have put up rookie numbers to match those, and we’d all say they ended up ok! I don’t think he’ll be the monsters that O’Neal and Duncan became but Towns is someone that Minnesota can build their future around. And with Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio there as well, playoffs can only be a year or 2 away.
Coach of the Year – Steve Kerr/Luke Walton, Warriors
They won the most games in a single season in NBA history, they didn’t lose back to back games (first time ever), they started the season with 24 consecutive wins… and their head coach from the previous season wasn’t there for half the year! I give it to both Kerr and Walton ’cause without them they may not be going down as the greatest single season team ever. It’ll be a pity for the Warriors as well when Walton signs a big fat contract with another team to become their head coach for the 2016-17 season. But for this year, they are head and shoulders above anyone else.
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For anyone to say that they have won 2 majors, been the #1 ranked golfer in the world and accumulated over $23 million USD… you’d be pretty happy with things. And you haven’t even turned 23 yet!
But for Jordan Spieth the time it took to walk from the 9th green to the 13th tee on the final round of the 2016 Masters all that seems a distant memory. After having birdied 4 straight holes and entering the final 9 holes with a 5 stroke lead, most experts (and this apparent novice) had already declared him the first back to back winner of the Master since another rather handy golfer (Tiger Woods in 2001-02). However we had failed to consider what had only seemed mythical up until now… Jordan Spieth IS human.
Anyone who has ever picked up a golf club can attest to some kind of nerves, whether it be getting off the 1st tee in front of a group of friends or trying to sink a 4 footer on the 18th to win a point for your local pennant team. Only a select few can relate to having thousands watching in person as well as millions watching around the world as you attempt to prove yourself as the best golfer on the planet. It’s the only thing that makes sense of what transpired on 10, 11 and 12.
Without going into a blow by blow account it was one of the harder things I’ve witnessed over all my years of watching professional sport. Having to swallow back to back bogies on the 10th and 11th was un-nerving as Spieth’s lead dwindled to 3. The calamity that played out on the relatively short 155 yard par 3 was almost unprecedented in Masters history.
Times have changed in regards to how to play the 12th, the old school method is to play over the front bunker while the new brigade are more aggressive in firing directly at the front right flag. If there would be any criticism regarding Spieth it may be not learning from past mistakes, having hit the same shot in 2014 which ended up in the same watery grave. But even that wasn’t the worst part of the story…
Walking to the drop zone a short wedge of app 80 yards awaiting him, Spieth could still scramble and leave the 12th with a small lead. But instead of dropping his 3rd shot safely on the green he proceeded to hit a shot most weekend golfers would produce, not getting close to clearing Rae’s Creek. The rest as they say is history as Danny Willett took what appeared to be unattainable earlier in the round and left Augusta National with his first major title.
I’m reminded of other situations where defeat was taken from the grasp of victory (one still pains me to this day as a proud Aussie), unfortunately Jordan Spieth now resides on many lists similar to this.
Greg Norman – 1996 US Masters
Norman opened his 1996 Masters campaign with a record tying 9 under 63 and held a 6 shot lead entering the final round. Australians were ready to rejoice in their first Masters victory and only had to wait for 18 inevitable holes… but that didn’t last long. Nick Faldo hardly put a step wrong in shooting a terrific 5 under 67 while Norman couldn’t do a thing right in firing a 6 over 78. Even a chance at eagle on the 15th wasn’t God willing as it would lip out and drop Norman to his knees. Norman had 4 more top 10 finishes in majors but this is the one that would (unfortunately) be his defining moment at the Masters.
Jean Van De Velde – 1999 Open Championship
3 shot lead, 1 hole left. Give any professional golfer this scenario and they would jump at it every day of the week. This is the situation Van De Velde found himself in at Carnoustie in 1999 staring down his first major title. All that stood in between him and the Claret Jug was a 487 yard par 4, doesn’t sound too hard. But he made it seem impossible.
A wild tee shot, a wilder second shot that struck a grandstand, a third shot ending up in the Barry Burn, an invisible fourth shot (drop), a fifth shot into a green side bunker and a sixth shot to within 6 feet… phew! Luckily for Van De Velde he holed the putt to make his way into a 3 way playoff, unfortunately for the Frenchman he would lose to Paul Lawrie in his best ever chance at a major. If only someone he trusted was nearby to let him know a double bogey on the 18th was enough to win… bet you Steve Williams would walk off the course before letting Tiger pull that kind of insanity!
Orlando Magic – 2003 Eastern Conference first round series
Few teams have ever overcome a 3-1 playoff deficit in the 4 major sports, arguably the most famous in NBA history was the 1981 Boston Celtics coming over the top of the Philadelphia 76ers en route to the NBA championship. But one of the more boneheaded displays was provided by the Orlando Magic in their first round series against the No 1 seed Detroit Pistons.
After scoring 145 points in the first 4 games to bring his team within 1 win of the second round, Orlando all-star Tracy McGrady stated that “it feels good to get in the second round”… oops! Detroit would come back to destroy the Magic in 3 straight games to send them packing for the summer, winning by an average of just over 20 ppg. McGrady would always be infamously remembered as one of the greatest players to never reach the second round of the playoffs.
New York Yankees – 2004 AL Championship Series
Apart from a couple of occasions in the NHL, no team in major sport playoff history had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. A few teams had overcome a 3-1 hole (see above) but no-one had ever seen a team win 4 straight games to win a deciding game in a 7 game series.
It was one of the most amazing series of events to unfold in MLB history. New York was only 3 outs away on Game 4 from sweeping the series and heading to the World Series. The following then occurred…
Mariano Rivera blows a 1 run lead, Yankees lose Game 4 in the 12th inning 6-4.
Yankees bullpen blow a 2 run lead, Yankees lose Game 5 in the 14th inning 5-4.
37 year old Curt Schilling pitches with a torn tendon in his right ankle, his bloody sock now resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His 7 inning gem (4H, 4K, ER) set up a 4-2 win and tied the series at 3-3.
Game 7 was a rout behind 3 home runs, 10-3 being the final. Boston then swept the St Louis Cardinal to secure their first World Series since 1918. There had been a lifetime of bad luck since their last World Series (maybe even 2 lifetimes)… who knew that setting MLB history would break their 86 year drought?!?
Here’s hoping that it takes someone a VERY long time to join this list.
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I’ve been playing golf for about 25 years (I turned 38 in January) and have mostly loved every bit of it. For those that have played any kind of golf, you know what mean. Whether you’re good enough to be earning a living from golf or just enjoy a weekly round with friends there’s something about it that not many other sports can offer.
The best weekend of the year must be that in April when the golfing world turns its eyes to Augusta, GA and the US Masters. As someone who watched his first Masters in 1989 when Nick Faldo holed a birdie putt at the 11th to win his first green jacket, I’ve been drawn to the tournament like no other… only wish I didn’t have to get out of bed at about 4am to watch the telecast!
Some of the most memorable moments in sport have taken place on the hallowed turf at Augusta National. From “the shot heard around the world” by Gene Sarazen in 1935 to Arnold Palmer announcing his arrival in 1960 to Jack Nicklaus winning his 6th Masters at the age of 46 (still the 2nd oldest ever to win a major), it’s still remains as one of the most iconic sporting events ever.
As I type this during the closing stages of the 3rd round (at a much more sleep friendly time of 7:50am!) I’m reminded that sport can show us the most remarkable things. Seeing Jordan Spieth at the top of the leaderboard… not one of them. But watching Bernhard Langer hole out for a 70 to finish at 1 under and 4th place tells the world that Father Time doesn’t quite have the same success rate as with other major sports, but he does come out on top in the end! He certainly would be the sentimental choice as Sunday approaches, but with names like Spieth, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson also on the leaderboard it won’t be easy.
I’m sure everyone has their own memories of the Masters, be it a player or a certain year, but one thing is for sure… this tournament brings the golfing world together like few sporting events around the world. And I’ll be sacrificing some sleep tomorrow morning to watch the entire final round, and I know I won’t be the only one.
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As an Australian I’m certainly out on my own limb when I talk about how I get pumped for the start of the MLB season. Add to that I enjoy playing Fantasy Baseball (3 leagues this year!) and I look like a polar bear in Arizona with a Seahawks jersey. But I stand by my joy of baseball and everything about it… so there!
In 2011 my wife and I spent 3 wonderful weeks on holiday in the United States, covering off most of the must see attractions that most tourists get to. But there were 3 things that I was most looking forward to… a Clippers v Grizzlies game at Staples Centre with seats 3 rows from the baseline (and it was awesome!), a tour of Fenway Park while staying in Boston (would’ve loved to catch a game but they were on the road to start the season) and a Yankees v Twins day game in the Bronx. As much as the NBA was something I’d always wanted to see with my own eyes my growing affair with MLB was too much to ignore.
Ask any Australian about baseball and they’ll tell you baseball is the most boring sport on Earth… which is funny as Americans find 5 days of teams standing on a field WAYYYY more boring that baseball! There’s something about a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th or a strikeout in front of the home crowd to get out of a bases loaded jam that gets your hairs to stand on end. And with a 162 game regular season there are plenty of those to go around.
We’ve seen a great slate of games this weekend to begin the 2016 season. The highly favoured San Francisco Giants destroying the Brewers on the road, a great 2015 World Series replay with the same result (Royals over Mets 4-3), the Dodgers blowing out the Padres behind another masterful outing from Clayton Kershaw (7IP, H, 9K) and the World Series favourite (but not by this blogger) Chicago Cubs schooling the LA Angels 9-0. And it wouldn’t be complete without a game postponed due to weather (2 were cancelled for good measure).
So… 161 games to go… can’t wait!
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I know what you’re thinking… how many of these lists can people actually write about? I hear you, I think the same thing. But it doesn’t make reading about them any less incredible. Like thinking about Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, or Nolan Ryan striking out 5,714 batters over his career, or Brett Favre starting 297 consecutive games at quarterback (321 including playoffs). Amazing, right? And these aren’t even on my list!
Some you’ve see before, no doubt. But I’ve tried to come up with a couple not so commonly known. Living in Australia not a lot of people around the world know of some sports native to us, Australian Rules being the most obvious one. Having said that, here is my list of 9 of the most unbreakable records in sport. Also, they have been listed in alphabetical order… there’s no way I’m listing them in order of importance or difficulty!
There have been much better players and players who have played for longer, but none of them managed to survive as many consecutive games as A.C. Green. Consider this… only 43 players in ABA/NBA history have played at least 1,192 games (39 in NBA only). According to basketball-reference.com there have been 4,370 players in ABA/NBA history, which means that just 0.98% of players have actually made it to 1,192 games. Based on 30 current NBA teams and 12 man rosters there are currently 360 players in the league, meaning only 4 active players will play that many games in an entire career (as it turns out there are currently 8… but you get my point!). Now, imagine they don’t miss a game through injury, suspension, trade or being coached by Gregg Popovich. I know… INSANE! Well, that’s what Green did. There’s no way anyone (EVER) will play that many games without sitting for 1 of them, it’s over 14 straight seasons of 82 games. Good luck!
Another ironman, and just as fascinating. Let’s use the same theory as for A.C. Green. Only 35 MLB players have ever played more than 2,632 games. According to Wikipedia there were 17,732 players in MLB history (at the end of the 2011 season), which means that a minuscule 0.20% of MLB players will reach 2,632 games. Using 32 current MLB teams with 25 man active rosters there are 800 active players, with just 2 projected to play this many career games (Alex Rodriguez is at 2,719 with Adrian Beltre at 2,567). Again, imagine playing all 162 games a year with no injuries, suspensions or days off from having played every day for a month. Can’t picture it? Neither can I.
This record is more remarkable then Green’s as it covers over 16 MLB seasons. And Ripken did it at shortstop! Never mind he also amassed 431 HR’s, 1,695 RBI and 2 MVP awards. Footage from Ripken’s record breaking game should be placed in a time capsule and opened 100 years from now… they’ll need proof that it happened as nobody will believe it.
Gone are the days of starting pitchers racking up 45-50 starts and pitching over 400 innings a season, managers would have a heart attack just thinking about it! That was the era where Cy Young carved out one of the most incredible careers in sport. Never mind he won 511 games (as astounding as that is), get a load of these… 906 games played (815 starts) 7,356 innings pitched (that’s 8.11 innings per game!), career 2.63 ERA (only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright have sub 3 career ERA’s among active players). You see any starting pitcher lasting for 25 years and winning 20 games a season? That’s what they’d have to do to catch Young… and they’d still be 11 wins short! Kershaw has been the most dominant pitcher this century and he’s only averaged 17 wins a season since 2010. There were no middle relievers or closers to help out 120 years ago, you were on your own and Young did it better than anyone… guess that’s why he has a certain award named after him! They say records are meant to be broken, this one has been around since 1911 and isn’t going anywhere for a LONG time.
The NFL has become a pass first league over the last few years, which shows in the stats as 27 of the top 30 all time passing yard seasons have occurred since 2000. So it only makes sense that most (if not all) passing and receiving records will soon fall, right? WRONG! Let’s take Julio Jones as an example. He’s a physical beast, able to sprint past cornerbacks and overpower them in the air. From the 2013 to the 2015 season he averaged 112 receiving yards per game, this works out to a 16 season of 1,797 yards. His career best season was in 2015 where he caught for 1,871 (the 2nd highest single season total in history). Now, imagine his doing that for 12 seasons and 12 games… that’s what it would take to catch Jerry Rice. Now granted, Rice played into his 40’s which is unheard of in the modern day NFL. We just say Calvin Johnson retire at the age of 30. But it wasn’t just longevity that made him great. He owns 6 of the top 50 season in terms of receiving yards. He is the all time leader in receiving and total TD’s. He’s over 6,900 yards and 41 receiving TD’s more than 2nd on the all time list. His 14 seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards is 4 more than Randy Moss who is 2nd all time with 10. Think of how many players actually get through 14 seasons in the NFL these days. Now see them catching over 1,000 in every one of those seasons. Yeah, this Jerry Rice fellow was pretty good. This record is to stay.
Oscar Robertson (NBA) – Average a triple double (at least 10ppg, 10rpg, 10apg) for a season
Plenty has been made about the season Russell Westbrook has been having. Through 76 games he has accumulated 16 triple doubles, something that hasn’t been done since Michael Jordan in 1989. But forget that, there’s a guy who has had more that 16 in a season… 5 different times!
Try and forget about that, how about someone who would average a triple double over an entire 82 game NBA season. Well, a guy named Oscar Robertson did exactly that. It’s a shame that the NBA didn’t record game by game stats on assists and rebounds, that would make for some entertaining reading. During the 1961-62 season Robertson played in 79 games and had a triple double in 41 of them. That’s right, in just under 52% of his games that season he had at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Compare that to Westbrook’s current season where he’s running at a 21% rate. Still impressive, but no Oscar. Even with a spike in triple doubles not seen for 25 years there won’t be anyone who will do it over the course of an entire season.
A final thought… Robertson average 30.8ppg, 12.5rpg and 11.4 apg in his historic season… and cam win 3rd in MVP voting. Bill Russell won with Wilt Chamberlain 2nd, you’ll read why later on.
Here’s the first of 2 obscure records you’ll read. Not everything is NFL, MLB and NBA (although most is), there are other sports in the world that attract quite the following. One (to the chagrin of my wife) is Darts, a sport that is very popular in the UK. And it’s biggest name ever is Phil “The Power” Taylor.
My first exposure to Taylor was the 2002 PDC World Championship and his match with Peter Manley in the final. Having not watched a lot of world class darts I was intrigued and looked forward to a long and entertaining match. I received half of my wish as it was certainly entertaining but hardly long as Taylor swept Manley with a 7-0 demolition. It was then I was hooked on watching Taylor when I could… and it was a pleasure every time.
To put into perspective there aren’t major tournaments like golf and tennis have where you compete in 4 per year. There are other major tournaments on the schedule (World Matchplay and Grand Slam of Darts to name a couple) but the PDC World Championship is the cream of the crop. And to have won it 14 times (and been runner-up 4 times) is unfathomable. There is hardly anything to compare it to in regards to total domination, and this is why it (probably) never be matched.
And now for the 2nd obscure record. Australian Rules Football (or the AFL) is hugely popular in Australia, with all sorts of entertaining and sometimes spiteful conversations occurring in workplaces all across the country on a Monday morning. In this game it’s all about the goals, like anything the more you score the more you win. And like all sports there are those that do it better than the other, and in this case it’s Tony Lockett.
Lockett averaged 4.84 goals per game during his 281 game career. Only Peter Hudson at 5.64 per game can really challenge that average for those who kicked over 600 career goals, although Jason Dunstall at 4.66 comes close. Then consider that Lockett missed 23 games over his career through suspension. If we give 4.84 goals to each of those games his career total comes to 1,471 goals. Second on the all time list is Gordon Coventry with 1,299. The current leader for career goals is Lance Franklin with 710. At his current average per game (3.2) he would need another 203 games to pass Lockett. That would take him to 425 career games, the all time record for games played is 426. The way the current game is played it’s virtually impossible to see anyone get close to Lockett, you can quote me on that!
If you’ve been a reader since my first blog you’ll notice that there isn’t much in the way of ice hockey… if fact, there’s nothing about ice hockey! So I’m not going to pretend I’m an authority on all things NHL. But no matter what sport you follow or play, almost everyone knows about the legend that is Wayne Gretzky.
The facts say it all… 10 times leading the NHL is points, 9 time MVP, 5 time NHLPA MVP, 4 Stanley Cups (5 times to the Stanley Cup), 2 time Stanley Cup MVP. And they’re just the awards!
Gretzky is the all time leader in total points (2,857… 970 more than 2nd), goals (894… 93 more than 2nd) and assists (1,963… 714 more than 2nd). He also owns 9 of the top 11 individual seasons for total points, 4 of the top 11 individual seasons for goals and 11 of the top 13 individual seasons for assists. His 1.921 points per game average over his career is more than double all but 78 other players who have ever played in the NHL (10,056 as per hockey-reference.com). We always marvel at the best of the best, but Gretzky was more than that. This is why the simple nickname of “The Great One” couldn’t be mote fitting, not just for the man who dominated the ice but the gentleman he was off it.
And for last we have maybe the most incredible record of them all. The NBA have seen some prolific scorers over the years, but none did it quite like “The Big Dipper”
Chamberlain ended his 14 season NBA career holding numerous records (most points, field goals made and total rebounds among many). But there is one game and one season that sets him apart from any other player in history.
On March 2, 1962 in Hershey, PA the Philadelphia Warriors took on the New York Knicks. There have been many stories told about this game, least of all the number of people that claim they were in attendance (this has been inflated a little over time!). But the show Chamberlain put on for those that actually were there would never be forgotten. 100 points on 36 of 63 from the field and (more amazingly) 28 of 32 from the foul line. For a career 51.1% free throw shooter it was like a perfect storm. He exclaimed to teammate Al Attles after the game that he never thought he’d take 60 shots in a game, but sometimes fate has other plans.
The other half of this record is the face he average 50.4ppg over the entire season. Consider that is that season alone Wilt had 45 games of at least 50 points… there have only been another 328 occasions of 50 point games (from the 1963-64 season accruing to basketball-reference.com) and Wilt had 30 of those! Consider that Wilt hold 5 of the 6 highest point per game averages for a single season, with only Michael Jordan’s 1986-87 season of 37.09ppg the outlier. There have been 33 times where a player has averaged at least 30ppg since 1979-80 and only 3 averaging over 35ppg. The marks that Wilt has set will stand the test of time and nobody will come close to beating them. Oh, and that reference to the 1961-62 MVP? Yeah, Oscar and Wilt had their amazing years in the same season… and still couldn’t win MVP from Russell! Think about that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the most incredible sporting achievements we have ever seen. Please leave any feedback you might have about these or any other records that come to mind in the comments section of the blog, at email@example.com or on twitter @usasportblog78.
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