The 70th season of the NBA is now officially in the books and what a season it was! From records being broken to franchises having their most successful seasons to date; from legends retiring to cities celebrating their first championship since Lyndon B. Johnson was president, this NBA season was definitely one for the ages. As difficult as it may be, I will count down the top ten defining moments from this incredible season.
10. The Golden State Warriors overcome a 3-1 deficit to reach the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors had been setting records and exceeding expectations all season long, but perhaps their best showing of dominance became most apparent when they looked to be most vulnerable. The Warriors not only lost Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals to the Oklahoma City Thunder to go down 1-3, but lost the two games by a combined 52 points! Just when the Warriors looked to be completely out and it seemed like their record season would all be for nothing, they showed the true heart and will of a champion and won three straight to become just the 10th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit and win the series.
9. Stephen Curry ties the record for most three pointers made in a game. In what can be easily classified as one of the best games of the season, the Warriors completed a come-from-behind win in overtime over the Thunder. What made this win significant is the fact that Stephen Curry not only made the game-winning three pointer with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock, but that shot made him the third player in NBA history to make 12 three pointers in a single game. The other two were Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall.
8. Russell Westbrook ties the record for most triple-doubles in a season since the NBA-ABA merger. Russell Westbrook has been dropping triple-doubles like no one’s business over the past couple seasons. It reached a point where many may have been surprised in the games where Westbrook didn’t record the triple-double. A deadly barrage of scores, boards, and helpers allowed Westbrook tie a 34-year record originally set by Magic Johnson during the 1981-82 season with an incredibly impressive 18 triple-doubles!
7. The Golden State Warriors set the mark for the longest undefeated start to a season in NBA history. The record for the best undefeated start to a season was 15-0, set by both the 1948-49 Washington Capitals and 1993-94 Houston Rockets. After going 16-0, the Warriors shattered their previous records, starting the season with an unprecedented and dominating 24-0 record, going undefeated for the first seven-and-a-half weeks of the season.
6. Stephen Curry breaks the record for most three pointers made in a single season.The record for most three pointers made in a single season by a player has been broken for three straight seasons. Can you guess which player has broken that record each year? If you guessed Steph Curry, you’d be correct! Curry has set himself apart as the greatest shooter the NBA has ever seen and absolutely shattered his previous record for three pointers made in a season, finishing this regular season with an unfathomable 402.
5. The San Antonio Spurs tie the mark for best regular season home record in NBA history. The San Antonio Spurs and Warriors both started the season on pace to become the only team(s) to go undefeated at home for an entire season. The Spurs set the record for the best home start in NBA history with a 39-0 record. Had it not been for a late season loss to those Warriors, the Spurs would’ve been the first team ever to have an undefeated regular season home record. However, with the one loss, they tied the record originally set by the 1985-86 Boston Celtics.
4. Stephen Curry is named the first ever unanimous MVP. Michael Jordan? No. Lebron James? No. Shaquille O’Neal? No. Larry Bird? No. As great as all those players are, with 13 MVP awards among them, none of them ever received the honor of being named the unanimous MVP of the league. Curry with his league-leading 30.1 points per game average helped lead the Warriors to a record 73 wins, being named back-to-back MVP and becoming the first ever unanimous MVP in NBA history.
3. Kobe Bryant puts on a historic last game performance. Kobe Bryant’s announcement that he would retire at the end of the season didn’t catch many people by surprise. He’d seen three straight seasons end prematurely due to injury, and at 37 years old and a 5-time champion in 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he really didn’t have anything left to prove. However, during the final night of the regular season, Kobe went out with an incredible bang! In the final game of his career against the Utah Jazz, Kobe put up a season-high 60 points(!), including 23 in the 4th quarter (outscoring the 21 points scored by the entire Jazz team), including 17 straight points down the stretch to lead the comeback win and put an end to a sensational career!
2. The Golden State Warriors set the all-time regular season record mark. For twenty years, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls held the all-time mark for the best regular season record in NBA history and was widely regarded as the best team ever. After the Warriors started the season 24-0, losses came very infrequently and breaking the Bulls’ record of 72 wins looked to be more and more in reach. When things looked to be in a bit of jeopardy, after an overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves dropped them to 69-9, the Warriors won out their final four regular season games to break the all-time record with 73 wins.
1. The Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA Championship. The final game of the season saw the city of Cleveland celebrate a major sports league championship for the first time since 1962. The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the defending champion Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals by a score of 93-89. The beginning of the series didn’t look too promising for the Cavaliers, having gone down 0-2 by a total of 48 points. However, Game 3 saw the Cavs blitz the champs from opening tip by way of a 30 point beatdown. The Warriors came back and won Game 4 to go up 3-1 in the series; one win away from capturing back-to-back titles. After a Draymond Green suspension for Game 5, Lebron James answered with 41 points in two straight games, with the Cavs winning both in order to set up a winner-take-all Game 7. That Game 7 saw the Cleveland Cavaliers successfully become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Honorable Mentions: The Cavaliers setting the record for most three pointers made in a playoff game with 25, the Toronto Raptors reaching their first Conference Finals ever, the Warriors breaking the record for longest home winning streak, Tim Duncan becoming the first player to win 1,000 games with the same team, firing of Cavaliers coach, David Blatt.
So much happened this past season and I, for one, can say I truly enjoyed every second of it! The 70th anniversary of the NBA was highlighted by a number of events and moments that will be remembered by NBA fans for a very, very long time. Here’s to another great 70 years of the NBA.