The sporting world is in limbo. We are all stuck at home without anything to watch on ESPN. Fans have taken to the internet to share their creativity and frustration about the lockout induced by COVID-19. It is a stressful time for us all, but there are ways that we can continue to share our love for the game and heartily anticipate its return. In this article, we are going to recap some of our favorite moments of the 2019-2020 NBA thus far, and remember how awesome it has been.
Zion Williamson’s Debut
Perhaps no player has been this hyped as a rookie since LeBron James was drafted out of high school in 2003. After watching countless highlights from high school and a lone season at Duke, the basketball world anxiously awaited the NBA debut of Zion Williamson, but would have to wait as he nursed an injury that caused him to miss the first 44 games of the season. He got off to a slow start in his first game against the Spurs, committing several turnovers and having a difficult time finding his bearings in his first career NBA game.
The fourth quarter, on the other hand, showcased exactly how good this kid can be.
He dropped 17 straight points in the final frame, including 4-4 from deep, in an electrifying display of offense. The crowd atmosphere was unbelievable. He finished with 22 points in only 18 minutes while shooting 8-11. Those few minutes toward the end of the contest where incredibly exciting and entertaining.
Since then he has posted averages of 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in less than 30 minutes, while shooting 59% from the floor and 46% from deep (less than one attempt but still impressive for his skill set).
Add him to the list of future superstars in the league.
OKC Comeback Win
Perhaps the biggest surprise this season has been the incredible success of the Oklahoma City Thunder, especially in crunch time situations. After trading away superstars Paul George and franchise cornerstone Russell Westbrook, many people wrote the Thunder off immediately. 64 games later and they hold the 5th seed in the incredibly competitive Western Conference with a tiebreaker of the Houston Rockets, now led by none other than Russell Westbrook alongside former MVP James Harden.
Chris Paul has revived his career as a leader and catalyst for this young squad and boasts the best clutch stats in the league. This was on full display in a comeback win that saw OKC down 26 to the Chicago Bulls on December 16, 2019. Paul scored 30 points in an astounding performance that helped cement this squad as a real threat in the league this season. The 109-106 victory tied a franchise record for biggest comeback win.
Remembering Kobe Bryant
The untimely passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant was perhaps the most devastating moment in all of sports history. However, watching fans and players come together to celebrate his life and legacy was awe-inspiring. The Staples Center was coated in memorials and murals across the globe reflected the countenance of the man we had lost.
Every NBA team honored his legacy by taking either an 8 second or 24 second violation, representing the two jerseys he wore throughout his soon to be enshrined Hall of Fame career. He is the only player in NBA history to have 2 different numbers retired by the same team.
The loss was particularly difficult for the many players that looked up to Kobe and were mentored by him. Shortly after the news, an eruption of fantastic performances followed by players giving their all on the court, just as Kobe was known for night after night. An otherwise horrific moment brought out the best in us all as we did everything we could to honor the Black Mamba.
New All-Star Game Format
As part of their tribute to Kobe Bryant, the NBA experimented with a new approach to the annual All-Star Game. The first 3 quarters were played normally, but the team with the most points in each quarter won $100,000 toward the charity they represented. The fourth quarter took the total of those quarters and added a target score: the team in the lead’s current point total plus 24.
What resulted was one of the most competitive All-Star games anyone had ever seen. Team Lebron took the comeback win in a grind-it-out battle that would have had Kobe smiling from ear to ear if he had been courtside. The suspense was palpable, and the competitive drive was evident on every player’s face. It felt like a Finals game and it was glorious. I hope to see it implemented in the future.
The All-Star MVP award was also renamed the Kobe Bryant award. Kobe was the youngest player to be in an All-Star game, holds the record for most consecutive All-Star appearances, and is tied with Bob Pettit for most All-Star MVP awards in league history.
Vince Carter Makes History
In his last season, which may have been cut short due to COVID-19, VC became the first player in NBA history to play in four different decades. His storied career began when he was drafted in 1998, then continued throughout the 00s and 10s. Stepping on the court in 2020 put him in a league of his own. From electrifying dunker to enduring veteran, Vince Carter embodies well his nickname of ‘Half-Man, Half-Amazing’.
Featured Image Credit: Associated Press
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