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LAM Mar 6
RIO DE JANEIRO -- As he walked into an Olympic pool venue for the final time on Saturday night, Michael Phelps couldnt help but feel the emotion begin to settle over him. Cornellius Carradine Jersey . He had known this day had been coming for years. Ever since he decided to unretire for one last Olympics, he knew it would all come to an end late on Aug. 13.He expected there would be emotions. How could there not? This was nothing like four years earlier in London, where he left the sport of swimming kicking and screaming and eager to put lane lines and kickboards in his rearview mirror as quickly as he could. This time, he had embraced the journey, became a team leader and rediscovered the love for the water he had as a little boy. So of course there would be tears, even before his final race began.Walking down the warm-up pool deck, I started getting choked up thinking this is my last this, this is my last that, Phelps said. It was definitely more emotion than in 2012, and I think thats a good thing.He wasnt alone. Bob Bowman had coached Phelps for 20 years. He watched Phelps grow from an eager 11-year-old into a hard-headed, complicated competitor into a grown father and leader. He had once worried about who Phelps was hanging out with and what they might be up to. At one point, the relationship between Bowman and Phelps had devolved into ferocious, profanity-laced arguments, with both of them swearing they would never talk to the other again, only to somehow return.And yet, here at the end, for the past 21 months, their bond had become everything it always should have been. They respected one another. Vacationed together. Laughed. Worked hard but had fun doing so. So of course, when Phelps began his final warm-up swim before the mens 4x100 meter medley relay final, Bowman had to excuse himself.?I just walked off like I was going to the bathroom, Bowman said. I spent the whole day thinking about sentimental stuff. The last time I will see him swim freestyle. The last 200 IM. The last time Im going to watch him do this 25 or that 25. I got emotional. I dont think he even knew.By the time Phelps stepped onto the competition deck, the tears were in check for the time being. He had just one thought: Get the lead. The United States had never lost the mens medley relay, and they werent going to start now. Not in the last swim of Michael Phelps career. His motivational speech to his teammates was simple but effective.He said, I dont have anything to say, but lets just go out there and kill it, Ryan Murphy said. It wasnt much, but that was enough for me to get hyped.Murphy began the American charge by setting a world-record time in the 100 backstroke during the first leg of the relay. But thanks to a monster breaststroke by Great Britains Adam Peaty, Phelps entered the water on the third leg with the Americans trailing by .61 seconds. In a way, this was exactly how it was supposed to be -- the United States needing Michael Phelps to help them to victory.One hundred meters and a little more than 50 seconds later, Phelps and his strong butterfly stroke handed teammate Nathan Adrian a .41-second lead that the Americans did not lose. And just like that, the greatest career in Olympic history came to an end.This was the cherry on top that I wanted, Phelps said after the race. I couldnt be any happier with the end of my career.With that last race of the aquatics schedule in Rio, Phelps won his 28th career Olympic medal and his 23rd gold. Last week, he regained the 200 butterfly crown he had lost four years ago that had meant so much to him. He again beat teammate Ryan Lochte in the 200 individual medley for the fourth straight Olympics. And in the last individual event of his career, he took home silver in the 100 butterfly behind 21-year-old Joseph Schooling, who grew up in Singapore idolizing Phelps; it reminded the world just how hard greatness can be to master.Phelps leaves Rio with five gold medals and one silver, the fourth straight Olympics where Phelps is likely to win more medals than any other Olympian.When the race finally was over, Phelps raised his arms high above his head to acknowledge the cheering crowd. The emotions returned while he waited for the medal ceremony, but it happened behind closed doors, where no one could see it. Teammate Cody Miller became dizzy and light-headed, postponing the medal ceremony by some 25 minutes. By the time Phelps re-emerged, he put himself back together.You could see the tears in his eyes as we were walking to the medal ceremony, Murphy said. It got tampered down with how much time we had to wait, but he was super emotional. It was a great way to cap off an incredible career.For Phelps, these Olympics have proved to be different than any other. He walked in his first Opening Ceremony after being elected the U.S. flag-bearer by his teammates. He served as one of the team captains -- another first -- and help lead the Americans to 33 total swimming medals, the most since 1984.And, for the first time in his life, it wasnt all about winning. It was the process of getting there. Which is why those close to Phelps are optimistic that the next chapter of his life will be far brighter than it might have once looked. For years, Phelps defined himself as nothing more than a swimmer. In 2008, when a University of Michigan athletics administrator asked him what he planned to do if he won eight gold medals in Beijing, he shrugged his shoulders. Retirement after London in 2012 was followed by a reality television show, playing golf and a lack of direction.This time, Phelps insists its different. He will no longer have swimming to keep his life within the boundaries -- to bring him happiness, contentment, sobriety. But he doesnt need it. He finally knows who he is beyond a swimmer. He no longer needs gold medals to define himself as a successful and productive human being. He has a fiancée who has been there through the good times and bad and loves him for the man, not the medals. He has a son who will blindingly care about him and has cried in recent days during FaceTime chats because he misses Dad.This time, Rio was closure.He knows where hes going, Bowman said. There is a baby and a house and a wife. He can see the next chapter of his life. And he cant wait. I dont worry about him anymore. Hes on a great path, and I think thats the biggest difference.The end of Phelps competitive career is anything but the end of his story. In many ways, it is only the beginning.The things Ive gone through in my life -- this is how Im supposed to be today, Phelps said. I wouldnt change anything that got me here. I can honestly say this is the best place Ive ever been in my life. Joe Montana Jersey . On Saturday night, the normally free throw-challenged centre did just that. Howard scored 18 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including 13 of 19 free throws in a 2 1/2-minute stretch, and the Houston Rockets beat the Denver Nuggets 122-111. Matt Breida Jersey . Aaron Harrison scored a 22 points for Kentucky (6-1), which has won four in a row following a Nov. 12 loss to current No. 1 Michigan State. Julius Randle overcame a scoreless first half and added his sixth double-double in as many games with 14 points and 10 rebounds. http:///...ic-joe-staley-jersey . How great will be revealed in the next couple of days at the board of governors meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif. Can Alabama repeat as College Football Playoff champions? Do Deshaun Watson and Clemson have the goods to get back to the title game again? Does Year 2 of the Jim Harbaugh Era mean a playoff run for Michigan?So many questions ... good thing we have enough experts and data to provide an answer to any and all of your 2016 queries. With help from ESPN Insiders, plus a healthy dose of ESPNs Football Power Index, we were able to plot out how the whole year would play out.A hint: As much as things stay the same (hello, Bama and Clemson at the very top), look out for a bunch of CFP party crashers.New quarterback, new running back, new defensive coordinator ... no problem in Tuscaloosa, where the Tide begin 2016 the same way they ended last season: at the top of the college football heap.READ MORESure, last year ended with heartbreak in the CFP title game. But with QB Deshaun Watson and RB Wayne Gallman back, a repeat trip is entirely possible -- and so is a different outcome in that final game.READ MOREOU lost four first-team All-Big 12 defensive players, but QB Baker Mayfield and RB Samaje Perine may be the best backfield duo in the country. Well know a lot about the Sooners ... er ... sooner rather than later, with games against Houston, Ohio State, TCU and Texas in the first six weeks of the season.READ MOREFiguring out a starting quarterback is a predicament for coach Jimbo Fisher. But what the QB has to do is easy: Hand the ball to RB Dalvin Cook.READ MOREAfter a 9-3 season that left LSU fans unfulfilled, the Tigers bring back 17 starters -- and one of them is RB Leonard Fournette. So yes, ?consider LSU a national title threat.READ MORENobody wanted to be playing Ohio State at the end of last season. And even though the Buckeyes lost a historic crop of players to the NFL, opponents may again not want anything to do with the Buckeyes come the 2016 postseason.READ MOREThe Cardinal may be even better in 2016 than they were in 2015. And that Christian McCaffrey guy may just top last seasons record-breaking performance.READ MOREWith its four top receivers returning, a stout defense and a friendly schedule cushion to start 2016, Michigan ought to open 7-0. Unbeaten Jim Harbaugh in late October? Yes, please.READ MOREThree potential future first-round NFL draft picks on defense. QB Joshua Dobbs and a running back duo of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Yep, the Vols are stacked for an SEC championship run.READ MORETorii Hunter Jr. & Co. may not yet know who will be throwing him the ball, but the Notre Dame offense ought to be just fine. Itll help that the Irish have only three true road games, too.READ MOREQB Chad Kelly could be the best quarterback in the country ... and he isnt shy about saying so. Can Ole Miss make up for massive losses elsewhere, though?READ MOREThe Cougars have the talent -- and every intention -- to crash the CFP party this postseason. Beating OU on Sept. 3 will be a huge first step.READ MORENew starting QB ... terrible loss to end last season .. Cheap 49ers Jerseys Authentic. .. ranked outside the top 10. In other words, LJ Scott and Sparty are exactly where they want to be.READ MORECan QB Jake Browning and the Huskies be true sleepers with the hype tidal wave that is growing behind them?READ MORESure, the starting lineup looks very different from a year ago. But RB Kyle Hicks (4.8 yards per carry in 2015) is returning, and hes not the only potential star moving up the depth chart.READ MOREThe schedule is brutal, and that might be an understatement. But the roster is impressive, and that may be an understatement, too.READ MOREThe Pac-12 should be a ton of fun in 2016. And Fun Guy to Watch No. 1 could be QB Josh Rosen.READ MOREDawgs RB Nick Chubb is a handful to tackle. Backup Sony Michel is no picnic, either. And that makes Georgia dangerous.READ MOREThe Cardinals are solid almost everywhere, and potentially spectacular at QB with star Lamar Jackson.READ MORERB Royce Freeman and the Ducks offense will score. But can that leaky defense (485.3 YPG allowed in 2015) force a few more punts?READ MOREDont forget that the Cowboys started 10-0 last year, and bring back 17 starters. Included on that list: standout QB Mason Rudolph.READ MORECoach Art Briles is gone after a disastrous offseason at Baylor. But the Bears have talent (like WR KD Cannon) and should rack up some early wins against a soft schedule.READ MOREJust like last year, MLB Josey Jewell and the Hawkeyes defense should be tough to score on. The question is: Can the Iowa offense produce enough to win double-digit games again in 2016?READ MOREThe Tar Heels will again have a strong offensive line blocking for RB Elijah Hood. Early-season games against Georgia and Florida State will be the difference between another 11-win regular season and a solid top-25 finish.?READ MOREHouston who? The Aztecs and terrific RB Donnel Pumphrey think they are the CFP dark horse, not the Cougars.READ MORETop 25 voters?Edward Aschoff, ESPN staff writer; Butch Davis, ESPN analyst, former coach at Miami and North Carolina; Heather Dinich, ESPN staff writer; Brad Edwards, ESPN Radio College GameDay analyst, ESPN Insider; Chris Fallica, ESPN senior researcher, The Bear on College GameDay; Rod Gilmore, ESPN analyst, former Stanford cornerback; Danny Kanell, ESPN analyst, former Florida State quarterback; Chris Low, ESPN senior writer; Ivan Maisel, ESPN senior writer; Ryan McGee, ESPN senior writer; Brett McMurphy, ESPN college football Insider; Adam Rittenberg, ESPN staff writer; Mark Schlabach, ESPN senior writerTop 25 projections Football Power Index: FPI predicts and ranks team strength based on expected points added from offense, defense and special teams, adjusted for opponent strength. 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