The San Antonio Spurs caught fire late and were able to take the first game of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat — in the heat, with the A/C broken. Good job, NBA.
But that's the point of this. The finals series features two teams that have core groups of guys referred to as the Big Three — the Spurs' Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, and the Heat's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Obviously in basketball you're working with far fewer players, and three superstar players have a higher value than in football.
At the same time, football definitely relies on these kind of leaders, which are usually just a handful of guys.
So for the Ravens, which guys would make up the team's big three? Let's list some guys and come up with a conclusion:
QB Joe Flacco: As long as the quarterback is capable, effective and can win games, he'll automatically be a de facto leader. He helped guide the Ravens to a championship in Super Bowl XLVII and won the game's MVP as a result. He didn't have a good 2013 season but that shouldn't take away from his overall worth. The $120 million contract speaks volumes too.
WR Torrey Smith: Smith has quickly become a leader in the Ravens' locker room, especially after Anquan Boldin was traded away to San Francisco. He posted his first season with over 1,000 yards in 2013 and has added many more routes to his repertoire.
RB Ray Rice: This is a tough one to justify at this point given the assault charge, which will be stricken from his record if he completes a pre-trial diversion program. Given the circumstances, and the horribly failed press conference that probably did more damage to his image and brand, Rice shouldn't be considered, at least in my opinion. At the same time, on the field he's been a workhorse and will likely still get his carries in 2014. I wouldn't pick him, but that's just me. He has a lot of work to do — mostly off the field — to make up for what happened in Atlantic City.
RG Marshal Yanda: Arguably the best offensive guard in the NFL, Yanda has embodied what it means to be a member of the Ravens. A tough, gritty lineman with a mean streak, he's not a loud talker, just someone that wants everyone to go out there and do their job. A consummate team player, Yanda should thrive in Gary Kubiak's zone blocking scheme.
TE Dennis Pitta: Pitta was expected to have a breakout year a season ago but a hip injury derailed those plans. In Kubiak's offense, he could thrive, though. He's Flacco's favorite target, partly due to their friendship away from football, and very well could have that breakout campaign in 2014.
DT Haloti Ngata: Since the Ravens drafted him, Ngata has gone on to make lives miserable for opposing offensive lines. In eight seasons, he has 23.5 sacks for the Ravens and has been a fan-favorite as a result. After the 2005 season, Ray Lewis told the front office he needed a space eater up front. Ngata has been that guy since.
OLB Terrell Suggs: This one's a given.
CB Lardarius Webb: The Ravens' top corner emerged somewhat surprisingly in 2011. If it wasn't for injuries to Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr, who knows how much time Webb would have received early that year? But he got the opportunity and seized it, and has since become a team leader and quality defender for this team.
My big three: Suggs, Ngata, Flacco.
Vote below as to who you think the top player of the big three is. Also explain why in the comments section.
We'll re-visit this in the coming days to see what the collective opinion is