NBA recap: Top 5 stories of the year
5. Dwight Howard donning the Lakers jersey
Out went Andrew Bynum, the league’s second best center. In came the league’s best for over 3-4 years now. His name: Howard, Dwight David Howard. Since being picked number 1 in the 2004 draft, Howard has been a threat to the NBA’s most elite defences and offences. Not many players are as good defensively as he is, in fact, he’s won the Defensive Player of the Year for three years running now. Rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage and free throw attempts, Howard continues to surmount over everyone in the league. Yet, his team wasn’t up to par with his standards. Orlando did reach the Finals once but Dwight did everything. He wished for a team that wouldn’t entirely depend upon him yet covet his attention.
Clippers, Celtics, Nets, 76ers… Lakers – Yes, every player’s dream Christmas present, to play for the Lakers.
On August 10, 2012, the fifth most iconic image in the NBA this year saw Dwight Howard pulling on the Lakers jersey in a trade that involved the Magic, Nuggets and the 76ers too. In what has to go down as one of the most bumper deals since the KG to Boston mega bonanza, Howard and his Lakers jersey certainly deserve a mention on this list. And moreover, it signalled an end to the forever media hyped Dwight Howard trade saga.
4. We have the Knicks, and the NETS – we are the city that will never sleep
Since the 1957 Dodgers in Baseball, Brooklyn, one of the most iconic cities in the world, hasn’t had a sports team. Fans rooted for the Yankees in Baseball, now that they had no Dodgers, the Giants in American Football given that everyone outside the island are strong Jets fans and had Knicks to salvage the pride if every other team failed miserably. Yankees are always the biggest, the Knicks are up there in Brooklyn. Now, the city finally has its own beloved franchise thanks to Jay Z and his “crew”. Brooklyn Nets, led by Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, finally seem to be the franchise playing basketball unlike the franchise’s New Jersey yesterdays. The Nets now play in a 18,000 capacity arena at the Barclays Center (which will also house the Swedish House Mafia live for the last time ever – yes, it is progressively holding up to the significance of the Madison Square Garden). On the November 3 opener against Toronto, co-owner Jay Z was court side in what turned out to be one of the most cheered openings for a sports franchise in years. Who knows? Now that the Knicks have the Nets in New York, they finally seem to be playing their A-Game. Maybe, the Nets are the lucky charms for the Knicks? Just maybe, right?
3. Kevin McHale back in action
McHale is an absolute legend in the game of basketball. He’s won the NBA three times as a player with the Celtics and was part of the greatest front line the game has ever witnessed – Larry Bird, Robert Parish and “Mr. Torture Chamber McHale”. Today, he coaches the Rockets and has transformed them into a playoff franchise – back from the phoenix of the Tracy McGrady days. On November 10, McHale’s daughter, Sasha was hospitalized and diagnosed with Lupus. Two weeks later, she passed away in what was one of the worst possible tragedies for a father. The Celtics organization was hit hard as well. A few years ago, McHale’s jersey #32 was retired by the organization and he was a venerated soul in the city of Boston. It was no surprise that Boston took to mourning for the legend as well. After taking a month of absence for personal reasons, McHale returned to coach the Rockets for their game against the Celtics. And there was no one better to pass the regards from the Boston organization than Kevin Garnett, who was drafted by McHale for the Wolves in the 1995 Draft. The hug, outpouring of tears from McHale and the deep connection between McHale and the city of Boston has to definitely go down as one of the most touching sporting moments of the year.
2. LeBron and the NBA finals
“He’s a glory hunter”. “He’ll never win anything at Miami.” “If he does, he wouldn’t do anything – it’s all a D-Wade town down there in Florida.”
Nobody wanted LeBron to win. Nobody wanted him to enjoy the best season ever. Everyone was negative and animosity prevailed at its peak. Yet, the man played quite possibly the greatest individual season ever. He won the regular season MVP honors, was impeccably clutch during the playoffs, won the Finals and the MVP, and shunned every critic with a gold medal performance at London 2012.
The image of LeBron grabbing the NBA Finals trophy and holding it like a baby shines as the second spot in this list.
1. Linsanity at its peak
If everything was based on luck, Jeremy Lin wasn’t mean to be a prodigious talent. He had no athletic scholarship offers out of high school and when he did graduate out of Harvard, nobody in the NBA wanted to employ him. He “walked” onto the Harvard basketball team, captained his high school team which upset nationally ranked teams and set himself up for the NBA with record number of points, rebounds and assists in the Ivy League. Still, nobody wanted him! He was too feeble, people assumed or in other words, a one game wonder that would never play a good game ever after.
First the Warriors, Lin’s childhood team, guaranteed him two years but it never prevailed to a success story. On December 27, 2011, Lin’s rights were claimed by the Knicks as a backup to Mike Bibby, Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert. Clearly, he would never play unless every one of them was injured or shot less than 25 % on the field. His last resort – go abroad. Things did change, for the better.
Jeremy Lin was given a lucky chance by Mike D’Antoni after the Celtics were battering the Knicks in the fourth quarter. After that, the world rose to take a bow for a new term: “Linsanity”. The next game saw Lin shoot 25 points, grab 5 rebounds and have 8 assists in a victory over All-Star Deron Williams and his Nets. Slowly, things began to improve for the Asian American. From sleeping on his brother’s couch at a Manhattan apartment for nearly 2 months, he now owned one. Companies signed him to lucrative sponsorships.
However, the image that defined Lin the most was his buzzer beater against Toronto. On February, Lin leaped over Jose Calderon of the Raptors to sink a game winner after which every person guaranteed to remember this rising star. Hadn’t it been for belief, hard work and sheer brilliance, Lin wouldn’t be playing in the NBA today; his stats today – 11.9 PPG and nearly 6 APG.
The game winner against Toronto ranks as the biggest story of the 2012 NBA year, and showcased to the world the emergence of a new race and term (Linsanity) in American basketball.