LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have dominated the decade
Itâ€™s only a crazy dream until you do it.
KEVIN C. COX/GETTY IMAGES
It was only fitting that the someone so synonymous with dunking would score his 25,000th point on one. With this putback dunk, the ageless Vince Carter leapt into the 25K club, becoming its 22nd member. The next landing spot for the 41-year-old? The Hall of Fame.
VAUGHN RIDLEY/GETTY IMAGES
Kawhi Leonard is blessed with some of the largest mitts in the game, so there is little chance of ever stripping the ball from the man dubbed “The Claw”—just ask George Hill and Rodney Hood.
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“In your face” gets a new meaning for Steven Adams, who after getting stripped of the ball appears to turn into one.
41 All-Decade 2010-2019 With another decade coming to a close, we look back at the 10 top stars who have defined the last 10-year chapter of the NBA.
66 Decollage Deconstructing some of the biggest moments from 2010 to the present day.
100 Next 10 With one decade about to wrap, we look ahead to the next, particularly the next wave of come-ups who take the torch.
POSTER Uncle Drew on one side; the Greek Freak on the flipside. 010
COVER PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS SCHWEGLER; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER (2); LAYNE MURDOCH; GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
WATCH LIVE OUT-OF-MARKET GAMES NBA.COM/LEAGUEPASS NBA Regular Season, out-of-market games only. Blackout restrictions apply. Message and data rates may apply. Subscriptions may automatically renew each season at the then-current subscription rate. Visit nba.com/leaguepass for blackout restrictions and other applicable terms and conditions. NBA, the NBA logo and team identifications are trademarks of NBA Properties, Inc. and the respective member teams. © 2019 NBA Properties, Inc. Photo by Getty Images. All Rights Reserved.
THE GAME PLAN 2018-19 ANNUAL DEPARTMENTS
2 Warm-ups 14 The Point 18 Starting 5 Over his 21 seasons, Vince Carter has dunked on—and once over—many opponents, but he has also teamed up with many players in the past. He remembers some of his favorite teammates through the years.
20 First Five Jarrett Allen, Brandon Ingram, Harry Giles, Pascal Siakam and Jayson Tatum are ready for their close-ups.
23 Celeb Row Lawrence Gilliard Jr. is still waiting on an autograph from Michael Jordan.
28 Brack-it Which player is on the inside track to winning his first MVP?
33 Know Your Newb Even at 6-11, Moe Wagner will go unnoticed his rookie year as he suits up for the Los Angeles Lakers starring LeBron James.
34 Head2Head After a tightly contested battle for Rookie of the Year, we continue the debate between Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell.
38 24 Seconds Goran Dragic’s favorite show is Game of Thrones and he’s nicknamed the “Dragon”—coincidence much?
118 107 HOOP Holiday Gift Guide Remember, when it comes to gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts. Let us do the thinking for you.
104 Stepback We reminisce a moment from the first All-Star Game of the new millennium.
118 Spin Moves As high as Zach LaVine jumps, he could probably find downtime while up in the air. Whatever the case, he runs through his favorite things to do while firmly on terra firma.
120 He Got Game Trae Young has played NBA 2K his whole life and now he is part of the game. 012
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THE POINT Volume 47 No. 1 Editor in Chief Ming Wong #2 Design Director Kengyong Shao #31 Associate Editors Phil D’Apolito #17, John Martin #16 Assistant Editor Adam Kaufman #0 Online Editor Darryl Howerton #21 Editor-at-Large Jeramie McPeek #4 Copy Editor Trevor Kearney #8 Senior Writer Michael Bradley #53 Contributing Writers Jon Cooper #10, Bryan Crawford #26, Jammel Cutler #33, Jabari Davis #24, Josh Eberley #41, Jim Eichenhofer #12, John Fawaz #22, Anthony Gilbert #1, Melody Hoffman #34, Steve Hunt #29, Michael Kelly #5, Branden Peters #63 There’s little doubt1 about it. The three cover guys have defined the decade, each in his own way. LeBron has upended every notion of a professional athlete since he entered the public eye, but it was the start of the decade where he really shook up the status quo. On primetime television, he broke the notion of an athlete being obligated to stay with one team in order to define his legacy.2 “Organizations win championships?”3 When you’re LeBron, you bring championships to them. He’s proven it twice and now in his third act, he’ll once again look to bring more gold to a city paved with it. The mindboggling numbers,4 how he’s redefined a position, GOAT5 status—forget all that for a second. LeBron’s greatest achievement to those who will follow him is how he seized control of his own destiny and narrative. Did he turn most of his birthplace of Northeast Ohio against him with the decision? Revolutions require some bloodshed. Restitutions were made when he came back in 2014, delivering the before-LeBron-unthinkable: an NBA Championship in Cleveland. Now you see more players doing the same: controlling one’s own destiny instead of letting a team determine his fate. LeBron has shown them who wields the clout. The older NBA fan will remember a time when the three-point line was a novelty shot, a gimmick6 conjured up to beef up scoring, relegated to desperation end of game situations or for the sharpest of sharpshooting specialists. It was a shot employed to keep defenses honest, and it was set up through strong inside play. When Stephen Curry arrived, he changed everything. No longer were open threes the product of low-post guys kicking it out to their shooters. Curry was shooting and making them off the dribble, stepping back, pulling up from spots so far away that TV and radio announcers stopped using feet as measurement and simply described the shot from various logos on the floor. Curry’s three-point shooting put the old NBA adage into the upside-down,7 as the three ball now opened up opportunities inside for the bigs. It’s even caused the League to consider moving the three-point line further out. To sum up his effect with numbers would be too simple. The following works better: In the ’90s, everyone wanted to be (and dunk) like Mike. In the ’00s, everyone aspired to crossover guys like A.I. Now you step foot onto basketball courts and you see kids launch from deep like Steph. Kevin Durant picked up where Kevin Garnett8 and Dirk Nowitzki9 left off in redefining the way basketball positions are viewed. It might seem odd now, but there was a time when a player’s height dictated his position. Which makes little sense if BONUS POINTS you think about it. The height of one’s head does not shoot the ball, 1. The back end of our list caused considerable debate. 2. Antiquated and overrated if you ask me. does not reach for steals and blocks, does not catch alley-oops. At 3. To be fair to the late Jerry Krause, to which the quote is attributed 6-9 with the reach of a 7-footer, the quickness and ballhandling of to, he was merely trying to give shine to all the people behind the a 6-footer, and with great shooting ability, it was hard to quantify scenes—scouts, trainers, support staff—who help the superstars attain success. Durant, let alone assign him a traditional position. In a game filled 4. Interesting to me: When you look at LeBron’s traditional stats, with circles, squares and triangles, Durant was a dodecahedron.10 there are not too many bold (indicating he led the League) numbers, but if you scroll down to advanced stats that pertain to At one point, players like Durant who didn’t “fit in” would find their his effectiveness and value, it’s a sea of bold. way out. Now teams are in the search for the “fit outs”—Giannis 5. I propose we respell it as GOHT: Greatest Of His Time 6. How about an inner circle around the rim, where if you dunk it Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, to name a few. outside of that area, you get awarded 3 points? LeBron, Steph, Durant—you’ve owned11 the past 10 years.12
7. Stranger things, indeed. 8. At 6-foot, 13 inches, KG, who hated being labeled a 7-footer, guarded every position and did everything asked of a basketball player. 9. At 7-feet, Dirk is one of the best shooters—”for a big guy” qualifier not necessary. 10. A polyhedron comprised of 12 pentagonal sides. 11. Eight (presumably 9) of this decade’s NBA Finals involved them. 12. There are seven League MVPs between the trio this decade.
Ming Wong #2
Retired Numbers #6, #11, #13, #30, #99
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My dad is the reason I wear 11. I want to be
the reason no one else will.
BY JON COOPER #10
VINCE CARTER Once upon a time, there were plenty of monikers created—”Vinsanity,” “Half-Man, Half-Amazing,” “Air Canada”—to describe Vince Carter’s freakish, above-the-rim creations, best illustrated by his breathtaking array of highlight reel in winning the 2000 SLam Dunk Contest, the same year he pulled off the “Frecnh Toast” when he jumped over 7-foot Frederic Weis for the flushin the Olympics. It wouldn’t be out of line for “Vinsanity” to still be used, only in a different context. Now it may be the best way to describe the longevity of the 41-year-old swingman, who is playing his 21st NBA season with his eighth NBA team, the Atlanta Hawks. The fifth overall pick in the 1998 Draft, Carter would win Rookie of the Year, earn eight All-Star selections, two AllNBA selections, and Teammate of the Year (2015-16). He’s top-10 all-time in games played, minutes per game and three-point field goals made and attempted, and this season reached the coveted 25K mark in points. Vince has embraced his role as a veteran leader and expects to be a productive piece of the puzzle for the rebuilding Hawks. One of his toughest challenges in his early days in Atlanta came when he was asked to name a starting five (plus a sixth man) amongst the litany of ultra-talented teammates with whom he’s played during his career. “It’s tough. I’m not a guy who likes to do these things because of the respect I have for all the other guys I played with,” he said. But, typically, he got it done with his signature excellence and panache.
POINT GUARD: JASON KIDD Teammates in New Jersey, 2004-2008; Dallas, 2010-11
TWO GUARD: TRACY MCGRADY Teammates in Toronto, 1998-2000
“[I picked Kidd] just because I played with him a little longer than I did with Steve Nash and Mark Jackson [laughs]. I got the opportunity to play with him twice, in Dallas as well as in Jersey. When you talk about point guards, I got to play with three of the best of all-time—it’s like 1A, 1B, 1C. I played with (Kidd) the longest, but I think Steve Nash and Mark Jackson are there for these reasons: they make guys better. Their ability to put guys in position to succeed and win is second to none.”
“His ability to score, obviously, but he’s a two-way player. He’s a guy that’s going to lockdown defend, but at the same time, he can get you 50, 60 if you need him to. Not only can Tracy get shots but he can create for other people because he has the ability to play point guard. Every team needs a wing defender, particularly with his height, who can guard a two-guard but can guard a small forward as well.” Ed note: Vince gave high praise to T-Mac, his cousin, for his performance in winning the 2000 Slam Dunk Championship: “He was great,” Carter said. “We made it up THAT NIGHT. No practice.”
SCOTT CUNNINGHAM; FERNANDO MEDINA (4); BRIAN BABINEAU; D. CLARKE EVANS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
CENTER: DWIGHT HOWARD Teammates in Orlando, 2009-2010
SMALL FORWARD: VINCE CARTER
“He’s just a freak of nature. Here’s a fiveman that can run the floor, he can defend. When you have a shooter, a stretchfour like Dirk—I’m talking about my team, now—and a guy like Jason Kidd, you want somebody to be able to protect the rim but attack the rim offensively and finish around the rim and he’s somebody that for sure can do that.”
“I didn’t know I could pick myself—there it is. I can complement everybody. It means run the floor, play above the rim and be able to knock down shots. Jason Kidd and Tracy McGrady, [they] have the point guard vision; playing off of Dirk because of his ability to draw double-teams; feeding off of Dwight’s ability to block shots and create ability for transition baskets—I fit in perfectly.”
POWER FORWARD: DIRK NOWITZKI Teammates in Dallas, 2011-13
SIXTH MAN: MARC GASOL Teammates in Memphis, 2014-16
“His ability to score and he’s a team guy. He wants to make his guys better. He wants everybody to succeed but at the same time, he knows who he is. He knows he can get a shot off and he knows he’s one of the elite.”
“His ability to shoot the three, to post up and score and to pass, outside of playing on the defensive end. You have a guy you can play high-post and he can find guys just as well as Jason Kidd and Dirk. He can run the floor and he creates space. He’s my sixth man.”
JUMP BALL BY MICHAEL KELLY #5 FIRST FIVE
During a morning shootaround before a game in Denver, Sacramento media relations director Chris Clark told Harry Giles his presence was requested for an interview. “Someone wants to talk to me?” Giles said without sarcasm and a little surprised. Giles’ reaction reveals how much has changed for the 20-year-old Kings center. Three years ago, he was the top1 prep player going into his senior year at Oak Hill Academy. Two minutes into that season, he tore the ACL in his right knee.2 The struggles to get back to full form has taken him through one uneven year at Duke3 and what amounted to a “redshirt” first season with Sacramento after he was taken 20th in the 2017 NBA Draft. He finally stepped onto the court during an NBA game on Oct. 17, and it was everything he had dreamed. “It happened so fast I didn’t get a chance to think on it, I went straight into it,” Giles said. “It was great to be out there the first time. Preseason helped out and being at home was amazing. That game happened so fast, it went by so fast, I didn’t get a chance to enjoy it.” The 6-11 Giles4 didn’t get discouraged sitting last year. He felt he should have taken more time before playing at Duke, so when the Kings got him the plan was to let him heal and get stronger instead of rushing him onto the court. He sat on the bench in a suit in 2017-18, watching and listening to veterans Vince Carter and Zach Randolph on the ins and outs of being a professional basketball player,5 starting with taking care of your body. “I got healthy and got my body right enough to hold up for a whole season,” Giles said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been healthy so it was good to figure my body out for a year.” He is coming off the bench for Sacramento this season and still finding his way, as the League tries to figure him out, too. “They know some of your tendencies but at the same time they’re still scouting me out,” says Giles. “It’s a little different. It’s another level and it’s the real thing.”
BONUS POINTS 1. Giles’ dream in high school was to be the top pick in the draft. The injuries he suffered dropped him down, and he declined an invitation to attend the 2017 NBA Draft. He watched at home with his family instead and heard Commissioner Adam Silver announce his name on TV. 2. Giles had three major knee injuries before he turned 18. He tore the ACL, MCL and some meniscus in his left knee when he was 13 and then tore the right ACL when he was 17. He also had knee surgery before his one and only season at Duke. 3. Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who was teammates with Giles on Duke, once said Giles was the only player in high school he thought was better than him. Tatum said on Bill Simmons’ podcast over the summer that Giles reminded him of Chris Webber. 4. His father, Harry Giles II, was a two-sport star at Winston-Salem State in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Giles II played football and basketball. 5. Giles said he likes the routine of the NBA basketball season, even at a young age, and has plenty to keep him occupied. “You can be a 20-year-old but not be a 20-year-old at the same time,” he said. “I try to do a lot of recovery stuff, hang out at the house, eat right and hang out with friends.”
CENTER - SACRAMENTO KINGS 020 SAM FORENCICH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
TM & © 2019 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A WarnerMedia Company. All Rights Reserved. © 2019 NBA Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. NBA, the NBA logo and team identifications are trademarks of NBA Properties, Inc. and the respective member teams. © 2019 NBA Properties, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Getty Images
JUMP BALL BY STEVE HUNT #29 FIRST FIVE
Now in his third season, Brandon Ingram’s game continues to make strides1 at catching up to his potential, which is only matched by his length. As a rookie in 2016-17, the forward with the 7-3 wingspan2 averaged 9.4 points and the Lakers were -4.8 with him on the floor. Last season, Ingram averaged 16.1 points and LA was -2.2 with him on the hardwood. But the numbers that best illustrate Ingram’s continued progression might be his points in the paint, which jumped from 3.9 per game as a rookie to 7.7 last season, and drives per game, which were an impressive 10.6 per game last season after he went to the basket just 4.8 times per game as a rookie. And as the North Carolina3 native continues adding mass to his wiry frame, the Lakers expect him to take it to the rack even more, something opposing coaches are already aware of. “Ingram’s grown each year. This year, he just looks a little more like a veteran,” says Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. “His pregame workout is on point, intense. Young guys4 learn that’s the way you got to attack every single thing you do in this league. Having LeBron James remind you of that is certainly a big plus.” While Ingram will learn a great deal from the King, LeBron will hope that Ingram reaches his upside, which will only help the Lakers’ championship aspirations. The fourtime MVP gushed over Ingram’s upside5 in the beginning of the season: “His pace, his ability to play the point and play the wing, he’s a very special talent, and we’re definitely happy to have him on our side.”
BONUS POINTS 1. Ingram attended same high school, Kinston (NC) High School, as former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse, who mentored him growing up. 2. In high school, Ingram drew comparisons to other long-limbed NBA players: current Golden State star Kevin Durant and former NBA forward Tayshaun Prince. 3.Ingram is currently one of eight former North Carolina Mr. Basketball winners playing in the NBA, a list including Houston’s Chris Paul and Denver’s Mason Plumlee. 4. Ingram played for Team USA in the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit alongside fellow future NBA players Thon Maker, Jamal Murray and Ben Simmons, who all played for the World squad. 5. Ingram won ACC Freshman of the Year in 2016, his lone season at Duke, joining other notable winners Kenny Anderson, Chris Bosh, Michael Jordan, Stephon Marbury and Dennis Scott.
FORWARD - LOS ANGELES LAKERS
022 ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
You were born in New York and grew up in Baltimore. What teams did you watch and root for when you were growing up? Because I was born in New York, it was always New York teams and it’s still that way. It’s New York teams first and then Baltimore teams are my secondary teams. I spent a lot of years in Baltimore and the city has always shown me a lot of love, and I love the city back. Baltimore loves its teams, but it’s New York Giants, New York Jets, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, New York Yankees, New York Mets. What NBA players past and present stand out for you? I love LeBron. I think he’s an amazing player and I love what he does, as far as giving back to the community and giving to organizations, building schools and things like that. And I love his game. I also love Steph Curry. Those are the two that are standing out in my head from present day. The past, since I’m a New Yorker, I always loved watching that John Starks/Patrick Ewing combo. Who didn’t love Pippen and Jordan? I loved watching Magic Johnson. I was showing my daughter a clip of Magic the other day just because it was magical what he would do with the ball. I also enjoyed watching Larry Bird and The Mailman [Karl Malone]. Michael Jordan snubbed me for an autograph. It was for my little brother’s birthday and he snubbed me for the autograph. That left a stain on my heart. I had a little spot for Michael Jordan in my heart and that put a big old blot on it. The Deuce does such an amazing job of capturing the grittiness of New York City in the 1970s. Your character is especially poignant and meaningful. What do you find most interesting about portraying that character within that historic and cultural context? What’s interesting is the time, the ’70s. During that time, the police department was corrupt. It was hard for a young black man coming out of the military. Most of those guys came out of military. It was hard for a police officer, period, because most cops just want to protect and serve. They want to do good. But the department was so corrupt that everyone had to be a little dirty. You learned that once you got in. It was very interesting to me to learn how some of the black cops maneuvered through that, made it through and rose through that system, which you see my character doing throughout the show. The most important thing with the character is Chris Alston can be trusted. No matter which line he chooses, whoever he chooses to help or work
LAWRENCE GILLIARD JR. If Lawrence Gilliard Jr. looks familiar, it’s because the versatile actor has appeared in television shows that have garnered fan bases almost as avid as your favorite NBA team—and sometimes maybe even more intense. His current role as police detective Chris Alston on The Deuce, which is set in 1970s New York City, places Gilliard in an era where only a few African-American men rose up the ranks of the NYPD. Ambitious, but also concerned for the city he loves, Alston attempts to navigate the treacherous landscape while also being of genuine help to the community. Before that, Gilliard was one of the survivors on The Walking Dead, and before that, he was D’Angelo Barksdale, the conscientious drug dealer on The Wire. While Gilliard calls both NYC and Baltimore home, New York sports teams always come first in his heart. So make no mistake, if he’s so fortunate as to score courtside seats he will cheer ferociously for the Knicks. And if the Charlotte Hornets happen to be the opposing team, Michael Jordan needs to know he still owes Gilliard an autograph for his younger brother. You have appeared on three television shows that are hugely popular with NBA players: The Wire, The Walking Dead and The Deuce. Have you ever had an encounter with a pro baller where he fanned out on you? I do remember meeting Allen Iverson back in the day. It was a quick meeting, but he gave me kind of a head nod like, “I know you.” I gave him an “I know you, too” nod, and then the elevator door closed. PAUL SCHIRALDI / HBO
for, they know they can trust him. That’s why he keeps moving upward. The Deuce shoots in uptown Manhattan because production needed to find a neighborhood where that era of the 1970s could be recreated. Do you ever leave the set and wind up in the real Times Square now and marvel at the differences? Last year, I posted an old picture of the “Deuce” and then me standing on the “Deuce” present day. I remember the grittiness of Times Square back then. When I’m on set, it takes me right back to that time. Do you think Det. Alston would have liked the Knicks or was he more of a baseball guy, because the 1970s and ’80s had some incredible baseball in NYC? Chris Alston is a straight up New Yorker and he’s a sports fan. He loves the Knicks. He loves the Yankees. When the Yankees aren’t doing well, he’ll check in with the Mets, too. He loves the Giants. There were some great athletes, a lot of great sports happening and a lot of great teams during that time. He definitely would have been following along. What is on your schedule until The Deuce starts filming its third season? I just shot an episode of a show that shoots here in New York, God Friended Me. Also, a lot of people don’t know this about me, but I have a whole other life where I’m a classical clarinetist. Before I was an actor, I went to Juilliard as a musician. So, when I’m not acting, I’m trying to play. LOIS ELFMAN #40 023
This flu season, consider a flu shot designed specifically for adults 65 and older.1 TO FISH AT MY FAVORITE SPOT
As you age, your immune system may weaken. Traditional flu shots may not work as well for older adults compared to younger adults.2,3 FLUAD is a flu shot for adults 65 and older that contains an immune-enhancing ingredient and is proven to provide a strong immune response to help protect against the flu.1
Learn more at FLUAD.com
It’s time to ask your doctor or pharmacist about FLUAD Important Safety Information What is FLUAD? FLUAD is a vaccine that helps protect against the flu. FLUAD is for people aged 65 years and older. Vaccination with FLUAD may not protect all people who receive the vaccine. Who should not get FLUAD? You should not get FLUAD if you have had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine in the past, including egg protein, or a severe reaction to a previous influenza vaccine. Who may not be able to get FLUAD? Tell your health care provider if you: • Have ever had Guillain-Barré syndrome (severe muscle weakness) after getting a flu shot. The decision to give FLUAD should be made by your health care provider, based on careful consideration of the potential benefits and risks. • Have an allergy to rubber latex. FLUAD does not contain latex, but the tip caps of the prefilled syringes contain natural rubber latex, which may cause an allergic reaction in persons sensitive to latex. What if I have a weakened immune system? Tell your health care provider if you have problems with your immune system, as your immune response to the vaccine may be reduced.
Designed for adults 65 and older
What are the most common side effects of FLUAD? • Pain or tenderness where you got the shot • Muscle aches • Headache • Fatigue These are not all of the possible side effects of FLUAD. You can ask your health care provider for a complete list of possible side effects. Ask your health care provider for advice about any side effects that concern you. You may report side effects to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) by calling 1-800-822-7967 or by going to http://vaers.hhs.gov. To report SUSPECTED ADVERSE REACTIONS, contact Seqirus Inc. at 1-855-358-8966 or VAERS at 1-800-822-7967 and http://vaers.hhs.gov. For more information, please see Brief Summary of Prescribing Information for FLUAD on the following pages. References: 1. FLUAD [package insert]. Holly Springs, NC: Seqirus Vaccines Limited; 2017. 2. Reber AJ, Chirkova T, Kim JH, et al. Immunosenescence and challenges of vaccination against influenza in the aging population. Aging Dis. 2012;3(1):68-90. 3. Goodwin K, Viboud C, Simonsen L. Antibody response to influenza vaccination in the elderly: a quantitative review. Vaccine. 2006;24(8):1159-1169.
Seqirus Inc. Holly Springs, North Carolina 27540
© 2017 Seqirus Inc.
FLUAD (Influenza Vaccine, Adjuvanted) Suspension for Intramuscular Injection 2017-2018 Formula Initial U.S. Approval: 2015
Table 1. Percentages of Subjects ≥ 65 Years of Age With Solicited Local and Systemic Adverse Reactions in Days 1-7 After Administration of FLUAD or AGRIFLU (a U.S. Licensed Comparator) NCT01162122 Study 1
FLUAD (Na=3418-3496) Percentage
AGRIFLU (Na=3420-3488) Percentage
25 to ≤ 50 mm
51 to ≤ 100 mm
See package insert for full prescribing information. 1 INDICATIONS AND USAGE
FLUAD is an inactivated influenza vaccine indicated for active immunization against influenza disease caused by influenza virus subtypes A and type B contained in the vaccine. FLUAD is approved for use in persons 65 years of age and older. Approval is based on the immune response elicited by FLUAD. Data demonstrating a decrease in influenza disease after vaccination with FLUAD are not available. [see Clinical Studies (14)]
Local Injection site Pain
Do not administer FLUAD to anyone with a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g. anaphylaxis) to any component of the vaccine, including egg protein [see Description (11)], or to a previous influenza vaccine.
5 WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS
5.1 Guillain-Barré Syndrome If Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has occurred within 6 weeks of receipt of prior influenza vaccine, the decision to give FLUAD should be based on careful consideration of the potential benefits and risks. The 1976 swine influenza vaccine was associated with an elevated risk of GBS. Evidence for a causal relationship of GBS with other influenza vaccines is inconclusive; if an excess risk exists, it is probably slightly more than 1 additional case per 1 million persons vaccinated. [see References (1)] 5.2 Preventing and Managing Allergic Reactions Appropriate medical treatment and supervision must be available to manage possible anaphylactic reactions following administration of the vaccine. 5.3 Latex The tip caps of the prefilled syringes contain natural rubber latex which may cause allergic reactions in latex sensitive individuals. [see Description (11)] 5.4 Altered Immunocompetence The immune response to FLUAD in immunocompromised persons, including individuals receiving immunosuppressive therapy, may be lower than in immunocompetent individuals. [see Concurrent Use With Immunosuppressive Therapies (7.2)] 5.5 Syncope Syncope (fainting) may occur in association with administration of injectable vaccines including FLUAD. Ensure procedures are in place to avoid injury from falling associated with syncope. 5.6 Limitations of Vaccine Effectiveness Vaccination with FLUAD may not protect all vaccine recipients against influenza disease.
6 ADVERSE REACTIONS
6.1 Clinical Trials Experience Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, the adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a vaccine cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another vaccine and may not reflect rates observed in clinical practice. Solicited adverse reactions were assessed in a multicenter, observerblind, randomized controlled study (Study 1) conducted in the United States, Colombia, Panama and the Philippines. The safety analysis set included 3545 FLUAD recipients and 3537 AGRIFLU (Influenza Vaccine) recipients. The enrolled subject population in Study 1 was 65 to 97 years of age (mean 72 years) and 64% were female. Within each treatment group, 53% were Asian, 28% were Caucasian, 18% were Hispanic, 1% were Black, and fewer than 1% each were Native American/Alaskan, Pacific Islander/Hawaiian, or Other. Solicited local (injection site) and systemic adverse reactions were collected from subjects in Study 1 who completed a symptom diary card for seven days following vaccination. The reported frequencies of solicited local and systemic adverse events from Study 1 are presented in Table 1.
> 100 mm
25 to ≤ 50 mm
51 to ≤ 100 mm
> 100 mm
25 to ≤ 50 mm
51 to ≤ 100 mm
> 100 mm
≥ 38.0°C to ≤ 38.4°C ≥ 38.5°C to ≤ 38.9°C 39.0°C to ≤ 40.0°C ≥ 40.0°C
Systemic (cont from previous page)
N = number of subjects with safety data.
Moderate: pain, tenderness, myalgia, fatigue, headache, arthralgia, chills, nausea, vomiting defined as “some limitation in normal daily activity”, diarrhea defined as “4 to 5 stools a day”.
Severe: pain, tenderness, myalgia, fatigue, headache, arthralgia, chills, nausea, vomiting defined as “unable to perform normal daily activity”, diarrhea defined as “6 or more watery stools a day”.
Potentially life threatening (PLT) reaction defined as requiring emergency room visit or hospitalization.
Unsolicited Adverse Events (AEs): The clinical safety of FLUAD was assessed in fifteen (15) randomized, controlled studies. The total safety population in these trials included 10,952 adults 65 years of age and older, comprising 5,754 who received FLUAD and 5,198 who received other US licensed influenza vaccines. The percentage of subjects with an unsolicited AE within 30 days following vaccination was similar between vaccine groups (16.9% FLUAD vs. 18.0% active comparator). Serious Adverse Events (SAEs) and Deaths: In Study 1, in which subjects were followed for SAEs and deaths for one year following vaccination (N=3,545 FLUAD, N=3,537 AGRIFLU), the percentages of subjects with an SAE were similar between vaccine groups (7% FLUAD vs. 7% AGRIFLU). Four SAEs (1 FLUAD and 3 AGRIFLU) were assessed as related to study vaccination over one year of observation and 2 of these occurred (1 FLUAD and 1 AGRIFLU) within 21 days following study vaccination. There were 98 deaths (n=52 FLUAD, n=46 AGRIFLU) over one year of which none occurred within the first 21 days following vaccination. In 14 additional randomized, controlled studies, SAEs were collected over a 3 to 4-week period in 4 studies, over a 8-week period in 1 study, and over a 6-month period in 9 studies (N= 2,209 FLUAD, N=1,661 US licensed influenza vaccines). The percentages of subjects with an SAE within 30 days (1.1% FLUAD vs. 1.8% AGRIFLU) or within 6 months (4.3% FLUAD vs. 5.9% AGRIFLU) were similar between vaccine groups. The percentages of deaths within 30 days (0.3% FLUAD vs. 0.6% active comparator) or within 6 months (1.0% FLUAD vs. 1.5% active comparator) were also similar. Adverse Events of Special Interest (AESIs): Rates of new onset neuroinflammatory and immune mediated diseases were assessed in a post hoc analysis of the 15 randomized controlled studies over the time periods specified above for SAEs. The percentage of subjects with an AESI at any time after vaccination was similar between vaccine groups (0.9% FLUAD vs. 0.9% active comparator). There were no notable imbalances for specific AESIs. Safety of Annual Revaccination: In 5 of the randomized, controlled trials, subjects were followed for SAEs and deaths for 6 months following revaccination (N=492 FLUAD, N=330 US licensed and non-US licensed influenza vaccines). After the second annual vaccination, the percentages of subjects with an SAE were similar between vaccine groups (6.1% FLUAD vs. 5.5% comparator influenza vaccines); 23 deaths (n=17 FLUAD, n=6 comparator influenza vaccines) were reported. Causes of death included cardiovascular events, malignancy, trauma, gastrointestinal disorders, and respiratory failure. Clinical characteristics of the deaths, including the variable causes, timing since vaccination, and underlying medical conditions, do not provide evidence for a causal relationship with FLUAD. 6.2 Postmarketing Experience The following adverse events have been spontaneously reported during post-approval use of FLUAD in Europe and other regions since 1997.
Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to the vaccine. Blood and lymphatic system disorders: Thrombocytopenia (some cases were severe with platelet counts less than 5,000 per mm3), lymphadenopathy General disorders and administration site conditions: Extensive swelling of injected limb lasting more than one week, injection site cellulitis-like reactions (some cases of swelling, pain, and redness extending more than 10 cm and lasting more than 1 week) Immune system disorders: Allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock, anaphylaxis and angioedema Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders: Muscular weakness Nervous system disorders: Encephalomyelitis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, convulsions, neuritis, neuralgia, paraesthesia, syncope, presyncope Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders: Generalized skin reactions including erythema multiforme, urticaria pruritus or non-specific rash Vascular disorders: Vasculitis with transient renal involvement
7 DRUG INTERACTIONS 7.1 Concomitant Use With Other Vaccines There are no data to assess the concomitant administration of FLUAD with other vaccines. If FLUAD is to be given at the same time as other injectable vaccine(s), the vaccine(s) should be administered at different injection sites. Do not mix FLUAD with any other vaccine in the same syringe. 7.2 Concurrent Use With Immunosuppressive Therapies Immunosuppressive or corticosteroid therapies may reduce the immune response to FLUAD.
8 USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS 8.1 Pregnancy Pregnancy Category B: A reproductive and developmental toxicity study has been performed in rabbits with a dose level that was approximately 15 times the human dose based on body weight. The study revealed no evidence of impaired female fertility or harm to the fetus due to FLUAD. There are, however, no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Because animal reproduction studies are not always predictive of human response, this vaccine should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed. In a reproductive and developmental toxicity study, the effect of FLUAD on embryo-fetal and post-natal development was evaluated in pregnant rabbits. Animals were administered FLUAD by intramuscular injection twice prior to gestation, during the period of organogenesis (gestation day 7) and later in pregnancy (gestation day 20), 0.5 mL (45 mcg)/rabbit/occasion (approximately 15-fold excess relative to the adult human dose based on body weight). No adverse effects on mating, female fertility, pregnancy, embryo-fetal development, or post-natal development were observed. There were no vaccine-related fetal malformations or other evidence of teratogenesis. 8.4 Pediatric Use The safety and effectiveness of FLUAD in the pediatric population has not been established. 8.5 Geriatric Use Safety and immunogenicity of FLUAD have been evaluated in adults 65 years of age and older. [See Adverse Reactions (6.1) and Clinical Studies (14)] FLUAD is a registered trademark of Seqirus Inc. Manufactured by: Seqirus Vaccines Limited, An affiliate of: Seqirus Inc., Holly Springs, NC 27540, USA 1-855-358-8966
BY JON COOPER #10
FORWARD - BOSTON CELTICS
Jayson Tatum didn’t mind being the third player drafted in the 2017 NBA Draft.1 He didn’t mind too much finishing third in last year’s Rookie of the Year balloting.2 What he DID mind was his Boston Celtics finishing as runner-up to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers3 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Determined to make sure the Celtics do not finish behind anybody in 2018-19, the St. Louis, Mo., native spent the offseason working out with a guy that was never satisfied with—and rarely ever did—finish behind anyone, five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant. “That really meant the world to me,” Tatum said. “I have all his jerseys and shoes and posters in my room. I still can’t believe it. I tried to play it cool but my heart was beating so fast.” He also worked out with Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway—1993’s third overall pick and runner-up in that season’s ROY balloting. “Just to get in their mind and their mindset and how they approached the game and each year was something I really found valuable,” says Tatum. “They both had that killer mentality.” That mentality will complement nicely his vast array of physical gifts, which he showed early, often and in various ways as a rookie. In his debut, Tatum picked up the slack after forward Gordon Hayward went down by going for 14 points and 10 rebounds in his debut, making history and joining Celtics legends Larry Bird and Dave Cowens.4 In January, he’d match former Celtics great and future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett,5 who likely will go into the Hall next year with Kobe, with a three-steal, six-block game. By season’s end, Jayson’s three-point shooting put him in the company of current Golden State Warrior and future Hall of Fame guard Steph Curry,6 and all alone among Celtics rookies.7 No longer a rookie, Tatum is ready to be as much of a role model on the court as he is off it 8 for an Eastern Conference favorite. “We have a lot of great, great, high-character guys,” says Tatum. “All we care about is winning. That’s all that matters.”
BONUS POINTS 1.Tatum, who played one year at Duke, was selected after Philadelphia chose Markelle Fultz—Boston and Philly actually traded first-round picks—and the Lakers chose Lonzo Ball. Tatum not only outscored and outrebounded them but outshot both from inside and behind the arc AND at the foul line. 2. Tatum finished behind Philadelphia forward Ben Simmons and Utah guard Donovan Mitchell, both two years his senior. He was the only other player besides Simmons and Mitchell to earn more than 100 points in the balloting. 3. Jayson’s godfather is 13-year NBA veteran Larry Hughes, who was starting guard with LeBron on the 2006-07 Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers. 4. At just 19 years old, Jayson became the third Boston rookie to record a double-double in his NBA debut. On opening night this year, he scored 23 points, becoming the youngest Celtic to score 20 points in an opener—surpassing teammate Jaylen Brown, who did it last year. 5. On 1/6/18, Tatum joined Garnett as the only players in NBA history to record three steals and six blocks in a game before age 20. 6.Jayson became the fifth rookie to score 1,000 points (1,112) and shoot 40 percent from three-point range (.434). He was the first to do so since Curry, in 2009-10 (1,399, .437). 7. Tatum set Celtics rookie records for three-point field goals (105) and three-point field goal percentage (43.4). 8. Jayson became a father to Jayson, Jr., aka “Deuce,” in January. He had a strong parental role model, as his mother, Brandy Cole, took Jayson, then a toddler, with her to college classes when she couldn’t get a sitter. Brandy is a successful lawyer in St. Louis.
027 JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
JUMP BALL BRACK-IT
EIGHT THINGS. ONE UNDISPUTED CHAMP.
Which player will win his first MVP? The 2018-19 NBA season is an interesting one because this year, we have a new crop of guys who have a legitimate shot of taking home the MVP crown. Of course we’re all used to hearing names like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook as being the guys who are the likely frontrunner candidates, but this could be the year that someone sneaks up and dethrones one of those guys.
ANTHONY DAVIS VS. KYRIE IRVING
KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS VS JOEL EMBIID
In our first matchup, we see David going head-to-head against Goliath. The Celtics are most pundits’ pick to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals this year. And after speculation that he would be nothing more than a rental in Boston, Kyrie Irving indicated to the front office and the Celtics faithful that that he would resign with the team, thus raising the championship expectations in Beantown. We know what Kyrie can do skill-wise. It seems the only thing that puts him at the top of the MVP race this year is if he can stay healthy long enough to guide the Celtics to not only the best record in the conference, but also in the League. That doesn’t seem all that far-fetched with the talent the Celtics have put in place around him. So the only thing standing in the the way of Irving hoisting that MVP trophy is his ability to stay on the floor. Despite being one of the most statistically solid and consistent players in the NBA all six years of his pro career, playing in the Western Conference makes Anthony Davis an easy player to overlook in the MVP race. The Pelicans play in the League’s toughest conference and have never had the personnel to turn New Orleans into a legitimate threat to dethrone any of the West’s elite teams. If AD can somehow eclipse last season’s stats of 28 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 2.6 blocks, while getting the Pelicans into the Western Conference playoffs, he could be the first player to cause an MVP split between the votes cast by the media, and those cast by his peers around the League. Sorry “Uncle Drew,” but it looks as if “The Brow” wins this matchup and moves on.
Joel Embiid’s second full season in the NBA saw him help the 76ers reach the postseason for the first time in five years and advance to the Semifinals for just the second time in 15 years. The big man was named an All-Star and finished the season with averages of 23 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks per game. His immense skillset allows him to put the ball on the floor, shoot with range and make plays for others, and if Embiid can improve on his stay healthy and improve his individual stats, while helping turn the Sixers into the top team in the Eastern Conference, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched to talk about him being in the MVP conversation right now. Karl-Anthony Towns regressed offensively after having to share the ball with Jimmy Butler, who positioned himself as the alpha in Minnesota’s young pack of T-Wolves. But with Butler out of the mix in the Twin Cities, Towns will once again be the focal point of Minnesota’s offense and anchor on defense. Unfortunately, Towns was in this position for the first two years of his NBA career and the Timberwolves were never able to break through and make the playoffs. Towns’ per game scoring average should go back up this season, and his 12 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 blocks from last year should remain somewhat consistent as well. But if Towns is unable to put the Timberwolves on his shoulders and position them better than eighth in the bottom four of the playoff race, his MVP chances will likely be somewhat diminished. Embiid wins this matchup and advances.
028 LAYNE MURDOCH JR; GARRETT ELLWOOD; RON TURENNE; JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
BY BRYAN CRAWFORD #26
BEN SIMMONS VS. KAWHI LEONARD
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO VS. VICTOR OLADIPO
Having two legitimate MVP contenders on the same team isn’t as rare as you might think. Westbrook and Durant, Curry and Durant, Kobe and Shaq, Bird and McHale, Magic and Kareem. It’s safe to say that Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are the next set of teammates with a great shot at winning the award. In his first full season as a pro, Simmons averaged 16 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He passed Magic Johnson’s rookie triple-double record with 11, and was only the second player in League history to put up 1,200 points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds in his first season. Philadelphia is certainly one of the top two or three teams in the Eastern Conference, and if Simmons can help the Sixers get that number one spot, voters will have a tough time making a choice between him or Embiid as the more deserving League MVP. Kawhi Leonard may be the first person in the history of the San Antonio Spurs organization to actually want to leave. Most guys would relish an opportunity to play in Gregg Popovich’s winning system, but Leonard, who already has an NBA Championship, Finals MVP and two Defensive Player of the Year awards under his belt, felt it was time to move on. This past summer, the All-NBA and All-Defensive wing was traded to the Toronto Raptors and he’ll have to quickly mesh with new teammates, a new coach and find his place in a new system. If Leonard can overcome the quad injury that limited him to just nine games last season and regain his individual greatness on offense and defense, while contributing to the continued success of the Raptors, his should certainly be one of the top names in the MVP conversation this year. Everybody loves a good comeback story, and that being said, “The Claw” moves on in this one.
The Milwaukee Bucks star has slowly begun to separate himself from the rest of the League and over the last two seasons, his game has developed to the point that he’s begun to move himself into the consideration as one of the elite players in the game today. Last season’s averages of 27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.4 blocks, and his second straight All-Star nod, certainly justifies Giannis Antetokounmpo as being in the elite player conversation, and this year’s MVP convo. Victor Oladipo caught the NBA world by surprise in his first season with the Indiana Pacers—his third team in three years, which had him teetering dangerously close to the “journeyman” designation. But the 25-year-old had other plans, putting up career highs in scoring (23 points), rebounds (5 per game), assists (4.3 per game), and steals (2.4 per game), in which he led the League. He also made his first All-Star appearance, was named Most Improved Player, and was an All-NBA and All-Defense selection, while leading the Pacers to a 48-win season, the first without perennial All-Star Paul George. His was one of the more impressive one-year turnarounds ever seen in the League. If he can guide the Pacers into one of the East’s top three positions, Victor Oladipo could certainly move his name into the MVP conversation. Unfortunately, Oladipo comes up short in this matchup because statistically speaking, it’ll be impossible for him to put up the same gaudy numbers across the board as “The Greek Freak.”
029 GARY DINEEN (2); RON TURENNE; DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
JUMP BALL BRACK-IT
ANTETOKOUNMPO VS. LEONARD It seems only fair the League’s two most versatile players are matched up here. Kawhi has already established himself as one of the NBA’s most complete two-way players, but Giannis is certainly on his way, especially if he can show continued improvement on his outside shot. Both are playing with something to prove this year. Leonard wants to show everyone that he’s back and hasn’t lost a step, while Antetokounmpo is eager to show the world that he’s next up on the list of the NBA’s great players. That desire, and his continuously rising profile— he’s the cover athlete for the NBA 2K19 videogame—gives Antetokounmpo the slightest of advantages over Leonard in this one.
DAVIS VS. EMBIID It’s always fun whenever we get to see a battle of the big men like this. Both are going to put up ridiculous stats this season; that’s a given. And even though Philadelphia may come out better than New Orleans in the win-loss column, with Embiid likely having to compete for MVP consideration with Ben Simmons all season, this effectively hurts his chances of being able to separate himself from Davis in this matchup. AD advances.
ANTETOKOUNMPO VS. DAVIS The Greek Freak can do it all. But then again, so can AD. New Orleans and Milwaukee will only face each other twice in the regular season, so determining the winner in this final matchup has to come down to the impact each player has on his team. Looking at it that way, it’s only right that Davis should emerge victorious in this one. While Antetokounmpo has a solid supporting cast surrounding him with guys like Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe, Davis has no such luxury. The New Orleans Pelicans will only go as far as AD can take them. Leading his squad to 50-plus wins would guarantee the Pels a postseason berth and possibly even a top-four spot in the Western Conference standings. Should one or both of those things happen, then...
ANTHONY DAVIS 030 DAVID SHERMAN; MARK BLINCH; LAYNE MURDOCH JR. (3); JESSE D. GARRABRANT; KENT SMITH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
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JUMP BALL BY MELODY HOFFMAN #34 FIRST FIVE
Pascal Siakam’s scoring game has helped the Raptors to their best start in franchise history. It’s year three for the Cameroon-native1 and his tremendous speed and vast versatility has propelled his scoring average to nearly double from last season.2 For instance, in a span of minutes against the Pelicans earlier this year, Siakam showed off his newfound skills and confidence. He drove to the rim for an and-1 bucket, nailed a running floater, splashed an open baseline trey and juked his defender with a spin move in the post. He also had 3 blocks and dished out an assist in this 22-point performance. Siakam scored in double-digits in four-straight games to help the Raptors sweep a four-game Western Conference road trip for the first time in franchise history. He then dropped a career-high 23 points against the Knicks to earn the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award.3 “I just got to continue to trust the work that I put in,” Siakam told the Toronto Star. “I’m always going be open and my guys are always going to trust me to make that play, so just continue to do that and trust all the work that I put in.” Selected 27th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, Siakam has managed to shine on a team with likes of All-Star studs Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard.4 Siakam is also handling the ball more in his playmaker role. The 24-year-old attributes his rising confidence to the burgeoning trust that his coach and teammates are placing on him.
BONUS POINTS 1. Other NBA players hailing from the African country of Cameroon include current players Joel Embiid and Luc Mbah a Moute, and former player Ruben Boutje-Boumtje. 2. Last year, Siakam’s sophomore season, he averaged 7.3 points in 20.7 minutes. This year Siakam is averaging 14.1 points in 28.1 minutes. 3. In three games (between Nov. 5-11), the 24-year-old averaged a team-high 20.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, shot .724 (21-for-29) from the field and .983 (15-for-16) at the free-throw line, as he shared the weekly player spotlight with CJ McCollum in the Western Conference. 4. Between Lowry and Leonard, there have been six All-Star selections, a recognition that Siakam is seeking for the first time.
FORWARD - TORONTO RAPTORS
032 ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
KNOW YOUR NEWB
MOE WAGNER LOS ANGELES LAKERS The Los Angeles Lakers’ success in the present revolves around LeBron James, but the hope is that Moe Wagner will be a huge part of the team’s future. The 21-year-old German is the 6-11, 245-pound model of what used to be called a stretch 4, which now passes for a stretch 5 in today’s NBA. Originally imported from Germany’s Alba Berlin professional squad, schooled at the University of Michigan and eventually validated his junior season at the 2018 NCAA Finals, Wagner showed the world he excels in any setting, averaging 17 points and 7 rebounds while making 39 percent of his college threes as a Wolverine. At the 2018 NBA Draft, Wagner was taken with the 25th pick by a team that has had recent luck mining gems in the back end of the first round: The Lakers took Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart with the 27th and 30th picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. With that type of draft record, many Los Angelenos are excited about Wagner’s potential as the rookie joins a Lakers center unit of NBA champions JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler, and fellow 21-year-old post man Ivica Zubac. You’re in a new city, working a new job and living a new lifestyle. What is it like to be an L.A. Laker? It’s good. There are a lot of helpful people here in L.A. It’s a warm city. I’m excited. Offensively, you were one of the best three-point shooting big men in college basketball. But in the NBA, the line is further back. How are you adjusting to the new line? It’s going pretty good. It’s the same game—try to take it to the hole or shoot it from outside. I’m kind of used to shooting long threes so it’s really not that big of an issue. We’ll see how I do on the court. But it is a change for sure. You improved a lot defensively in college, but the NBA game is another step up. What is it like for you defending NBA centers? I think the game in the NBA is a lot more focused on the perimeter. Nowadays, all the bigs are able to spread out around the perimeter. You have to be able to get to the three-point line, back to the rim, guard the pick-and-rolls, get back to the rim. It’s a perimeter game for centers now. I think that’s going to be the challenge. Does it help having Michigan men in your corner, like Spartan Magic Johnson and Wolverine Rob Pelinka? Obviously, it helps to have support. Rob and I are very
close. But honestly, everyone has been great to support me. I am in a very blessed situation. Everyone has been great around me so far. What have you learned from the veteran centers on the team? They’re cool. Obviously, Ivica has been in a similar situation as me, so we are close. And JaVale has taken me under his wing a little bit. We are centers who play together, rather than against each other. More importantly, what are you learning from LeBron James? Everything. It’s incredible to see how he works on a daily basis. For a young guy like me, it is very valuable to be around a great player like that. It’s pretty cool. Do the Laker vets make you do rookie chores, like carrying the videogame equipment on road trips? Rookie chores are part of the job—nothing too bad worth mentioning at all. Who are the best gamers on the team? They all act like they’re good. Josh Hart is a very ambitious videogame player, so I’ll put him up there. But we’ll find out as the season goes on. What’s the game of choice? I played a lot of Call of Duty in college. I saw Coby Karl, the G League head coach, playing [Call of Duty] a couple times at Summer League. Jeffrey Carroll was my roommate at Summer League, so we played a little bit, too. In college, I played a lot more often because the guys were around more often. I’m sure that will pick up here once we start making long road trips during the season. What do you think of the latest COD, Black Ops 4? It’s cool. It’s always cool to see how the games get better—how the storylines change because that always makes it more interesting for you. To be honest
with you, I love playing with others the most and my homies. It’s just a great feeling to play the game together with your friends. How many years have you been playing? I’ve played the last three years since I’ve been in college. As great as the game is, how different the game itself is, for me it’s more about using it as a tool to be around each other and having fun with each other. So you’d say it’s one of the better games as far as developing camaraderie with teammates? For sure, because you can play together, rather than against each other. Unlike other games, everybody knows how to play Call of Duty. It’s pretty common in locker rooms everywhere. DARRYL HOWERTON #21 033
ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
JUMP BALL HEAD 2 HEAD
Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell
The hotly-contested debate wages on over the two players who battled for Rookie of the Year last season. Last year’s Rookie of the Year vote came down to two choices: eventual winner Ben Simmons, who was given 90 first-place votes by media folk, or runner-up Donovan Mitchell, who was selected first by the remaining 11 voters. (For all you Celtics lovers, let’s be honest: 20-year-old phenom and third-place ROY finisher Jayson Tatum’s status did not rise to star level until he became a 19-points-per-game scorer in the playoffs). We find ourselves in a similar predicament having to choose a winner in this ongoing Simmons-Mitchell debate, as both are in their—ahem—sophomore seasons. It is a shame we cannot just declare a tie because these two 22-yearolds deserve ultimate recognition for putting their franchises on their backs, at a time when both Philly and Utah needed to be carried, and at an age at which each star is still developing his franchise-carrying muscles.
01 Scoring: Mitchell is the straw that stirs the drink in Utah, with the prodigious Jazz scorer putting on a clinic for all to see, whether it be in the regular season where he led Utah in scoring with 20.5 points in 33.4 minutes per game, or in the playoffs, where the team leader again kicked it up a notch, averaging 24.4 points in 37.4 minutes per game. The 6-3, 215-pound Herculean guard mostly did this by getting to the paint off the dribble or pulling up from three-point range, quite often once the middling Jazz offense stalled in the final stretches of the 24-second clock. The muscular Mitchell has made it a personal mission to improve on his 3.8 free-throw-attempts-per-game rate to acquire a more Dwyane Wade-like game, which should be reasonable considering his vast skills in the paint and the added respect he will receive from refs now that he is no longer a rookie. Those in Simmons’ camp will clearly defer this category to Mitchell. Though the 6-10 Sixers point guard showed he could average 16 points in both the regular season and playoffs, even while lacking any range on his jumper, Simmons did so while shooting 96 percent of his shots within 16 feet of the basket. Simmons, a lefty, was 0-for-11 from three-point range (Mitchell was 187-for-550 for 34 percent) and a 56-percent shooter from the free-throw line (Mitchell was 81 percent). To his credit, Simmons doesn’t “shoot your shot,” choosing to abstain from shots he can’t make. But if he does not want to make himself a postseason liability—as exposed by Boston head coach Brad Stevens in the East Semifinals, where Simmons was a series-worst minus-63 in 182 minutes—then the Sixer is going to have to hit an open jumper sometime. Advantage: Mitchell
02 Floor Game: Mitchell is a catalyst in the Jazz offense, averaging 3.7 assists per game, and often handling point guard duties when relieving backcourt mate Ricky Rubio a third of the game at the 1 spot. However, Mitchell is not a full-time quarterback and is nothing close to the floor general that Simmons is. What makes Simmons one of those special players in the League is he is one of a few players—along with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo—who is a one-man fastbreak, able to grab the rebound, start and lead the break, and then equally finish with authority or set up a teammate. Simmons can grab his own rebound (8.1 per game), dish off his own assist (8.2 per game) and help take a team from 28 to 52 wins while doing so. Unlike a jumpshot, this package of skills is something that is innate. Paired with his size and you can understand the Magic Johnson comparisons. Advantage: Simmons
Donovan Mitchell Guard, 6-3, 215 pounds Utah Jazz G
Key: G games; MPG minutes per game; PPG points per game; APG assists per game; RPG rebounds per game; TOPG turnovers per game; SPG steals per game; FT% free throw percentage; 2FG% two-point field goal percentage; 3FG% three-point percentage; 3sPG three-pointers per game; PER Player Efficiency Rating; RPM Real Plus-Minus. Source: Basketball-Reference.com 034
BY DARRYL HOWERTON #21
03 Defense: Both Mitchell and Simmons play for top 10 teams that excel on the defensive end and are anchored by an elite rim protector. So it is only half the story to tout their awesome offense when head coaches Quin Snyder and Brett Brown have made sure they laid the defensive foundation to their young stars’ games. Both Mitchell and Simmons put up good defensive metrics. Both have a strength that allows them to guard forwards if necessary. Both have a high basketball IQ. Both are afforded the ability to gamble a bit on defense because of the luxury of a shotblocking center who could make up for any bad hedges. Neither is an All-League defender at this point, but name a 22-year-old that is. In time, we could see both Mitchell and Simmons on future All-Defense honors lists. Advantage: Tie
04 Leadership: Mitchell and Simmons have assumed early leadership roles on their teams, so obviously both excelled in this department despite playing as rookies. If forced into a decision, we give Mitchell the edge in this department because he is the head of the snake. Cut Mitchell off and the Jazz offense has nobody else to turn to in a playoff situation. When Mitchell struggled with his shot out of the gate this season, he was barely able to sleep, as the pressure and feeling of him letting down his teammates prevented him from a restful night. As good as Simmons is, there are times on the floor where an opposing head coach can take Simmons out the game (as Boston’s Brad Stevens did last postseason) due to his lack of a reliable jumper, forcing the Sixers to rely on the leadership of All-Star center Joel Embiid, who serves as the face of the Philly franchise as most see it. Advantage: Mitchell
05 Intangibles: Simmons has the flash. He’s seen as the next evolutionary step from LeBron. He was the first player to shake the Commissioner’s hand in 2016. And with that five-star reputation comes high expectations in Philly. So far he has delivered on all that. Meanwhile, Mitchell came to Salt Lake City with the blue-collar rep, surprising his college coach Rick Pitino that he was a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Since then, the No. 13 pick has shocked others and actually gave the 2016 No. 1 pick a run for his money in the 2017-18 ROY race. So both men have their own separate lanes of appeal that they have worked hard to create. It basically comes down to: Do you like jazz or pizzazz? Advantage: Mitchell
The Verdict Both Simmons and Mitchell performed well in the postseason, although their young skill sets proved vulnerable to tougher defenses found in Boston and Houston. For Simmons to become better, he must show us he can hit an outside shot, at least at both elbow spots at the free-throw line. For Mitchell to become better, he has to get to the free-throw line closer to 10 times per game like Dwyane Wade did a decade ago or like James Harden does today. Just like the race for Rookie of the Year last season, this one’s a slim margin, but our pick here is Mitchell.
Guard, 6-10, 230 pounds Philadelphia 76ers
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JUMP BALL BY STEVE HUNT #29
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At 6-11 with a round afro, Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen is already hard to overlook. However, after a rookie season1 with four double-doubles in 72 games, the Texas native,2 who has six doubledoubles through 17 games this season, is getting noticed around the League beyond his distinctive hairstyle. Allen is currently averaging 8.5 rebounds per game for the Nets, up from 5.4 as a rookie, and he’s also blocking about 1.5 shots a night. And one reason for his improvement in the paint is the bulk he added this offseason. “I was in the weight room almost all summer. I was on the court learning3 different techniques on how to become a better rebounder,” Allen said. “Now you finally see it translating to the court.” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson credits Allen’s strong offseason for part of his resurgence but sees several other reasons for his rapid ascension. “I think it’s part of his natural maturation, but there’s also the Ed Davis influence,”4 says Atkinson. “He told me ‘I see Ed getting all those offensive rebounds,5 why don’t I go and do the same thing?’ He’s learning tricks from Ed. That’s why it’s nice having those veteran guys around.” Allen said the biggest lesson he’s learned from Davis, who signed with the Nets in July, is how to be a professional.
BONUS POINTS 1. Jarrett had to carry a pink Barbie backpack and be the team speaker for half of last season to fulfill his rookie rites of passage. 2. Allen grew up in Austin, Texas, and said when friends and family come see him play while the Nets are in the Lone Star State, he only needs four to six tickets. 3. Allen didn’t start playing basketball entirely until the seventh grade. He played mostly baseball and football. 4. Jarrett started dressing like Batman while in preschool and became big fan of the Dark Knight from watching Batman: The Animated Series. 5. Through the team’s first 21 games, Davis has averaged 8 rebounds, almost half of them being the offensive variety.
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JUMP BALL 24 SECONDS
with GORAN DRAGIC HOOP: How did it feel to have your national team3 immortalized on a stamp? DRAGIC: It’s great, first of all, to win a gold medal for my country. Nobody expected that. Then to get a stamp, it’s kind of cool. HOOP: How many letters did you write to friends and family so you could use those stamps? DRAGIC: None [laughs]. With technology now, you can text message and you can FaceTime. I don’t know when the last time was that I sent a letter. HOOP: What was the story behind that music video4 about you in 2014? DRAGIC: Klemen Slakonja is a big deal back home. He does stand-up comedy and has his own TV show, impersonating people around the world—[he’s impersonated] Trump and Putin—and he did me. He was joking around how I got my nickname “The Dragon” from Steve Nash. It’s a funny show. HOOP: Steve Nash gave you your nickname? DRAGIC: Everybody had a hard time pronouncing my last name, so he said, “From now on, you’re just going to be The Dragon.” It’s funny, because I am from the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, and the logo is a dragon.5 HOOP: How are you like a dragon? DRAGIC: I’m calm and easy going off the court. But when I’m on the court, I kind of transform. I can be more aggressive and play with energy, and up-tempo. I’m a different guy. HOOP: What are your goals for this season? DRAGIC: Just trying to be consistent. I had a great summer. I retired from [the Slovenian] national team, so I had more time to work on my game and be well rested. For the team, just try to get better and make some noise. HOOP: What did it mean to play in your first All-Star Game? DRAGIC: It means a lot. I was working hard all these years and I always wanted to play in the All-Star Game. Last year I had a helluva a year1 and it was a good experience. HOOP: How has your game improved since entering the League in 2008? DRAGIC: When I was a rook, I didn’t develop my shot yet, so I was more a penetrating guard. Now I put that in my arsenal: threes, midrange, stepbacks. It’s easier, because I have so many weapons. HOOP: What has it been like to play alongside D-Wade? DRAGIC: It’s been amazing. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer, so it’s always nice to see him next to you. I am happy he came back and can put this Miami Heat shirt on one last time.
HOOP: Do you breathe fire? DRAGIC: Sort of [laughs]. HOOP: What did you learn while playing with MV-Steve?6 DRAGIC: How to be a professional. He was a two-time MVP, but he was always there first at practice, trying to get his body right, trying to get his reps in. Because of this consistency, that’s why he was so good. I always have this in my mind now. I am 32, so I always want to take care of my body, so I can play as long as possible. HOOP: What does your other nickname “Gogi” mean? DRAGIC: It’s just a short version of Goran. All my friends called me Gogi when we were growing up.
HOOP: Are you recognized more at home in Slovenia or in Miami? DRAGIC: Back home. I was the only guy in the NBA for a long time2 and I played all these years for the national team. But it’s different in Miami, because I am a short, skinny guy. I just put a hat on and go out.
HOOP: How special was it to play with your brother Zogi7 in the NBA? DRAGIC: It’s always nice to have your brother next to you, but this was really special when we played together for the Suns, especially with the Morris brothers. We were the only team in NBA history to have two sets of brothers on the same team.
HOOP: You may be skinny, but you’ve gotten a tan in Miami. DRAGIC: Definitely. On my off days, I’m spending most of my time by the pool with my kids or at the beach.
HOOP: What kind of music do you listen to? DRAGIC: I listen to Serbian music. Back home that’s really popular because Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia back in the day.
BY JERAMIE MCPEEK #4
HOOP: Do you enjoy American music? DRAGIC: I do. In the locker room or the weight room, a lot of teammates play American music, so I like it. But when I want to relax, I put Serbian music on. HOOP: What’s the last concert you went to? DRAGIC: I took my wife to Andrea Bocelli last year. HOOP: What do you like to watch on Netflix when you’re on the road? DRAGIC: Game of Thrones, that is my favorite. I like to watch movies, especially historical movies about knights or the Romans or Alexander the Great. HOOP: We hear you like to watch Fresh Prince of Bel Air. DRAGIC: Oh yeah, when I was growing up in Slovenia, we watched a lot of Fresh Prince, Family Matters, Friends and those old-school shows. HOOP: We saw on your Instagram that you read the Five Love Languages of Children. DRAGIC: Yes, I’ve got two kids, so I think it’s important how you interact with them and how to be a better father. They mean everything to me, so reading that book and a lot of books helps me mature. HOOP: What are your favorite things to do with your kids? DRAGIC: Mateo, he’s going to be 5 and he’s into sports, so I like to play soccer with him. Our little one, Victoria, is 3, so she likes to hang out with her brother. Bust most of all, they love the pool, and me throwing them into the pool. HOOP: What is Gogi’s love language? DRAGIC: When they come and give you a hug. Sometimes when you go [on the road] and they are crying, saying “Daddy, don’t go,” this is probably the hardest moments I am going through. Before bed time, I always read them a story and tell them, “Daddy Loves you. Daddy misses you. But daddy has to go to work.” HOOP: Do you read them Goran—Legend of the Dragon? 8 DRAGIC: Oh yeah. Especially because it’s in our native language. Half of the fairy tale is true and half is for the imagination. It’s always fun to read about me (laughs), but I probably read too much of that.
BONUS POINTS 1. Dragic averaged 17.3 ppg, 4.8 apg and 4.1 rpg in 2017-18, earning his first All-Star nod. 2. Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Dončić, the third pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, played with Dragic on the Slovenian national team. 3. The Slovenian national team went undefeated to win its first-ever EuroBasket in 2017. 4. Google “Klemen Slakonja as Goran Dragic” to watch. Trust us, it’s amazing! 5. There is also the “Dragon Bridge” in the capital of Slovenia that crosses over the Ljubljanica River and has a giant dragon statue on each side of its entrance. 6. Dragic played two and a half seasons with Nash in Phoenix and calls him his mentor, giving the Hall-of-Fame guard credit for teaching him the pick-and-roll. 7. Dragic played with his brother Zoran in Phoenix during the 2014-15 season, and the two were teammates with Marcus and Markieff Morris. 8. Goran’s children’s book was published in 2017.
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E C D A D L E L 2010-2019
In a decade full of greatness and influence, these players have defined the past 10 years with aplomb. 041 NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
By Jon Cooper #10
hen HOOP last did the All-Decade Team spanning 2000-2009, it was a bit of a leap of faith to include LeBron James. After all, he had just finished his fifth season and in spite of his Finals appearance in 2007 and some eye-popping stats during his first six years (27.5 PPG, 7 RPG and 6.7 APG), we would be leaving off a veteran who put in more time. Fast-forward another 10 years and not only was LeBron a wise decision then, he’s still the right choice for this closing decade. It’s difficult to compare eras, but 16 years into his vaunted career, it’s safe to say LeBron belongs atop any “greatest ever” list in the NBA, across any timeline. Dominique Wilkins, a 2006 Basketball Hall of Famer and one of the most electric players in the ‘80s and ‘90s, seconds the notion. “He’d have played in any era. It’s as simple as that,” says Wilkins. “He’s a great player, a great athlete who can do so many things.” Let’s start with his accomplishments over the 10-year period. LeBron has been an All-Star every year and has been the top vote-getter each of the past two years. He’s been top-three in MVP voting seven of the past eight years—much like Michael Jordan before him, LeBron has become a taken-for-granted vote behind “Flavor-of-the-Month” picks for the award that can be argued should be his every year. He begins the season ranked seventh all-time in scoring with 31,038 points. Since 2011, he’s become the youngest player ever to reach 20,000, 25,000 and 30,000 points (he already
was the youngest to 5,000, 10,000 and 15,000 during the previous decade). If things go accordingly and even accounting for any eventual decline, LeBron is on track to one day become the NBA’s all-time leader in points (he entered 2018-19 trailing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by about 7,000 points). Which brings us to one of the most overlooked aspects of his greatness: health. Not counting this current season, LeBron has played in 94 percent of his teams’ games. In those games, LeBron has averaged 38 minutes per game. Let’s not forget the playoffs, where he’s been a postseason fixture since 2005-06, and never missed a playoff game. Oh, and he entered the League straight from his high-school graduation. Last bit: LeBron’s ultimate dream would be to one day play in the NBA with his son, Bronny (who is currently a high school freshman). Being healthy and available night in and night out, season over season might not be something one equates with greatness, but it has enabled LeBron to stat-collect his way to GOAT status. Then, there’s his presence in the NBA Finals. If it seems like LeBron has played in every NBA Finals, it’s because he has—at least if you were born after 2011. The streak is at eight and counting. No one’s come close to this kind of run since the Boston Celtics from 19571966. Yet, even in that run, only Bill Russell (10), Sam Jones and Tommy Heinsohn (nine each) reached the Finals in more consecutive years than James (K.C. Jones, Jim Loscutoff and Frank Ramsey also made it eight times).
042 JORDAN JOHNSON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
In his final season in Cleveland before taking his talents southside, LeBron was the one-man gang (the next-best player was Mo Williams) leading the Cavaliers to an NBA-best 61 wins. He was named MVP for the second consecutive year and there was no doubt. If you pull up his advanced stats on Basketball Reference, you’d notice that his 2009-10 line is full of bolded numbers, meaning he led the League in the category (you’d also notice a lot of bolded numbers on his page, for that matter). Player Efficiency Rating, Offensive Win Shares, Win Shares, Win Shares Per 48 Minutes, Offensive Box Plus/Minus, Box Plus/ Minus, Value Over Replacement Player—by every advanced metric devised by man to encapsulate a player’s court value, LeBron was head and shoulders above all. As brilliant as it was, LeBron was still unable to overcome the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, losing to them in the Semifinals, setting the stage for one of the most criticized “decisions” in sports.
For all the backlash to the prime-time Decision, the braggadocio of seven-plus titles and “breaking” the League, LeBron was every bit as advertised when he moved to South Beach. For those that always wondered what LeBron would be like if paired with elite players, they got to see Wade and LeBron taking turns setting one another up, and Chris Bosh playing off their creativity. LeBron’s overall numbers naturally took a dip—if you can call 26.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 7 APG a dip—but he no longer had to carry a franchise and city on his broad shoulders. The Finals streak began this season with LeBron’s second trip to the big stage, but the Heat lost three games to Dallas after taking a 2-1 series lead.
James’ Finals streak may actually be more impressive than the Celtics’, as James never played fewer than four rounds of playoffs (Boston only had to win one round of playoffs) and the globalization of the game has meant greater competition. None of those Celtics scored as many points in the Finals as James’ 1,360. Only Los Angeles Laker guard Jerry West has more (1,679). James also didn’t just hang around one dynasty. He built them. LeBron actually changed the way NBA teams are built. “The Decision” to go to Miami, beginning in 2010-11, may not have created the concept of the “Super Team,” but his teaming up with Dwyane Wade, which, in turn, convinced Chris Bosh to come aboard, perfected it. No longer did “organizations win titles.” LeBron put the power in his and ensuing stars’ hands to shape their own championship narrative. The Heat, who the previous season finished fifth in the East, won 11 more
If 2010-11 was when he did the heel turn, this season was LeBron going babyface again. After getting humbled in the 2011 Finals, LeBron rededicated himself to his basketball roots of having fun on the court again. His numbers didn’t fluctuate from the previous year (27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 6.2 APG) but he upped his shooting efficiency from the field (.531, then his career best) and from deep (career-best .362) and found the joie de vivre, leading to his third MVP trophy. The Maurice Podoloff Trophies are great, but the missing jewel on LeBron’s crown was secured in the Finals when he captured his first championship. LeBron was brilliant in the series, averaging 28.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG and 7.4 APG, and was the obvious choice for another trophy, the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award. The award tour just kept continuing for LeBron as he represented the United States in the 2012 Olympic Games in London and led the team to Olympic gold in basketball.
games and the Eastern Conference for the first of four straight years while James was in South Beach and did it in style. They became “The Heatles,” the rock stars of the League and pop-culture icons. James’ No. 6 Heat jersey was the best-selling jersey that season and he helped turn Miami into the hottest ticket. Miami made four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. That they only won half of them and fell short of their “…not six, not seven…” goal (which to be fair, was clearly hyperbole) is missing the point of his greatness. When LeBron went home to Akron to take care of some unfinished business, naturally trips the Finals followed. Cleveland transformed into “The Land,” a destination for players, instead of “The Mistake By The Lake,” a notorious place players avoided. In his two stints, covering 11 seasons, Cleveland had one losing season with James—35-47 his rookie year—and never won fewer than 50 after he returned. 043
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER (2); LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
With his first championship out of the way, this season allowed LeBron to play without the usual pressure associated with him. He inched closer to Oscar Robertson’s triple-double season with 26.8 PPG, 8 RPG and 7.3 APG, and ignited the Heat to an NBA-best 66-16 record that included a 27-game win streak, the third longest in NBA history. Falling just one vote short of becoming the League’s first unanimous winner, LeBron collected his fourth MVP. For the fifth consecutive time, LeBron was named to the All-Defensive First Team. LeBron’s third straight Finals appearance (and fourth overall) saw the Heat go up against the San Antonio Spurs, the team that easily swept the Cavaliers during LeBron’s first Finals in 2007. LeBron would find revenge, with the Heat defeating the Spurs in seven games in a series where LeBron would carry the Heat with averages of 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 7 assists, including threetriple-doubles. For the second straight year, LeBron would hold up both the NBA Championship trophy and the Finals MVP trophy.
Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, 2013-14 would be the final run for the much ballyhooed Heatles. If you looked hard enough, the clues were there. Wade was starting to show some age, the revolving door of complementary role players were not as effective and the Heat appeared more mortal, winning just 54 games. LeBron was still every bit “LeBron,” meaning he put up 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 6.3 APG. He even found ways to improve his game, posting his best shooting year of 57 percent, a mark even a 7-footer who lives on dunks and layups would be proud of. In his annual trip to the Finals, LeBron’s Heat would get the rematch with the Spurs. This time, there would be no resistance (or miraculous Ray Allen three-pointer) to stop the Spurs from their 4-1 Finals win.
LeBron’s title for The Land was pulled off under extraordinary circumstances. Facing a record-setting 73-win Golden State Warriors who held a 3-1 series lead, LeBron led the Cavs back to a championship parade—a feat never done before in the NBA Finals. His popularity has not waned, as last season his Cleveland No. 23 was second in sales behind only Golden State’s Steph Curry. (He’s already making an impact in L.A., as Lakers’ ticket sales already are off the charts, while his No. 23 Lakers jersey and sneakers are more popular on eBay than anyone in the League.) While it appears LeBron’s LA move is a transition into his post-playing career of being a Hollywood mogul, he is rejuvenated by the prospect of rebooting “Showtime” for the Lakers. It’s the same kind of determination that’s fueled him every offseason to find new ways to beat opponents and sharpen up every facet of his game. “The reason why he’s gotten better over time is because he’s willing to do the things that other people won’t to work on his game,” says Wilkins. “That’s why he stands out so much more than everybody else. That’s the difference in a great player and a good player. A great player always finds an edge, always finds more he can do to help win. That’s LeBron.”
After the high-profile breakup, no one anticipated LeBron’s return to Northeast Ohio anytime soon, but as always, LeBron has shown that he’s the one the controls the narrative, and in a simple letter penned in Sports Illustrated, he announced to the world he would be coming back to Cleveland to take care of some unfinished business, namely a title. For someone who never experienced the teaching moment of going away to college, LeBron’s time in Miami served as that for him. He came back to Cleveland a champion and his experience (along with a budding Kyrie Irving and established star Kevin Love) would catapult the Cavs back to prominence. It didn’t always look like it would happen—LeBron himself saw his scoring drop to 25.3 and his shooting percentage fall below 50 percent (.488) for the first time in six seasons—but James took a 33-win Cavs team to a 53-win outfit overnight and all the way to the Finals. Injuries to Irving and Love meant LeBron would have to revert to his old solo superhero self against the Golden State Warriors, and he almost did, willing two victories that no one expected against a very good Warriors team. His 35.8 PPG, 13.3 RPG and 8.8 APG even had voters considering him for the Finals MVP trophy as a consolation prize.
But on-court excellence is only half the story. LeBron has always been as much about lifting the city and the people where he’s played. Even with the highly criticized “Decision,” what was lost was his donating $6 million dollars ($2.5 million in revenue from the show and an additional $3.5 in ad revenue generated from it) and which was given to various charities. In 2014, James was named “The World’s Most Powerful Athlete,’ by Forbes and he hasn’t hesitated to use that power for good. Along with Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, LeBron was front and center, offering an anti-violence message at the 2016 ESPYs. He put his money where his mouth is by fully funding the I Promise School, a public school in Akron, through the LeBron James Family Foundation, that serves as a beacon for his hometown. Most important, he’s not sitting silently on the national issues, treating laughably out-of-touch critics and their insulting, condescending “Shut Up and Dribble” attacks with eloquence and tact. “His impact off the floor is as big and powerful as his game on the floor,” says Atlanta Hawks veteran forward Vince Carter. “For a
044 JESSE D. GARRABRANT; ISSAC BALDIZON; JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
There were no guarantees to a championship upon LeBron’s return to Cleveland, but promises were made. After faltering in the Finals the year before, LeBron came back even more determined. The Cavs looked better in the regular season, winning 57 games and LeBron returned to form (for him at least) with 25.3 PPG (on 52 percent shooting), 7.4 PRG and 6.8 APG and helped get the Cavs back to a Finals rematch against the Warriors—except this time it was a recordsetting 73-9 team that was looking for the cherry on top of their historic run. To complicate matters more, the Warriors ran out to a 3-1 series lead. With their backs against the wall, LeBron delivered the following: 41 points, 16 boards, 7 assists, 3 blocks, 3 steals in Game 5; 41 points, 11 dimes, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks in Game 6; and a triple-double line of 27 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks in Game 7. No NBA team had ever come back from 3-1 in the Finals. No team from Cleveland had celebrated a championship in over 50 years. LeBron erased both of those things like he did Andre Iguodala’s layup (his chase-down block on Iguodala in Game 7 might be the greatest defensive play in Finals lore), humbly notching his third championship.
professional athlete to stand up and speak about what he believes in publicly reminds you of Muhammad Ali—someone who didn’t hold his tongue, wasn’t afraid of what people had to say. Kudos to LeBron. He’s like, ‘Hey, I’m on this platform and I’m going to utilize it. I’m going to speak out for those who don’t have the voice.’ The fact that he’s willing to do so and face the criticism head on—amazing.” “The fact that he’s not afraid to put his name out there and speak on issues that are very important, I applaud him for that,” says Wilkins. “What he’s done off the court, with his philanthropy and a charitable standpoint is nothing short of amazing.” Which describes what LeBron has accomplished this decade.
Amidst the Cavaliers’ post-championship swoon and turning 32, you would excuse LeBron if he had a down year. Contrary to all the obvious signs, LeBron held true to his lofty standard—26.4 PPG, 8.7 APG and 8.6 RPG—while getting the Cavaliers to yet another Finals, awhere once again they took on Golden State. There would not be a repeat chip, as a reloaded Warriors team with Kevin Durant would be too much to overcome.
In what would be his most chaotic season to date— the Cavs were flip-flopping between a championship contender and an also-ran, going 50-32—LeBron was the one constant on the team. With 15 years of NBA regular seasons and extended postseason runs and 33 years of age, one would expect to see a drop-off in production from LeBron. Instead, it would be one of his finest statistical seasons to date. It’s the closest LeBron has come to approaching a triple-double season: 27.5 PPG, 9.1 APG and 8.6 RPG. He played in all 82 games and led the NBA in minutes with 36.9 a game. Playing in his 14th straight All-Star, LeBron shined in what will be his future home in Los Angeles with a 29-point, 10-rebound, 8-assist game, outdueling a team handselected by his Finals nemesis, Stephen Curry. It was his third All-Star MVP—the 10 years apart from his last AS MVP in 2008 a testament to his longevity. Once again when June rolled around it was WarriorsCavaliers in the Finals, and once again Golden State overwhelmed LeBron’s Cavs.
After a few seasons of taking it year-by-year, LeBron decided that his next four years would be committed to the City of Angels. Unlike his previous stops in Miami and Cleveland, there would be no certainties of joining forces with proven stars. LeBron is expected to play the role of Gandalf, leading the young fellowship to secure the ring. The start was rough and the future even more uncertain, but it’s hard to bet against a man who has taken his team to a Finals every year since 2011. Does LeBron have any more in him? 045
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; JOE MURPHY; ADAM PANTOZZI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
By Jabari Davis #24
he night was February 28, 2013, and much of the basketball-loving world was being treated to a personal annihilation of the entire perimeter attack the New York Knickerbockers had to offer by a then-24-year-old baby-faced assassin named Steph— check that, he was still being widely called Stephen at the time—Curry. Many will tell you they’ve rocked with the man all-but universally known as the greatest shooter the League has ever seen since his days at Davidson University, but the reality is that night was the genesis of it all. A night when Curry would knock down 11 three-pointers while tantalizing the MSG crowd with moves that placed the likes of Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton and JR Smith into personal spin cycles (in a loss) that really established him as one of the League’s “next” guys.
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DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
Fast-forward five years, three rings, two MVP awards—and countless chewed-up mouthpieces and celebratory points to the air—and you’ll still somehow find those in search of ways to seemingly diminish what he’s accomplished, or at the very least question it from a historical perspective. Admittedly, part of that is likely due to the nature by which we watch and even cover the game. The constant assessments, breakdowns and analytical comparisons have reshaped the way we both consume the sport and judge the athletes. Part of it could also certainly be the fact that he is the son of a former player, and a good shooter in his own right, making him somewhat of NBA pedigree. Taking absolutely nothing away from the accolades of Dell Curry and Mychal Thompson, but like his teammate Klay Thompson, Curry is one of the rare cases where his career accomplishments will actually dwarf that of his old man. Another part of it is related to Curry not just representing, but actually embodying a shift in the way the game is played. His specialty, the three-point shot, has evolved from something that was employed in small doses as a way to keep defenses honest to a shot that is taken 30 feet away, while off the dribble, with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. While the notion of the post player being entirely obsolete is a bit overblown by some, Curry's impact as the game's ultimate floor-spacer is undeniable. In past years, some NBA traditionalists may have subconsciously dismissed the actual impact of scoring and/or shooting point guards simply out of habit, but Curry makes it difficult if not impossible to pigeonhole his skill set. If you came up watching NBA basketball during the ’80s and ’90s, you either marveled over the shooting of a Mark Price, Mahmoud Abdul Rauf or even one of Curry's relative contemporaries in Steve Nash, or appreciated the sheer scoring prowess of less efficient but even more electrifying guards like Allen Iverson, or even a current monster in Russell Westbrook. Curry is so cold because he possesses a blend of both. Plus, he’ll throw in a shimmy as he does it to you—which, one can only imagine, ranges from annoying to infuriating if you're a fellow professional athlete on the other end of one—with a smile. Whether you view Curry as some sort of retroactive validation of his scoring guard predecessors or as something entirely new isn't important, but it is necessary to acknowledge that his ability to shift
There was no doubt Curry would adjust to the NBA three-point line. After all, the guy was hoisting up NBA threes as an amateur at Davidson, but as a rookie, Curry hadn’t yet earned the green light to shoot off-the-dribble, stepback threes just yet. But even with his rookie leash, Curry gave a glimpse of things to come, shooting 44 percent from deep. He was the young favorite to take the Three-Point Contest at All-Star. He found himself in the final round but the veteran gunslinger Paul Pierce caught fire, besting Curry. Curry did finish the season with an impressive 17.5 PPG, 5.9 APG and 1.9 SPG.
Following up on an excellent debut year where he was named to the All-Rookie Team, Curry firmly asserted himself as a point guard of the future with 18.6 PPG while leading the NBA in free-throw shooting with a .934 percentage.
Ankle issues limited Curry to just 26 games, but he still managed to shoot a career-best .455 from three.
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Topping 20 PPG for the first time with 22.9, Curry asserted himself as the three-point king, leading the NBA in makes (272) and takes (600). His 272 threepointers made was a new NBA record, a mark he’s since topped three times.
The season where Steph became a household name and All-Star for the first time. He averaged a career-best 24 PPG and his 8.5 APG remain his highwater mark.
If the previous year was when he dropped the -en from his first name, this was the year his last name was no longer required and just “Steph” sufficed when discussing him. The banner regular season— one where he raised the bar in threes made with 286, finally won the Three-Point Contest (something almost expected of him since he entered the League) and debuted his first Under Armour signature shoe, the Curry One—was topped off with a Most Valuable Player selection and a Warriors championship.
If it were a surprise that Steph would take home the MVP award the previous year, his duplication of the feat in 2016 was a foregone conclusion, so much so that he became the first unanimous selection for the honor. Every first place MVP vote was cemented with every three-pointer made—402, to be exact, still the best mark of any player to date and shattering his previous personal-best mark by an unfathomable 116. He unlocked the shooting triple crown of 50/40/90 with a .504/.454/.908 shooting season and led the League with 30.1 PPG. His PER of 31.46 was on levels that only Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and LeBron James have ever touched. He led the Dubs to 73 wins, besting the 72-10 by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. It was about as perfect a season as you could have by an individual, but it would be marred by a loss in the Finals, one that saw the team give up a 3-1 series lead and Steph lose his cool—and mouthpiece—in defeat.
the longtime “big-men reign supreme” narrative was absolutely a result of taking aspects of their games and building upon them. Yes, he actually improved on the design and did something new. Much like Kanye West did in the rap game—selling records and becoming the face of the genre without the braggadocio of guns and drugs, Curry has done the same in the basketball world. There’s little mean-mugging, flexing and posturing with Curry’s ascent to becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the League. Curry has been able to enjoy an extended period of success in the spotlight without being involved in any controversies or even had any negative issues of actual significance whether on the court or off. His most condemnable moment involved an errant hurled mouthpiece doinking a fan who we should add found it more fun than offensive. In an age where famous people are constantly being monitored and scrutinized via a camera phone, Curry’s good behavior streak warrants the stamp of approval from moms and dads—and financially speaking, corporate America—for athlete role models. We’re not going to get into the discussion of where Curry might ultimately land in terms of being among the all-time greats. Mainly because it would be unfair to limit his greatness to merely what we’ve seen thus far, we are at a place where his real-time accomplishments can be placed into perspective using a bit of historical context. Much like how comparing current NFL passing statistics to those of 30 years ago might give you a skewed view without a clear frame of reference, the same has to be taken into consideration with the
048 ROCKY WIDNER (2); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; NOAH GRAHAM /NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Steph’s numbers fell back to Earth in 2016-17. But his Earth still sat high in the stratosphere as he hit 324 triples (still the only player to ever make more than 300 in a season). The individual glory waned—he didn’t even make All-NBA First Team, a spot reserved for him for the past two seasons—but he did help the Warrior exact some revenge on the Cavs in the Finals to win his second title.
Perfectly beginning his career at the start of the decade, Curry’s 10th year looks to be a carbon copy of his last five seasons. By the time you read this, Curry will likely have or be close to the 15K-point threshold and be sitting at No. 5 in all-time threepointers made, a category that he’ll one day set the career standard on.
In his second season playing alongside Kevin Durant, Curry continued to take less shots, but upped his efficiency at the same time. The 26.4 PPG stands as his second-best mark as the Warriors went for three chips in the last four years.
three-point shot in the NBA. It wasn’t adopted into the NBA until the 1979-80 season (Boston Celtics guard Chris Ford is often credited with the first in history), so great shooters like Jerry West wouldn’t have even had the benefit of the shot. And even then, for the first 20 years of the shot’s history, it was seen as a novelty and not a viable strategy to success. For further perspective, even though Hall of Famer Larry Bird is legendary for his scoring and particularly his shooting, he only took a total of 1,727—a “high” of 237 in 1987-88— while shooting .376 percent over the course of his 13-year career. To contrast, Phoenix’s Troy Daniels hoisted up 458 triples in 2017-18 and Curry took almost as many threes (1,675) from 2015-2017 and hit at an astounding clip of 43.3 percent during the stretch. In fact, Curry has made almost as many three-pointers in his record-setting 2015-16 season (402) than Bird’s first 10 years in the League (455). Ray Allen (7,429 attempts) and Reggie Miller (6,486 attempts) are the first real compeers in this conversation, but Curry is on pace to shatter their output (4,880 attempts entering 2018-19 season). While Allen and Miller set the standard at 40 and 39.5 percent from beyond the arc, respectively, Curry is at a career mark of 43.6 percent from distance and has never shot below 41.1 percent. Let’s not forget Curry shares the floor with Thompson and Kevin Durant—two equally deadly shooters who will both likely eclipse Miller/Allen—that garner attention, allowing Curry that much more daylight to flick his wrist from 23 feet. He's a decade in—yes, in year 10—but doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Curry, a player coming off a season of 49.5 percent from the floor, 42.3 percent from deep and 90.8 percent from the line and just two years removed from his 50.4/45.4/90.8 unanimous MVP season, recently told media day attendees one of his goals heading into the season was to actually play more efficiently—that’s like getting a Bugatti to get 30 miles to a gallon. On the surface, this could seem somewhat outlandish or even relatively cliché coming from a player that has produced at the levels of Curry, but that ability to remain internally motivated, even when championships and accolades are more or less preordained during the Warriors' recent dynastic run, is part of what makes him so special. Although we, thankfully, appear to have plenty more to enjoy from Curry’s career, it absolutely goes without saying he is one of the best players of this decade. Just how far up the proverbial all-time rankings Curry will climb is much like the range of his jumper: limitless. 049
NOAH GRAHAM; JESSE D. GARRABRANT; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
By Jim Eichenhofer #12
ot long after signing with New Orleans in free agency, forward Julius Randle provided a fitting description of his most gifted new teammate, using an analogy easily relatable to a generation of videogamers. In summing up the uniqueness of Anthony Davis, Randle likened the five-time All-Star to what one might invent while competing in NBA2K. “With his length, athleticism, versatility and skill set, it’s like he’s custom-made, one of those created players,” a smiling Randle says of the 6-11 Davis. “There are plenty of guys in the NBA who are 6-11, but none of them are as athletic as AD. And you might be as athletic as him, but if you are, you’re not 6-11.” 050 NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
Indeed, it’s a seldom-seen combination that helps explain a staggering rise for “The Brow,” who in the 2010s has zoomed from lightly-recruited scrawny Division I prospect to one of this era’s greatest and most exciting players. Davis is the youngest member of HOOP’s All-Decade team by a wide margin, earning the distinction at age 25. “That’s amazing, to be in the League for only six years and be on that,” Davis said, in a tone best described as total astonishment, with zero boastfulness. “Those (other All-Decade members) you listed have been in the League for 10 years, even 10-plus years. To be on that list already, in a short period of time, it’s definitely an honor.” As a teenager who loved the game but hadn’t showed any signs of potential stardom, Davis never could’ve imagined his ascension. Prior to a well-documented growth spurt in high school, a career in the sport looked less than promising. “When I was a guard, I didn’t think I was going to make it, to be honest,” Davis said, alluding to being a 6-3 backcourt player attracting no interest from marquee NCAA programs. “But then when I grew, I thought, ‘OK, now this could be something.’ ” That something developed into the forerunner among a wave of bigs who aren’t content to post up on the block and wait for a guard to pass them the ball. The future is big men with perimeter skills, players like Davis, 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis and 7-0 Karl-Anthony Towns, giants who are dangerous three-point threats, yet also athletic enough to produce nightly SportsCenter highlights above the rim— most importantly, they are self-generated shine. Now in his 10th NBA season, Pelicans guard and Davis teammate Jrue Holiday owns a unique perspective on the evolution of players like Davis over the past decade. When Holiday entered the League in 2009, centers and power forwards were still relegated to scoring near the paint on offense and protecting the rim on defense. What’s transpired recently is light years from that philosophy. “When I was a rookie, in pick-and-rolls every play was designed for bigs to pick-and-pop out to 15 feet—at most, 18 feet,” says Holiday. “What bigs are doing now, where there are a lot of guys shooting threes every night, they were not doing that when I came in.”
For most rookies—even No. 1 overall selections like Davis—the summer before your first year means toiling in Summer League against and with players who you won’t likely see come October, but for Davis, he spent his summer in London, playing for USA Basketball in the 2012 Olympics, becoming the second player since 1992 with no NBA experience to represent Team USA (Emeka Okafor was the first). Davis’ summer internship as the team’s 12th man allowed him to play with and learn from MVPs like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden en route to Olympic gold. Davis’ rookie year was productive (per game averages of 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 SPG and he was named to the All-Rookie First Team), but he was still raw and only gave a peek of what was to come.
Davis did not waste any time seeing his star rise. Making a big sophomore jump, Davis improved his numbers across the board— 20.8 PPG, 10 RPG, leading the League with 2.8 BPG—while getting his first All-Star nod even before he could buy a beer. Over the summer, Davis was tabbed for USA Basketball once again, this time for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Unlike his first go-around in international play where he primarily understudied behind veterans, Davis was the starter for the gold-medal-winning squad, averaging 12.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 2 BPG.
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The Brow continued to wow as Davis continued his rapid improvement. By year three, Davis upped his numbers to 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and leading the League again in swats at 2.9. The requisite AllStar selection followed, but more importantly, Davis was able to get the Pelicans into the postseason. That they were sacrificial lambs to the Warriors in the first round didn’t matter; Davis gained valuable experience and he shined (31.5 PPG (54 field goal percent and 90 percent on free throws), 11 RPG, 3 BPG) in his playoff debut.
After his playoff showing, big things were expected of Davis in 2015-16, but injuries caused him to miss 21 games and with it, the Pelicans to miss the postseason and not be able to build any momentum. Davis was still worthy of the All-Star Game for the third straight year as he put together a 24.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 2 BPG season.
Contrast that with current Holiday/Davis pick-and-rolls, which present a dizzying array of concerns for defenses. Since being given the green light by New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry to fire from the three-point arc, Davis has proven dangerous enough he must be guarded tightly at 23 feet. If an opponent devotes too much attention to stopping Holiday’s drives, Davis’ elite athleticism and leaping ability allow him to catch alley-oops almost no matter where the ball is tossed—or as Holiday says of lobs to Davis, “Just throw it somewhere in the arena and he’ll go get it”. The previous generation of Hall of Fame big men was led by low-post tacticians such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning. Even in 2009—when Orlando reached the NBA Finals by relying heavily on wing three-point shooters—the Magic roster was headlined by a conventional center. Oh, how times have changed. “Even Dwight Howard came out and said he wants to change his game,” notes Davis. “The game has definitely evolved, the way it has to be played. You’re not going to make it as a guy who just plays with his back to the basket.” With his University of Kentucky background and connection keeping him up to date on many of North America’s rising hoops stars, Davis often notices that many teens of similar size are trying to play just like him. In many ways, Davis is a prototype, a role model for future NBA power forwards and centers. “You watch college, high school and all of these kids who are ranked at maybe a Hoops Summit,” Davis says, “and all of the bigs are shooting threes, dribbling up the floor, getting their teams into plays. I’ve heard a couple younger guys say they’d like to mimic their games after Anthony Davis, and [my reaction is] like, ‘Wow.’ That’s always a good feeling for me. You see it all the time, that you’ve kind of changed the game.” It’s mind-boggling to think of the NBA a decade from now overflowing with Davis types, a development that likely would make the League even more popular than it already is. But some Pelicans players aren’t necessarily convinced there are more Davises on the way, simply because the package he brings to the court is so extraordinarily rare. “Guys will try to be like AD coming up, especially with the social-media wave we have now,” says New Orleans guard Ian Clark. “But it’s really hard to replicate some of the things he does. He’s just one of those special athletes.” “There’s going to be a kid with the same measurements of AD that gets drafted with that idea in
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Fantasy basketball enthusiasts always valued Davis, but this season propelled Davis into top-three pick status in most drafts. He made good for those who picked him first in any fantasy draft by opening the season with an almost 5x5 performance: 50 points, 16 rebounds, 7 steals, 5 assists and 4 blocks. For the season, Davis added 4 points to a steady 24PPG production and good health (a career-best 75 games played). Add to that his routine 10-plus boards (11.8, to be exact), good shooting (50 percent) and blocks/steals (2.2/1.3), and you have the makings of a fantasy stud. Being an All-Star with that level of production is a given, but Davis one-upped that: He set the record for All-Star scoring with 52 points and being named the All-Star MVP in front of the hometown fans in New Orleans. Davis topped off the big season with his first All-NBA First Team nod.
As impressive as Davis’ growth has been, he’s only been refining the natural parts of his game over the past five years. This season saw Davis begin to experiment with a three-point shot to go with his already deadly game of face-up runners, swoops to the baskets and of course ability to catch any ball around the rim to convert into dunks. His scoring average remained elite at 28.1 PPG and he was still blocking shots (NBA-best 2.6 per game), but you could see that he was looking to expand his repertoire. The Pelicans found themselves back in the postseason and Davis picked up where he left off in his last playoffs, albeit with better results. He dominated Portland in the first round, putting up 33 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.8 BPG and 1.8 SPG, in a fourgame sweep. Next came the eventual champs again, but Davis was able to muster a moral victory with one win in the series, one in which he put up Supermanlike numbers of 27.8 points, 14.8 boards, 2.2 steals, 2 blocks and 2 assists. Again, Davis would be named to All-NBA First Team.
mind, of getting the next AD,” forward Solomon Hill predicted. “I just hope for that kid that he doesn’t think he has to be AD. But if a team can get the closest thing to AD, that’s still a win.” “I think he’s the beginning of a trend and there are those types out there,” says Holiday, “but at the same time, I’m really not sure if anyone will be as good as Anthony to do it in the way he does.” As elite of a player as Davis already is—he finished third in MVP voting in 2017-18 and is a frontrunner to win his first MVP this season—Holiday believes there are still areas for Davis to improve in the coming years, a frightening prospect for opponents. “He can get better at shooting pull-up jumpers, or taking a rebound and going coast-to-coast, because he’s a freak of nature,” says Holiday, who has played with Davis for six seasons. “You see guards like James Harden or Steph (Curry) pull up from three, and I think Anthony has that in his game. It just might take him some time.” Speaking of time, among the 10 players on HOOP’s All-Decade team,
With five All-Star nods, three All-NBA selections (two First Team) and the Pelicans looking like strong contenders in the West, all signs point to Davis capturing an MVP, an award that he almost seems destined to win at some point. At just 25, Davis’ game is still burgeoning, with the two areas of growth being the three-point shot and playmaking. If he succeeds in both, you can pencil Davis into another decade of greatness.
Davis’ youth gives him the best chance to also be a member of the magazine’s 2020s squad. When asked if he’s thought about how long he’d like to play, Davis made it clear that he plans to be in an NBA uniform throughout the entire next decade—and possibly beyond. “I want to play until I can’t play anymore,” he says. “That’s my goal: to play until I can’t walk, to play until the wheels fall off, or until the NBA kicks me out of the League. This is a dream for me, to play in the NBA at this elite level.” Like every player, Davis’ athleticism will wane in his 30s, but he’s continually improving in areas—ballhandling, shooting, passing—that aren’t as negatively impacted by Father Time. That approach helped Kevin Garnett, one of Davis’ all-time favorite players, flourish late in his career, including leading Boston to a championship in 2008 at age 32. So when it’s time to pick the next All-Decade squad, don’t be surprised if we’re having this conversation again. After all, Davis will still only be 35.
054 ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; MICHAEL GONZALES; LAYNE MURDOCH JR./NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
By Rob Peterson #9
ou have picked up this magazine and you have opened it to read words about Kevin Durant, specifically his place on the HOOP Magazine All-Decade team. As an NBA fan, you knew Durant would be on this team because his picture is on the cover; or, even if the cover were blank with only the words “All-Decade Team,” you knew there would be a story on Durant because…well, duh, he’s Kevin Durant. He’s one of the best small forwards in NBA history. Of course he’s going to make an All-Decade team. Heck, if they had an NBA at 70 team, he’d be on that, too. Easy. True, and this piece will be mainly about Kevin Durant and his impact on the NBA over the last decade. But as we examine Durant’s brilliance on the court, you need to know that as much as this story is about Durant, it’s also a story about you—yes, you (or rather us, NBA fans) and how you—or we— look at superstars in this age of 24/7/365 coverage of the League. Things have changed, and few things have changed more than how you perceive Durant, quite possibly the greatest scorer of his generation.
But enough about you for now. Let’s talk about what Durant has achieved in the 4,700-square feet he has called his workspace over the last decade. To justify his placement on this team, here are Durant’s impressive numbers and numerous awards since his first season in the NBA. Take a deep breath because we’re diving in: 2012 All-Star MVP 4-time NBA scoring champ 2013-14 NBA MVP 3-time NBA Finals participant 9-time All-Star 2-time NBA champion in 2017 and 2018 8-time All-NBA 2-time Finals MVP In 2010, at age 21, he became the youngest player to win a scoring title. He would go on to win three more, becoming one of five players to win the scoring title at least four times. He is one of only five players to score 20,000 points before his 30th birthday. He’s scored more points—19,289— in the last 10 seasons than anyone not named LeBron James (who has 20,349), but averaged more per game (27.9) than anyone, including LeBron
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DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
The start of the decade also marked the beginning of Durant going from a talented stringbean to a player with MVP potential. It’s often said that there’s a big jump from being a 15 PPG scorer to a 20 PPG one to a 25 PPG one. Well, Durant started out as a 20 PPG as a rookie, went to 25 in his second year and jumped right to an NBA-best 30.1 in his third season without breaking a sweat. The erratic shooting and shot selection that plagued him his rookie year was gone, as Durant was confident in his shot, shooting .476 overall while making threes at a .365 clip and making 90 percent of his free throws. Durant made his All-Star debut in the most attended All-Star Game ever, inside the 108,713seat Cowboys Stadium in Texas, the state where Durant played his college ball. Durant would get his first taste of the postseason as he helped lead the Thunder to a 50-32 season that was only good for an eighth seed in a crowded West. He struggled with his shooting, but still averaged 25 a game in a six-game loss to the Lakers. That season, Durant was named to the All-NBA First Team. Later that summer, Durant was the face of USA Basketball in the FIBA World Cup as he paced the team in scoring (22.8 PPG) and led the country to a gold medal finish.
Durant firmly established himself as one of the preeminent scorers in the game with his second straight season of pacing the NBA in scoring with a 27.7 points per game season. Once again he was named to the West All-Star team, and this time around, he was a starter and more than willing to show the world his otherworldly scoring chops. Durant dropped 34 points, but was outshined by Kobe Bryant, who was playing in his homecourt in Los Angeles, for All-Star MVP. Durant helped Oklahoma City improve to 55 wins and a Northwest Division title, and even winning its first playoff series against Denver, where he averaged 32.4 a night. Memphis’ tough defense in the Semifinals gave Durant a harder time as he only put up 26.4 PPG, but it was enough to help the Thunder advance to the West Finals, where they ran into a peaking (and eventual champion) Dallas Mavericks squad. For the second straight year, Durant was named to the All-NBA First Team.
During the lockout that preceded the shortened the 2011-12 season, Durant stayed on the radar of fans with his Nike campaign of “Basketball Never Stops,” where he goes around looking for basketball games to take part in, which is based on Durant’s love for the game. It was also the year where his Nike signature shoe, the KD4, really gained traction among shoe enthusiasts. When the season began, Durant picked up where he left off, putting up his now-usual League-leading (for the third time) 28 PPG. He also boosted his rebounding to 6 per contest and started showing out some on defense (a combined 2.5 blocks and steals per game). In the 2012 All-Star Game, Durant outdueled LeBron James for his first All-Star MVP and a 152-149 West victory, each player scoring 36 points. Following the NBA formula of gradual growth, Durant helped the Thunder break through in the postseason, reaching the NBA Finals. They would be overwhelmed by Miami in five games, but Durant proved that he was capable of leading a team to a championship. The bitter end to the season was sweetened a bit over the summer as Durant was part of the 2012 USA Basketball squad that represented USA in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Playing with seven of the 10 players in our All-Decade Team, Durant and Team USA dominated the international field to a gold finish.
James. In those last 10 seasons, Durant is the only player to be in the top five of two-point field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, free-throw percentage, true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage. He’s also made 4,903 free throws, more than anyone else—James Harden, included—over this span. Not only that, Durant changed the perception of what a guy his size (6-9) and with his wingspan (7-5) can do on a basketball court. He’s devastating down on the block, especially when a smaller defender is caught on a switch. Dirk Nowitzki gets a lot of praise for his rarely-blocked one-footed jumper, but no one can block Durant’s stepback jumper, especially if you consider he’s about the same height as Nowitzki and—no shots—10 times more athletic. But Durant can also pull up in transition from deep. He can hit jumpers in your grille off the dribble in a half-court set. He can kill your team in a variety of ways. Yet any story of Durant’s last decade can’t ignore is his seismic, history-altering, and, to some of you, craven move from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors after the 2016 season. And this is where you come in because this where your perceptions of Durant have changed. Because if we look back at the start of his career, no one would have thought Durant, although built like one, would become a lightning rod. 057
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If things went according to the NBA stepping stone of progress, 2012-13 would be the one where Durant and the Thunder would be the last team standing at the mountaintop. After three seasons of growth and further progression in the playoffs, this would be the year for the Thunder and it looked every bit that way. The Thunder cruised to a No. 1 seed in the West with a 60-22 season, led by Durant’s deadeye shooting. Durant averaged 28.1 points on his first 50/40/90 season, shooting .510 from the field, .416 from three and .905 from the line. He finished second behind LeBron James in MVP voting and many thought we’d see a rematch—and a matchup we’d thought would dominate the decade—of the two MVP frontrunners in the Finals. It wasn’t to be as Durant’s All-NBA teammate Russell Westbrook would suffer an injury in the first round of the playoffs, leaving Durant unable to carry the Thunder past the Grizzlies in the Semifinals. Durant was named to the All-NBA First Team for the fourth consecutive year.
Without Westbrook for almost half the season, it was on Durant to keep the Thunder up. Fueled by last season’s disappointment and given the responsibility to do the heavy lifting all year, Durant shed the “scorer” label and became an all-around player who lifted his teammates. It would be his greatest individual season statistically to date: 32 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.3 SPG and 0.7 BPG on .503 shooting, .391 three-point shooting and .873 on free throws. Advanced metrics would show his dominance: 29.8 PER, 33 usage percentage, 14.8 Offensive Win Shares, 19.2 Win Shares, 8.4 Offensive Box Plus-Minus, 8.5 Value Over Replacement Player. The most telling was the final standings: at 59-23, the Thunder were just a game off from the previous season, and this was without their second-best player for half the season. All signs pointed to his first MVP, and ever humble, Durant made sure to include his teammates on the dais as he accepted his award and tearfully thanked his mom for the honor. The MVP trophy and Durant’s fifth straight All-NBA First Team, however, was little consolation to the Thunder losing to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in the West Finals.
In Oklahoma City, Durant and the Thunder seemed to be a match made in hoops heaven; a humble, budding superstar for a town thirsting for big-league acceptance. Consciously or not, Durant positioned himself as the antithesis to LeBron James, whose nationally televised breakup with the Cleveland Cavaliers in July 2010 came one day after Durant signed a multi-year extension with the Thunder. While James’ “Decision” dominated the national conversation not for the next few days, but the next couple of years, Durant’s decision to ink a multi-year extension with the Thunder barely received 300 words in most wire reports. He further endeared himself to fans when, at the ceremony where they were celebrating his MVP, he teared up when thanking his mother, Wanda, and telling her “You the real MVP.” Durant’s declaration has been memed to death, but if you go back and watch the speech, you will see a unique, genuine, and heartfelt moment that cemented his place in the NBA galaxy as the humble scoring machine with the cherubic face who loved his mom. Durant was a player you could root for. But when he went West, Durant, who had changed the perception of what a guy his size can do on the basketball court, also changed the perception of how a champion—and a championship team— should be built. Many fans still cling to the notion that champions should be built organically, through the draft and front office moves. Find a superstar, then draft well, maybe sign a complementary free agent, watch team chemistry grow. There seemed to be a rhythm to winning titles: struggle, reach the doorstep of a
If the previous season was his best individual season, this one was Durant’s worst. Even Durant calls it “his toughest year I’ve had playing basketball.” It stemmed from a foot injury that caused him to miss 17 games to open the season, followed by another related procedure on the same foot that ended the season for Durant. The reigning MVP would only play in 27 games and the Thunder would fall out of a postseason berth.
After a lost season, Durant was primed for a redemption year. He showed little rust from the onset and was back to his MVP ways with a 28.2 PPG, 8,2 RPG, 5 APG with a block and steal a night, while maintaining his shooting brilliance (.505/.387/.898). He played in his seventh All-Star Game and was back in the All-NBA (Second Team) Team. For the fourth time, Durant helped lead the Thunder to a Conference Finals, and for the third time, they would be stalled there. Against a historically great 73-9 Golden State Warriors team, Durant looked every bit the best player, leading all scorers with 30 PPG, but was unable to win Game 7, setting the stage for one of the biggest heel turns since LeBron in 2010. In the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, Durant helped Team USA finish atop the basketball world for his second Olympic gold medal.
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After falling to the Warriors in a bitterly-contested seven-game series, no one anticipated Durant to sign with Golden State, but he did exactly that. By joining a 73-win team, Durant was like Superman crossing the DC-Marvel line to team up with the Avengers. OKC fans—and players, most notably former sidekick Russell Westbrook—felt spurned. NBA fans were livid at KD “breaking the NBA parity structure.” LeBron James and the Cavs must’ve collectively sighed, knowing that they put everything they had into defeating the Warriors, only to have them add arguably the second-best player in the League to the team. All that aside, Durant was easily absorbed into the Warriors’ winning ways, averaging a 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. All the attention from his fellow All-Star teammates afforded Durant plenty of open looks and a career-best 54 percent shooting season and allowed him to dabble in rim-protecting, where he posted 1.6 blocks a night. MVP consideration would not come on a stacked squad, but Durant did make the All-NBA Second Team. As expected, the Warriors would easily win the championship, giving Durant his first ring as he was named the Finals MVP.
In year two of the Hamptons Five, Durant continued to put up ridiculous numbers on one of the greatest teams ever assembled. He upped his scoring from the previous year, bumping it up to 26.4 PPG as he just missed his second 50/40/90 season with .516 shooting, .419 three-point shooting and .889 free throw shooting. On Jan. 10, 2018, Durant became the second-youngest player (behind LeBron) to reach the 20,000-point plateau. The postseason was another foregone conclusion, the only blip coming in a seven-game affair against the Houston Rockets where Durant averaged 30.4 PPG. The fourth CavsDubs Finals would end in another short five games, and see Durant be named Finals MVP once again.
title, fail, try again, break through, then hug the Larry O’Brien Trophy, tears running down your face. It’s not as if Durant hadn’t done all of that—except win a title. He took his only trip to the Finals with Oklahoma City in 2012, and he and fellow future League MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook were steamrolled by LeBron James’ Heat. After that Finals appearance, Durant and the Thunder were never able to get back to the pinnacle, let alone to cross that championship threshold. Harden was traded in 2012. Westbrook and Durant suffered injuries at different times that left one of them carrying the superstar burden alone. If he remained in OKC past 2016, it looked as if Durant would eventually be another name in a long line of Hall of Famers who won scoring titles—Pete Maravich, George Gervin, Adrian Dantley, Alex English, Bernard King, Dominique Wilkins, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady, among others—but didn’t win an NBA title. In that summer of 2016, when he saw his opportunity, like an open corner three-pointer, Durant took it. He joined a 73-win team and became its alpha. Those back-to-back titles with back-to-back Finals MVPs are rare. He’s one of 11 players with multiple Finals MVPs, and one of six to do it two years in a row.
In what could be his final year as a Warrior, Durant is looking to add to his ring count before he possibly leaves for what would definitely be less greener pastures. Speculation has it that he wants to challenge himself to carry a lesser squad to the title. While Durant’s legacy is cemented as one of the greatest to play, many continue to question his rings as a result of him jumping onto the Warriors’ bandwagon. Whether he decides to stay or leave, you can be certain, he’ll be well on his way to joining the 30K club in the next decade.
“Kevin is the ultimate luxury,” Kerr said after the Warriors’ Game 1 win over the Rockets in last season’s Western Conference Finals. “A play can break down and you just throw him the ball. He can get you a bucket as well as anybody on earth. This is why anyone would want him on their team. “You think about a couple years ago, we’re in the Finals and we couldn’t quite get over the hump. Kevin’s a guy who puts you over the hump. I don’t know what you do to guard him. He can get any shot he wants.” And for some of us, that’s the problem. Durant has made the Warriors feel inevitable. In changing his own story, he altered the championship narrative for the past two seasons, denying us the drama we seek at the end of each season. Durant also hasn’t helped himself by having burner accounts on Twitter and Instagram to clap back at critics. And for many it’s not a good look that he’s complaining he’s not getting enough individual credit for his defense as he did in an interview as the Warriors opened training camp for this season. But it’s clear Durant didn’t join the Warriors to make friends. He did it to make history his story, and it doesn’t change the enormous impact Durant has had on the NBA over the last decade—whether we like it or not. 059
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By Holly MacKenzie #32
s Russell Westbrook enters the 11th year of his NBA career, his first decade in the League might best be punctuated by an exclamation point. The explosive takeoff before a rim-shaking dunk and the equally explosive yell that follows! The soul-crushing moment of realization from an opponent who learns that there is nothing that will stop Westbrook from getting to the space on the floor he desires! His eclectic, loud and almost always unpredictable sartorial choices! Even the media scrums abruptly finished often without warning! And, of course, the most aggressively stat-packed triple-doubles the League has ever seen! Since being drafted fourth overall in 2008 by the Seattle SuperSonics—who relocated and became the Oklahoma City Thunder just six days later—Westbrook’s career has been defined by extremes. Nothing is lukewarm when Westbrook is involved. As the current NBA era of team-oriented, long-distance sharpshooters has come to be, the idea of what a superstar looks like has largely changed along with it. The solo, volume-shooting scorer has largely seemed to fade away in today’s League, making 060 ZACH BEEKER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
Westbrook’s third year saw a jump in scoring, going from 16.1 to a 20-PPG scorer (21.9). Combined with Durant’s 27.7 average, the two became a 50-PPG tandem. Westbrook received some national attention for his ascent; he made his debut on both the All-Star team and All-NBA Team (second team). The Thunder won 55 games and went to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the eventual champs, the Dallas Mavericks, in five games.
Continuing the momentum from the previous season, Westbrook kept the same production from his breakthrough year, while again making the All-Star squad and All-NBA Second Team. He helped the Thunder make the quick breakthrough from a 22-win team before the start of the decade all the way to the NBA Finals. The Thunder only mustered one win in the series, but Westbrook had a monster 43-point Game 4.
After grabbing the reins of the starting point guard spot during his rookie year—where he finished with a spot on the All-Rookie team—Westbrook continued his come-up. Westbrook’s biggest improvement came from his ability to create for others, improving from 5.3 APG to 8 in his second year and firmly establishing himself as the sidekick to Kevin Durant as the Thunder posted a 50-win season.
room for freewheeling offense and movement. Threes, layups and free throws have become king. In the midst of this change, Westbrook has remained steadfast in his approach. With his personal speedometer set to maximum speed at all times, critics can sometimes confuse reckless with relentless. From making up one-half of the one-two punch with Kevin Durant that made it to the Finals once—losing to a more experienced LeBron James-led Miami Heat squad—and Western Conference Finals four times, to taking over the reins and going it alone after Durant left for the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook has proudly worn the Thunder uniform each night. Westbrook breaking NBA records that have endured for decades, becoming only the second NBA player to average a triple-double for the duration of a season (shouts to Oscar Robertson in 1961-62), shows his solo brilliance and determination. That he could do it in today’s era only makes it more special. Westbrook is both a throwback NBA superstar and a futuristic one-man wrecking crew contained within a jacked, 6-3 point guard’s body. He finished the 2016-17 NBA season averaging 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. In today’s NBA, this isn’t simply
averaging a triple-double for the season, it’s stuffing that triple-double down the throat of your opponent. During the 2016-17 season, he set a record with three triple-doubles with at least 50 points scored. His final triple-double of the regular season came in game 80 of 82. His final line: 50 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and a game-winner at the buzzer to eliminate the Denver Nuggets from the postseason. Two months after the Thunder were eliminated from the postseason by the Houston Rockets, Westbrook was awarded with his first NBA MVP award. Much like his game, he willed the voters into giving him the MVP, putting up numbers that couldn’t be ignored. A season later, Westbrook became the first player to average a tripledouble in multiple seasons. Fresh off signing a five-year extension with the Thunder, the seven-time All-Star averaged 25.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists during the 2017-18 season. Like the season before, despite Westbrook’s herculean efforts, the Thunder were eliminated in the first round of the postseason, this time by the Utah Jazz in a six-game series. Though the Thunder haven’t yet duplicated the postseason success the team had with Durant and Westbrook, it hasn’t been for lack of effort from 061
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The high-usage Westbrook we currently know first found roots this season. For the first time, Westbrook led the Thunder in shots taken and his 23.2 PPG, 7.4 APG and 5.2 RPG was a preview of his production. Jordan Brand recognized Westbrook’s blossom, inking him to the prestigious brand to be the face of the Air Jordan line. For the third consecutive year Westbrook earned All-Star and All-NBA Second Team, as he helped get the No. 1 seed in the West for the Thunder, but the season ended on a sour note as Westbrook would suffer a knee injury in the second game of the playoffs, causing him to miss the rest of the postseason.
With Durant suiting up just 27 games, this season was when Westbrook took the reins of the Thunder. It wasn’t quite the triple-double season yet, but it was one where the seeds of whether someone could duplicate Oscar Robertson’s magical tripdub season were planted. Russ’ 28.1 PPG, 8.6 APG and 7.3 RPG (and 2.1 SPG) season featured 11 triple-doubles and a streak of four games with one (tying Michael Jordan’s record). Returning to the All-Star Game (his fourth one), Westbrook made amends for missing the last one with a 41-point explosion that earned him MVP honors, and was named to the All-NBA Second Team for the fourth time.
the Thunder superstar. In fact, Westbrook set the bar so high for himself a season before, his latest feat almost went under the radar, as far as recordsetting feats go. Westbrook plays with a bruising power that can belie the beauty in his efforts. More chaos than calm, that full-out, explosive power has resulted in multiple knee surgeries, broken bones (fractured finger, a fractured zygomatic arch on his cheekbone) ankle sprains, and more general wear and tear, but none resulting in a change to the way he plays. It can sometimes seem as if there are two different Westbrooks. As media demands grow and access continues to expand, the ever-constant media glare all but demands that NBA superstars play two games each day: one that takes place on the court, and then the one that happens in the locker room before tipoff and after the final buzzer. Westbrook often opts out of this secondary game. Or, he will cooperate to a point. He is quick to let a reporter know if he doesn’t see the value in a particular question, quicker still in ending a media scrum if a particular line of questioning persists. Westbrook doesn’t seem particularly aggrieved with his reputation for being prickly with the media, though. If Westbrook can be short on patience—and time—with the media, his approach to charitable endeavors and giving back couldn’t be more opposite. Over the past decade, countless children, schools and families in Oklahoma City have been aided and impacted by Westbrook’s
Westbrook inched closer to Big O status with 23.5 PPG, 10.4 APG and 7.8 RPG in his final season paired with Durant. His 18 triple-doubles paced the League again, and Westbrook continued his triple-doubling ways in the postseason, none bigger than the 36/11/11 night in Game 4 of the Western Finals that gave Oklahoma City a 3-1 series lead against Golden State. Things would fall apart as the Thunder would lose three straight in an otherwise bright season for Westbrook, who was an All-Star for the fifth time and finally cracked the All-NBA First Team.
generosity. From holiday events to basketball camps, Westbrook’s Why Not? Foundation has helped to enrich the lives of youth in Oklahoma City and Westbrook’s native Los Angeles, California. After winning the All-Star Game MVPs in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016, Westbrook donated the cars he received from Kia to families in need. A cause particularly dear to Westbrook has been literacy, and his foundation has opened 30 reading rooms in schools across Oklahoma City and Los Angeles. These events are often a Westbrook family affair, with Westbrook’s wife, parents and brother there to lend a personal helping hand. Though many assumed he would want the allure of a bigger city, perhaps the bright lights of his native Los Angeles, Westbrook has found comfort in the familiarity of Oklahoma City. His love for the city and his leadership style were proven this past offseason as Thunder teammate and coveted free agent Paul George shocked everyone when he elected to resign with Oklahoma City rather than leave for Los Angeles (like Westbrook, George also hails from L.A.). Whether the duo of Westbrook and George can propel the Thunder back to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since Durant’s exit remains to be seen. Regardless of what happens on court with the Thunder, despite our current Count the Rings mentality, Westbrook’s legacy will never be written solely by wins and losses. His on-court dominance, ironically, will not be remembered solely by his being the only player in NBA history to
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Westbrook valiantly rehabbed from his injury to only miss the first two game of the season. On Christmas Day, Westbrook recorded a triple-double against the Knicks. Another setback to his knee caused him to miss a likely All-Star selection, but he would finish with another Westbrook-like season of 21.8/6.9/5.7. The postseason would see Westbrook record a 40-point, 10-assist, 5-rebound and 5-steal game and average 26.7 PPG, 8.1 APG, 7.3 RPG, a preview of the things to come.
average triple-doubles in back-to-back seasons, either. As the chapter of Westbrook’s previous decade comes to a close to make way for the next, what stands out above all isn’t gaudy stat lines at all. On court, it is the intensity that permeates everything he touches and the ferocity that has met each obstacle presented to him. Off court, it is easy smiles and shared laughter accompanying a lasting impact from an athlete who is so much more than the driven point guard who often operates at arm’s length. Though the game means everything when he is playing it, once Westbrook leaves the arena, he has the perspective to see beyond it. Perhaps the best summation of the many juxtapositions of Westbrook comes from Westbrook himself. "The basketball stuff, that comes and goes,” he said. “For me, it’s always been about giving back, finding ways to impact the community where you come from and all across the world.”
If the previous years were a slow simmer, this season would be a full boil for Westbrook. The pent-up rage of people doubting the Thunder with Durant’s departure, the playoff disappointments and the chatter of how Robertson’s triple-double season would ever be duplicated came to a head as Westbrook was given the proverbial ball and asked to carry OKC. Westbrook carried a team like few have before. The biggest takeaway was the triple-double campaign of 31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 10.4 APG, but it was way more than the statistical anomaly that he would achieve 42 times. Westbrook accounted for 30 percent of the Thunder’s 106.6 points per game. He assisted on 57 percent of the team’s total baskets. He joined a small list of 10 players to ever crack the 30 PER mark. Westbrook set an NBA record with a 41.65 usage percentage, a mark even peak Mamba Mentality Kobe (in 2005-06, when he dropped his 81-point game) did not touch (Kobe’s usage was 38.84 that season). Westbrook’s 12.42 VORP (Value Over Replacement Player, a metric that measures one against a baseline average player over an 82 game season) was tops all time, better than even Michael Jordan’s legendary 1988-89 season. The MVP award at the end of the season was a foregone conclusion and 2016-17 is still the most Russell Westbrook season to date.
This is the most lowkey triple-double season of all time. Hell, a lot of folks didn’t even notice until after Westbrook’s 80 games that he pulled off the feat again with 25.4 PPG, 10.3 APG and 10.1 RPG. He didn’t even get a first-place vote for MVP, finishing a distant fifth place for the third tripdub season to date, and settled for an All-NBA Second Team spot.
Westbrook has always operated at peak-Westbrook form when he is looking to silence his doubters. After two seasons of critics saying his game is nothing but empty stats, that he’s a stat-chaser and that his teams can never win, Russ is on a mission to prove otherwise.
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By John Fawaz #22
DECOLLAGE Some of the biggest moments from 2010-present day
Decision, Part I
Mavericks win title
Speculation about where LeBron James would sign in 2010 began four years earlier—when he signed an extension with Cleveland in 2006. The 24/7 news cycle of free agency, the speculation beginning as soon as a player signs his first contract, it all originated with LeBron’s free agency. Never had a player of his caliber changed teams via free agency in his prime, and his move to Miami to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh heralded the era of “super teams.” The fervor behind the mystery of where LeBron would be headed was so great that it necessitated a prime time slot on ESPN for him to utter eight words: “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.” The sentence sparked outrage and vitriol— the now-familiar phenomenon of jersey burning as a way of scorned fans to cut ties with a sports star on social media can be traced back to this moment—but set the stage for redemption.
Dallas had one superstar (Dirk Nowitzki) while Miami had three, but the Mavericks had data and they weren’t afraid to use it. They became the best version of themselves at playoff time, going 16-5 in the postseason, including a sweep of the two-time defending champion Lakers and a 4-2 win over the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Let the Analytics Revolution begin.
Phil Jackson’s last season
Phil Jackson called the 2010-11 season his “last stand,” and the Lakers hoped to send their coach out with his fourth threepeat. The finale turned out not so grand as Dallas beat L.A. 4-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals, the first time a Jackson team had been swept. No matter the loss, Jackson retired with a coaching legacy that is unlikely to be matched—a record 11 NBA Championships in 20 seasons.
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Rose youngest MVP
“Why can’t I be the MVP of the League?” That was Derrick Rose’s response when asked what his expectations were for the 2010-11 season. He wasn’t being cocky (not his style), nor was he suffering from youthful overconfidence. No, Rose was just being prescient. He went on to average 25.0 points and 7.7 assists per game, garner 113 of 121 first-place votes, and, at age 22, become the youngest NBA MVP ever.
Knicks bring Melo home
Carmelo Anthony asked for a trade to New York, his birthplace. Denver, afraid of losing its superstar in free agency and getting nothing in return, tried to oblige him. It just took a while. Finally, after seven months, the Knicks acquired the 26-year-old Anthony as part of a blockbuster three-team deal involving 13 players and draft picks. Said Carmelo, “I’m coming home.”
Grizzlies Stun Spurs
Eighth seed versus top seed. A franchise with no playoff wins against a perennial title contender. The 2011 First Round series between Memphis and San Antonio seemed to offer little drama. But the Grizzlies’ rugged front line of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph helped limit the Spurs to 94 points per game as Memphis won the series in six games. It was only the second time an eighth seed beat a top seed in a best-of-seven series.
Yao Ming's last season
Few 7-footers could do what Yao Ming did on a court, and it’s hard to imagine any player matching his impact off it. Yao’s unique skill set and playful sense of humor attracted tens of millions of fans in China and around the globe. In nine seasons, he earned eight NBA All-Star selections, twice finishing as the top vote-getter.
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ALL-DECADE: 2010-2019 Lockout
July 1 is when free agency opens, but in 2011, a different set of negotiations dominated the headlines. The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement ended at midnight on that day, and without a new deal in place, the lockout commenced. It lasted 149 days before the players and owners reached a new agreement, resulting in a shortened season (66 games) that tipped off Christmas Day.
Celtics’ Big Three ends five-season run
In 2007, the Celtics paired long-time star Paul Pierce with former NBA MVP Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, one of the game’s top three-point shooters. The “Big Three” transformed Boston from a lottery team to perennial contender. In five seasons, the trio led the Celtics to five division titles, a .711 winning percentage, and two NBA Finals, including a victory in 2008 that gave the franchise its 17th championship and its first since 1986. Here’s hoping they all can reconcile one day to celebrate their achievements.
LeBron wins first title
The championship that had eluded LeBron James during his first eight seasons would not escape his grasp in 2012. He saw to that by scoring 30 points per game in the playoffs, rallying the Heat from a 3-2 deficit to defeat Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, and then leading Miami to four straight victories over the favored Thunder to win the NBA Finals 4-1. “This right here is the happiest day of my life,” said James.
Tom Benson buys New Orleans franchise
In 2010, the NBA bought the Hornets from owner George Shinn with an eye toward keeping the team in New Orleans. Enter Tom Benson, owner of the NFL’s Saints. In April 2012, Benson purchased the Hornets from the League, assuring that the franchise would stay in Louisiana. In 2014, they changed their name to the Pelicans, and in 2017, New Orleans hosted the NBA All-Star Game. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Linsanity grips Knicks and NBA
Early in 2012, the Knicks were off to a disappointing start and the NBA was still trying to recover from the lockout. Both just needed some Linsanity. As a Harvard grad, Jeremy Lin had an unlikely pedigree for an NBA player, but his quickness and moxie electrified arenas and made him a global phenomenon. Lin scored more points (136) in his first five NBA starts than any player in history.
Chris Paul transforms Clippers
Safe to say that the Clippers’ acquisition of Chris Paul 11 days before the start of the 2011-12 season was the biggest trade in franchise history. During the next six seasons, CP3 would lead Los Angeles to six playoff berths, five 50-win seasons, and two division titles, the best stretch in the franchise’s history.
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Ray Allen’s three-pointer in Game 6 helps Miami repeat
The 2013 NBA Finals went seven games, but it’s Game 6 no one will forget. Miami trailed San Antonio 95-92 in the final seconds when LeBron James missed a three. Chris Bosh grabbed the rebound amidst a sea of Spurs and found Ray Allen, who hit a corner trey over Tony Parker with 5.2 seconds left. The Heat went on to win in overtime, then won Game 7 to claim their second straight NBA title.
Nets move to Brooklyn
The Nets, who had spent nine seasons (19681977) in New York and even won two ABA titles during that time, returned to the city in 2012 with the opening of the Barclays Center. For the first time since 1957, Brooklyn was home to a professional sports team, playing in a state-of-the-art arena that provides one of the NBA’s most intimate settings for fans.
Clippers win first division title
The Clippers’ NBA journey had taken the franchise from Buffalo to San Diego to Los Angeles. The club celebrated some notable individual performances but had enjoyed limited team success. That began to change with the arrival of draft picks such as DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin and the trade for Chris Paul. Finally, in season 43, the 201213 Clippers claimed the franchise’s division title, which they clinched (fittingly) with a 109-95 victory over the Lakers.
Heat notch 27-game winning streak, second longest ever
The Heat were trying to defend their NBA title, but as March 2013 rolled around, they also found themselves chasing history. As Miami piled up victories, the Holy Grail of winning streaks—33 straight by the 1971-72 Lakers—came within sight, obscured only by increasingly determined foes and intensifying media attention. When the streak ended on March 27 in Chicago, Bulls fans celebrated like their team had just won a playoff series.
Thunder trade Harden
Oklahoma City’s loss to Miami in the 2012 NBA Finals was tempered by the fact that the Thunder assumed they would be returning soon. After all, they had the NBA’s most dynamic young trio in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. But four months later, that trio became a duo. Cap constraints prevented Oklahoma City from offering Harden the contract he sought, so the club dealt him to Houston, a trade that still reverberates today.
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Durant wins fourth scoring title/ first MVP
The Spurs were 10 seconds away from winning the 2013 NBA Finals when victory slipped away. Many assumed that was the last title chance for San Antonio’s aging trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. Think again. The Spurs not only returned to the 2014 NBA Finals, they dominated Miami 4-1, with 15 points their smallest margin of victory. Duncan became the first player to win NBA titles in three different decades.
In 2013-14, the Thunder’s Kevin Durant won his fourth scoring title in five seasons, and this one came with an added bonus—his first NBA MVP Award. He collected 119 of 124 first-place votes after posting career highs in scoring average (32.0 ppg), points (2,593), and three-pointers (192). “You sacrificed for us,” Durant said to his mom when receiving the award. “You’re the real MVP.”
Iguodala propels Warriors
The Warriors, heavy favorites in the 2015 NBA Finals, found themselves trailing the Cavaliers 2-1. Enter Andre Iguodala. Golden State’s sixth man, who had not started a game during the regular season, was inserted into the lineup, spurring the Warriors to three straight wins and the franchise’s first NBA title in 40 years. “He saved the season for us,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said of Iguodala, the unlikeliest NBA Finals MVP Award winner.
NBA ousts Sterling from L.A.
On April 29, 2014, NBA Commissioner banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for life, four days after the release of an audio recording in which Sterling made racist statements. The NBA ordered the sale of the team, and one month later former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer submitted the winning bid. Ballmer formally assumed control in August 2014, ending Sterling’s 33-year tenure as the Clippers’ owner.
Decision, Part II
LeBron James again became a free agent, only in 2014 few took notice. Almost everyone assumed he would re-sign with Miami—right up until he released a letter on SI.com announcing his return to Cleveland. “I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work,” James wrote. “My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”
Hawks post NBA’s first 17-0 month Even by NBA standards, the 19-game winning streak compiled by the 2014-15 Hawks was unique: Two wins in December 2014 followed by the first 17-0 month in NBA history. They won every game they played in January 2015, including three pairs of back-to-backs, which usually are streak killers. “It was fun winning and seeing how everybody embraced us, how the crowds and the fans reacted to the whole streak thing,” said Atlanta guard Jeff Teague.
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73 wins (Curry unanimous MVP)
73-9? Unthinkable. Not for the 2015-16 Warriors, who let everyone know what was on their mind by starting 29-1. Would they set the record? Would Steph Curry knock down 400 three-pointers in a season? Would Curry be the first unanimous MVP (his second trophy)? Yes, yes and yes, as team and star each had a regular season for the ages. “I’m proud of our guys for…trying to achieve something that’s never been done before—but more important, something that is truly great,” said Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who played on the 1995-96 Bulls team that went 72-10.
Kobe’s last game (60 points) and Duncan’s last game
Two NBA greats bid farewell in 2016, and fittingly, one did it with a flourish and one with barely a whisper. In the final game of his 20-season career, Kobe Bryant scored 60 points and then said goodbye to Laker fans with a midcourt valediction. After 19 seasons, Tim Duncan scored 19 points in San Antonio’s season-ending playoff loss to Oklahoma City. Two months later the Spurs announced his retirement.
Cavaliers win first NBA title
Memorable moments abound when a team delivers a city its first pro championship in 42 years. But “The Block” is the defining moment for the Cavaliers’ 2016 title run. LeBron James’ chasedown swat of Andre Iguodala’s layup with less than two minutes left in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals preserved an 89-89 tie, and Cleveland went on to defeat Golden State 93-89. The Cavaliers became the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals.
Paul George comeback
That Pacers forward Paul George scored 41 points in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game was impressive. What put his performance in another category entirely was that he did it just 18 months after suffering a career-threatening leg injury. “For me to be here, just getting back as an All-Star is special,” said George. “But to be able to put on a show and have fun and enjoy this moment, get back to playing how I played pre-injury, is special.”
Flip Saunders (1955-2015)
As a father, husband, son, coach, team executive, mentor, and colleague, Flip Saunders made a difference in the lives of countless people. Which is why his death from cancer, two days before the start of the 2015-16 season, had such an impact on so many NBA players and coaches. “Flip you were one of a kind,” Kevin Love wrote on Instagram. “Great basketball mind and an even better human being.”
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Kevin Durant Joins Warriors
Westbrook averages triple-double
Isaiah Thomas’ 2016-17 season
Toronto hosts 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend
Devin Booker scores 70
Dirk surpasses 30,000 points
If “The Hamptons 5” sounds like a super group, it is—only not of musicians but of hoopsters. It came about when four of the Warriors’ stars traveled to Kevin Durant’s New York vacation spot to recruit the Thunder star. Durant’s decision to sign with Golden State generated a tweetstorm, which he anticipated. “We live in a superhero kind of world,” he said. “Either you’re the villain or you’re the superhero in this position and I know that.”
Of course Toronto hosted the first NBA All-Star Game played outside the United States. The city had been the site of the first NBA game (in 1946), and had embraced the Raptors during that franchise’s two decades. The memorable weekend included a spectacular Dunk Contest, Klay Thompson edging his Splash Brother Stephen Curry for the three-point title, the last of Kobe Bryant’s 18 All-Star appearances, and an MVP performance from Russell Westbrook.
And then there was one. The departures of James Harden in 2012 and Kevin Durant in 2016 left Russell Westbrook to carry the Thunder. Already a blur on the court, he somehow played even faster, stopping just long enough to collect the 2016-17 NBA MVP Award. Westbrook tallied 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game to become only the second player to average a tripledouble for a season.
The list of NBA players with 70-point games is short: Elgin Baylor, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain (six times), David Robinson, and David Thompson. On March 24, 2017, Devin Booker added his name to that select group. The Suns’ guard, in only his second season, went off for 70 points against the Celtics, including 51 in the second half. At age 20, Booker was by far the youngest to reach the 70-point threshold.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge described Isaiah Thomas’ performance in 2016-17 as a “legendary season” and it’s hard to argue. The 5-foot 9-inch guard dismantled defenses with his quickness, hesitation dribbles, and long-range jumpers. Thomas finished fifth in the MVP voting after posting the first 2,000-point season and the highest scoring average (28.9 ppg) by a player under six feet.
On March 7, Dirk Nowitzki became the sixth NBA player to surpass 30,000 points, and he did it with his signature fadeaway jumper. It was the latest milestone for the Mavericks’ star, the first European player to win the NBA MVP Award. In 2018-19, he embarked on his 21st season with the Mavericks, the most by any player with one franchise.
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Harden's MVP season
James Harden has been posting MVP-like numbers since he arrived in Houston. During his first six seasons (2012-18) there, he racked up more points, rebounds and assists than any other player in the League. It only seemed a matter of time before he collected his first NBA MVP Award, which he did for 2017-18 after becoming only the second player to average at least 30 points, 8.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.7 steals in a season.
“Greek Freak” emerges
Compared to Kevin Durant by some and called a “massive project” by others, Giannis Antetokounmpo arrived in Milwaukee in 2013 as an unknown quantity with a great nickname. Now the only question is, “Does this kid have a ceiling?” The answer, according to Durant, is no. “He could end up being the best player to ever play if he really wanted to. That's pretty scary to think about. But he’s by far my favorite player to watch.”
Warriors third title in four seasons
The 2017-18 Warriors did not win 73 games. They didn’t even have the best record in their conference. But it didn’t matter. They rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the Western Conference Finals to defeat Houston, then swept Cleveland in the 2018 NBA Finals. Golden State became only the seventh team to win three NBA titles in four seasons, securing dynasty status.
“Trust the Process” produces in Philly
The Sixers had gone from a playoff team in 201213 to mediocre, then bad, and finally historically bad. “They tell us every day, ‘Trust the process,’” a Sixers player said in a 2015 interview, and fans howled with derision on every platform possible. But you gotta have faith. The 2017-18 Sixers went 52-30 and almost beat the Celtics in the playoffs. With a wide-open East this season, maybe it’s time for Philadelphia to process a trip to the Finals.
LeBron reaches No. 5 in all-time scoring
LeBron, by almost all accounts, is in the “Rushmore” of NBA greats. He took a step in getting himself on the Rushmore of NBA scorers by passing Wilt Chamberlain on the scoring ledger for fifth place on Nov. 14, 2018, when he scored his 31,420th point. Next up for LeBron is Michael Jordan (32,292) at No. 4, Kobe Bryant (33,643) at No. 3, Karl Malone (36,928) at No. 2 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) at the top.
Vince Carter flies into the 25K club Vince Carter was a big-time scorer at the start of his career, but his longevity is the reason he became the 22nd member of the illustrious 25K scoring club. In fitting fashion, Carter entered the club via a dunk, when he followed up a miss with a putback slam on Nov. 21, 2018, while playing his 21st NBA season.
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By Michael Bradley #53
t is a measure of Chris Paul’s value to the Houston Rockets and his status within the NBA that his hamstring injury late in Game 5 of the 2018 NBA Western finals is viewed as a significant turning point in that series, those playoffs and the Association’s future. Just imagine if Paul hadn’t hurt himself as the Rockets were wrapping up a victory that would give them a 3-2 lead over Golden State. There is no guarantee Houston would have captured one of the ensuing two contests, but given the fact that Houston had won two games in a row—including one in Oakland—and that Paul had hit for 20 or more points three times and 10 or more boards twice(!) in the five games, things were looking good for the Rockets.
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DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
Healthy again, a full season of Paul meant good things for New Orleans. Averaging 15.9 points, 9.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game, Paul was back to being a top-flight point guard. He played in his fourth All-Star Game, while finding himself back on the All-NBA (third) Team and Second Team All Defensive. In the playoffs, Paul showcased the full extent of his game to the Lakers in the series, putting up 22 PPG, 11.5 APG and 1.8 SPG, while shooting a blistering .545 from the field and .474 from deep, before losing in six games.
So let's play the "what if?" game. What if Paul stays healthy, and the Rockets beat the Dubs? What if they take care of Cleveland in the Finals? What if? Well, first off, the dynasty talk about the Warriors is turned down. The NBA might just have looked at Mike D’Antoni’s system and decided it was the way to play. Suddenly, teams would have been taking ridiculous amounts of three-pointers, like the Rockets did last year, and not caring if opponents made 46 percent of their shots. And Paul and James Harden would be viewed differently throughout the League, because they would own rings. That’s one valuable hamstring. And quite a valuable player. Forget about the nearly $325 million Paul will have made when his most recent four-year contract extension expires after the 2021-22 season (when he is scheduled to earn a whopping $44.2 mil). Paul’s value goes well beyond the bank vault, as fans of the three teams for which he has played during his 13plus year career can corroborate. It’s no coincidence the Clippers reached the playoffs for the first time in six seasons— and only the second in 15 years—as soon as
At the start of the decade, Paul was still in the midst of a barbershop debate with Deron Williams for the title of best point guard. This season gave Team D-Will some ammo as Paul was dinged up and suited up only half the season. In the 45 games he did play, he was every bit CP3 though, averaging 18.7 PPG, 10.7 APG with 2.1 SPG, and was selected to play in his third All-Star Game.
After the impression Paul made on the Lakers in the playoffs, Los Angeles decided to pull off a trade with the Hornets for Paul before the season, but the NBA—specifically David Stern, who was serving as the franchise’s de facto governor during an ownership void—voided the trade that would have paired the five-time champion Kobe Bryant with Paul. A few days later, Paul did find his way to Los Angeles, but to the Clippers this time, teaming Paul up with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Lob City was an immediate sensation as Paul lobbed and ooped the perennially struggling Clippers to the postseason. Numbers aside (19.8 PPG, 9.1 APG, 2.5 SPG), Paul helped the Clippers establish an identity with his All-Star play and leadership. Paul got the Clippers to win their second playoff series (a 4-3 victory over Memphis) before bowing out to San Antonio. At the end of the season, Paul was recognized for his play with All NBA First Team and First Team All-Defensive selections. Later that summer, Paul took part in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, helping Team USA secure a gold medal.
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Hopes were high as Paul was beginning his second season in Los Angeles. Again, Paul played the role of the steady hand in guiding the Clippers to a 5626 season (the first of an unprecedented run of five seasons of at least 50 wins for the Clippers). Paul put up nightly averages of 16.9 points to go with 9.7 dimes and 2.4 steals, earning another All-Star berth. His sixth All-Star was extra special as he took MVP honors for the game. In a game showcasing big scorers, it was Paul’s deft quarterbacking (20 points and 15 dimes) that paved the way for a West victory. At the end of the year, Paul again secured spots on both the All-NBA First Team and AllDefensive First Team.
By Paul’s third season in Los Angeles, the Clippers had fully overtaken the Lakers as the best team at Staples. They had bested them the previous season and 201314 would see even more separation as the Clippers sat atop the Pacific Division while the Lakers tumbled to the bottom. Paul’s 19.1 PPG, and League-leading 10.7 APG and 2.5 SPG, fueled the Clippers to a franchise-best 47 wins and a third seed in the West. Paul was again First Team All-NBA and All-Defensive, and an All-Star. The hopes were high for the Clippers heading into the postseason. They dispatched an upand-coming Warriors team, but fell in the next round to Oklahoma City.
What makes a great point guard so valuable isn’t the flashy plays (even though he has plenty of those), but the dependability of having a playmaker who sets his teammates perfectly while keeping the turnovers down. After 10 NBA seasons, Paul has been a rock, always averaging around 18 points a game while dishing out about 10 assists, playing good defense and keeping the turnovers to a minimum (for his career, he’s averaged 2.4 a game, an amazing number for someone tasked with all of the ballhandling and decision-making). In his 11th season, it was clockwork for Paul: 19.5 PPG, 10 APG, 2.1 SPG. The results were also in line: Another 50-plus win season, All-Star selection, All-NBA (second team), All-Defensive First Team.
A good shooter his entire career, this would be Paul’s finest shooting campaign season in his career. He was close to the vaunted 50/50/90 shooting slash line (field goals/three-pointers/free throws) with .485/.398/.900 over the full 82 games. Per usual, he was close to his 20-points and 10-assists standard with 19.1 and 10.2, to go along with 2.9 steals. A trip to the All-Star Game was a given, as was an All-Defensive First Team nod and All-NBA Second Team selection. Off the court, Paul committed to make his mark in Los Angeles, like he still continues to do in New Orleans (and now in Houston) through community work. Through his Chris Paul Family Foundation, Paul helped raise money to open and refurbish community centers, award scholarships and raise money for philanthropic causes. He was awarded the NBA Cares Community Assist Award and ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian of the Year.
Paul arrived. And the Rockets made just their second conference finals appearance in 21 years after he came to town for the 2017-18 campaign. Even when he was in New Orleans, a tenure characterized by the post-Katrina trauma and a relocation to OKC, Paul helped the team win a division title and a playoff series, something the franchise couldn’t accomplish for another 10 years. Paul may not have any rings, but he certainly is a winner. And there is no disputing how much of an impact he has had on the teams for which he has played. Though he has never averaged more than 22.8 PPG—and that was way back in his fourth season—Paul has led the League in assists four times and in steals six seasons. He’s always among the League leaders in PER, which measures per-minute production. And he looks pretty good in those insurance commercials, too. Perhaps Paul’s most impressive feat has come during his time with the Rockets. When he signed with Houston, many wondered
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This would be his final season in Los Angeles and his legacy there will be a bittersweet one. On one hand, Paul’s time in L.A. transformed a struggling franchise around into a perennial contender that averaged a winning percentage of .656. Unfortunately the regular season success was blighted by an annual tradition of bowing out in the postseason, never even once making it past the Semifinals. Through it all, Paul was a constant, as were his numbers. In his final Clippers season, he averaged 18.1 PPG, 9.2 APG and 2 SPG. That season Paul reached two milestones: 15,000 points and 8,000 assists. He became the third-fastest player (Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson being the other two) to reach those marks.
When he signed with Houston, there were questions about how Paul would pair with a ball-dominant guard like James Harden. Those questions were largely answered as his addition propelled the Rockets to a League-best 65 wins. Individually, Paul’s numbers were right around his stellar career averages (18.6 PPG, 7.9 APG and 1.7 SPG), but the accolades were not there. For the first time this decade, Paul was left off the All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defensive. His Rockets had the Warriors on the ropes in Paul’s first Western Conference Finals, but a hamstring injury left Paul unable to play the final two games of the series after the Rockets held a 3-2 series lead, and the Rockets wound up losing in seven games.
how he would be able to get along with Harden, who like Paul, enjoys having the ball in his hands. Critics predicted doom for the team and envisioned nights in which the two guards would stage actual oncourt battles for possession. Instead of catastrophe, the two players coexisted well. How well? The Rockets finished second in the League in points per game and led the NBA in points per 100 possessions and wins. Paul’s scoring and assist numbers may have waned a bit, but he and Harden led the Rockets to the NBA’s best record, and but for that hamstring might have won it all. Paul doesn’t have his ring—yet—but there is no denying his impact on the game. His style has been called “organized playground” by no less an authority than San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Do not forget that his arrival in L.A. triggered winning, but it also launched the excitement of Lob City. His presence helped turn a moribund franchise into one of the League’s most vibrant teams. His ability to break down defenders and then launch aerials to be collected and flushed by Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and anyone else with the liftoff skills necessary to reach the rim accomplished the seemingly impossible: the Clipper Ship became more interesting in Hollywood than the Lakers. Growing up, Paul’s idol was Allen Iverson, another “six-foot” point guard with skills that went far beyond the old-fashioned job description of distributing the rock and hitting the occasional open shot. He even got his hair braided, a la A.I., before an important high school
At 33, Paul is at an age where point guards—even elite ones like himself—begin to show their age. So far, he’s remained at his lofty standard. He’ll finish the decade having cemented himself as one of the top three at his position. Points won’t be how a top PG will be judged, but when it’s all said and done, 20,000 is within striking distance. More than likely, Paul will become the sixth player to crack 10K in assists and has a shot at 2,500 thefts.
game. (His dad made him take them out.) Hairstyles (for a day) and size notwithstanding, the two were different types of point guards with a similar effect on the court. Iverson asserted his dominance by scoring points, regardless of how many bigger and taller defenders stood in his way. Paul asserted his dominance by controlling the tempo of the game and constantly probing the defense to find holes to exploit, regardless of how many bigger and taller defenders stanmd in his way. Paul does have the benefit of playing at a time where defenses can no longer corral ballhandlers with impunity. His game is about a blend of everything, not just a hard-boiled scoring approach. He can defend, assist, rebound AND put the ball in the basket. And he has just enough, ahem, stuff in his game to make his style palatable to those for whom form outplays function. His use of the cut (or yo-yo) dribble to clear space and confound defenders provides him with enough flash credibility that when he has to keep things in order, people don’t complain. How could they these days? The Rockets have gone from an entertaining, Beard-centric team to one that could have (should have?) wound up in the NBA Finals last year. Even at 33, Paul is among the point guard vanguard in the NBA, because he is capable of being a straight practitioner of the position and his ability to thrill with his style and flash. There aren’t many players who can do both, and do them consistently for nearly a decade-and-a-half. There’s more to come, especially if that hamstring behaves. 081
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By Darryl Howerton #21
ames Harden always believed in himself. When others praised him as the 2011-12 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, the 6-5, 220-pound guard off the Oklahoma City Thunder bench smiled under that bushy beard of his, knowing he had more to offer. Harden always patterned his game after fellow unsung great Manu Ginobili, dating back to his college days at Arizona State when Harden was perfecting the lefty arts of the Euro-step, getting to the rim frequentlyâ€”and consequently to the free-throw lineâ€”while also mastering the three-point shot, which made him sort of a triple 082 ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
By his second year, Harden was growing more comfortable with his reserve role. Given more minutes and tasked with providing offense in the Thunder second unit, Harden’s season numbers grew across the board to 12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
By the end of his third year, Harden had clearly outgrown his role as a secondary player on the Thunder. Playing starter minutes, Harden was given the keys to the offense in situations (even while playing with the starters) and typically found himself closing out games. Averaging a robust 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists, while shooting 39 percent from three, Harden was an easy choice for Sixth Man of the Year, as he helped get a young and potential-filled Thunder team (one that would feature three future MVPs) all the way to the NBA Finals.
The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Harden with the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and brought him along slowly as a reserve. His beard wasn’t quite as big, and neither were his stats (9.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 APG), but both areas would soon see much growth. Harden would be named to the AllRookie Second Team.
threat at basketball’s three most efficient shots, at a time when NBA Moneyball was still in its infant stages. Sacrifice a starting role for an NBA Finals team, as Harden did in 2012? No problem. But in the summer of 2012, when OKC GM Sam Presti wanted Harden to sacrifice a few million dollars annually on his rookie contract extension, Harden balked at the request. After a stellar three-year romp in OKC, the then 23-year-old Harden wanted to be treated like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, his young All-NBA teammates who both were earning max contracts despite playing in small-market Oklahoma City. Rather than adhere to Harden’s contract demands, Presti thought he would test his lotto luck again by trading Harden to Houston, obtaining picks in hopes that he could create
With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in place, the Thunder felt that Harden would be a luxury they could part with, trading him to Houston. While Harden looked like a star in the making at the time, there were many questions entering the season about Harden: Would he be able to shoulder being the featured star? Could he operate without the benefit of two stars commanding attention? Harden answered every question with aplomb, putting up 25.9 PPG, 5.8 APG and 4.9 RPG as the Rockets’ focal point. He was named to his first All-Star team and first All-NBA (third) team, but was reminded of his previous team’s success when he faced his old team in the 2013 playoffs, losing in six games, in spite of a series where he put up 26.3 points, 6.7 boards, 4.5 dimes, 2 steals and a block per game. 083
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Since joining the Rockets, Harden was tasked with creating for his teammates and this season saw Harden becoming more of a facilitator. He raised his assists per game to 6.1 (a trend that would continue over the next few years) and continued to find ways to get free points at the free-throw line, where he shot .866. Once again Harden would be selected to represent the West in the All-Star Game. Harden would lead the Rockets to 54 victories, but would fall to the Trail Blazers in the opening round of the playoffs. The consolation prize for Harden would be getting named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time. In the summer, Harden was invited to represent Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. He led the squad in scoring with 12.4 PPG and helped USA to a gold medal finish.
Harden continued his evolution to a full-fledged point guard, albeit one that can drop 25-30 points a night. Averaging a career-best 7 assists per contest (to go along with 27.4 PPG), Harden proved he can be more than just a scorer. That type of production earned him all the requisite accolades: All-Star selection, All-NBA First Team, and serious MVP consideration, finishing behind Stephen Curry. Many thought he deserved the award, including his peers, who awarded him the MVP in the first-ever National Basketball Players Association Player Awards. In the playoffs that year, Harden led the Rockets all the way to the West Finals, where they fell to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors .
another Durant, like he did with the No. 2 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Or another Westbrook, like he did with the No. 4 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Or another Harden, like he did with the No. 3 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Or even another Serge Ibaka, like he did with a late first-round pick, the 24th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. So Presti traded Harden to Rockets GM Daryl Morey for prospects, role players and draft picks that essentially became Steven Adams and Alex Abrines, the Nos. 13 and 32 selections in the 2013 NBA Draft. Meanwhile, Morey convinced Harden that he would be treated like the NBA MVP he believed himself to be, and signed the new Rocket to that long-term max contract he coveted. Flash forward to Harden’s Act Two six seasons later: Today, Harden has become the face of Houston sports, earning places on five AllNBA teams in six years, while also burnishing two MVP runner-up finishes in 2014-15 and 2016-17 and then securing his first NBA MVP award last season. As if that were not enough, the piece de resistance to his 201718 regular season came last spring after Harden led the Rockets to a League-best 65 victories, when he led Houston to a seven-game West
After his breakthrough 2014-15, expectations for Harden and the Rockets were high. Statistically, Harden was every bit the same player (29 PPG, 7.1 APG, 6.5 RPG, 1.7 SPG) but the Rockets tumbled in the standings, winning just 41 games and barely qualifying for the postseason. Once there, they were quickly dispatched again by the Warriors in a gentlemen’s sweep. Harden was named an All-Star for the fourth time, but fell out completely during the postseason awards, in part because of the team’s lack of success.
Finals against dynastic Golden State, winners of three of the last four NBA championships. Is it any wonder that Harden is on HOOP's All-Decade team with a career like this, as he enters his 10th NBA season? Harden began his career at the start of the decade and in many ways, his game has buoyed the time period perfectly. He represents the shift of the League from the throw-it-in-the-post or the isolation-dribble-pullupmidrange-jumper offenses at the start of this decade, to the current spread attacks geared around long 3s, easy 2s and freebie 1s. He started out as a change-of-pace combo guard off the bench in Oklahoma City, but since moving to the ground zero of the NBA Moneyball movement in Houston with Morey and playing under head coach Mike D’Antoni, he’s fully embraced modern basketball. Harden has been durable, playing a League-leading 82 games in 2015-16, and sandwiching two 81-game campaigns around that, while never playing less than 72 games in his other three Rockets seasons. Is it any wonder, during Harden’s six-year run in Houston, that he leads all NBA players in points (13,014), ranks fourth in assists (3,615) and made over a thousand more free throws than anyone else in the
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A motivated Harden came back with fury. The Rockets doubled down on Harden, ending the pairing of Dwight Howard and Harden by trading the big man away and fully embracing Harden as the team’s point of attack. Harden made good in the team’s faith with a near-triple-double campaign of 29.1 PPG, 11.2 APG, 8.1 RPG to go with 1.5 SPG that put Harden in the running for MVP again. Unfortunately he would wind up as the bridesmaid once again, this time losing to former Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook and his historic triple-double season. More importantly, the Rockets found team success, rebounding from a disappointing season with 55 wins and Harden got the last laugh, beating his former team in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Spurs in the Semifinals.
Harden finally captured the elusive MVP in a season where he was joined by another ball-dominant playmaker who was supposed to reduce the Rockets' dependency on Harden. With Chris Paul joining the team, most thought that Harden’s production would fall. Instead, the addition merely increased his brilliance. Leading the League in scoring for the first time with 30.4 PPG, Harden transformed the Rockets into an offensive juggernaut, leading the NBA in offensive rating (114.7) and best record at 65-17. After a few near-misses, the voters awarded Harden with the 2018 MVP. The Rockets and Harden almost completed the dream season by knocking out the nemesis Warriors, but fell short in seven games.
League (Harden made 4,055 free throws from 2012-13 through 2017-18; former teammate Westbrook is second at 2,840 free throws). Harden’s decade-long numbers are no less stellar, despite coming off the bench his three seasons in OKC from the 2009-10 through 2011-12 seasons. In the 2010s alone (not counting the current season), Harden ranks fourth in win shares (106.7) according to Basketball-Reference.com, only trailing LeBron James, Durant and Paul; fourth in scoring (15,809 points), only trailing James, Durant and Westbrook; seventh in assists (4,157); first in free throws (4,850); second in three-pointers (1647) to Curry. Through it all—whether Harden was teamed with a revolving door of ex-teammates from Chandler Parsons to Jeremy Lin to Dwight Howard to Patrick Beverley to Trevor Ariza—his Rockets qualified for the playoffs in all six Houston seasons, which is impressive when you consider the Rockets missed the postseason three consecutive years before his arrival. As Harden embarks on his final season of this decade, the combo guard only has one mission for 2018-19: win an NBA championship for Houston.
The stakes are high for Harden and the Rockets this season. After winning the MVP and coming one game from the Finals, there is little room for improvement for the Beard and the team. Anything short of a Finals appearance (and even then, a championship) will be a disappointment. As genius as Harden has been with the ball in his hands, the playoffs have been tough on him. Harden has struggled with the three-point shot in the postseason (.365 regular season vs. .326 in the playoffs) and the tendency to “let the players play” in the postseason has meant Harden doesn’t get to the line as much (8.3 free throws per game in regular season vs. 7.7 in playoffs). Still, it’s undeniable that Harden remains one of the best offensive forces in the NBA today.
It is no wonder Harden is just getting better with age and time, with GM Morey annually building a better roster for head coach D’Antoni to create his various lineups—most of them centered around Harden, of course. Through it all, the Beard continually delights us all with annual surprises to his game, whether he adds fakes and feints to his Eurosteps, adds distance and arc to his three-point shooting, or adds a unique style to NBA arenas that only he can bring, night after night after night. Consequently, we expect to see Harden lead the NBA in assists per game (11.2), like he did during the 2016-17 campaign. Or take over the League in scoring (a career-best 30.4 points per game), like he did last season when Paul was acquired to help shoulder Harden’s playmaking chores. No one knows what the Beard has in store for us in 2018-19, but whatever the surprise, we are just happy to witness the many hidden sides of basketball’s most famous masked man, knowing that whatever role he plays—from sacrificing Sixth Man to premier playmaker to scorer supreme—Harden will be the very best in the League at portraying his part. 085
BILL BAPTIST; ATIBA JEFFERSON; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
By Bryan Crawford #26
DWYAN E WADE
ichael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. Dwyane Wade. In that order. There’s not much of a general consensus anymore in this current era of the NBA. But when it comes to naming the top three shooting guards to ever play in the League, you’ll never get an argument from anyone on these three names or their rankings. In September, Dwyane Wade announced that he would be embarking on his retirement tour. Wade has dubbed his 17th and final NBA season as, “One Last Dance,” marking an end to the career of one of the most memorable and exciting players that we’ve ever had the honor of seeing. “I've given this game everything that I've had, and I'm happy about that. And I'm gonna give it for one last season, everything I have,” Wade said in a nearly 10-minute video he released announcing
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DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
With the formation of the Heatles, Wade took a step back statistically to make room for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but not too much. While his scoring (25.5 per game) and shots (18.2 per game) dipped, Wade increased his efficiency, shooting 50 percent for the first time in his career. More importantly, he was able to graciously and seamlessly integrate the two stars into the lineup, an often overlooked aspect that made Miami Thrice so successful.
his official retirement. It was a sad day for basketball fans, and for those who’ve grown up with the game of basketball and who understand the importance and significance of the shooting guard position itself. It is, without question, the sexiest position in basketball, and many of the greats who have played it, at one time or another in their careers, have all been labeled divas as a result. It’s something that comes with the territory of playing shooting guard, along with the pressure of being the guy who’s expected to put the ball in the basket on offense, play lockdown defense on the other end, and help his team win in the process. But we’re not just talking about winning games. If you’re lucky enough to be considered one of the greats at the two, the expectation of winning starts with games, but ends with championships. Dwyane Wade did all that. “Flash” changed Dade County to Wade County. He turned Miami into the largest small market in the country, and made the light that shined on South Beach hotter than the Florida sun. During his career, only Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers could boast of having more bigtime entertainers and athletes from other sports at their games than DWade and the Miami Heat. But even there, you could say that Wade has somewhat of an advantage. Sure, Jack
Coming off a career year of 30.2 PPG, Wade was in the midst of his career peak. Averaging 26.6 PPG a night with 6.5 APG, 4.8 RPG and 1.8 SPG, Wade was singlehandedly carried the Heat to 47 wins (his sidekicks on Miami that season were second-year Michael Beasley and 14-year veteran Jermaine O’Neal). He also notched his 10,000th point, in the third game of the season. Wade was an All-Star for the sixth consecutive year and his 28-point, 11-assist, 6-rebound, 5-steal game earned him the game’s MVP. At the end of the season, Wade was named First Team All-NBA and to the All-Defensive squad for the second time.
In a season where he turned 30, Wade further ceded the spotlight to LeBron in Miami. He was still very much an elite player as he averaged 22.1 points and a shade under 5 dimes and rebounds per contest in a season that saw him appear in his eighth All-Star Game and named to his seventh All-NBA Team. But all that took a backseat to his second championship, a five-game dispatch of Oklahoma City, that secured Wade a second ring. 087 ISSAC BALDIZON; GARRETT ELLWOOD; GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
With his athleticism not the same as when he was a 20-something and various ailments piling up, Wade proved that he was still an elite player by leveraging his basketball smarts and skills. Much like Michael Jordan during the second half of his career, Wade was able to maintain his scoring (21.2 PPG that season) with an elite midrange game. He wasn’t jumping over defenders with as much regularity, but getting them off their feet with cunning fakes and cerebral moves. His .521 shooting was a career high and he still averaged 5.1 assists and 5 rebounds to go with 1.9 steals a night. He would be named All-NBA (third team) for the eighth time and finish the season holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The third championship puts Wade in some exclusive company of players who have won at least three titles along with a Finals MVP.
Nicholson, Denzel Washington, and Leonardo DiCaprio, to name a few, are huge stars that are often seen courtside in LA, but there are many who will say that Birdman, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled and Rick Ross—courtside regulars during Wade’s run with the Heat—were bigger. And you can’t talk about Wade’s basketball career without discussing his on-court accomplishments. He took the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals in only his second season in the NBA. The very next year, Wade singlehandedly delivered the Heat its first ever Larry O’Brien championship trophy, won Finals MVP, and cemented himself as a sporting legend in Miami, the entire State of Florida and also in the NBA. Four years later, Wade was responsible for helping usher in what ultimately would become a watershed moment, not just for the Heat, but the NBA as a whole, when he
Fully embracing efficiency while staving off age, Wade put on a clinic in getting open and only shooting his shot. Never the best long-distance shooter, Wade eschewed the three-pointer altogether and feasted on midrange postups, runners and drives all season, shooting a career-best .545 from the field while putting up 19 PPG. Wade missed 28 games, but was still good enough to be selected to his 10th All-Star.
With LeBron now gone, Wade was back to his old role of being the catalyst for the Heat. His scoring climbed back up to 21.5 points per game and he was named to his 11th straight All-Star Game.
At 34, Wade was determined to stave off Father Time. Playing in 74 games, Wade was good enough to lead Miami to 48 victories as he averaged 19 PPG, 4.6 APG and 4.1 RPG. Playing in his final All-Star Game, Wade is just one of 26 players to be named an All-Star a dozen times. In a late season game against Cleveland and his good friend and former teammate LeBron James, Wade became the 41st player to reach the 20,000 point milestone.
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It was supposed to be a happy homecoming for Wade when he signed a two-year deal to go back to Chicago, but it didn’t work out as he struggled to fit in with Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. Wade remained an effective scorer, putting up 18.3 PPG, but the odd pairing of stars led to a lost year.
In what might be the oddest season in Wade’s illustrious career, Wade was waived by him hometown Bulls, only to sign on to play in Cleveland. Despite being reunited with LeBron again, in 46 games as a Cavalier, Wade struggled to find a role on the team. Cleveland traded Wade back to Wade County, where he was immediately embraced by the organization and fans alike. Coming off the bench, Wade played mentor to a young Miami squad and even found time to knock down a game-winner against the 76ers in the regular season and haunting them again with a 28-point game in a first round series win of the playoffs.
decided to take less money to help bring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. The trio would go on to appear in four straight Finals, winning the middle two, and bringing Wade’s NBA Championship ring count to three. But the success doesn’t stop there. Wade had his college jersey retired at Marquette, where he led to the Golden Eagles to the Final Four in 2003. His Wade’s World Foundation has done a variety of things to help better the lives of people living in underserved communities in both Miami and Chicago. Wade spearheaded a campaign that helped raise $800,000 for those affected by the disastrous earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. He’s even made an imprint in the world of fashion with his own signature collection of ties, socks, athletic apparel and sneakers. And how could you ever run off a list of Wade’s successful accomplishments without mentioning his marriage to actress Gabrielle Union in 2014? Wade accomplished all of these things as a virtually unheralded player coming out of Richards High School in Oak Lawn, a suburb just southwest of Chicago. In fact, Wade’s name is often forgotten in discussions of the greatest players ever out of Chicago, solely on the strength of him having never played in the city’s rough and tough Public League. But make no mistake, even without the hometown love afforded to other NBA players from Chicago, Wade is one of the finest ambassadors the Windy City has ever produced, and he reps the South Side proudly no matter where he goes.
Don’t call it a retirement tour: One Last Dance— that’s how Wade announced his final NBA season. Continuing the sagacious role he started in his Heat return, Wade (along with longtime Heat cohort Udonis Haslem) is imparting his 16 years of experience to his Heat teammates. As the season winds down, we’re sure Wade will see more celebrations as he makes his way around NBA arenas one final time. In the meantime, he’s been busy taking requests for jersey swaps from longtime foes and idolizing young’ns alike after games as he wraps up a Hall of Fame career.
Goodbyes are never easy, and for Wade, his farewell season in the NBA is sure to be as emotional for him as it is for basketball fans, media members, opposing coaches, and his peers around the League. Basketball has changed, and Dwyane Wade is cut from an old-school cloth. In a League that has made a conscious effort to become more entertaining, Wade’s competitive, take-no-prisoners, standing on the scorers table yelling, "This is my house!" approach to the game will surely be missed by those of us who appreciate and have a fondness for that sort of thing. Three-time NBA Champion. Twelve-time All-Star. Eight-time All-NBA. Three-time All-Defense. Scoring champion. Olympic Gold Medalist. NBA Hall of Famer. This is Dwyane Wade’s basketball legacy. He will go down in history as one of the greatest basketball players ever. An accidental superstar who, given his personal background and all the things he had to endure growing up on the South Side of Chicago, by all accounts should even shouldn’t even be in this position in the first place. “Fall down 7, Stand up 8.” That’s the legend of Dwyane Wade. That’s the legacy he leaves behind as he embarks on the final 82 games of his career. It’s been a great ride, filled with a lot of highs and many lows. But two things are for certain: Wade is one of the greatest to ever play this game, and the way he gave it all he had, both on and off the court, will surely be missed. 089
ISSAC BALDIZON (2); GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
By Josh Eberley #41
f ‘90s basketball hooked you to hoops, the last remaining ties are down to the final reclusive threads. The era of Michael Jordan’s domination, the rise and fall of the Big Fundamental, the birth of a Diesel fueled dynasty are long gone. The next generation of fans never saw prime Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett or Allen Iverson. The prior era of stars has all but faded into memory, save for one. Two decades later, it’s the Tall Baller from the G still standing. Dirk Nowitzki has spent all 21 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, the only player to ever do so, and 22 is remarkably not out of the question. Nowitzki’s career isn’t celebrated solely because he was a cheat code offensively that changed the way we looked at the game—though, that too is true. Nowitzki is celebrated because he is a pillar of what his generation sought after: commitment despite overwhelming adversity. Resilience in the face of unfavorable odds. Nowitzki’s career had a happy ending and there isn’t a sports fan anywhere who couldn’t help but be happy for the humble warrior. To understand just how special Nowitzki making this list is, we must look back at his hard-fought journey here. The failures forge the winners and Nowitzki’s falls dropped him into darkness on more than one occasion. At the peak of his powers, Nowitzki finished top three on the MVP ballot in three sequential seasons spanning 2005-2007. The Mavericks were the class of the League and had the best record (185-61, or 75.2 percent) over that period.
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DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
Playing in his 12th season and his first as a 30-yearold, Nowitzki would top 25 PPG for the fifth time in his career. He would also reach the 20,000-point plateau, becoming the first European player to ever do so. Team owner Mark Cuban rewarded the career Mav with what many thought at the time might be his final contract, a four-year $80 million deal, ensuring the German would retire in Dallas.
He’s had statistically finer seasons and has led his teams to better regular season success, but 2010-11 will be the one that cements Nowitzki as an all-time great. As mentioned, he just carried the Mavericks in the postseason, one where he boosted his scoring output to 27.7 per game, the highest mark of any point in his career. They weren’t just high-volume stats either. Over the 21-game postseason, Nowitzki was a rock, averaging 39.3 minutes, shooting .485 overall, .460 from three and .941 from the line, while seemingly getting a bucket every time Dallas needed one en route to a title.
In 2005, the Mavericks would win 58 games. In a second-round clash with his former teammate and close friend, Nowitzki would have to watch Steve Nash win the series and claim the season MVP. A disappointing end to a solid campaign, Nowitzki was burdened but not beaten. In 2006, Dallas was back with a vengeance. Building off last season’s success, the Mavericks won two more games and were rewarded with a cage match against their intrastate rival. The San Antonio Spurs were the defending champions and even more daunting, they had sent Nowitzki and the Mavericks home in 2001 and 2003. However, it was a new day for Big D, and Dirk delivered. Nowitzki capped off an all-time classic series with 37 points in Game 7, willing his Mavericks to the Conference Finals, exorcising the Spurs in the postseason for the first time. The Mavs caught fire and dispatched Nash’s Suns in six games and were on their way to the first Finals in franchise history. In walked the Miami Heat, led by the still formidable Shaquille O’Neal and an ascendant Dwyane Wade, a team that posed a challenge from the jump. Undeterred, Dallas took the first two games and seemed to be on track for its first ever Larry O’Brien Trophy. Unfortunately, things spiraled
Yes, the post-championship swoon is real. Whether you blame the copious amounts of championship bubbly or beer (dude’s German, after all), the two parades (Dirk’s hometown of Wurzburg threw him one on top of the requisite Dallas championship march) or the bad singing—let’s not forget the 2011-12 season started out with a lockout—Nowitzki saw a dip in his production. But to be fair, a 21.6 PPG season at 33 isn’t too shabby.
quickly. Jerry Stackhouse was suspended a game for body checking O’Neal and Wade hit the charity stripe like a billionaire philanthropist. The Mavericks crumbled, Nowitzki alongside the rubble, and that summer he had to dig deep. In 2007, Nowitzki brought it all. The Mavericks won 67 games and secured the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. Nowitzki was awarded the MVP that was missing from his mantel, but had to awkwardly receive it after his Mavericks face-planted against the eighth seed, “We Believe” Golden State Warriors. It was a stunner for everyone, but especially for Nowitzki, who could barely cope. It was rumored and later confirmed by teammate Devin Harris that Nowitzki smashed a chair against the wall following Game 6, literally busting a hole outside the visitors’ locker room. Instead of redemption after the 2006 Finals, another setback barred the way to eternal greatness for Nowitzki. In the offseason, Nowitzki fled the country and went on a spirit journey of sorts. Reported by Jesse Hyde and the Dallas Observer, Nowitzki and longtime coach and mentor Holger Geschwindner toured the Australian outback to revamp for the next phase of Nowitzki’s career. They spent 091
ROCKY WIDNER; JOE MURPHY; NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Relatively durable his entire career, Nowitzki missed 27 games due to a knee injury. He did manage to reach the 25K-point milestone, the 17th player to do so. The season ended on a sour note as Nowitzki missed the playoffs for the first time
At 37, Nowitzki still held his own against Father Time. Playing 77 games, he put up a still-dangerous 17.7 PPG. Along the way, he passed Shaq in scoring and drained his 1,700th three-pointer (by far he is tallest player among the 15 players on that list).
Dirk saw a nice bounce back to form in 2013-14. After two seasons of decline, Dirk narrowly missed out on a shooting triple-crown of 50/40/90 with a .497/.398/.899 season. He also leapfrogged a few all-time legends on the scoring ledger: Jerry West on 11/12/13; Reggie Miller on 11/20/13; Alex English on 12/23/13; and Oscar Robertson on 4/8/14 for 10th place.
There would be no taking his talents elsewhere for Dirk. After what some thought would be his final contract extension, Nowitzki gave Dallas a hometown discount by inking a three-year $25 million deal. He would also take a smaller role in the team, averaging under 30 minutes a game for the first time since his rookie year. The legacy stats continued, however. He passed Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth place in scoring (and becoming the highest scorer by a player born outside of the United States). He became the fourth player to top 27,000 points with one team (along with Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant). Dirk would also grab his 10,000 rebound and finish the season by passing 28,000 points.
weeks camping, often out of cell service to rebalance the superstar. The next few years were uneventful: the Mavericks continued to win 50-games with ease and each time failed to get back to the pinnacle. When HOOP released its all-decade team in 2009, Nowitzki was an easy choice, but there’s no way anyone could’ve predicted Nowitzki being in contention for this team again 10 years later. Cynics argued Nowitzki was soft, unable to lead a real contender, and that his days as an elite player had faded. As the decade began, it appeared Nowitzki would be resigned to a spot next to Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, individually great players who were just unable to attain the ring. Nowitzki remained as dependable and durable a player, but now on the wrong side of 30, the decline would be inevitable. The 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks were unremarkable initially and their contention luster had waned to the resurgent Lakers. San Antonio played the same role of West contender and the Oklahoma City Thunder were rapidly making their way up the pecking order. LeBron James and Chris Bosh had joined Wade in Miami and it was assumed nationally that the newly formed Heatles would meet and eventually triumph over any foe in the West. The pundits picked against them every round. A first-round matchup against Portland went six and no one was overly impressed that Dallas climbed out of the pit. That Nowitzki massively outplayed the much younger LaMarcus Aldridge in the Blazers-Mavs opening series was well and good, but there’d be no way he’d get his way against the Lakers' Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum frontcourt— or so they said. The Mavericks embarrassed the Lakers like no team had ever done previous. Nowitzki outscored Bryant significantly over the course of the sweep and the 36-point thrashing the Lakers took in
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Sensing the end was near and wanting to reward the franchise star for his loyalty, the Mavericks rewarded Nowitzki with a lifetime achievement deal of two years and $50 million. The team wasn’t very good and Nowitzki graciously gave up minutes and shots to help develop the younger players. He did, however, reach the rarified 30K points mark, a plateau that only six players before (and one more since) have reached.
A year shy of 40, Nowitzki played his 50,000th NBA minute, the sixth player to do so. His shooting touch remained true though. No longer the focal weapon of the team, Nowitzki found himself playing the tallest spot-shooter ever. For the fifth time, he topped 40 percent shooting from deep.
Nowitzki started the season on the injured list and the Mavericks have shifted to the young duo of Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. as their players of emphasis. Still, Nowitzki should reach the 2,000 three-pointers mark and has a shot at 32K points before the end of the marvelous decade.
Game 4 remains the second largest playoff loss in the franchise’s history. But critics excused the Lakers, claiming burnout from prior playoff runs, and that the fresh legs and superior talent in Oklahoma City would end the Mavericks' Cinderella run. Kevin Durant had just led the League in scoring for the second straight year, but it was Nowitzki who led all players in the series. Nowitzki torched the Thunder—Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, or Durant himself, it didn’t matter. Nowitzki went for 40-plus twice in the series, including 48 in the opener, and the Thunder only took one game off Dallas. It was a fun run, but James and the Heat had just annihilated MVP Derrick Rose and the Bulls. No one was stopping the big bad Heat. They were ready to check off the “Not one...” championship from their list. Nowitzki got sick in the Finals, literally ill. A fever and a 2-1 deficit felt like the end for Dallas. Nowitzki had an overall bad Game 4 but scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and helped even the series. Prior to a pivotal Game 5, James and Wade poked fun at Nowitzki pretending his illness was an excuse. Nowitzki responded with a game-high 29 points and just like that, the Mavericks had them on the ropes. The Mavericks closed Game 6 with relative ease, winning three of four quarters and history, making Nowitki the wisest decision that the Shark Tank-ing Mark Cuban invested in. Over the last nine years, Nowitzki won the Mavericks their lone title, capped it with a Finals MVP. No, he didn’t come close to another, but to be fair to Nowitzki, that 2011 title team was comprised of hardened vets pushing for one last hurrah (Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Peja Stojakovic) and had a limited window. And after the trials and tribulations Nowitzki endured, he put everything he had and left it all out there on the AmericanAirlines Arena floor in Game 6. Nowitzki would stay relevant, playing in two more All-Star Games and seeing his name amongst his All-NBA peers one more time. Perhaps most impressively, he’s passed the likes of O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oscar Robertson and numerous other legends on his way to becoming the seventh person in NBA history to eclipse 30,000 points. Even as he has slowly faded and seen his role reduced over the latter half of the 2010s, Nowitzki has scored the 10th most points this decade. They don’t make them like Dirk anymore. In an era where stars switch teams like you swap shoes, the commitment and dedication to the elevation of one legacy and one franchise remains unmatched. 093
GLENN JAMES (2); ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
By Ming Wong #2
t’s difficult to talk about Carmelo Anthony, much less celebrate his achievement over the past decade, without discussing the present. His struggles over the last two seasons have been well documented. Time and change can be rough on the best of players, and Anthony is certainly a good one, worthy of being in the top 10 of this decade, but the focus of the League has changed in recent years—to one that values shooting, versatility and switchability on defense, three things that were never Melo’s strong suits. And like almost all of his peers, with the obvious exception of LeBron James, the passage of time has ended or eroded most players from the legendary 2003 NBA Draft.
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DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
After a rare down year the season before which he averaged just 22.8 points a game, Anthony had one of the signature seasons of his career. He was an unstoppable force (in a tease to his future team, Anthony dropped 50 points against the Knicks on Nov. 27, 2009) for the Nuggets who put up a nightly 28.2 PPG to go with 6.6 rebounds. He was the fifth-leading vote-getter for All-Star 2010 and was selected for the All-NBA Second Team.
The Melodrama of the 2010-11 season began when Melo rejected the Nuggets’ contract extension to pursue free agency in the summer of 2011. It was no secret that the Knicks wanted the scoring dynamo and Melo craved the bright lights of New York. In a move of impatience by both sides, Melo was traded to the Knicks for all of its young parts (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and a slew of future draft picks). Amidst the grind of the daily rumor mill, Carmelo never let it affect his shot, as he averaged 25.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG in his 77 games split between Denver and New York. He was an All-Star in the West before playing in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
In Anthony’s first full season in New York, the expectations were high. Anthony never seemed to fully mesh with head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, producing one of his lowest scoring seasons with 22.6 points a night. Melo was an All-Star for the fifth time and he helped get New York into the playoffs, but it was short-lived as the Knicks managed only one win against the Miami Heat. He did take part in the Olympic Games over the summer. As the secondleading scorer for Team USA, Melo helped the Stars and Stripes earn gold on the Olympic podium.
Recency bias is real, but that shouldn’t take away from Melo’s place over the last decade. You might have to squint your eyes in 2019 to remember, but at the start of the decade, any and every team would’ve wanted the dynamic 6-8 scoring machine. Melo had averaged 28.2 points with the Denver Nuggets and was positioned to be headliner of the 2011 free agent class No team wanted him more than New York. So enthralled at the prospect of bringing Anthony back to New York (Melo was born in Brooklyn and spent his first eight years there before moving to Baltimore, the other city he identifies with), the Knicks gutted its roster so they could play Diddy’s “I’m Coming Home” (so serendipitous, as the track released on Nov. 21, 2010, just three months before the Feb. 22 trade; the Bad Boy mogul can now Diddy-dance with glee, as the track is now synonymous with any athlete’s homecoming) during Anthony’s Garden debut in blue and orange. The initial dividends looked good. Melo helped the Knicks break out of a six-year playoff drought in his first half-season in Gotham. The Knicks repeated the feat during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. The third season was the highwater mark of the Melo era in New York: Anthony led the Knicks to a 54-win campaign, a division title and the second seed in the East. It all quickly soured from there. Some questionable personnel moves and injuries (including Anthony missing 42 games himself during the 2014-15 season) saw the Knicks revert back to their early aughts ways. Some blame can be cast on Melo, but he was every bit the player they knew they were getting. For a brief three-year run, Melo brought relevancy back to the Knicks and his presence gave the Knicks a big name to put on the Madison Square Garden marquee, especially as MSG was going through its grand reopening after a three-year renovation. 095
GARRETT ELLWOOD (2); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
On the heels of his Olympic glory, this was the best season of Anthony’s NY run, and by most measures, the best season of his career. Statistically, his traditional numbers of 28.7 PPG led the NBA, but his 4.2 VORP was head and shoulders the best mark of his 16-year career. The Knicks finished second in the East with 54 wins (tying the 2008-09 Nuggets for the most wins of any team Carmelo played on), and even won a playoff series, beating Boston in six games. He would finish third in MVP voting (the highest finish in his career) and make the AllNBA Second Team.
Anthony did everything in his power—his averages over 77 games: 27.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG and 3.1 APG—to will the Knicks all season, but it wasn’t enough. There was a triple-overtime game on Dec. 18 when Melo logged 55 minutes in a win, and a 62-point outburst (his career-high) against Charlotte on Jan. 24. During the All-Star Game, Anthony was second on the East with 30 points, setting the All-Star record of 8 three-pointers and narrowly losing out the game’s MVP honor to Kyrie Irving.
Fully healthy again, Melo was joined by the fruit of the previous season's losing campaign in No. 4 pick, Kristaps Porzingis. The budding rookie was promising but still raw and the Knicks were still carried by Melo’s 21.8 points, 7.7 boards and 4.2 assists. He made the All-Star team once again, but the Knicks floundered again. Over the summer, Melo experienced victory while playing for USA Basketball (his fourth time representing the Red, White and Blue). “Olympic Melo” again, and he was second on the team in scoring at 12.1 PPG, and in the process became the USA’s all-time leading scorer in Olympic history (after the Rio Games, he sits at 336) as USA won gold. The scoring achievement and medal count (three golds and one bronze) make him one of the greatest Olympic basketball players of all time.
For most of his career, Anthony has been a durable player, playing at least 75 percent of his teams’ games each season, but a knee injury shelved him after he played in his eighth All-Star Game in front of his home crowd in New York. Before that, Melo became the 40th player to reach the 20,000-points scored mark and the sixth youngest to do so. For the season, he put up nightly averages of 24.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 3.1 RPG.
Putting Anthony under the advanced metrics microscope will reveal flaws, but to the naked eye, it was crystal-clear that he was one of the League’s most gifted scorers. It might not jibe with today’s game, but giving the ball to Melo on the free-throw line extended area was a solid strategy. As one of the best oneon-one creators, Melo was blessed with the preternatural gifts that took advantage of the ball in his hands in the triple-threat position. He possessed a good midrange shot, one that he could shoot off the dribble and at a standstill. His first step was wickedly fast, doubly so since he was usually matched up against a bigger and slower foe. His bag of tricks included an array of counters and he was very smooth at finishing near the basket and drawing fouls. In his seven seasons playing for his hometown, Anthony averaged 24.7 points and 7 rebounds per game. For all the criticism lobbed on Anthony’s three-point shooting, he shot a very effective 37 percent from deep during his Knicks tenure. One can argue that Anthony’s arrival in New York came at the cost of all its young and promising depth, but in his time as a Knick,
096 NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; JESSE D. GARRABRANT; BILL BAPTIST; GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
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With the burgeoning Porzingis playing a bigger role on the team, Anthony began to cede shots on offense, but he remained the scoring threat. He led the Knicks in points (something he did during all seven seasons) with 22.4 PPG and represented them at the All-Star Game. It would be Melo’s 10th selection. Throughout the season, the 14th-year veteran inched up the career ledgers, passing a few Hall of Famers—Elgin Baylor, Adrian Dantley, Robert Parish and Charles Barkley—on the all-time scoring list. Anthony also became the third player to score 10,000 points for two franchises.
After an offseason trade to Oklahoma City, Melo was determined to show the world his game was not in decline. He even adopted “Hoodie Melo,” a persona stemming from his offseason summer workouts donning a hoodie over his head. However, the work didn’t translate to spectacular results as he had trouble adapting to his new role. He averaged 16.2 PPG and shot 40 percent, all career lows. He did become the 21st player in NBA history to notch 25,000 points over his career, reaching the milestone on Jan. 27.
In July, the Thunder traded Anthony to the rebuilding Atlanta Hawks, who subsequently waived him to give the 16-year veteran an opportunity to choose his own championship quest. Signing with Houston to team up Chris Paul, James Harden and a squad that was a game away from the Finals the previous season, Melo was supposed to give the Rockets a boost. After 10 games, the role has not worked out and as of this writing, Melo and the Rockets are looking for an exit strategy. At 34, Melo can still score (13.4 PPG as a Rocket), but will need to adjust his game and find a role on a team that will best utilize him at this stage of his career.
Melo was only paired with an All-Star teammate once, and that player, Tyson Chandler, was known more for his defensive prowess. Even the most hardened cynics of Anthony’s selfish heroball game of a bygone era can appreciate the type of player Melo can morph into when surrounded by quality teammates. In his two Olympic showcases during the decade, “Olympic Melo” outshined his more accomplished peers. In 2012 in London, he scored more than LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as Team USA won gold. In 2016 in Rio de Janeiro he was second in scoring (behind Kevin Durant) but was instrumental in keeping USA afloat during offensive lapses. Anthony’s ability to exploit the shorter international three-point line (typically a Melo long-tow in the NBA), as well as his ability to play as a small ball power forward against slower and bigger defenders, was an offensive cheat code for Team USA, while also masking his defensive deficiencies. All told, Anthony is one of USA Basketball’s greatest players with three golds and a bronze in four Olympic Games. “Olympic Melo” was what was expected of Anthony when he made stops at Oklahoma City and Houston over the past two seasons. We all know that it didn’t work out. The NBA game has gone through some radical changes over the past decade and through most of it, Melo has steadfastly remained a 25-PPG scorer. Over this decade (not counting this final season of the decade), Anthony is fifth in points scored with 14,649, and for his career, he is one of just 22 players to have notched 25,000 points. Age and evolution have not been kind to him over the past two seasons. Does this diminish Anthony as a player? Clearly you know where we stand. Asking around the League, we were met with agreement. Melo has been lauded by teammates and opponents alike. At the time of this writing, Melo was in limbo, still on the Rockets’ roster but nowhere to be found on the box score. Even if that were to stay the same and his career ended without another point scored, Melo is one of the 10 best in the decade. 098 NATHANIEL S. BUTLER (2); BRIAN SEVALD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
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NEXT 10 ALL-DECADE: 2010-2019
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEXT DECADE’S TOP 10
It’s easy to forget that this is Embiid’s fifth NBA season. Had he started his career off healthy (he missed his first two seasons due to injuries), Embiid might’ve gotten consideration for this decade’s squad. The delayed start might actually be an advantage, though, giving him less mileage as he’ll be hitting his prime just as the decade begins. Up until this season, we’ve only seen short cautious glimpses of the big man, and it’s only served to tantalize us with Embiid's full potential, something we’re getting to witness this season. Embiid has been well worth the wait, as he’s looking every bit the MVP candidate, a role he’ll be playing from now until 2026, by our best estimations.
It’s only a matter of time (maybe even this current decade) before we see Antetokounmpo add another three letters—MVP—to his already substantial name. Giannis represents the new breed of NBA player: a position-less, long-limbed, do-it-all archetype, able to steal or block a shot on defense, rip a rebound and then start the break, ending it with a dunk, dime or pull-up three. At just 24, Antetokounmpo’s peak years will span most of the decade, making him the easiest prognostication in this group.
100 FERNANDO MEDINA; NOSH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
When you watch Towns with the ball in his hands, you’re amazed at all the weapons he has at his disposal. Much like his fellow Kentucky Wildcatturned-No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis, it can be traced back to his late growth spurt that laid the guard foundation in him before Towns stretched into a 7-footer. Comfortable shooting from the three-point line, Towns is devastating when he uses the threat of his outside shot to bulldoze to the rim with his ballhandling, making him one of the toughest players to guard. Towns’ game took a slight dip during the Jimmy Butler era, but with that in the rearview, we expect Towns to launch back into the top 10 players over the next decade.
When we’re putting pen to paper in 2028, we’ll be writing about how Jokic has cemented himself as the greatest passing center the game has ever seen. It’s amazing to watch Jokic set the table for his teammates. He’s got the gifts that all great passers have: court vision to scan the entire floor, a selfless (almost to a fault) desire to pass the ball, the ability to anticipate his cuts and movement, a soft touch on passes that lead teammates to the basket and the derring-do to squeeze a dime into tight crevices. And he possesses this in a 6-10 frame that allows him to see over defenses. Jokic might just become the first big man to pull off the triple-double season over the next 10 years.
Yes, we’re reserving a spot for Davis in 10 years. At just 25, you can expect five more monster seasons out of Davis before Father Time can even make a friend request to him. Much like some other names on this list, Davis combines a futuristic inside-outside, big man size-little man skill set game that will age well as he matures. The latter half of the decade will see Davis gradually peter out, but we’re predicting some serious impact in the front end to warrant his spot.
The jump shot will come. And when it does, Simmons will be what LeBron James is right now. As he is right now, Simmons is a triple-double waiting to happen on a nightly basis. You can only imagine he’s the frontrunner to duplicate what Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook have done with a tripdub season. Once that jump shot develops—we’re envisioning by 2022-23, Simmons is a 35 percent shooter from three—you’re looking at a 25-10-10 26-year-old MVP.
101 DAVID SHERMAN; GARRETT ELLWOOD;RON TURENNE; JESSE D. GARRABRANT /NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Consider this: As a 19-year-old rookie, LeBron James averaged 20.9 PPG, 5.9 APG and 5.5 RPG. It’s a smaller sample size, but after 13 games, 19-yearold Doncic is putting up 19.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 4.4 APG. We’re not trying to put pressure on the young Slovenian, but he could be very special. He’s already tamed the EuroLeague, winning the MVP last year in what is widely regarded as the second-best basketball league in the world. Might he have his sights on the NBA honor in the next 10 years?
Before Tatum’s first postseason, there would be no way we’d have such high projections for him. After those 19 playoff games (all without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward), where he led Boston in scoring and showed he can carry his team to postseason success (the Celtics made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals), he’s earned the right to be a player to watch. Tatum is ahead of the curve offensively, possessing a robust array of moves around the basket, a very developed three-point shot and the uncanny ability to hit tough shots—all the makings of a future scoring champ—and combines it with the goods defensively, so he's on his way to being a top two-way threat.
It might not look this way at the moment, but we predict in a few years, Ingram and LeBron James will gradually switch roles. Ingram is currently understudying and learning how to rule, and as the King ages, he will slowly cede those duties to Ingram. When Ingram was unleashed last season before LeBron’s arrival, you could see the flashes of him becoming the fulcrum to an offense. Until then, Ingram takes notes before taking over in 2021 and beyond.
It’s not often you see players as polished as Booker, who is just in his fourth season. Not to make comparisons, but when you watch Booker, you see the “Mamba Mentality” he flashes against defenders, especially when he gets the ball in the post and batters him with a series of moves to free himself for short jumper. This was something you saw from Kobe—in the later years of his career—and you’re already seeing it now on display from a 22-yearold. And like Kobe, Booker has erupted for an epic scoring game. It wasn’t quite 81, but 11 short of it is still pretty impressive. Booker has taken another step this season, flashing more playmaking ability. The future is bright for this Sun. 102 GLENN JAMES; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
HER FUTURE BEGINS ON TWO WHEELS.
Photo by Jake Lyell
Hirabai began walking to school when she was a little girl. It was an exhausting, dangerous two-mile journey from her home in rural India. At 14, she started attending a high school even farther away, unsure of how she would complete her education. But now, with the gift of a Dream Bike from ChildFund, she’s riding — safely and quickly — toward her dream of one day attending university. In 11 countries, ChildFund is making it possible for girls to continue their education by giving them muchneeded bicycles and safe passage to a better future.
Learn more about ChildFund International and our Dream Bike Program at ChildFund.org
2000 NBA All-Star Game, February 13, 2000 at The Arena in Oakland
Alonzo Mourning led the NBA in blocks that season with a career-best 294 rejections and had blocked 4 shots in the All-Star Game, but this would not be one of them. Mourning had won the Defensive Player of the Year in 1999 and would repeat the honor that season.
The West won the game, 137-126, as it was led by a team that featured nine future Hall of Famers (including the likely induction of Kobe Bryant): Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Shaquille Oâ€™Neal, Gary Payton, David Robinson and John Stockton. If Webber can one day make the Hall, it would go up to 10.
In just his fifth season, Garnett got his second All-Star nod and put up 22.9 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 5 APG, 1.6 BPG and 1.5 SPG. Garnett, along with Webber, Duncan and Rasheed Wallace (who were on the 2000 West All-Star team) and Dirk Nowitzki, were part of a burgeoning group of power forwards coming up in the Western Conference.
Just a day earlier, Vince Carter electrified the basketball world with one of the best displays of aerial artistry in the Slam Dunk Contest. To this day many say that itâ€™s the greatest performance in the history of the contest.
TThe Warriors will play their last season at Oracle Arena (formerly The Arena in Oakland) in 2018. It is the oldest arena in the NBA and has been home to the Warriors since the 1971-72 season. The team has four titles hanging in the arena (1975, 2015, 2017, 2018) and will move those to the new Chase Center in 2019-20.
The 2000 game was during a midst of a five-year run where the NBA did not feature an All-Star uniform for the game. From 1997 through 2002, the game featured players wearing their team jerseys in the exhibition.
This was Webber’s second All-Star Game, but first one representing the West. He was previously selected on the East squad in 1997 while playing in Washington. This was special for Webber because the game took place in Oakland, the team that he had played his rookie year for before getting traded. Webber had one of his best seasons in 199900, averaging 24.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. He was also selected to the All-NBA Third Team at the end of the season.
Four players in the 2000 All-Star team—Garnett, Kidd, Mourning and Gary Payton—were featured in Nike’s “Fun Police” campaign. These television spots had the players playing agents whose job it was to enforce basketball fun in playgrounds, arenas and gyms around the country.
Wallace secured his first All-Star berth in 2000. He was teammates with Webber for one season (199596) in Washington before he was traded to Portland.
The 2000 All-Star Game was the first of two backto-back visits to the midseason extravaganza for Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse also competed in the Slam Dunk Contest the previous night, but had the unfortunate draw of following Vince Carter. As he put it himself (via Sportsnet): “I don’t know how they determined the order, but it sure wasn’t alphabetical—I can tell you McGrady and Francis both come before ‘S’ and after ‘Carter.’”
Playing in his very first All-Star Game, Allen Iverson was not gun shy at all. He led all scorers with 26 points and finished the regular season with a 28.4 points per game average.
This was the third of 12 eventual All-Star selections for Kidd, who dropped 14 dimes in the game.
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
YOUR OFFICIAL DESTINATION FOR ALL THINGS NBA
HOOP HOLI DAY GIFT GUIDE
We ranged far and wide—functional and luxurious—for ideas on the perfect holiday gifts for the important people in your life (don’t forget yourself).
1. Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute
Dyson is so confident of its line of cordless vacuums that it has staked its entire company behind them. Beginning with the DC16 12 years ago, which morphed into the current “tubed gun” design, the latest iteration, the V10 Absolute, Dyson is now absolutely convinced a wire-free floor suction tool is the future. The V10 doesn’t stray too far from the original design—the most significant is the shift of the dust bin placement—but ups the suction power. The other big upgrade is the cleaning head; there are now two adjustable gates that you can select to corral larger objects like dog kibble, beads and most importantly, Cheerios (we dubbed it “Cheerios gates”). It also comes included with a soft brush head for hard floors that leaves your wood and tile floors—crevices and grout lines included—debris-free. There are three power settings on the V10, but unless you’re trying to deep clean shag carpet, the lowest setting should suffice. At low, you’ll also get about 60 minutes of cleaning time with it, making this a worthy vacuum for even the biggest OCD cleaners out there.
3. DeWalt 20V Max Cordless Framing Nailer
DeWalt has made a nail gun that even Snoop from The Wire would be impressed with. The cordless nailer (model DCN6921M1, to be specific) cuts the hose of an air compressor (a necessary tethered evil with most nailers), making it much easier to wield on framing, decking and fencing projects. The 20V lithium-ion battery gives it enough power to adequately drive framing nails up to 3.5 inches in length and 0.131 inches in diameter, making it a viable replacement to the traditional hose and air nailer. The nailer accepts any 30-34 degree paper tape framing nails and is compatible with DeWalt’s line of interchangeable 20V battery pack tools.
4. Samsung Note 9
HyperX is no stranger to the NBA. It is, after all, the official gaming headset of the NBA 2K League, the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks, and boasts NBA players/gamers Gordon Hayward, De’Aaron Fox and Jonas Jerebko as company ambassadors. Much like the League is valuing versatility on the court, HyperX is doing the same with the Cloud Mix, a gaming headset that features Bluetooth, making it a headset that can go from gaming sesh to the streets and back. Taking the best parts of the Cloud Alpha, namely the 7.1 virtual surround sound, HyperX adapted it to the flatter, but richer, music playback, and adding Bluetooth for easier connectivity (looking at you, iPhone users), although it does come included with a standard audio cable with inline controls, a PC cable with separate 3.5 inch mic and audio jacks, and an audio extension cable. The Cloud Mix takes out the “gaming gear” aesthetic by making the boom mic removeable, replacing the signature red hit with a matte black finish that goes from the streets to your gaming battlestation.
It’s simple to deduce that the Galaxy Note 9 is just a bigger version of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S9 with the addition of a stylus, but you’d have to experience it for yourself to understand the subtle differences between the two devices. To start with the obvious, the Note 9 does have the larger phablet display of 6.4 inches (2,960 x 1440-pixel AMOLED screen) that brings entertainment (movies and games) and productivity levels up. The camera sees some minor improvements from the Note 8, namely the dial 12-megapixel on the rear cam and 8MP for selfies. The internals get the usual upgrade, standards like wireless charging and waterproof design stay, while Samsung keeps iPhone users jelly with an audio jack and expandable micro SD memory support. Another joy is the beefier battery, giving the Note 9 a runtime of a solid 16 hours that involved a real work day of phones calls, web surfing, some gameplaying, a few YouTube vids and plenty of social media updates, making it a workhorse for content creators. The real piece de resistance to the Note 9 lies in the embedded S Pen. A mainstay since Samsung pioneered the oversized-phone-with-stylus category, the S Pen gets the biggest upgrade with Bluetooth capability. This means it broadens the stylus’ usage beyond writing and doodling. The S Pen can now, with a click of a button, serve as a camera remote, control your music and advance a presentation or slideshow. But getting back to what makes Note users so loyal to the line is that pairing the larger format and S Pen simply puts more tools for creativity and productivity at the hands of the user. Simply using it will stoke you to draw more on the large slate in your hand; jotting down notes across all apps will seem second nature, and your experience on your device becomes less passive (swiping and watching) and more active.
2. HyperX Cloud Mix
5. Ring Video Doorbell 2
Answering the door will never be the same with the Ring Doorbell 2. You’ll get an alert on your phone when someone rings the bell, and you can interact with the visitor in 1080p HD video and two-way talk, even when you’re not home. The Doorbell even works with Alexa; Echo Show and Spot can display the video, while Echo devices without a screen can just play chimes like a traditional doorbell. The Doorbell 2 can be hardwired to existing low-voltage doorbell wires for continuous operation or be mounted wirelessly (necessitating a battery charge every six months).
6. Herschel Supply x NBA Backpacks
Rep your squad on your back with the Herschel Supply backpack of your favorite NBA team. Using one of its classic backpack styles, the Settlement, the Superfan version features a screen-printed logo, while the NBA Champions version has an embroidered patch. Both backpacks have an NBA logo liner print inside and can accommodate up to a 15-inch laptop in the internal sleeve. The zippers are all-metal hardware and the external pocket has a built-in key clip inside. All 30 NBA teams available.
7. LEGO Voltron
Ask and you shall receive. LEGO Ideas are sets inspired and voted for by LEGO fans, and the people have spoken for the Defender of the Universe. Eighties kids will remember the animated series featuring five robotic lions that join together to form the robot titan. LEGO kept true to all the fine details of the original diecast toy that was—and still remains—grail status to many a collector. Red, green, blue, yellow, and of course black lion (“and I’ll form the head!”) articulate like the original toy and are easily “transformed” into the robot parts to form Voltron, blazing sword included. The finished Voltron is made up of 2,321 pieces and is fully poseable and moveable—as much as the original toy—and is a must-own for any discerning and/or nostalgic Voltron collector.
NBA Champions Settlement: $74.99 NBA Superfan: $69.99
1. Microsoft Surface Book 2
Attention Mac fans and creatives: Microsoft is doing its damnedest to woo you over to the Windows world with the Surface Book 2. The brushed aluminum body and bright PixelSense display is the first thing you notice once you open up the accordion-like hinge, but the real strength in the Surface Book 2 lies underneath the hood (more on that later) of the 2-in-1 laptop. Where it separates itself from the Mac pack is of course the touchscreen interface afforded by Windows 10 and removal—with a touch of a button—of the screen, transforming the Surface Book 2 into a tablet. A missed opportunity for Microsoft is not including the Surface Pen—a pen which unlocks the device into a drawing pad for creatives and note-taking for students and corporate set— which is a $99 option. Inside, the Surface Book 2 packs all the latest hardware—up to an 8th gen Intel Core i7-8650U quad core CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD—making it one of the most powerful portable computing experiences in the marketplace. Although not targeted as such, the Surface Book 2 also has gamers in mind, giving you the option if a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU that will handle most of the latest games at fairly good quality.
Starting at $1,199 110
2. adidas Harden Vol. 3
In a world of colorful signature shoes, James Harden’s signature Harden Vol. 3 stands out with its two-toned palette. Much like how a zebra’s black and white stripes would throw off predators when it’s running in a herd, the “Cosmos” colorway of the Harden Vol. 3 does the same to defenders, confusing and creating space for Harden to hit them with a stepback three or drive to the rim. This year’s Harden Vol. 3 is based on the counterintuitive phrase of “Slow Down Fast.” As Harden himself explains: “Slow down fast doesn’t make sense, but my game doesn’t make sense. I don’t think you’ve ever seen anyone play this way. If you combine all my moves, you probably won’t ever see that [style] again but that’s what I bring to the table and that’s where we get that phrase from. Every year I try to figure out a way to create an advantage and creating space is, I think, one of the biggest parts of the game of basketball.” The shoe utilizes full-length Boost for cushioning and energy return, an elastic lace band across the front to lock the foot in, and a tried-and-true herringbone pattern for traction on stop and gos.
3. Nanoleaf Light Panels – Rhythm Edition
Let your light shine with the tune of your soundtrack with these mood-setting light panels. The Nanoleaf Light Panels are thin (half an inch) modular triangles of LED light that can be connected together (up to 30 for each power supply) to your liking, forming a light installation. The included Rhythm module bring the panels to life, pulsating to music in real time. A companion app allows for customizable controls—be it “coloring” each individual panel or changing the way it reacts to music—and it can also be activated via Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
5. AOS Bodycare
4. Lenovo Legion C730
Gaming rigs need not be as big as Boban Marjanovic in order to pump out decent frame rates in the most demanding of games. The Legion C730 might be small in stature, but it can stand with the best gaming machines, thanks to its customizable parts (as tested: 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8700 chip, 16GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 and a 128GB m.2 PCIe SSD and 1TB hard drive). In addition to its roughly 9 x 13 x 9.5 inch cube size and relatively scant 19.8 pound weight, the C730 is designed for portability with a functional handle on the top, which is flanked by two transparent windows with an internal light setup that can be changed to your RGB whim.
Starting at $1299
You already look and dress the part of an NBA player—and the game is well, a work in progress—but now you can primp and groom like one, too. AOS (Art of Sport) line of body and skin care products is designed with elite athletes in mind (Kobe Bryant and James Harden are just two of the athletes partnered with the brand) and are made with natural ingredients (no parabens, petrolatums or aluminum) and botanicals to create high-performance deodorants, hair and body washes and sunscreens for the pre- and postgame routine—the jumper and crossover will still be on you though.
6. iRobot Roomba i7+
The Roomba series by iRobot has introduced the sweeping robotic vacuum category and it remains the de facto standard, so much so that that the devices are often just called “Roombas,” even if they’re from another company. The Roomba i7 follows up on the previous flagship model, the 980, by improving the floor mapping, this time adding the ability to recognize multiple floor plans. Basically, the i7 will require a few cleaning sessions to “learn” the floor plans, but once it does, it can be moved from floor to floor to clean with a roadmap in place. Another improvement is the quieter operation compared to previous models. With smarter brains behind the i7, there is more surface area that gets attention, including edges and crevices, leaving the floor cleaner. Micromanagers and OCD users alike will delight in the i7’s ability to mark divisions in your home space to manage cleaning schedules via the companion app. Lazy users who used to fret over the constant emptying of the Roomba’s dust bin will see the new Clean Base—a larger collection bin that will empty out the i7’s dust bin into disposable bags every time it docks—as a godsend. Almost a prerequisite for any smart device, the i7 will connect with any modern smart home with its compatibility with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
1. Philips Somneo
Waking up, especially in the sun-deprived winter season, is never easy, but the Somneo sleep-and-wake up light mimics the natural morning sunrise to gently nudge you from deep slumber. If a full-fledged solar storm still can’t wake you, it’s also equipped with a traditional audio alarm or radio to get you going. At night, the Somneo reverses the process, stimulating your body into rest mode with a sunset simulation, soothing nature sounds and a lightguided breathing wind-down exercise to lull you to sleep. While the Somneo will get you to slumber and back, it’ll still be on you to try to get your 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
2. Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless
It’s been a decade since Beats by Dre turned the utilitarian headphones into a fashionable tech accessory for the masses. The cans from BBD certainly weren’t the first to market, but much like Apple (who acquired the company in 2014) with the iPod and iPhone, they turned it into something that was desired and at the forefront. The Studio3 Wireless doesn’t stray too far from the original BBD experience: Everything about the headphones is swathed in luxe. From the packaging, to the carry case, to the smell—yes, much like the scent of new car—these headphones have the premium experience that founders and musical icons Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine envisioned when they ventured into creating headphones. The official headphones of the NBA, the Studio3 Wireless resemble a luxury automobile—fine matte finishes with gold chrome accents, while the parts that touch your body, the inner part of the headband and the ear cups, have a delicate leather-like hand to them. The Bluetooth Studio3, like most of the BBD catalog, is bass-heavy (Dr. Dre’s preference), but they’ve toned it down from previous iterations. BBD calls it Pure ANC, adaptive noise cancelling, and true to its name, it does adjust the noise cancellation when shifting from the office, to the busy New York City streets and subway, where we tested it. BBD promises 22 hours of playback on a charge and we found it lasted a full two weeks of commuting (2 hours a day). Lastly, it passed the comfort test. One hour wears are fine, but even marathon (we define that as two movies or four hours) sessions did not cause any ear fatigue.
3. TACKMA x Klutch Sports Group “The Game is Everything” Crew
If ball is life, then the game must be everything, right? This 100 percent French terry cotton crewneck sweatshirt features the mantra in vintage chenille lettering. The limitededition sweatshirt is a collaboration between Klutch Sports, the agency headed by Rich Paul that represents many NBA players, including its most famous one, LeBron James, and TACKMA, a streetwear brand that centers around taking your shot, challenging the status quo and seeking no approval.
6. Apple iPad Pro
5. Casio G-Shock G-STEEL
4. Sonos One
The inclusion of Amazon Alexa capabilities is a natural fit in the Sonos One, giving one of the best whole-home speaker setups hands-free control. The One consolidates all your music—Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, internet radio and other assorted services—into one app and inobtrusive speaker for room-filling sound. No matter how loud you have the music, the microphone on the One can pick up your voice commands (no need to shout over the sound) to pause, skip, rewind or control the volume. It might be dubbed the One, but Sonos makes it easy to expand your system. Everything from its portfolio works synergistically together: Add another One for stereo, a subwoofer for more bass, or a soundbar to up the TV-viewing experience.
Casio’s line of G-Shock watches has always placed an emphasis on being rugged timepieces that can take a beating whilst staying dependable. The G-STEEL line keeps that same philosophy but marries it with premium and luxurious materials for dressed-up toughness. A carbon bezel surrounds the scratch-resistant sapphire glass, which sits atop a stainless steel housing for a shock- and waterproof (up to 200 meters) watch. The watch itself is kitted with a countdown timer, stopwatch, calendar, and an internal battery that is charged via solar power. The GSTB100XA-1A also comes equipped with Bluetooth, allowing you to connect the watch with the G-Shock Connected app to receive time from an internet time server.
The goal for Apple has always been to turn the tablet that could into the computing device that does. The latest iPad Pro takes a big step toward that vision. On the surface, the things that jump out about the iPad Pro is the stunning Liquid Retina display (our opinion: it’s the best picture in the tablet world), its weight (at 1.4 pounds it won’t cause too much hand stress for long one-handed sessions) and the flat box-like edges (iPhone 5 lovers can rejoice). Inside, the A12X Bionic chip promises desktop level performance, making even intensive tasks like video-editing possible on an iPad. Even gaming (something not usually associated with an iPad) can be accomplished as we were able to get a match of Fortnite going at a reasonable 30 FPS. One can use the iPad Pro as a tablet and be very satisfied with the experience, but it gets fully unlocked with the (optional) Smart Keyboard and updated Apple Pencil. The former makes daily computing tasks involving data input that much easier to do, while the latter opens up an array of creative possibilities for drawing and editing (side note: We once saw legendary Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield sketch shoe designs on the fly with an iPad and were amazed at what he conjured on the screen). New to the upgraded Pencil is a magnetic charging feature: Just dock the Pencil onto the side of the iPad Pro and it’ll wirelessly charge. The last upgrade to the iPad Pro is the switch to USB-C for its singular port, opening the iPad to an array of peripherals, an additional monitor (up to 5K resolution) and cameras, making it a possible computing device replacement for creatives like artists and photographers.
iPad Pro: $799 (starting price) Smart Keyboard Folio: $199 Pencil: $129
1. Microsoft Xbox One X Robot White Special Edition Fallout 76 Bundle
Bundles can sometimes be Faustian bargains: You are forced to take on something you don’t want in order to secure something you don’t want. In the case of the Xbox One X Fallout 76 bundle, you’re not shaking hands with the devil. In this case you’re getting a top-of-the-line Xbox One X with 1TB of storage in a never-before-seen white—robot white, to be exact—chassis and the highly anticipated Fallout 76 game. Included is a matching white controller to play the ninth edition of the Fallout series. Fallout 76 is the multiplayer prequel to the post-apocalyptical game, with a world four times the size of the last game, Fallout 4.
2. Philips S9000 Prestige
Shaving is a chore. There’s no way to gloss the daily grind of having to shear your face of growth, especially when you’re armed with a tool that requires several passes, leaving your face as scuffed up as an NBA floor after the final buzzer. The S9000 Prestige won’t make it less a chore, but it will be a more pleasant experience. Turning it on, the first thing you’ll notice about the S9000 is the sound, or lack of it. Instead of sounding like a swarm of angry hornets at your face, you’re greeted with a soothing hum of the motor (even at the highest of three power settings) and circular action of the tri-head neon-precision cutting blades (which require a slight learning curve: circular passes instead of the up and down of typical foil shavers). The shaver cuts as close as any electric shaver can get and requires minimal passing to get your face smooth-tothe-touch. Even hard-to-reach nooks like the lower neck (by the Adam’s apple) and underneath the nose are covered with the pivoting head. The entire unit is waterproof for shower shaves, and comes equipped with a trimmer head. Clean up is as simple as popping off the rotary head and running it under the sink tap. A full charge of the S9000 can net you close to 60 minutes of shave time (there’s a battery indicator light on the base) and recharging requires a simple plug, but we’re holding out hope that Philips improves on this one day with a wireless charger.
3. Epson FastFoto
The days of film photography might be relegated to hobbyists, enthusiasts and purists, but for people of a certain age—most pre-2K folks who have their memories preserved in film prints— there usually remains albums and boxes of irreplaceable photos to properly archive. True to its name, the FastFoto will make quick work of digitizing the old prints—it can accommodate from stamp-sized prints up to 8.5 inch by 120 inch panoramas, and can even preserve polaroids (with or without the white borders)—scanning them into digital formats as fast as one photo per second. The feed tray can handle up to 36 prints at once and the Epson software will automatically color-correct photos (or you can leave them as-is for full nostalgic value), fix any flaws like creases or tears, and detects and scans any handwritten notes on the backs of photos. When not digitizing photos, the FastFoto can also serve as a competent document scanner that can catalog all your endless paperwork and receipts.
PLEASE TOUCH Experience the world’s most amazing animals in one app. WWF TOGETHER — the free app from World Wildlife Fund. Download it today. worldwildlife.org/together
WHERE TO BUY: adidas Harden Vol. 3,Crazy BYW, adidas.com; Art of Sport bodycare, artofsport.com; Apple iPad Pro, Smart Keyboard Folio, Pencil: apple.com; Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless, beatsbydre.com; Casio G-Shock G-STEEL, gshock.com; DeWalt 20V Max Cordless Framing Nailer, dewalt.com; Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute, dyson.com; Epson FastFoto, Epson.com; Herschel Supply x NBA Settlement Backpack, herschelsupply.com; HyperX Cloud Mix, hyperxgaming.com; iRobot Roomba i7+, irobot. com; LEGO Voltron, lego.com; Lenovo Legion C730, Lenovo.com; Logitech Craft, MX Master 2S, Logitech. com; Microsoft Xbox One X Robot White Special Edition Fallout 76 Bundle, xbox.com; Microsoft Surface Book 2, microsoft.com; Nanoleaf Light Panels, nanoleaf.me; Philips S900 Prestige, Somneo, usa.philips.com; Ring Video Doorbell 2, ring.com; Samsung Note 9, samsung. com; Sonos One, sonos.com; SUBPAC M2X, subpac. com; TACKMA x Klutch Sports Group “The Game is Everything” Crew, tackma.com
1. Logitech Craft + MX Master 2S
Peripherals like a mouse and keyboard are often ignored and replaced only when necessary—stray cups of coffee or hurls across the room in fits of rage come to mind—but they should never be taken for granted and are as important as the computer and display. As a longtime specialist in the keyboard/mouse realm, Logitech understands this. Their Craft is for the user who wants to be productive in style. The heavy—you’re not throwing this far—keyboard comes wrapped in an understated matte grey that matches well with, say, an iMac or Surface Studio, but the piece de resistance is the dial on the top left (sorry lefthanders), which offers fine-tuned control via a touch, tap or turn. A touch will bring up a menu, a turn will navigate and scroll, while a tap will make a selection. This is a boost in productivity, especially in menu-driven creation applications like Photoshop. The full-sized keyboard is backlit and connects via Bluetooth. Housed in the same matte grey and silver scheme, the MX Master 2S is the perfect complement to the Craft. The first thing you’ll notice is the ergonomic design that makes you forget that it’s even there (again, except for lefties), and the second thing you’ll appreciate is the precision when navigating the mouse across any surface, even glass. The standard vertical scroll wheel on the index has tank-like treads for fine control and can be shifted with a press of a button to ratchet scrolling (more tactile) or a free spin scrolling to fly through long docs or pages (the wheel goes into free spin mode automatically). There’s even a horizontal scroll wheel on the thumb and two customizable buttons next to it. Paired together, the combo will add productivity to your daily computing and make the computer something you’ll replace instead.
Kraft: $199.99 MX Master 2S: $99.99
2. adidas Crazy BYW
Adidas brought back a ‘90s silhouette, but gave it a modern tech twist with the Crazy BYW. Taking the concept of a rounded sole, to mimic the contours of the human foot, adidas came up with the “Feet You Wear” tech. Its most notable turn came when it found itself onto the KB8 III, the signature shoes of Kobe Bryant, who was with the brand at the time. The Crazy BYW remixes it up with “Boost You Wear” tech, keeping the same ethos of the footlike outsole, but injecting Boost into it. Along with the distinguishing outsole. adidas made sure to keep the same lines of the shoe and even made sure to include as an easter egg the famed FYW mascot on the toe outsole.
3. SUBPAC M2X
Folks always say that they’re feeling a particular beat or track, but they’re not literally feeling a thing—unless they’re listening to it through the SUBPAC M2X, best described as a wearable subwoofer for your entire body. When listening to music—particularly bass-heavy tracks—through the M2X (it’s a rechargeable backpack-like device that you connect to your music player and headphones), it pulses “sound” through your body which you “hear” through haptics (imagine your vibrations from a videogame controller) and bone conduction (the subtle soundwaves travel through your bones and are picked up through your inner ear). For audiophiles, the M2X brings another level to music enjoyment; for gamers, especially VR enthusiasts, it will lend another layer of immersion to the gaming experience; for athletes, the M2X can help during training sessions where music is used as a tool to help focus.
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The Pacific Northwest has produced some of the League’s finest talent. From Brandon Roy and Jamal Crawford, to Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas, the region is the country’s best kept secret when it comes to being a hoops hotbed. Zach LaVine, from Renton, Wash., adds to the PNW distinction. LaVine’s trajectory to NBA stardom has been on the rise since his rookie campaign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. That season, LaVine wowed the world during the Slam Dunk Contest in 2015. He won the contest again in an epic matchup against Aaron Gordon in 2016. His high-flying antics were grounded for a spell due to an ACL tear, and he was subsequently traded during his third season to the Chicago Bulls. This season he is on the inside track for Most Improved Player (or the defunct Comeback Player of the Year award) with his return from injury, and showing off that otherworldly athleticism again. When LaVine has his two feet on the ground, he enjoys spending time with family, watching films, playing Destiny, and much more.
“Nike showed trust in me coming out of school, but adidas came in [after the contract was up] with more of an opportunity to be one of the faces of the brand, one of the guys that, moving forward, [will] help build a brand, and I appreciated that. On the court, I have my own PE’s. I wore the adidas Crazy Explosive last year. This year I’ll wear the adidas Bounce Chicago Zach LaVine edition. Actually I might wear some Gilbert Arenas shoes, and T-Macs this year, some throwbacks and retros. I like them, they’re two of my favorite players and I’ve spoken to them about wearing their shoes and they’re on board with it. Off the court, I wear a lot of Yeezys or Boosts. Adidas has so much off the court and lifestyle now, especially with the influences from hiphop and the younger generation, you can wear anything with adidas right now. My girlfriend wears nothing but adidas.”
ILLUSTRATION: MATT CANDELA
BY ANTHONY GILBERT #1
I didn’t get into gaming for a long time. I don’t play like 2K and stuff like that, the only games I really play are Destiny. I play it at nighttime. I watch a lot of YouTube videos and stuff like that…it’s cool. I’m sort of a role model for some people, they recognize me from basketball. I don’t think that professional gamers know that we look up to them and what they do in the gaming world and it’s really cool.
For music, it really just depends on the mood that you’re in. I have favorite rappers, I play for Chicago and my favorite rapper is Chief Keef. That’s my boy, I text him here and there sometimes. I like Lil Wayne. I’m from the West Coast, I like YG, and old school...my dad has me with all his old school stuff, I listen to some Michael Jackson, I like a lot of old school music like New Edition and stuff like that.
Man, I’m a pretty relaxed dude, I love going to the movies, I bring all my family, we go watch probably like three movies per month. When we’re on the road, I’ll go as well. I’ll bring one or two of my teammates, or whoever wants to go, maybe rent out a movie theater and have the whole team go for a team event. I’ve done that a couple of times. I’ll call ahead and buy out the theater in advance and rent it out, just the one screen, not the entire theater—just to have some privacy, get some good leg room, and some good seats, popcorn and just enjoy the movie.
I go on Instagram, I keep my social media up. Dominos, I play dominos with my friends, and the Destiny 2 companion app when I’m playing.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST FOR THE 2018-19 SEASON... I’m excited...last year I didn’t get to play a lot, it was the first time being injured. I got a handful of games at the end of the season and it felt like it just took forever because I was just waiting. You know when I did finally get back on the court, and it felt great being able to play, and just get back. I just locked up a new contract with Chicago, I’m in Chicago for another four years and I’ve had the whole offseason to train and get ready, and I feel great...it’s going to be great.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO WASN’T FAMILIAR WITH SEATTLE...
It’s a sleeper. In the summertime it’s probably the best weather to have, the weather is 75 [degrees] and sunny. Everything is green, and there’s the lake, I love getting on the lake. I’m a Bellevue, [Wash.] type person, but wherever you go, the Pacific Northwest is beautiful. You can go up to Vancouver, and get water over there because we’re right on the ocean, so I feel like it’s a sleeper. It rains, but you can get used to that. But once it hits May or June, the weather is incredible.
YOU ARE KNOWN FOR WINNING THE DUNK CONTEST, WHAT OTHER THINGS ARE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH IN YOUR CAREER...
Every year I go out and I set goals. Obviously, I want to be an All-Star. I’ve been on the ballot a couple of times, but I’d like to make the All-Star Game. I’d like to be a champion, Most Improved Player...I’d love to go after that, especially coming off an injury like I just had. I’d love to be in the Three-Point Contest, I don’t think anybody’s ever won the Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest. I have a lot of different things I want to get to—I want to be All-NBA, I want to be an All-Star—so you want to accomplish all those and that’s what you put the work in for.
THOUGHTS ON MANU GINOBILI’S RETIREMENT...
I was on an interview when I found out, one of my boys told me. It’s sad when you see the legends go because you don’t get to play with them anymore. They bring so much to the game and they been through so much, so much experience and they help the game out so much. It’s sad, but he’s had such a great career—future Hall of famer, first-ballot no doubt—and one of the first players to come over from overseas that helped transition the game to where it is now. You know, the way he attacked the lane and came up with the Eurostep—Manu was one of the first ones to start doing that. There won’t be another one like him.
YOU’RE A BIG SPACE JAM FAN, WHAT’S IT LIKE PLAYING FOR THE CHICAGO BULLS, JUST LIKE MICHAEL JORDAN...
I never thought of that...I grew up in the ‘90s so obviously all of us were giant Michael Jordan fans. He’s the greatest of all time. I think it’s really cool, I met him a couple of times and just knowing that’s where he played at, that’s where the legacy and the dynasty started. You know, he’s the plateau, and you try to reach that and seeing those banners and those championships in the hallways every day it’s an inspiration to work hard.
119 GLENN JAMES/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; COURTESY OF ACTIVISION
BY BRANDEN PETERS #63 HE GOT GAME:
TRAE YOUNG As one of the very few players to lead the NCAA in points and assists in the same year, all eyes are on Trae Young coming into his rookie NBA season. The Hawks guard was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, but was the first rookie in his class to do motion capture for NBA 2K19 We caught up with Trae to get his take on the experience and the upcoming season. What surprised you the most about the motion capture experience? I didn’t necessarily know I was going to be doing full speed stuff and breaking into a sweat. That was the most surprising to me. It was all fun, it was great, I really enjoyed it. It was a great experience for me. You’re a long time NBA 2K player. What was that feeling like when you first played your own player in the game? It’s really cool knowing I don’t have to create a player. I can just get on the game, pick the Hawks and just play. Now my little brother can play with me and I have friends who will play with the Hawks, too. You don’t like birds, yet you got drafted by the Hawks. How is that going to work out for you? Yeah, I hate birds. I think a Hawk may be the only bird I’ll grow to like. The Hawks are a really young team, so what are your expectations coming into the season. I’m expecting a major jump in growth from last year. This is obviously a rebuilding team with a new coaching staff and new front office. We’re the youngest team in the NBA, so I want to see growth from the beginning of the season thru the end, and I really expect that. I also want to get the culture of Atlanta involved. How has the vibe between you and fellow rookie teammates Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman been so far? The vibe is great between us. We’ve all known each other since high school—me and Kevin playing USA Basketball together and me and Omari playing against each other in AAU. For us to be drafted together and to already have a great bond made it that much easier. Obviously, you want to win games, but as a rebuilding team, do you feel like the Hawks will be able to compete this year? I want the Atlanta fan base and the whole NBA to feel that when you play the Hawks, it’s no easy game. That’s the goal that we have and the type of team we want to be. What is the one thing you want to see improved or changed in NBA 2K? I want to see players be able to shoot a little bit further out than the regular NBA three-point line. Now, if you shoot beyond the regular three-point line, you don’t make it that often. Hopefully that’s something they put in my skill set. How do you feel about your rating in the game [at the time, it was 77]? I feel like it’s necessary I guess. It’s something you get every year, so I don’t get caught up in the rating, but it’s obviously cool for my first one.
120 SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
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To all clinical research volunteers, thank you. A sincere thank you to all of the men and women who take part in clinical research studies each year. By volunteering today, you become a medical hero forever. For more information about clinical research, please visit CISCRP.org.
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Stacked Dec: LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have dominated the decade