Give And Go is a recurring feature in which The Point Forward’s Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney bat an NBA topic du jour back and forth.
This week: A look back at the NBA's year that was, focusing on the best moment, quote, story, move and Sportsman. For further review of 2013, check out some of The Point Forward's more reflective pieces, including the Top 100 players for 2014, The Floppies for the best dives, 50 reasons why we'll never forget Michael Jordan, 68 reasons to watch the 2013-14 season and our ranking of the best Slam Dunk contests.
1. What was the best NBA moment in 2013?
Ben Golliver: There's only one right answer to this question: Ray Allen's right-corner three-pointer in Game 6 that saved Miami's season and propelled the Heat to their second straight title. It's not hyperbole to suggest that there won't be a better single play this decade. Luckily for all of us, Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins has broken down the shot in all of its glory in a story that will stand the test of time.
What I remember about that night in Miami, almost as much as the shot, was LeBron James' postgame news conference. He was clearly exhausted, and ecstatic at times, and he realized better than anyone just how close the Heat had come to a defeat against San Antonio. His comments came full circle from his bitter, departing words after his 2011 Finals defeat to the Mavericks. "All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today," James said, in one of the most regrettable moments of his career.
Those words -- along with his fake-cough-mocking of Dirk Nowitzki and his snapping retort to a reporter who asked if he was "shrinking" in the fourth quarter -- made for an off-putting, elitist persona, and it was a far cry from the populist James we see running alongside hundreds of children in a recent Nike commercial. Those words were hard to swallow because James, who seems to love both basketball and the company of others, was about to retract into a self-imposed isolation where he would be able to do neither.
This June, though, provided a great look at James, the lover of basketball, displaying a profound respect for the history of the game and those surrounding him. “It was by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” James said of Game 6. “The ups and downs, the roller coaster, the emotions, good and bad throughout the game. ... To be a part of something like this, once you’re done playing this game, you would never be able to recreate a feeling like I had, we had, the fans had, you guys had, people at home. Never be able to recreate that. I’m just blessed I could be a part of such an unbelievable moment.”
Watching one of the sport's all-time greats process a historic game shortly after it happened is unforgettable. Listening as he shared the moment made it that much better. What a difference two years makes.
Rob Mahoney: That was certainly the most memorable night on the NBA calendar, as two great teams were separated by only a single great play. I have another pick that plays for a very different reason, though: The Kings' season opener, which flowed as a torrent of joy and relief after mayor Kevin Johnson, majority owner Vivek Ranadive and so many others fought relentlessly to keep the team in Sacramento. After the Maloof family essentially attempted to move the team twice in two years -- once outright to Anaheim, Calif., once in a potential sale to a Seattle-based group -- Kings fans and officials were finally able to enjoy a full changing of the guard and the formal extension of the the city's allegiance to its Kings.
In truth, the franchise has been mismanaged for years, to a point where fans had every right to be disconnected or disappointed. Instead, they gathered in rallies and on message boards, through film treatments and radio appearances and blog missives. They signed petitions and made every concerted effort to let the team know what it meant to their city, that the identity of one is not complete without the other. A fan base poured its efforts and energy into fighting the process and motivations of relocation, and with the help of Johnson, a host of city officials and NBA commissioner David Stern, it succeeded. There they stayed, and months later on the opening night of a season that was very much in jeopardy, there they celebrated.
2. What was the most memorable quote of the year?
Golliver: As I was pulling together my short list for this one I came to the startling realization that four of my favorites could all be classified in the "Aging scorer pridefully lashes out at doubters" genre. I don't know what that says about me, or whether it's a mere coincidence that I just turned 30 in November, but buckle up as we run down these doozies.
"Kevin Durant said James Harden should replace me in the top 10.... Note to self: Make him respect your place in history... again." -- Dwyane Wade. The Heat guard was responding to Durant's assessment of SI.com's Top 10 of 2014 list, which included Wade in the top 10 but not Harden (who was 11th). This quote, which appeared in a hand-written Instagram note, immediately set off a series of debates about the best players at the two guard position, and it set the tone for Miami's three-peat quest. That Wade's quote included a digging reference at the Heat's 2012 Finals triumph over the Thunder raised the stakes.
"Amnesty THAT." -- Kobe Bryant. The Lakers guard was responding to the notion, raised by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, that new salary cap rules make it difficult to pay a single player as much as Bryant is making while still being able to assemble a championship-contending roster. Bryant delivered his trash talk on Twitter after scoring 38 points in a win over Dallas. Revenge is sweet.
"I think that's comical." -- Michael Jordan. The 50-year-old Bobcats owner treated 35-year-old Grizzlies owner Robert Pera like Bryon Russell , brushing off the notion of a one-on-one game between the two men in October. Never change, MJ. It didn't help Pera's cause that two Memphis players immediately said Jordan would beat their boss, or that Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist told reports in February that Jordan beat him in a game of one-on-one. PS: Jordan's thoughts on social media -- "I'm not a Twitter, I'm not a twerker" -- were also quote of the year material.
"Is pig p---y pork?" -- Tracy McGrady. The two-time scoring champ called it a career in 2013, but not before he latched on with the Spurs on their ride to the Finals. Asked by a reporter whether he was ready if coach Gregg Popovich called his number, McGrady delivered this incredulous, risque rhetorical question to a small group of reporters. I almost passed out on site and still laugh every time I think of the mischievous smile on his face as he said it. San Antonio didn't win the title, but this was a great way to go out. I'll give McGrady the nod for "Quote of the Year."
Mahoney: "It’s only like one person that’s more scarier than that and that’s God." -- George Hill on LeBron James after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Everything about this quote is perfect. Hill is a very good basketball player in his own right, and an integral part of an excellent Pacers team. But there's almost a childlike reverence in his regard for James, made of equal parts wonder and fear. I can't say I blame him; James has plenty of fire and brimstone in his game, all of which comes out in waves when challenged by high-level competition. Hill had just seen that wrath first-hand in Game 2, when James dropped 36 points on 20 shots while shadowed by one of the best defenders in the game. James was simply a plane beyond that night, operating at a level that was more or less untouchable. That the Pacers still managed to win the game, 97-93, was a testament to their collective execution and will, though in no way could it quell Hill's awe-driven unease.