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The Observer takes a look at the top six summer sporting events to look forward to

6) MLB All-Star Game

The 83rd Midsummer Classic will return to Kansas City on July 10, 2012. This will mark the second time Kauffman Stadium will be the host for one of baseball’s biggest stages. The last time the event was held here was 1973, the stadium’s first year of existence. Led by MVP Bobby Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, the National League defeated the American League in a convincing 7-1 victory. This year, the NL team will be managed by former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who retired after St. Louis’ World Series victory last year. John McGraw is the only other retired manager to manage an All-Star game. The NL holds an overall 42-38 all-time advantage over the American League.

Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and closer Chris Perez represented the Cleveland Indians in the 2011 All-Star game at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The last time an Indian received the All-Star game MVP honor was in 1997, when catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr. guided the AL to a 3-1 victory at Jacobs Field.

5) NBA Playoffs

The lockout may have shortened the season, but the pecking order for the NBA playoffs still remained largely the same from last season. In both conferences there is a distinct top two – the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat in the East and the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder in the West. From there, the standings get a bit blurry. However, with the field set, there are a few interesting matchups to follow in this first post-lockout 66-game season. The Boston Celtics will face the Atlanta Hawks. Will the aging Celtics squad be able to keep up with the young Hawks led by Josh Smith? Will LeBron James finally win a ring? Do Kobe Bryant and the Lakers have enough fight (or elbows) to win their sixth ring for the Black Mamba? And will Kevin Durant and the Thunder make a statement and earn their first trip to the NBA Finals? The playoffs are set to begin on April 28 with the Chicago Bulls taking on either the New York Knicks or Philadelphia 76ers, depending on which team falls to the eighth seed in the East.

4) NBA Draft

The 2012 NBA Draft will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey – the last major NBA event at the home of the New Jersey Nets before owner Jay-Z moves them to Brooklyn. Due to the lockout, the 2011 draft was considered one of the weakest in NBA history. This year, however, should be stockpiled with talent. The University of Kentucky will have all five of its starters from its 2011 NCAA title run in the draft. The two big names are Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Davis, the 6’10” power forward, averaged 14.3 points and 10 rebounds for Kentucky and is the consensus No. 1 overall pick. Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6’7” small forward, is a popular pick to follow Davis at second overall.

Currently, the Charlotte Bobcats hold the best chance at receiving No. 1 overall pick, follow by the Washington Wizards and the New Orleans Hornets. The Cleveland Cavaliers hold the fifth worst record and trail one game behind the Sacramento Kings. The best choice for the Cavs is Bradley Beal, a 6’3” shooting guard from the University of Florida. He has terrific offensive assets and scoring ability. A backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Beal could jump start the post-LeBron era in Cleveland.

3) Stanley Cup Playoffs

The 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs have been filled with cheap hits and arbitrary suspensions. Nine players have been suspended in just the first round. One of the biggest suspensions came from a gruesome blindside late hit administered by Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres on the Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa. Hossa had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher and sent to a hospital. Torres’ 25-game suspension is the longest for an on-ice offense since New York Islanders forward Chris Simon was banned 30 games for stomping on the ankle of Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jarkko Ruutu in 2007.

Aside from the savage play on the ice, this year’s playoffs have also already seen major upsets. The eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings knocked off Western Conference top seed Vancouver in a convincing 4-1 series win. The Kings got off to a hot start by winning the first three games, including a 1-0 shutout in game 3. From that point on, the Canucks never had a chance, as Los Angeles moved on to round 2 with a 2-1 overtime victory in game 5. In the East, the eighth seeded Ottawa Senators and seventh seeded Washington Capitals were able to push the No. 1 New York Rangers and No. 2 Boston Bruins, respectively, to game seven in their series. The series between the No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins and No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers turned into a scoring clinic, as the two teams totaled 56 goals – over nine per game combined – to set an NHL playoff record.

2) Euro 2012

The European Championship will hold its final tournament, hosted by Poland and Ukraine, between June 8 and July 1. This is the first time that either nation has hosted the tournament. The tournament will feature 16 nations, the last European Championship to do so – for Euro 2016 and onward, there will be 24 finalists. The sixteen nations set to compete in the tournament are: Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and Ukraine.

The championship will kick off on Friday, June 8 with two matchups. Co-hosts Poland will begin the night against Greece, and then Russia will take on Czech Republic. The sixteen teams are divided into four groups, with the two winners of each group moving into a single-game elimination playoff that will span from June 21 to July 1.

1) 2012 London Olympics

It’s been four years already! The 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be held in London, England from July 27 to August 12. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) selected London over Moscow, New York City, Madrid, and Paris in 2005. With this event, London will become the first city to officially host the modern Olympic Games three times, having previously done so in 1908 and in 1948. Athletes from 164 countries out of the 204 IOC members will be participating in the 30th modern Olympic Games.

The 2012 Summer Olympic program will feature 26 sports and a total of 39 disciplines. For the first time, women’s boxing will be included with over 40 athletes competing in five different weight classes. Most events can be watched on NBC.

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