The Top 10 Stories of 2016

1. History Anyone?: The Cleveland Cavaliers, down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, on the brink of elimination and sending LeBron James to his fifth NBA Finals loss, got a break when Draymond Green was suspended in Game 5. The Cavs soared in a must win game behind 82 points courtesy of Kryie Irving and LeBron James sending the series back to Cleveland for Game 6. Both Cavs stars were extraordinary. Irving shot 70% and had six assists. James pulled in 16 rebounds and had 3 blocks. No teammates had ever gone 40-40 in a Finals game. Game 6 was a blowout as the Warriors never showed up, blown out in the first quarter and never recovered. Visibly annoyed, Steph Curry was ejected late. The pivotal Game 7 at Oracle pitted the 73 win team against the underdog Cavs. The defending champs were in a state of shock when the Kyrie Irving game winning three went through the net to give the Cavs the title. The Cavs were the first NBA team to comeback from 3-1. LeBron was the MVP and the city of Cleveland celebrated their first title since 1964.

2. 73-9. History Anyone?: The best regular season in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors dominated NBA action from October to April. They led the league in scoring, 114.9. They led the league in offensive rating. They led the league in field goal percentage. They led the league in 3-point percentage. They led the league in defensive rebounding. They were second in the league in blocks and 3-point defense. They were third in the league in field goal percentage defense. They won 24 games in a row. They were 34-7 on the road. They were 39-2 at home. They never lost back to back games. They scored 120 or more points 30 times, including a stretch of five games in a row in March. They scored 130 or more points 7 times. They clinched the record on the last day of the season, a 21 point home win against Memphis.

3. The Shot That Lifted a Nation: 89-89 with a minute left, Kyrie Irving dribbling the ball on the perimeter, guarded by NBA MVP Steph Curry and┬áSteve Kerr didn’t double and allowed Curry to defend Kyrie one-on-one, a total mismatch as Irving rose up and sank a three in the grill of Steph, giving the Cavs a three point lead. Curry tried to return the favor as he crossed over Kevin Love and took a patented, familiar Curry three but it missed. It sealed the championship for the Cavs, the first in their history. Irving, injured in the Finals the year before, became the hero 380 days later.

4. Realtor On Speed Dial: Kevin Durant walked away from his OKC life to sign with the team that eliminated him in the Western Conference Finals. It caught everyone by surprise. In the Western Conference Finals the Thunder had a 3-1 lead on the Warriors but lost, partly because Durant couldn’t lift his team over the finish line. He played well but no one else did in Game 7 and perhaps that is what sealed the deal for his exodus. No matter how good he was the rest of the team wasn’t going to show up. In the aftermath of his defection, Durant was called a punk, a quitter, ungrateful and a front runner. Conversely, the face of the Miami Heat franchise, Dwyane Wade, in a contract dispute with the team that drafted him, shocked the NBA by switching jerseys and playing in front of his home crowd of Chicago. No one was more shocked than Pat Riley who took Wade for granted and assumed he would return. Wade’s departure sunk the Heat into lottery no-man’s land.

5. Back-to-Back: Steph Curry won the MVP for the second time in a row. He led his team to the best regular season record in history. He was part of a 24-0 start. His shooting was extraordinary. He was a member of the 50-40-90 club. 50% field goals. 40% from three. 90% from the free throw line. He averaged 6.7 assists per game and his 5.4 rebounds was a career high. His 30.1 points a game was a career high. His 125 offensive rating was a career high. His 31.5 PER was Jordan-esque. He was the 4th most impactful NBA player (Real Plus-Minus).

6. He Did What?: In the last game of his legendary career but in a dismal season for him- lows across the board- Kobe Bryant saved his very best for last. But before he took the court the city of Los Angeles that saw Bryant grow from a cocky skinny kid to a NBA champion, MVP and now an aged NBA player, flooded the downtown streets to get one last glimpse of him. They signed cards and shared memories and it was a packed house with Kobe fans coming from around the world to see him on the court one last time. Of course he didn’t disappoint. In a game for the ages he took 50 shots, scored 60 points, outscored the Utah Jazz in the last three minutes 15-0 to seal a walk off win for the last time.

7. Hall of Fame 2021: The greatest class the Hall of Fame will enshrine at one time will stand on one stage together. Kobe Bryant, the greatest shooting guard of his generation. Tim Duncan, the best power forward in NBA history. Kevin Garnett, the second best big man of his generation. Ray Allen, the best shooter of his generation. All retired, walking away from the game they elevated and changed. Kobe played 20 years. Garnett played 21 years. Duncan played 19 years. Ray Allen played 18 years. Collectively they won 13 NBA titles, 4 MVP’s, 6 Finals MVP’s and appeared in 18 All-Star games.

8. Divorce Pat Riley Style: Chris Bosh was once again stricken with blood clots which ended his season, keeping him out of the playoffs and perhaps the NBA altogether. Pat Riley has moved on from Bosh, planning to waive him after the March 1st deadline so the Heat can get some relief from Bosh’s max salary. Heat doctors refused to clear Bosh for NBA basketball at the start of training camp. Bosh is in limbo. He believes he can play. Doctors say otherwise. Will a team take a chance on him in March, a team like the Warriors or Cavs? Bosh is the third Big 3 player that Riley has burned bridges with and so it’s a Pat Riley start from scratch Heat re-do.

9. Muhammad Ali lite: Blake Griffin went all amateur boxer on the Clippers equipment manager. When he punched his friend in the face in a Toronto restaurant after being teased, Griffin broke his hand. He was due to come back from a quad injury the following week which caused the Clippers to release Josh Smith. His broken hand meant he was out another 6-weeks and it effectively ended the Clippers run for a title, that and another Chris Paul freakish injury in the first round of the playoffs.

10. No Boys Allowed: It wasn’t as if the Lakers season was going anywhere but D’Angelo Russell turned it into soap opera reality show. It fractured whatever team unity was left. In a moment that could be classified as stupid Russell taped teammate Nick Young who admitted to indiscretions. The video found its way to the internet. Russell acted shocked when the video surfaced online causing a social media uproar. Nick Young’s home life was ruined; his girlfriend left him. Russell was shunned by his teammates which caused a frustrated Lou Williams to say, “It’s okay to grow up.” Yes. It is.

 

photo via llananba