- From LeBron James to Sam Hinkie to Craig Sager, Sports Illustrated looks back at its 10 best stories of 2016, plus a few honorable mentions.
With 2016 coming to an end, it's time to look back at the year that was in basketball. From LeBron James bringing a title back to Cleveland to Philly pulling the plug on The Process, SI.com's NBA writers have chronicled it all over the past 12 months. Here's an overview of our 10 best profiles from the last year, along with 10 more must-read stories in our honorable mention section. (Descriptions written by Rohan Nadkarni).
Joel Embiid: 'I'm The Process'
Joel Embiid is well on his way to winning Rookie of the Year, even though the 76ers big man is actually in his third year in the NBA. What did Embiid do during the two seasons he lost to injury? Lee Jenkins uncovers the lost years of Embiid, as well as what drives Philly‘s curious, competitive and gifted big man. READ HERE
Crowning The King: LeBron Wins Sportsperson
LeBron James was honored as SI’s Sportsperson of the Year for the second time in 2016, thanks to his on-court heroics and off-court awakening. In his Sportsperson story authored by Lee Jenkins, a still-championship-obsessed LeBron reveals his strong connection to his hometown, and how improbable his story really is. READ HERE
Out From The Darkness: What Happened To Robert Swift?
A lottery pick turned drug addict living in a home riddled with needles and junkies, Robert Swift is hoping to resurrect his once-promising basketball career. In this incredible profile, Chris Ballard chronicles the rise and fall of Swift, from being selected No. 12 in the 2004 draft to not being able to afford his next meal. READ HERE
Russell Westbrook: 'I Was Never Going To Leave'
What’s the significance of a cupcake? Lee Jenkins’s profile of Russell Westbrook featured an attention-grabbing story about his reaction to Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City. More importantly, the story explains why Westbrook decided to re-sign with the only NBA city he’s ever known. The Thunder will only go as far as Russell Westbrook takes them, and he’s perfectly okay with that. READ HERE
After The Process: Meet Sam Hinkie 2.0
Chris Ballard’s profile of former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie is a fascinating look into the mind of one of the NBA’s most polarizing figures. Hinkie revealed to Ballard some of his more interesting personality quirks (He owns 25 blue blazers, “Why don’t we watch games out of order?”) as well as his feelings on the current state of the team that fired him. Hinkie’s unique approach to life (and basketball) means no one can be sure of his next step. READ HERE
Craig Sager: Always On The Bright Side
The NBA’s most beloved figure, TNT broadcaster Craig Sager, died at age 65 in December. In April, Lee Jenkins detailed Sager’s grueling battle with cancer. From his colorful suits to his enthusiasm for his job, Sager was always the brightest person in the room. And as he revealed to Jenkins, even in his life’s darkest moments, Sager chose to live on the bright side. READ HERE
Boris Diaw: As Unique As They Come
A coffeephile who grew up playing every sport besides basketball—like handball, volleyball and fencing, to name a few—Boris Diaw is arguably the most interesting man in the NBA. Over a cup of a “lavender honey steamer,” Andrew Sharp found out what makes Diaw tick, and why basketball isn’t as important to Diaw as movies, photography or food. READ HERE
The Architect: Meet The Man Who Built The Warriors
Bob Myers is the 41-year-old architect of one of the greatest teams in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors. Myers took one of many untraditional paths to becoming a general manager. A basketball junkie who is credited with creating a collaborative environment in Golden State, Myers is driven by one thing: His hatred of losing. Chris Ballard provides an in-depth look at the man with the golden touch. READ HERE
LeBron James Chases The Ghost Of MJ
A few weeks after winning his third championship, LeBron James was asked what keeps motivating him at this point in his career. While other superstars in the NBA are teaming up so they can take down James, the NBA’s reigning Finals MVP revealed that he’s not competing against any of his peers. He’s chasing a ghost. Lee Jenkins details the hunt. READ HERE
The Biggest Stop Of Kevin Love's Life?
From scapegoat to hero, Kevin Love finally silenced his critics thanks to a critical Game 7 defensive hold against Stephen Curry. Lee Jenkins explains in great detail how Love was able to make the most important stop of the Finals, even if it was only the second most important stop of his life. READ HERE
Since we had to make some tough cuts to whittle this down, here are 10 (strong) stories that just missed the cut...
• Dwyane Wade opens up about his decision to go home to Chicago (by Rohan Nadkarni) READ
• With a core oozing with potential, the Wolve are eventually set for great things (by Rob Mahoney) READ
• With Tim Duncan gone, the future now belongs to Kawhi Leonard (by Lee Jenkins) READ
• No one was hotter in 2016 than Steph Curry (by Andrew Sharp) READ
• Steve Kerr and the Warriors gave Craig Sager the perfect goodbye (by Ben Golliver) READ
• Meet Steph Curry's bodyguard: The only man who can shadow him (by Chris Ballard) READ
• Can David Fizdale help the Grizzlies reinvent themselves? (by Rob Mahoney) READ
• Why Blake Griffin and Nike are all-in on Space Jam (by Ben Golliver) READ
• How Steve Nash played a crucial role in bringing KD to Golden State (by Lee Jenkins) READ
• Charles Oakley has gone above and beyond to help a former rival (by Jon Wertheim) READ
For more NBA stories, check out SI.com's The Crossover.