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A Letter From the Commissioner

June 2, 2016

Dear Fans, Welcome to the 2016 NBA Finals. It’s been a terrific year for the NBA, and we are thrilled that you could join us for our most electrifying event. This year marks the 70th NBA Finals, and we’re looking forward to another fantastic series. The Finals is where stars are born and legends are written. These are the moments we remember, the plays we imitate, and the heroes we cheer our hearts out for. From the best players, to the most passionate fans, to the most energetic arenas and the most thrilling endings, this is the best basketball in the world, and these two teams have fought hard to earn the privilege of playing on the game’s biggest stage. While only one team can win the title, every team played a significant role in making this a successful season. We celebrated the 10th anniversary of NBA Cares and, with help from current and former players, we dedicated our 1,000th Live, Learn and Play Center for children. We continued to grow the game globally, holding clinics around the world and playing our first exhibition game in Africa. And thanks to our dedicated and passionate fans, we broke the league’s all-time attendance record for the second season in a row, and we surpassed one billion likes and followers across social media. Now the time has come to crown a champion, with two elite teams vying for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. On behalf of the entire NBA family, thank you for your continued support and enjoy the Finals. Sincerely,

Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Adam Silver

The Finals 2016

3


CONTENTS

Th e Fi n a l s 2 0 1 6 C o m m e m o ra t i ve Pro g ra m

Features 9 3 Rewind 2015-16

The season’s focus was undoubtedly about one thing: the Golden State Warriors’ pursuit of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins (spoiler alert: They finished a game better at 73-9). We saw the exit of one of the game’s biggest stars over the past 20 years in Kobe Bryant. As the Warriors were chasing victories at arenas all over the League, Bryant was saying farewell to them. The League saw plenty of promising talent in Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota and New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, to join still-burning bright stars like Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But all the while, we remained transfixed on the shooting exploits of Stephen Curry, who showed that the only thing more limitless than his range was his accuracy.

3 8 Sharing the Throne

LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram? While many will go back and forth on who will have the bigger upside and who will be worthy of being the first to walk up stage at the 2016 NBA Draft, it’s clear that both will be high-impact players. Beyond the power pair, there are plenty of franchise-altering talents available.

of Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge, Boston had the audacity to have NBA Top 50 Great Bill Walton serving as sixth man. This embarrassment of riches steamrolled the opposition and certainly had the talent for 74.

6 8 Runaway Bulls

The team formerly known as the greatest regularseason team in the NBA might no longer hold the title, but they’ll forever remain in bar room and barbershop arguments of G.O.A.T. squads. Any team that featured the two-way versatility of Scottie Pippen, the defense and rebounding of Dennis Rodman, and the shrewd head coaching of Phil Jackson will be great. But what keeps that Bulls team in that rare air is Michael Jordan and his maniacal drive to win— including your debates about greatest team ever.

7 6 The Rio Deal

4 4 SPATE OF EIGHT

As is the case every four years since 1992, the best talent in the NBA puts asides their annual battles for the Larry O’Brien Trophy in search of national pride and Olympic gold. USA Basketball has its sights on gold in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer, but expect competition from other countries vying for the same shiny prize. On the women’s side, USA Basketball will be aiming for its sixth straight goldmedal finish at the Olympic Games.

5 2 Almost Sunrise

It’s been 20 years since the WNBA came on the scene. With that in mind, we look at the 20 storylines that will dominate the WNBA this season, from the atthe-height-of-its-reign dynasty in Minnesota to the league’s biggest stars like Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins and Candace Parker who want you to #WatchMeWork.

In today’s world of repeats and threepeats being marks of sustained excellence, the Boston Celtics were going for the octo-peat in the 1966 Finals. Teams lined up to try to dethrone the vaunted Celtics, only to be met by each and every time—eight, to be exact—Bill Russell on the floor—and as they walked off of it, the smoke from Red Auerbach’s victory cigar.

It’s always sunny in Phoenix—except when the championship-collecting Boston Celtics are involved. In the 1976 Finals, the Sunderella Suns had everything going for them—a rabid fanbase that found pride in Arizona’s then-lone pro sports team, upsetting the defending champion Golden State Warriors, and even a miracle shot of miracle shots— but the Celtics stopped the Suns from rising.

6 0 Celtic Ride

Had the 1985-86 Boston Celtics known that the 72 wins by Chicago and the 73 subsequently by this year’s Golden State team would be such a big deal, they might’ve went for 74 that season. Featuring a starting five that included what might be the greatest frontcourt ever in Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish and a tough-as-nails backcourt

4

The Finals 2016

Professional Sports Publications 519 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10018 Tel: (212) 697-1460 Fax: (646) 753-9480 Executive VP Operations Jeff Botwinick Executive VP, Business Development Martin Lewis Executive VP, Sales Steve Farkas Executive VP, Sales Mitch Gibbs Executive VP, Team Relations Dave Gerschwer Executive Vice President Julie Wong Manager, Marketing Services Aron Sawyer Production Manager Jaime Ziegler

8 4 20 For 20

Departments 3 A Letter From the Commissioner 3 3 2015-16 Award Winners 1 3 8 NBA Cares 1 4 0 Jr. NBA 1 4 2 D-Velopments 1 4 4 NBA Digital 1 4 6 Finals Gear 1 4 8 All-Time Finals Leaders 1 5 2 All-Time Finals Results

National Basketball Association President and Executive Producer, Content Danny Meiseles Senior Vice President, Corporate Services Jarad Franzreb Senior VP, Content Production Paul Hirschheimer Senior VP, Entertainment & Player Marketing Charlie Rosenzweig Executive Vice President, Communications Mike Bass Vice President, Editorial and Daily Content John Hareas President, Global Partnerships Sal LaRocca Vice President, Global Partnerships Matt Holt Manager, Global Partnerships Wonnie Song Associate Coordinator, Global Partnerships Harley Opolinsky Vice President, NBA Photos Joe Amati Director, NBA Photos David Bonilla Senior Specialist, NBA Photos Brian Choi

The Finals Teams 6 Team Atonement 1 2 Dialed In 1 4 Cavaliers Roster 1 6 Cavaliers Stats

Editor in Chief Ming Wong Design Director Kengyong Shao Associate Editors Dan Holzhauer, John Martin Assistant Editors Phil D’Apolito, Adam Kaufman Copy Editor Trevor Kearney Contributing Writers Michael Bradley, Jon Cooper, John Fawaz, Darryl Howerton, Brian Kotloff, Jeramie McPeek, Bob Ryan, Sam Smith

Specialist, NBA Photos Kevin Wright

2 0 Blockbuster Sequel 2 6 Doubling Down 2 8 Warriors Roster 3 0 Warriors Stats

All NBA photos appearing in the 2016 Official 2016 Finals Commemorative Program, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBA Entertainment. All WNBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of WNBA Enterprises. All NBDL photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBDL Enterprises. © 2016 Professional Sports Publications. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission of publisher is prohibited. PRINTED IN THE USA


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Eastern Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

By Michael Bradley

TEAM ATONE After last year’s disappointing end in the Finals, Cleveland is looking to make amends.

6

The Finals 2016


The Finals 2016

W

DANNY BOLLINGERWW/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

MENT

ith all of the energy that has been expended this season to celebrate Golden State, it’s almost possible to forget about how last season at this time, all anyone could talk about was LeBron James and the Cavaliers. James’ homecoming had created a tremendous sense of anticipation in Ohio, as long-suffering fans imagined that the elusive championship they had longed for during five-plus agonizing decades would finally arrive. Injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and the Warriors’ teamwide excellence thwarted James’ first-year efforts to make his home state a winner again. As Golden State dashed from the starting blocks this season, it dominated the NBA narrative, forcing the Cavs into a supporting role. Not even James’ trademark excellence and a coaching change could distract the NBA world from the Warriors’ pursuit of 73 victories. Somehow, the Big Three in Northeast Ohio had lost some relevance to Steph and Co. in Northern California. While everyone looked west, the Cavs put things together under new coach Tyronn Lue, winning the most games of any Eastern Conference team and once again dispatching all comers to reach the Finals. It certainly wasn’t easy or particularly attractive, since the turmoil surrounding the move to replace David Blatt with Lue—even though Cleveland was 30-11 at the time—necessitated a retrenching but also triggered a coalescing that made the team more efficient and certainly more dangerous come playoff time. “It’s very important [to have momentum],” Lue said just before the postseason commenced. “I think our team is playing at a pretty good level right now.” That was not the case when GM David Griffin made the decision to replace Blatt. The Cavs had just come off a 34-point January shellacking by the Warriors. Although Cleveland looked solid on paper, the team was struggling to find a way to play the kind of team ball necessary to win it all, especially since the Warriors, Spurs and Thunder went to the head of the line of championship contenders. Lue, a former NBA point guard, helped galvanize the team, which some had forgotten included a whole lot of talent. The re-signing of

The Finals 2016

7


Eastern Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

Tristan Thompson

Richard Jefferson

Sasha Kaun

J.R. Smith

Iman Shumpert

Mo Williams

Kyrie Irving

Dahntay Jones

8

The Finals 2016

the lingering effects of last year’s injury, but his turnover average was its lowest during his career, and he shows signs of being more reliable with the ball throughout the game. “I kind of knew gearing up toward the end of this season where I needed to be,” Irving told The News-Herald after a postseason practice. “I still have to continue that path of just coming in preparing, preparing, preparing and getting a ton of work in.” At one point last season, it seemed as if the last place Love would be this year was in Cleveland. There were reports that he was unhappy and that he would use his free agent opportunity to find a new home. Cavs fans who had delighted in the idea that he, James and Irving would form a core capable of making Cleveland competitive for years to come were petrified that the dream would last only one year. It didn’t. Love signed a five-year deal and returned to provide a big rebounding presence, frontcourt versatility and outside shooting. His complete—and rare—combination of skills provided an excellent piece for the Cavs and completed the trio Cleveland wanted to serve as its long-term core. Love averaged 16.0 ppg and a team-leading 9.9 rpg. His athletic ability helped the Cavs lineup flexibility, since he was able to play center at times, as well as position himself around the three-point arc. Although no one will ever mistake the 6-10 forward as a fire-breather, he does create big problems for opponents and complements James and Irving well. James, of course, continued his all-around excellence. It’s hard to believe that he is in his 13th NBA season, since he remains in his prime and among the League’s absolute best. His outside shooting fell off this

Andrew D. Bernstein; David Liam Kyle (4); Nathaniel S. Butler; Noah Graham/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Kevin Love, one year after Irving re-upped, and James’ return solidified the Cavs’ core and stopped the talk about intramural squabbling. It was clear the Cavaliers had put together a roster with enough ability to win it all. It was just a matter of figuring out how to make it work as efficiently as possible. As the Cavs headed into the playoffs, it appeared as if that had happened. Even though the team won 16 fewer games than the Warriors, its 57 triumphs were still three better than the total in 2014-15. The Big Three combined to score 60.9 ppg, providing an excellent base every night, and the bench was able to bring fortifications to the court throughout the lineup. The Cavs didn’t run away with anything, needing a good close to hold off Toronto for the East’s best record, but they did secure homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs. Although James is clearly the main man for the Cavs, there is no denying the impact of Irving. Anyone who needs proof need only refer to last year’s Finals, when his absence—and that of Love—made Cleveland far more easily defensible and forced James to try to beat Golden State by himself. Lue said the Cavs are in the best shape when Irving is in “attack mode,” as he was when he averaged 27.5 ppg during the opening round of the playoffs against Detroit. Although Irving did have moments when he held onto the ball too often, and he has been known to take some questionable shots, he is vital to the Cavs’ success and must be at full capacity for them to win it all. Irving struggled somewhat from three-point range this year, making just 32.1 percent of his tries, something he must improve if the Cavs are to take the title. Irving played in only 53 games this season, thanks to


Eastern Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

Timofey Mozgov

Kevin Love

Matthew Dellavedova

LeBron James

Jordan McRae

Channing Frye

10

The Finals 2016

big and small—and everywhere in between. Last year, Matthew Dellavedova established himself as a first-rate pest during the playoffs. This year, he grew from an irritant into a fine backup point guard capable of distributing the basketball and scoring. It’s unlikely Dellavedova will ever be a top NBA point man, but he has the ability to run the offense for brief stretches. Don’t forget that his extended cameo appearance in the Finals last year when Irving was out, could prove valuable this year. Iman Shumpert brings solid defense and on occasion, some point production, but that part of his game isn’t essential to the Cavaliers’ equation. Even though he missed the last two regular season games due to a knee problem, he was ready to go in the playoffs. Players like him and Thompson provide a variety of small things that lead to an overall successful outcome. “I think we all [feed off their energy], and there’s a lot of stuff that [Thompson] does and Shump does and guys throughout our entire team that don’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet, but every, single night, they’re making the difference,” Love said during the Cavs’ series with Detroit. As they play in a second straight Finals, the Cavs are trying to make their new equation produce a result that is different from last year. To do that, they need good health, of course, but they also need to take the team’s post-Blatt personality and use it as a means to produce first-rate basketball every night. In last year’s Finals, James was forced to try to beat the Warriors by himself. He doesn’t have to do that this year, and things could well be a lot different.

Jesse D. Garrabrant (2); Nathaniel S. Butler (2); David Liam Kyle (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

year, but he continued to be a midrange force, a post-up monster, and as usual, an open-court freight train. There is no denying the impact of the Cavs’ Big Three, but the team’s hopes for a championship rest just as heavily on the other members of the rotation as they do on the star players. Granted, without James, Love and Irving, Cleveland has no chance to win anything of consequence. Of course, the standouts have to deliver, but just as the other top teams in the NBA rely heavily on support from other players, so too do the Cavaliers. One main cog remains J.R. Smith, who had the second-best threepoint shooting performance of his career, making 40 percent of his career-high 510 attempts. Smith has the ability to get extremely hot, as he showed against Detroit in the First Round of the playoffs, when he made 7 of 11 from long range as part of the Cavs’ overall 20 of 38 threepoint performance. Smith has been a steady perimeter force since joining Cleveland in the middle of last season and gives James and Irving a reliable target when they get double- and triple-teamed on the drive. As the NBA has moved from a post-centric League to one in which teams can employ small forwards in the middle, teams have had to construct rosters that have multiple frontcourt options. The Cavs are no exception and make use of Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov at center. Although Mozgov started more games, Thompson logged more minutes. Each is a reliable scorer close to the basket, and both can rebound. Thompson is a more mobile defender, while Mozgov has better skills protecting the rim. Together, they give Lue the kind of lineup options necessary to battle against teams that alternate between playing

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Eastern Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

By Michael Bradley

DIALED IN LeBron James doesn’t care what his millions of followers think of his social media moves, but he does want to lead them to a championship.

T

12

The Finals 2016

MIKE EHRMANN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

he evidence against LeBron James in March was overwhelming. To some. Because he had unfollowed the Cavaliers’ official Twitter feed, it was obvious to anyone with a modicum of sense that James was beginning what would be a drawn-out exit from Cleveland, for which he is eligible after this season, thanks to an opt-out clause in the contract he signed in July 2014. That had to be it, right? James was trying to sneak away, and starting with a social media uncoupling was a good first step, right? No way. James wasn’t starting his departure protocol. Stung by an ugly loss to Miami, the Cavs’ star forward decided to enter “playoff mode” a few weeks early. In previous years, James had done his best to mute all extraneous noise as the postseason commenced—“Zero Dark Thirty – 23,” by his Twitter account— to better to concentrate on what needed to be accomplished on the court. Because there were some who looked at James’ statements about playing with “old friends” as a hint that he wanted out, or that he was behind the decision to replace David Blatt with Tyronn Lue, a narrative emerged that he was unhappy. The truth is that he probably was unhappy—with not winning a championship yet in Cleveland. And though he would never admit it, James probably wasn’t too keen on the belief from some that he was no longer the best player in the world. It’s interesting that Golden State’s 2015 title elevated Stephen Curry to the top of the NBA’s player rankings, even as James continued to put up big numbers and largely be an unstoppable force. If James’ response to the pending playoff grind was to eliminate as many distractions as possible, then that made some sense.


Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images; Kevin C. Cox; Jason Miller/GETTY IMAGES

The Finals 2016

“It’s a mind switch, a mind switch,” James said to ESPN.com in early April. “I’ve been going to the gym even more, dialed in more on what needs to be done and what needs to be better. I’ve been in this League a long time and I know what I need to do for my game to be even sharper, so I’m glad I was able to deliver and not just talk about it, be able to deliver for my teammates because that’s what means more to me than anything.” James’ two seasons in Cleveland haven’t been particularly smooth. Last year, he dealt with the expectations surrounding his return, the reports (accurate or otherwise) about his feud with teammate Kevin Love, and the frustration about having to take on so much of the burden in the Finals series against Golden State. This season featured the coaching change, the Cavs’ relegation to second status next to the Warriors’ pursuit of the 73-win iron throne and the drama of which accounts show up on LeBron’s Twitter timeline. The funny thing is that James is still a pretty darn good player. He averaged 25.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 6.8 apg this season. None of those were career highs, and his three-point success rate (30.9 percent) was the lowest since his rookie year. His Player Efficiency Rating was 27.5, right in line with his glowing career mark of 27.7. But the goal is no longer for him to lead the League in every category. Having Irving and Love on the team means he doesn’t have to do that. James could still score 35 a night, but the Cavs wouldn’t be successful. So, he tries to include everybody, and he absolutely continues to be the team leader. Some aren’t too happy with his management style. When it was reported he changed a play during a timeout during last year’s postseason, many howled in protest. Overruling a coach’s move is not usually well-received, but at the time, in a tight game, James felt the need to make sure things went well. He has earned that right, and it’s not as if he heads into every timeout with a clipboard and a plan that runs counter to his coach’s wishes. His teammates know that the Cavs are his team, and their presence on the roster is at least partly due to his influence. James, along with James Jones, has two championship rings from their Miami Heat days; no other member of the Cavs has one. When he pushes teammates to play more effectively, he does so with one goal:

winning it all. And they respond to him. When he texted Irving after a loss to Chicago in April, he did so not to chide the young player but to remind him of the level of play necessary to win a title. “I told him we all need to be better,” James told ESPN.com. “And it’s not about what you did tonight, it’s about what you come back from a little adversity from a personal performance. [Irving] didn’t play well and he put a lot on his shoulders in that game, and we all needed to be better in that game. It wasn’t just him, and the good thing about it is we have another opportunity to accept the challenge, and that’s what you do, to be able to accept it and move on and be better.” For the Cavs, being “better” means winning the Finals. James’ return to Cleveland brought hope to a city that has gone 52 years without a title. That’s a lot of pressure, and while his social media habits and behindthe-scenes maneuvering may not appeal to some, his desire to bring a championship to a city thirsting for one should be quite attractive. If the Cavaliers win it all, no one will care who James follows on Twitter or whether he even has an Instagram account. They will be too busy celebrating. The Finals 2016

13


Eastern Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Tyronn Lue

Matthew Dellavedova

Channing Frye

Kyrie Irving

Head Coach Born: 5-3-77 College: Nebraska Year Coaching in NBA: 1

No.: 8 Position: Guard Height: 6-4 Weight: 198 Born: 9-8-90 College: St. Mary’s Year in NBA: 3

No.: 9 Position: Forward Height: 6-11 Weight: 255 Born: 5-17-83 College: Arizona Year in NBA: 11

No.: 2 Position: Guard Height: 6-3 Weight: 193 Born: 3-23-92 College: Duke Year in NBA: 5

Richard Jefferson

Dahntay Jones

James Jones

Sasha Kaun

Kevin Love

No.: 23 Position: Forward Height: 6-8 Weight: 250 Born: 12-30-84 High School: St. Vincent-St. Mary (OH) Year in NBA: 13

No.: 24 Position: Forward Height: 6-7 Weight: 233 Born: 6-21-80 College: Arizona Year in NBA: 15

No.: 30 Position: Guard-Forward Height: 6-6 Weight: 225 Born: 12-27-80 College: Duke Year in NBA: 12

No.: 1 Position: Guard-Forward Height: 6-8 Weight: 218 Born: 10-4-80 College: Miami Year in NBA: 13

No.: 14 Position: Center Height: 6-11 Weight: 260 Born: 5-8-85 College: Kansas Year in NBA: 1

No.: 0 Position: Forward Height: 6-10 Weight: 251 Born: 9-7-88 College: UCLA Year in NBA: 8

Jordan McRae

Timofey Mozgov

Iman Shumpert

J.R. Smith

Tristan Thompson

Mo Williams

No.: 12 Position: Guard Height: 6-5 Weight: 179 Born: 3-28-91 College: Tennessee Year in NBA: 1

No.: 20 Position: Center Height: 7-1 Weight: 275 Born: 7-16-86 Country: Russia Year in NBA: 6

No.: 4 Position: Guard Height: 6-5 Weight: 220 Born: 6-26-90 College: Georgia Tech Year in NBA: 5

No.: 5 Position: Guard Height: 6-6 Weight: 225 Born: 9-9-85 High School: St. Benedict’s Prep (NJ) Year in NBA: 12

No.: 13 Position: Center-Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 238 Born: 3-13-91 College: Texas Year in NBA: 5

No.: 52 Position: Guard Height: 6-1 Weight: 198 Born: 12-19-82 College: Alabama Year in NBA: 13

Coaching Staff Assistant Coaches:

14

The Finals 2016

Athletic Trainer:

David Liam Kyle (12); David Dow; Jeyhoun Allebaugh; Gary Bassing/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

LeBron James


Eastern Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Head Coach: Athletic Trainer:

Assistant Coaches:

FREE THROWS

REBOUNDS

NO.

PLAYER

G

MIN

FIELD GOALS FG

FGA

PCT

FG

FGA

PCT

FT

FTA

PCT

OFF

DEF

TOT

AST

STL

BLK PTS

AVG

23

LeBron James

76

2709

737

1416

.520

87

282

.309

359

491

.731

111

454

565

514

104

49

1920

25.3

2

Kyrie Irving

53

1667

394

879

.448

84

262

.321

169

191

.885

44

113

157

250

56

18

1041

19.6

0

Kevin Love

77

2424

409

977

.419

158

439

.360

258

314

.822

149

613

762

185

58

41

1234

16.0

30

Dahntay Jones

1

42

6

14

.429

1

2

.500

0

0

-

1

4

5

2

1

2

13

13.0

5

J.R. Smith

77

2362

353

850

.415

204

510

.400

45

71

.634

43

174

217

130

81

21

955

12.4

52

Mo Willams

41

748

132

302

.437

36

102

.353

38

42

.905

6

66

72

98

14

5

338

8.2

13

Tristan Thompson

82 2269

247

420

.588

0

0

-

149

242

.616

268

470

738

62

38

51

643

7.8

8

Matthew Dellavedova

76

207

511

.405

98

239

.410

57

66

.864

33

129

162

337

44

9

569

7.5

9

Channing Frye

26 446

71

161

.441

43

114

.377

11

14

.786

12

81

93

26

8

8

196

7.5

20

Timofey Mozgov

76

203

359

.565

1

7

.143

68

95

.716

110

227

337

33

22

57

475

6.3

4

Iman Shumpert

54 1316

114

305

.374

43

146

.295

40

51

.784

32

171

203

92

54

19

311

5.8

24

Richard Jefferson

74

1326

143

312

.458

66

173

.382

58

87

.667

15

113

128

59

33

14

410

5.5

12

Jordan McRae

15

113

23

52

.442

7

11

.636

9

13

.692

2

10

12

15

0

1

62

4.1

1

James Jones

48 463

58

142

.408

41

104

.394

21

26

.808

8

42

50

14

11

10

178

3.7

17

Anderson Varejao

31

310

32

76

.421

0

1

.000

16

21

.762

24

67

91

20

11

5

80

2.6

9

Jared Cunningham

40 355

32

91

.352

10

32

.313

30

48

.625

3

26

29

19

12

2

104

2.6

14

Sasha Kaun

25 95

9

17

.529

0

0

-

5

11

.455

12

14

26

3

4

5

23

0.9

12

Joe Harris

5

1

4

.250

1

4

.250

0

0

-

0

3

3

2

0

0

3

0.6

Cavaliers

82 19855 3171

6888 .460

880

2428 .362

1333

1783 .748

873

2777 3650

1861

551

317

8555 104.3

OPPONENTS

82 19855 3019

6736 .448

647

1863

1378 1855 .743

760

2604 3364

1756 590 362 8063 98.3

16

The Finals 2016

1326

15

.347

It was the first time in J.R. Smith’s career that he topped 200 three-point field goals.

MISC.

POINTS

Kyrie Irving joined LeBron James and Love as the three Cavs who topped 1,000 points this season.

David Liam Kyle; ANdrew D. Bernstein; Bill Baptist/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Kevin Love led the team in defensive rebounds and total rebounds.

1867

3-POINT FG


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Western Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

By Darryl Howerton

Blockbuster

20

The Finals 2016


The Finals 2016

SEQUEL

EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES

The Golden State Warriors have followed up a great season of 67 wins and a Championship with one that could possibly be the greatest of all time.

T

he Golden State Warriors mantra during the 2016 NBA Playoffs continued to be “Strength In Numbers,” a rallying cry they used for two seasons to up the Dub Nation pride, boasting of every players’ importance on their deep 15-man roster. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The three words remain inscribed on everything from arena backboards to practice T-shirts to social media hashtags. Only now, these 2016 Warriors are better identified by the strength of one specific number, namely 73. Seventy-three is the number of wins Golden State accrued in its historic 2015-16 campaign when the defending NBA champions improved on their 67-15 season in 2014-15 to finish 73-9 in 2015-16, breaking a 20-year-old NBA record set by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, who went 72-10 in the 1995-96 season, a mark that many thought was untouchable. Seventy-three says it all. It puts the Warriors on a historic plateau, up there with—or even up above—the 1996 Bulls, the 1997 Bulls (69-13) and the 1972 Lakers (69-13). It gives Golden State fans the right to compare two-time-andcounting MVP Stephen Curry with all-time great and five-time MVP Michael Jordan. It connects All-Stars Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Andre Iguodala with 1995-96 award winners Jordan (MVP, All-NBA, All-Defense), Pippen (All-NBA, AllDefense), Dennis Rodman (All-Defense) and Toni Kukoc (Sixth Man of the Year) respectively. It places Warriors head coach and Bulls’ 1996, 1997 and 1998 NBA champion Steve Kerr in line—as a player and now as the 2015-16 Coach of the Year—with his own legendary 11-time NBA champion head coach Phil Jackson, who led six Chicago teams to titles. If we wanted, we probably could even come up with another 73 reasons how these all-time great teams are so similar. But truth be told, these 2015-16 Warriors still have the business at hand of winning the 2016 NBA Championship before any claim of “greatest team of all time” can be made. “As bad as we wanted to win 73 games, it means nothing if we don’t win the title,” said Green on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “When you go to Chicago, and you look up at those banners, there’s no banner all by itself that says 72-10. The championship banner says 72-10. I’m pretty sure if they didn’t win the championship, you wouldn’t see 72-10 in their gym. So we’ve got to finish the deal.” At his Coach of the Year press conference, Kerr said: “Seventy-three

The Finals 2016

21


Western Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

James Michael McAdoo

Kevon Looney

Ian Clark

Klay Thompson

Festus Ezeli

Leandro Barbosa

Shaun Livingston

Andre Iguodala

22

The Finals 2016

rebounds and 7.4 assists in 35 minutes per game, and you have one of the NBA’s best trios (the three were all All-Stars) of all-time leading a team for the ages. Even the President of the United States Barack Obama—a noted Bulls fan, at that—tweeted his congratulations to the Warriors, saying, “If somebody had to break the Bulls record, I’m glad it’s them.” It is no wonder the Warriors led the NBA in offensive efficiency (112.5 points per 100 possessions) and true shooting percentage (.593), thanks to the NBA’s best shooting backcourt ever (no guard teammates ever averaged 50-plus points at a more efficient rate), their very own triple-double machine (Green’s 13 triple-double season was only topped since the 1983-84 season by Russell Westbrook’s 18 in 201516; Magic Johnson’s 17 in 1988-89; Michael Jordan’s 15 in 1988-89) and three versatile and clutch veterans: Iguodala (2015 Finals MVP), Harrison Barnes and guard Shaun Livingston, not to mention other bench stalwarts like Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, Brandon Rush and Ian Clark. As great as Steph and Klay are, it took the rest of the roster to hit 399 of the team’s 1077 three-pointers for Golden State to break the NBA’s all-time record for threes (previously 944 by the 2014-15 Rockets) and doing so at a league-leading .416 clip, which ranked second all-time only to the 1996-97 Charlotte Hornets, led by Glen Rice and coincidentally, Dell Curry, Steph’s dad. Still, as elite as Golden State’s offense was—ranking among the 12 best ever—the Warriors do not become one of the NBA’s greatest teams ever without a defense that is just as lethal, ranking fourth this season in

Juan Ocampo; Noah Graham (4); Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images; Ezra Shaw; Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

wins was a great way to finish off what was an amazing season. I just told our guys, ‘I never—in a million years—would have guessed that record would ever be broken.’” Meanwhile, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave his two cents, adding in a statement: “The team held itself to a high standard throughout the season, playing with purpose every night and captivating fans around the world with its free-flowing style, spectacular shooting and flair for the dramatic.” Never before—not even with the Harlem Globetrotters’ comedy hoops troop—has the basketball world ever seen a point guard like Curry, a man with the handle of a Curly Neal who also had the long-distance range of a Meadowlark Lemon. Only Curry entertained millions while competing against real-life NBA defenses, showing even more flair for the dramatic, making 45 percent of his three-point attempts, 57 percent of his two-point shots and 91 percent of his free throws. Curry became just 11th player to hit the 50/40/90 club (field goal/three-point field goal/free throw percentage) and the only one who can boast of a 30-ppg average. Oh, and he also obliterated his own record of 286 three-pointers in a season with a mind-boggling 402. Shooting guard and fellow Splash Brother Thompson was not far behind, averaging 22 points in 33 minutes per game, and making 43 percent of his threes, 57 percent of his twos and 87 percent of his free throws. There would be more talk of his 276 three-pointers this season (third best all time) if not for Curry’s historic long-range excellence. Throw in Green and his near triple-double averages of 14 points, 9.5


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HEADLINE: 32 pt. • BODY COPY: 10 pt


Western Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

Marreese Speights

Harrison Barnes

Andrew Bogut

Draymond Green

Stephen Curry

Brandon Rush

24

The Finals 2016

ambition can go two ways. You can be ambitious and be part of the team, or you can be ambitious for your own career. I like people who are ambitious for the team.” The assistants—Walton, Adams, Jarron Collins and Bruce Fraser—did better than anyone could have imagined in Kerr’s absence, leading the Warriors out of the gates on a streaking 24-0 start to the season. By the time Kerr healed enough, ready to return, the Warriors were 39-4 and on their way to challenging the 1996 Bulls all-time wins record. “Everything went to a new level during that 24-0 winning streak,” said Green on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “Last year, you’d show up at these hotels at 2 a.m. and there would be 15 people outside for autographs. But this season, it got to a point where we’re showing up at hotels and 200-250 people are outside yelling at 2 in the morning. Everything went to a different level during the streak, not to mention Steph’s celebrity just went to a different level and that made a big difference as well.” The Warriors’ popularity went through the roof—from TV ratings to merchandise sales to road attendance marks—while Curry’s hold on the public fascination, especially with children and young adults, soared to a lofty level previously only reserved for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. That is what happens when you are a defending NBA champion—or a repeat MVP—breaking League records left and right, getting your name mentioned up there with the 1996 Bulls and Jordan himself. It’s the Warriors, Curry and the Finals again. A familiar song and one that might be stuck in your head for a while.

Noah Graham (5); Joe Murphy; Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images

defensive efficiency (100.9 points allowed per 100 possessions). In centers Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Green, the Warriors not only have three of the 10 best rim protectors in the game according to NBA.com player tracking stats, but also two of the game’s best defensive players overall in in Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM) with Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Green and Bogut, who both ranked first and third respectively in DRPM. In Iguodala and Green, Golden State also had an elite perimeterdefending wing and big, leading a collection of teammates who could play any style of defense from going big, playing small ball or running trap with the best of them, thanks to the team’s defensive architect, Warriors assistant Ron Adams. You see, it is the team depth—not only of the players, but also of the coaching staff—that has gotten the Warriors to the point they are at. After losing offensive-oriented assistant coach Alvin Gentry to the New Orleans Pelicans, following the 2015 championship season, the Warriors promoted Luke Walton to his position on staff. And when Kerr was unable to take the sidelines in October—due to fluid leak in his spine stemming from complications of summer back surgery—the 35-year-old Walton was named interim head coach as Kerr took time off to recover. For months, Kerr was in intense pain and his team and staff would have to soldier on without him. “All the guys I hire for the staff are cut from the same cloth,” Kerr said to ESPN The Magazine’s Ramona Shelburne. “They’re all unselfish and committed to the team but ambitious and hard working. I think

Anderson Varejao


Western Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

By Darryl Howerton

DOUBLING DOWN After a season that had some folks questioning if it was just a result of good fortune, Stephen Curry took a step back and shot it from even deeper.

S

26

The Finals 2016

EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES

tephen Curry came out of the gates sprinting. It was almost as if he had something to prove. Again. And we’re not talking about the 6-2, 160-pound high school kid who had a chip on his shoulder when he was not recruited by the top NCAA programs despite the NBA lineage (Steph’s dad Dell was a lights-out shooter over a 16-year career). We are not singing that same old song about the Davidson shooting star whose 2008 March Madness heroics bought the Wildcats an unexpected Elite Eight finish. Or the NBA rookie who saw five other guards go before him in the 2009 NBA Draft before the Warriors selected him seventh. Nope. This isn’t one of those “I’ll-Prove-’Em-Wrong” Steph Curry stories. This fairytale of a story begins in the summer of 2015. It opens with the words “happily ever after” redacted from the last chapter. This tale is about an unassuming champ, only this time our unsung protagonist begins the movie as the NBA MVP coming off a season where he led the Golden State Warriors to the 2015 NBA Championship, the franchise’s first title in 40 years. One would think a man would have nothing to prove after a championship, especially one after he finished as the MVP while averaging 23.8 ppg and 7.7 apg, while making an NBA-record 286 three-pointers. But that was not the case for Curry last summer. Curry heard head coach Doc Rivers of the division rival Clippers say that the Warriors were lucky to avoid the Clips and defending champion Spurs in the 2015 playoffs en route to their championship. Curry heard LeBron James echo a similar refrain, saying NBA champs always need a little luck and the injured Cavaliers played the 2015 Finals with a lot of talent (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) sitting on the sidelines in suits while the Warriors were full strength.


Noah Graham; Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images; Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Finals 2016

Curry saw what his peers did that summer in the inaugural National Basketball Players Association Players Awards, casting their MVP votes for Houston Rockets guard James Harden. With all that static all around him, Curry heard the signal through the noise and it drove him—like his three-point range—deeper. His teammates knew. In spite of finishing with one of the 10 best records of all-time in 2014-15, the Warriors followed Curry’s lead, playing as if they had something new to prove all over again. Curry was just as diligent and vigilant—if not more so—in how he took care of his body in the offseason, a routine he first took to the extreme level three summers ago. There was no way Curry would come into the 2015 training camp satisfied and out of shape. Rather, the seven-year NBA veteran came in strong, boasting the second-strongest deadlift mark on the team—400 pounds (more than twice his bodyweight)—ranking only behind 7-0, 265-pound Festus Ezeli. As Klay Thompson told ESPN The Magazine’s Pablo S. Torré, “Steph works on his body just as much as he works on his jump shot. The man was always in the gym.” Curry had become quite the chiseled shooter, with a core so strong that he left defenders laterally through hip gyration just as easily as ditched them north and south, and the guard moved along the threepoint curvature like a bird on a telephone wire. With his body of work in tip-top shape, Curry was ready and amped for the declaration to the media when they propped their microphones in front of his face at Warriors’ training camp. “I apologize for us being healthy,” said Curry, when asked whether the team deserved the 2015 title. “I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry and we’ll rectify that situation this year.” Microphone drop. He backed up his words, playing in unbeatable fashion from the season’s first game through December 11, upping his scoring to 32 points per game as the Warriors started the season 24-0. If that was not a statement, Curry continued to rewrite the history books as he and his Warriors blazed through the NBA season unlike any

other player or team in League history. Sure, his assist average may have declined from 7.7 to 6.7, but it was in exchange of shooting the ball more efficiently, with the tradeoff of Curry now averaging 30 points in 34 minutes per game throughout the entire 2015-16 season, while seeing his true shooting percentage rise 31 points to an NBA-best .669. He also sported an NBA-best 31.5 Player Efficiency Rating, an elite level only previously reserved for the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Curry’s marksmanship was nothing short of astounding and easily topped what those three legends ever did, as the 28-year-old Warrior finished with a League-best 91 percent from the free-throw line, 57 percent on twos and 45 percent on an NBA record-smashing 402 threepointers, breaking his aforementioned record again, this time by 116, a sum that of itself would be pretty good for a total in a season. There were ghosts from NBA past that tried haunting him as his team chased the 1996 Chicago Bulls all-time wins record of 72. Everyone from Oscar Robertson to Scottie Pippen to Charles Barkley took shots—veiled or explicit—at why Steph or his team would not have been able to do what they were doing “back in the day.” But Curry tuned them out, as he later did LeBron when the four-time MVP wondered aloud what the term “valuable” meant nowadays when Curry won the MVP award in unprecedented unanimous fashion. As the new two-time MVP award winner Curry himself answered the next day, “I’ve got really good at ignoring people. That’s the theme of the last two years.” It has been that kind of season for Curry and the Warriors, with the NBA’s newest legend clearly establishing himself as the League’s all-time best shooter ever, while his team has cemented itself as an alltime great squad, finishing the season with a 73-9 record, topping the 1996 Bulls’ mark. A record-breaking season. Once again. A history-making season. Once again. And should his Warriors win the 2016 NBA Championship, next year’s Curry will have nothing left to prove to anyone anymore. Once again. Or will he? The Finals 2016

27


Western Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Steve Kerr

Leandro Barbosa

Harrison Barnes

Andrew Bogut

Head Coach Born: 9-27-65 College: Arizona Year Coaching in NBA: 2

No.: 19 Position: Guard Height: 6-3 Weight: 194 Born: 11-28-82 Country: Brazil Year in NBA: 13

No.: 40 Position: Forward Height: 6-8 Weight: 225 Born: 5-30-92 College: North Carolina Year in NBA: 4

No.: 12 Position: Center Height: 7-0 Weight: 260 Born: 11-28-84 College: Utah Year in NBA: 11

Stephen Curry

Festus Ezeli

Draymond Green

Andre Iguodala

Shaun Livingston

No.: 21 Position: Guard Height: 6-3 Weight: 175 Born: 3-7-91 College: Belmont Year in NBA: 3

No.: 30 Position: Guard Height: 6-3 Weight: 190 Born: 3-14-88 College: Davidson Year in NBA: 7

No.: 31 Position: Center Height: 6-11 Weight: 265 Born: 10-21-89 College: Vanderbilt Year in NBA: 3

No.: 23 Position: Forward Height: 6-7 Weight: 230 Born: 3-4-90 College: Michigan St. Year in NBA: 4

No.: 9 Position: Guard-Forward Height: 6-6 Weight: 215 Born: 1-28-84 College: Arizona Year in NBA: 12

No.: 34 Position: Guard Height: 6-7 Weight: 192 Born: 9-11-85 High School: Peoria Central (IL) Year in NBA: 12

Kevon Looney

James Michael McAdoo Brandon Rush

Marreese Speights

Klay Thompson

Anderson Varejao

No.: 36 Position: Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 220 Born: 2-6-96 College: UCLA Year in NBA: 1

No.: 20 Position: Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 240 Born: 1-4-93 College: North Carolina Year in NBA: 2

No.: 5 Position: Forward-Center Height: 6-10 Weight: 255 Born: 8-4-87 College: Florida Year in NBA: 8

No.: 11 Position: Guard Height: 6-7 Weight: 215 Born: 2-8-90 College: Washington St. Year in NBA: 5

No.: 18 Position: Forward Height: 6-11 Weight: 273 Born: 9-28-82 Country: Brazil Year in NBA: 12

No.: 4 Position: Forward-Guard Height: 6-6 Weight: 220 Born: 7-7-85 College: Kansas Year in NBA: 8

Coaching Staff Assistant Coaches:

28

The Finals 2016

Athletic Trainer:

Jack Arent (15); David Liam Kyle/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Ian Clark


Stephen Curry, League MVP

Every drop of cleaner,* filtered water prepares you for the challenge ahead.

*vs. tap water Š 2016 Brita


Western Conference Champions

The Finals 2016

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Head Coach: Athletic Trainer:

Assistant Coaches:

FIELD GOALS

3-POINT FG

FREE THROWS

REBOUNDS

FG

FGA

PCT

FT

FTA

PCT

OFF

DEF

TOT

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

402

886

.454

363

400

.908

68

362

430

527

169

15

2375 30.1

276

650

.425

193

221

.873

35

271

306

166

60

49

1771

22.1

100

258

.388

229

329

.696

134

635

769

598

119

113

1131

14.0

82

214

.383

102

134

.761

77

248

325

117

41

10

774

11.7

24

62

.387

94

114

.825

77

162

239

61

19

34

512

7.1

.478

54

154

.351

51

83

.614

52

211

263

219

73

19

457

7.0

228

.548

0

0

-

70

132

.530

91

166

257

32

18

50

320

7.0

171

370

.462

39

110

.355

52

62

.839

28

89

117

82

44

10

433

6.4

1520

203

379

.536

2

12

.167

80

93

.860

42

127

169

237

57

27

488

6.3

1451

175

279

.627

1

1

1.000

24

50

.480

121

371

492

162

33

114

375

5.4

72

1055

111

260

.427

65

157

.414

18

28

.643

21

160

181

57

20

23

305

4.2

66

578

89

202

.441

30

84

.357

28

34

.824

13

55

68

64

17

13

236

3.6

20

James Michael McAdoo 41

262

45

84

.536

1

2

.500

26

49

.531

30

28

58

17

10

8

117

2.9

18

Anderson Varejao

22

186

21

48

.438

0

0

-

16

29

.552

13

37

50

15

5

5

58

2.6

1

Jason Thompson

28

179

20

42

.476

0

0

-

20

32

.625

10

44

54

19

4

8

60

2.1

36

Kevon Looney

5

21

4

7

.571

1

2

.500

0

0

-

4

6

10

0

0

0

9

1.8

Warriors

82

19880 3489 7159

.487

1077 2592 .416

1366 1790 .763

816

2972 3788

2373 689 498

9421

114.9

OPPONENTS

82

19880 3188

640

1523 2013

937

2662 3599

1823 710

8539 104.1

NO.

PLAYER

G

MIN

FG

FGA

30

Stephen Curry

79

2700

805

1598 .504

11

Klay Thompson

80 2666

651

1386

.470

23

Draymond Green

81

2808

401

819

.490

40

Harrison Barnes

66

2042

295

633

.466

5

Marreese Speights

72

832

197

456

.432

9

Andre Iguodala

65

1732

176

368

31

Festus Ezeli

46

770

125

19

Leandro Barbosa

68 1079

34

Shaun Livingston

78

12

Andrew Bogut

70

4

Brandon Rush

21

Ian Clark

30

The Finals 2016

7330 .435

1928

.332

Draymond Green notched 13 triple-doubles while averaging 14 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 7.4 apg.

.757

MISC.

POINTS

336

Stephen Curry led the League in steals for the second straight year with 169.

AVG

Noah Graham (2); Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Klay Thompson’s 276 three-pointers made this season was the third-best in NBA history.

PCT


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Award Winners

The Finals 2016

KIA NBA Most Valuable Player

stephen curry Golden State Warriors G

MP

FGM

FGA

FG%

FTM

FTA

79

2700

805

1598

.504

363

400

FT%

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

PTS

PPG

.908

5.4

6.7

2.1

0.2

2375

30.1

KIA NBA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Noah Graham; David Sherman; Sam Forencich; Andrew D. Bernstein; D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images

G 82 FT% .811

MP 2627 RPG 10.5

FGM 625 APG 2.0

KIA NBA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Karl-Anthony Towns

kawhi leonard

Minnesota Timberwolves

San Antonio Spurs

FGA 1153 SPG 0.7

FG% .542 BPG 1.7

FTM 223 PTS 1503

FTA 275 PPG 18.3

KIA NBA Most Improved player

G 80 FT% .827

MP 2780 RPG 3.2

FGM 641 APG 4.3

G 72 FT% .874

MP 2380 RPG 6.8

FGM 551 APG 2.6

FGA 1090 SPG 1.8

FG% .506 BPG 1.0

FTM 292 PTS 1523

KIA NBA SIXTH MAN

c.j. M c Collum

Jamal Crawford

Portland Trail Blazers

Los Angeles Clippers

FGA 1431 SPG 1.2

FG% .448 BPG 0.3

FTA 334 PPG 21.2

FTM 187 PTS 1666

FTA 226 PPG 20.8

G 79 FT% .904

MP 2126 RPG 1.8

FGM 379 APG 2.3

FGA 939 SPG 0.7

FG% .404 BPG 0.2

FTM 245 PTS 1120

FTA 271 PPG 14.2

The Finals 2016

33


Award Winners

The Finals 2016

NBA Executive of the Year

NBA Coach of the Year

NBA Sportsmanship Award

J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award

Steve Kerr

R.C. Buford

Mike Conley

Wayne Ellington

Golden State Warriors

San Antonio Spurs

Memphis Grizzlies

Brooklyn Nets

ALL-NBA ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM Forward Cleveland Cavaliers Forward San Antonio Spurs Center Los Angeles Clippers Guard Golden State Warriors Guard Oklahoma City Thunder ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM Forward Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Golden State Warriors Center Sacramento Kings Guard Los Angeles Clippers Guard Portland Trail Blazers ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM

NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM Forward San Antonio Spurs Forward Golden State Warriors Center Los Angeles Clippers Guard Boston Celtics Guard Los Angeles Clippers

34

The Finals 2016

Forward Atlanta Hawks Forward Indiana Pacers Center Miami Heat Guard Memphis Grizzlies Guard Chicago Bulls NBA ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM Center-Forward Minnesota Timberwolves Forward New York Knicks Guard Phoenix Suns Center Denver Nuggets Center Philadelphia 76ers NBA ALL-ROOKIE SECOND TEAM Forward Miami Heat Guard Los Angeles Lakers Guard Denver Nuggets Forward-Center Indiana Pacers Center Sacramento Kings

Joe Murphy; Noah Graham; Jeyhoun Allebaugh; Chris Covatta/NBAE/Getty Images

Forward Indiana Pacers Forward San Antonio Spurs Center Detroit Pistons Guard Golden State Warriors Guard Toronto Raptors

NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM


Award Winners

The Finals 2016

October/NOVEMBER

Indiana Pacers

Cleveland Cavaliers

Detroit Pistons

Cleveland Cavaliers

Golden State Warriors

Houston Rockets

Golden State Warriors

Charlotte Hornets

Indiana Pacers

Sacramento Kings

Oklahoma City Thunder

Orlando Magic

Toronto Raptors

Washington Wizards

San Antonio Spurs

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder

Golden State Warriors

Detroit Pistons New York Knicks

Golden State Warriors

Minnesota Timberwolves

Kristaps Porzingis

DECEMBER

Washington Wizards

Oklahoma City Thunder

Detroit Pistons Detroit Pistons New York Knicks

San Antonio Spurs Golden State Warriors

Minnesota Timberwolves Reggie Jackson

JANUARY Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers

Charlotte Hornets

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers

Sacramento Kings

Washington Wizards

Miami Heat

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder

Toronto Raptors

Oklahoma City Thunder

Golden State Warriors Minnesota Timberwolves Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

36

The Finals 2016

Gregory Shamus; Allen Einstein; Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets New York Knicks


The Finals 2016

february Boston Celtics

Toronto Raptors

Portland Trail Blazers

Golden State Warriors

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The Finals 2016

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Sharing the Throne Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram stand atop the 2016 NBA Draft. By Michael Bradley

T

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The Finals 2016

Br andon In gram

Although Ingram has risen fast on most draft boards and is the favorite of some for the top spot, Simmons remains the No. 1 prospect. Simmons has a unique blend of skills to go with his outstanding size and has the opportunity to be a rare player in the NBA. He can handle the ball, create his own shot, set up others, hit the boards and run the break. “He has great size and strength,” the Western personnel man says. “His rebounding and passing ability are at a high level. He has to work on his shot, but he can rebound the ball and start the break by himself. He makes good decisions, and I see him as a higher level Lamar Odom.” Simmons must improve his outside shot to become transcendent, but he is the rare frontcourt man who can run an offense. He has post skills and great hands. The Western exec says that with a jumper, Simmons is like Magic Johnson or LeBron James—both No. 1 overall picks who went on to win multiple titles.

Sleek and smooth, Ingram is a top-notch shooter whose range extends beyond the three-point line. In some ways, he would be the perfect complement to Simmons, because he can be potent on the perimeter, while the LSU product is more comfortable working off the dribble and in the post. “He can take two dribbles all game and still get 25 points,” the Western executive says. “He can hit the one-dribble pull-up and the turnaround in the post. He’s effective coming off screens and flair cuts.” Defensively, Ingram comes from one of the most solid programs in college basketball, so teams can be confident he learned good habits during his one year on campus. He is lithe right now, but his shooting is excellent, and his potential quite robust. Remember that he doesn’t turn 19 until September. “His body definitely has to improve, but it looks like his frame will be all right,” the Western personnel man says. “Whoever gets him, at either one or two, will not be disappointed.”

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Mike Stobe; Maddie Meyer/GETTY IMAGES

his may not surprise anyone, but the 2016 NBA Draft is essentially a two-player concern. Sixty prospects will be selected, and some will end up making significant contributions to their teams. But when it comes to the real star power in this year’s edition, it makes no sense to look beyond picks one and two. “It’s [LSU’s Ben] Simmons, [Duke’s Brandon] Ingram, another group and then everyone else,” a Western Conference executive says. “There are maybe six or seven players in that second group, and I always factor in two guys that no one is paying attention to who will be better than those who are picked before them.” There was no question that Simmons was going to be one of the biggest prizes in the 2016 NBA Draft. We knew that at the beginning of the season. The Aussie with the versatile game and big-time size had fans excited about his NBA prospects the minute he donned his LSU uniform this year. But as the season went on, Ingram rose quickly, thanks to his great outside shot and—as the scouts say—the unteachable length. As a result, two camps emerged, with some favoring Simmons as the top talent in this year’s crop and others going with Ingram. “The drop-off from Simmons and Ingram is enormous,” the Western exec says. “They have a chance to be franchise players. The other players may just become starters.” A Western Conference personnel man agrees with that assessment. “I think that’s fair,” he says. “There are a couple guys after [Simmons and Ingram] who are nice players, but you could choose someone sixth, seventh or eighth who could easily go 17th or 18th.” It’s not the worst thing in the world to become an NBA starter, but since the NBA Draft is about possibilities, it makes sense to focus on those who have the opportunities to become the biggest stars. Right now, they are Simmons and Ingram. It will be interesting to look back in five years and see if they made good on their promise—and who jumped up to join them. Here is a look at the top 15 players in this year’s Draft.

Ben Si mm on s


Jama l M u r r a y

K r i s D u nn

Dr ag a n Be nd er

Bu dd y Hiel d

In an NBA where players who can put up points in bunches are redefining the point guard position, Murray fits the profile. He has tremendous scoring instincts, both from the outside and off the dribble, and has shown enough of a handle and desire to distribute that he won’t be out of place running a team. “He’s a combo,” the Western exec says. “He can play the point and really score. Enough people have seen him play with the Canadian national team, where he was more of a distributor, to be comfortable with him there, but he can really score it.” Murray fits the mold of a Damian Lillard point man, who can set people up but is more suited for getting his own shot. “He can really shoot it,” the Western personnel man says. “He can also put the ball on the floor well.”

The Western exec calls Dunn “the best defensive point guard to come out in years.” That’s a pretty good label with which to enter the League, and it will serve Dunn well. He’s not all about that end of the court, though, although his performance did sag somewhat in the second half of the season. Dunn was expected to thrive in the new shorter shot-clock NCAA world, thanks to his ability to create scoring opportunities for himself. While he shot the three better than he had the year before, he struggled with turnovers and wasn’t as good off the dribble. Still, he has good size, is tough, and has no character questions. Dunn has a good handle and can get his shot. He should stick around the League for a long time. “He’s a guy where you can say, ‘We’ve got our point guard for the next 10 years,’” the Western exec says. “If you have a glaring need at the point, he will fill that need.”

Nobody did more for Bender in the last year than Kristaps Porzingis, whose big year with the Knicks made it easier for Eastern European big men to be considered top prospects. Bender has a lean frame, a skilled game and the ability to create some matchup problems for opponents. “He has a terrific basketball IQ,” the Western personnel man says. “He’s really skilled for a big man, and if he had spent a year in college, he would be a very high pick. For a big man, his skills are outstanding. He can step away and also make plays in the low post.” His shooting and instincts will make Bender quite attractive in the top 10, and he could go in the top five, if there is a good fit with a team. He’s not perfect, though. Bender isn’t very athletic, is rail-thin and doesn’t create for himself off the dribble. Still, they said similar things about Porzingis last year.

No player in college basketball improved himself more during his time on campus than did Hield, who worked tirelessly to become an outstanding marksman. Hield will impress any team with his attitude, and his long-range shot will be an asset. But he isn’t a complete guard by any measure, and he has a lot of work to do to become a full-fledged contributor and not a specialist. “I’m not high on Buddy Hield,” the Western exec says. “I don’t know if Buddy is special. He’s good, but he’s more like [Dallas’] Wesley Matthews or [the Clippers’] J.J. Redick. He doesn’t guard anybody, and though he’s a great shooter, he doesn’t get by anybody. There’s not enough upside for a college senior with no handle.” But in an era in the League where shooting is paramount, possessing a shot like Hield’s is enough to get you a look high in the draft.

Andy Lyons; Eric Francis; ROberto Serra/Iguana Press; Chris Covatta/GETTY IMAGES

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: Country: NBA Comparison:

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

The Finals 2016

39


Marqu ese Ch r i s s

J a y le n B r o wn

J ako b Poelt l

Deyo n t a D av is

Whoever takes Chriss must be extremely patient. “He’s a babe in the woods,” the Western personnel man says. But he’s a talented babe, that’s for sure. Chriss has great size and deep range on his shot. He has the potential to be an extremely effective four man, but the team that takes him will have to wait. Or not. On the right team and with proper development and motivation, Chriss could show gradual dividends in his rookie year. The things they don’t have to teach will be his 7-1 wingspan and athleticism. “He can shoot the ball, has nice form, a terrific body and good hop,” the Western personnel man says. “He’s going to take a little time to come around, but he’s got all the tools.”

There can be no questioning Brown’s physical skills. “He has good size and is athletic as hell,” the Western personnel man says. But Brown has some work to do before he can be a full-fledged NBA starter. If he is picked in the top 10, it’s because of his potential and his ability in the open court. “He’s probably the most polarizing guy in the draft,” the Western exec says. “Talent wise, some people like him at three, four or five. In terms of skills and consistency, some people drop him into the late lottery. In terms of athletic ability, you could put him in the game right now. But what happens if his jumper doesn’t come around?” If history has proved anything, NBA personnel will always take a first round flyer on a player who can jump out of a gym. The thought process is that they can always work on the jumper while the player wins a Slam Dunk Contest title or two.

No team is going to “win” the hearts of fans on Twitter by selecting Poeltl, a sturdy pivotman who isn’t going to excite the fan base but who will be part of a team’s rotation for several years and could eventually be a starter. “In baseball terms, he’s a single,” the Western executive says. “If I had multiple [Lottery] picks, I would take him. At least you would be getting a guy who can help you. He is 7-1, and he can score over the shoulder. He’s a throwback who plays in the low post.” Poeltl has good hands and does have the ability to play with his back to the basket. But with the NBA center position having changed so drastically, his style isn’t a perfect fit for most go-go teams in the League. Still, he has the tools that scouts check off in big men: soft hands, strong body and not afraid of contact in tight quarters.

When the 2015-16 college season started, few paid much attention to Davis. That changed as the year went on, and he began to demonstrate his many skills. “The body and athleticism are there, but he’s very young,” the Western personnel man says. “He’s an intriguing kid who can block shots, but you’re going to have to wait on him.” Davis showed that he can rebound, make some shots and run the floor. These days, many teams expect a big to be able to stretch the floor, but much like DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard, paint-living centers have shown they still have a place and can impact the game in the League. His potential is that of a “top five or six talent,” according to the Western exec, but Davis could also “get derailed.” A team with some patience could reap a big benefit with the young big man.

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

The Finals 2016

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Ethan Miller; Ezra Shaw; Sean M. Haffey; Ray Del Rio/GETTY IMAGES

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Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:


Denz el Va l en ti n e Domantas Sabonis Henr y E llenson

Dej ou nt e M urray

Today’s conventional NBA Draft logic directs teams away from players like Valentine, who spent four years in college. In today’s world filled with top talents making hasty exits from campus, that’s the biggest indicator of trouble. But the Spartan wing demonstrated an array of skills and enters the League with the ability to contribute right away. He might not become a star—then again, he might—but he will be welcomed wherever he goes. “He has good size, he can pass it and handle it,” the Western executive says. “He showed he can make shots. No team in the League can’t use Denzel Valentine.” Valentine isn’t the most accomplished defender, but he will work to fit into a team concept. He has a high basketball IQ and will make contributions in a rotation from the beginning of his career. Also, no doubt the emergence of Draymond Green—also a four-year player at MSU—boosts the chances of a team not letting another overlooked Spartan slip past the first round.

In just one year with the Huskies, Murray established himself as a player with the ability to do a lot of things on the court, particularly on the offensive end. He needs to add bulk to his frame—“He’s frail,” the Western personnel man says—but he has the ability to play both guard positions and has the potential to be a big-time backcourt performer with versatility in all facets of the game – except long-range shooting. “He’s just a freak,” the Western exec says. “The analytics guys love him, because he gets steals and rebounds, and his usage is off the charts. If you think he can be a big point guard or a combo, he’s in the Lottery. If you think he’s more of a slashing two man who can handle a little, then he’s more suited for around 17 or 18. He has great upside and has flair and presence.” Murray could be another solid NBA player that hails from the Northwest region that is quickly becoming a hotbed for talent. Murray’s high school alone, Rainier Beach, has produced plenty of NBA talent in Doug Christie, Jamal Crawford, Terrence Williams and Nate Robinson; Murray would just be the next.

Dilip Vishwanat; Ethan Miller; Elsa; Chris Coduto/GETTY IMAGES

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

The family lineage is strong here. Sabonis’ father, Arvydas, was 7-3 and one of the best players in the world until he suffered a serious Achilles tendon injury. Even after his injury and past his athletic prime, pops still managed a solid 12 ppg and 7.3 rpg in his seven NBA seasons after making his debut as a 31-year-old rookie, occasionally making plays that only hinted of what he was able to do when younger. We might get a chance to see young Arvydas through Domantas, who has the ability to pass and shoot, but he is not athletic and could struggle to find a position unless he stretches his range beyond 15 feet and finds a way to defend stretch fours. If teams play small, he could struggle defensively. “Obviously, the pedigree is there,” the Western personnel man says. “His basketball IQ his high, and he is a good passer who can rebound. But can he be a better outside shooter? He’s not necessarily a starter, but he’s a definite rotation player on anybody’s team.”

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Just like Jaylen Brown, who could end up just about anywhere from four to 14 in the Lottery, Ellenson is a prospect with a wide range of draft possibilities. “I was talking to a high school evaluator who said, ‘If you like what he does, you’re going to love him,’” the Western executive says. “He’s a post man with good footwork who can pass it. His shot shows promise.” But Ellenson isn’t particularly fast or athletic, and his shooting range isn’t that expansive. But there is no big detraction from him either. There might not be an area where he wows, but he’s just steady across the board. He is a classic “taste” pick. A team with a good idea of how to use Ellenson will be happy to select him.

Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

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POSITION RANKINGS *

2016 NBA DRAFT ORDER

Point Guards

First Round

1. Jamal Murray, Kentucky 2. Kris Dunn, Providence 3. Dejounte Murray, Washington 4. Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt 5. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky 6. Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame 7. Anthony Barber, North Carolina State 8. Gary Payton II, Oregon State 9. Malik Newman, Mississippi State 10. Kahlil Felder, Oakland

Shooting Guards 1. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma 2. Jaylen Brown, California 3. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State 4. Furkan Korkmaz, Turkey 5. Malik Beasley, Florida State 6. Malachi Richardson, Syracuse 7. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia 8. Patrick McCaw, UNLV 9. Caris LeVert, Michigan 10. Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

SK AL L A B I SSI E R E Position: Height: Weight: Birthdate: College: NBA Comparison:

Small Forwards 1. Brandon Ingram, Duke 2. Timothe Luwawu, France 3. DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s 4. Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa 5. Taurean Prince, Baylor 6. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson 7. Jake Layman, Maryland 8. Michael Gbinije, Syracuse 9. Malik Pope, San Diego State 10. Georges Niang, Iowa State

Power Forwards 1. Ben Simmons, LSU 2. Dragan Bender, Croatia 3. Marquese Chriss, Washington 4. Deyonta Davis, Michigan State 5. Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga 6. Henry Ellenson, Marquette 7. Skal Labissiere, Kentucky 8. Ben Bentil, Providence 9. Brice Johnson, North Carolina 10. Thon Maker, Australia

Centers 1. Jakob Poeltl, Utah 2. Diamond Stone, Maryland 3. Chinanu Onuaku, Louisville 4. Ante Zizic, Croatia 5. Damian Jones, Vanderbilt

*

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The Finals 2016

Second Round 31. Boston (From Philadelphia via Miami) 32. Los Angeles Lakers 33. Los Angeles Clippers (From Brooklyn) 34. Phoenix 35. Boston (From Minnesota via Phoenix) 36. Milwaukee (From New Orleans via Sacramento) 37. Houston (From New York via Sacramento and Portland) 38. Milwaukee 39. New Orleans (From Denver via Philadelphia) 40. New Orleans (From Sacramento) 41. Orlando 42. Utah 43. Houston 44. Atlanta (From Washington) 45. Boston (From Memphis via Dallas) 46. Dallas 47. Orlando (From Chicago) 48. Chicago (From Portland via Cleveland) 49. Detroit 50. Indiana 51. Boston (From Miami) 52. Utah (From Boston via Memphis) 53. Denver (From Charlotte via Oklahoma City) 54. Atlanta 55. Brooklyn (From Los Angeles Clippers) 56. Denver (From Oklahoma City) 57. Memphis (From Toronto) 58. Boston (From Cleveland) 59. Sacramento (From San Antonio) 60. Utah (From Golden State)

JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IMAGES

There are those who believe that had Labissiere not played a minute for the Wildcats, he would have been a top-10 pick, maybe even top five. He didn’t have a great season for UK, although he did show flashes, and his performance in last year’s Hoop Summit (21 points, six rebounds, six blocks) still lingers in some scouts’ minds. It also helps that he has the physical package that makes today’s NBA scouts salivate. Labissiere stands 7 feet, possesses a 7-2 wingspan and can get up and down the court with a quick jump. He’s no Dirk Nowitzki, but with an above-average jumper for his size, that adds another level of intrigue for teams searching for a stretch five. He needs to get more physical and improve his shooting. He’s raw but has potential. “Is he a late comer?” the Western personnel man asks. “Can he increase his range? Can his body take physical play? But he does have the size and length to protect the rim. I see him going eighth, ninth or 10th. But if he slides, he’ll really slide.”

1. Philadelphia 2. Los Angeles Lakers 3. Boston (From Brooklyn) 4. Phoenix 5. Minnesota 6. New Orleans 7. Denver (From New York) 8. Sacramento 9. Toronto (From Denver via New York) 10. Milwaukee 11. Orlando 12. Utah 13. Phoenix (From Washington) 14. Chicago 15. Denver (From Houston) 16. Boston (From Dallas) 17. Memphis 18. Detroit 19. Denver (From Portland) 20. Indiana 21. Atlanta 22. Charlotte 23. Boston 24. Philadelphia (From Miami via Cleveland) 25. Los Angeles Clippers 26. Philadelphia (From Oklahoma City via Denver and Cleveland) 27. Toronto 28. Phoenix (From Cleveland via Boston) 29. San Antonio 30. Golden State


SATURDAYS TM & © 2016 Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. © 2016 NBA Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


SPATE EIGHT

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The Finals 2016


By John Fawaz

With everyone eyeing the No. 1 spot for seven years running, title No. 8 might have been the Boston Celtics’ biggest accomplishment.

F

OF

ifty years later, Celtics guard Sam Jones still marvels at what he and his teammates accomplished. “People talk about a threepeat—we had a sevenpeat, going for eight,” Jones says. When it came to championship streaks, the 1965-66 Celtics had no more records to break, only bars to push higher. They had claimed the NBA mark in 1962 with their fourth consecutive title, and their sixth consecutive crown (1964) vaulted them into pro sports greatness, passing MLB’s New York Yankees and the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, each of whom maxed out at five straight. How long could they keep it going? At least one more title, for Red Auerbach. “We wanted to see Red go out on top,” said Jones. “We had sent Bob Cousy and Frank Ramsey out on top, and we wanted to see the Coach, who had really held us together, go out on top.” Red Auerbach had nearly stepped down as coach after the 1965 Finals, as his workload had become unbearable. The Celtics’ two-man front office had become a one-man operation following the death of owner Walter Brown in August 1964. Not yet 50, Auerbach was spent emotionally and physically. He wanted to do one job (general manager) rather than several. But he didn’t want to be accused of quitting while ahead. “I’m telling everyone right now—Los Angeles, Philadelphia, everyone—that this will be my last season [as coach], so you’ve got one more shot at Auerbach,” he said in the fall of 1965. Who would replace Auerbach? He had someone in mind. Bill Russell, in his book Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend, wrote that Auerbach asked, “You want the job, Russ?” Russell rejected the offer, admitting later he didn’t take it seriously. “Well, I have to hire a new coach, but I’ll tell you here and now, I will not hire anybody unless you give me your 100-percent approval.” Auerbach dropped the coach question. He had more pressing matters, namely a roster that he described as “getting old fast,” though that wasn’t all bad. “Some of us seemed to play better as we got older,” says Jones. “We had played together for a long time, [and] knew how to communicate without even talking.” Same went for Auerbach and the players. “He never used a piece of chalk because he never believed in Xs and Os,” says John Havlicek. “[Your] job was to do what he had asked you to do, and if you weren’t going to be able to do that, he would find someone else to do it.”

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During the Finals, Red Auerbach named Bill Russell as his successor as head coach.

“We wanted to see Red go out on top.” —Sam Jones

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The Finals 2016

Havlicek was an All-Star for the first time in 1966.

Russell (#6) led the Celtics in scoring (23.6) and rebounding (24.3) during the Finals.

KEN REGAN (4)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

In the end, Boston (54-26, eight fewer victories than the season before) didn’t decline so much as the rest of the NBA improved. The 1965-66 Celtics scored 112.7 points per game, just a tenth of a point less than the season before, but they slipped from first in the League to seventh. Their offense was still potent, just not as capable of the sustained bursts that had propelled the team in years past. Boston’s defense (107.8 points per game allowed) again led the NBA. The Celtics’ victory margins were narrower (4.9 vs. 8.4 in 1964-65), but they were still winning. They were balanced offensively, with seven players averaging in double figures. In the backcourt, Jones provided the outside shooting (a team-high 23.5 points per game) while K.C. Jones served as the defensive stopper. Forwards Tom “Satch” Sanders (career-high 12.6 points per game) and Willie Naulls (10.7) could deliver at both ends of the floor. Don Nelson, a free agent castoff from the Lakers, bolstered the bench. Russell was Russell, second in the NBA in rebounds (22.8 per game), fourth in minutes (43.4 per game), and likely first in blocks (the League did not track the category until 1973-74) and impact. “With a guy like Russell behind us, we could take all kinds of chances,” says Sanders. Then there was sixth man Havlicek, the perpetual motion machine who changed the dynamic of the game the moment he checked in. At 6-5, he was too tall for most guards, but no forward could match his quickness. He simply ran his man into the ground. At full strength, the 1965-66 Celtics hummed, but pieces were often missing. They lacked the depth of past seasons. “Injuries hit us pretty hard,” says Sam Jones. “When a person got injured, it messed up the rotation. We fell back a little bit, but we still thought we could win it all.” The team got healthy after the All-Star break and won 13 of its last 17 games. But Philadelphia won its last 11 games to finish 55-25. It was the first time the Celtics had not won their division since 1956, depriving them of a first-round bye. That late push seemed to sap the Celtics, at least briefly. They started slowly in each of the first three games of the Eastern Division Semifinals, falling into a 2-1 hole in the best-of-five series against Cincinnati and facing a must-win game on the road. The Royals had champagne on ice, anticipating the end of a dynasty. If the Celtics were worried, they didn’t show it. Before Game 4, several players went to the local cinema while the rest relaxed at the hotel. Auerbach inserted Havlicek into the starting lineup to insure a fast start. Boston led by 10 at halftime and coasted to a 120-103 victory. Two nights later, Boston closed out the series at home, 112-103.

It was John Havlicek’s (#17) fourth championship in as many NBA seasons.


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Next up: Philadelphia. The Sixers had suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Celtics in Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Division Finals, when “Havlicek stole the ball!” became part of NBA mythology. Philly, led by NBA MVP Wilt Chamberlain, eagerly awaited the rematch and appeared poised to knock off the Celtics. That appearance lasted all of two games, both Celtics blowouts. Boston cruised to victory in five games to advance to its 10th consecutive Finals, and again Boston flummoxed Chamberlain in the postseason. Chamberlain remained winless in five postseason series against Boston (Russell’s Celtics would finish 7-1 all time against Wilt’s teams in the playoffs). Philadelphia, which had averaged 117 points per game during the regular season, managed just 104 points per game against Boston. The “old” Celtics were back, seemingly unbeatable again. Sam Jones (#24) and Elgin Baylor (#22) faced off against one another for the fourth time in the Finals.

Still, they nearly lost to the St. Louis Hawks (36-44) in the Western Division Finals. Clutch Game 7 performances from Baylor and West lifted them over the Hawks and gave Los Angeles another shot at Boston. Not that anyone expected a different result. The Celtics were heavily favored as the NBA Finals got underway at the Boston Garden on Sunday, April 18, 1966. Boston scored the game’s first 10 points, and twice built 18-point leads. But Los Angeles battled back behind West (41 points) and Baylor (36 points) to force overtime. West scored nine points in the extra period to lead the Lakers to a stunning 133-129 victory. The Celtics’ coronation plans were put on hold. Maybe the Lakers were ready for a breakthrough. “This is the best team we’ve had in Los Angeles in my six years here,” Lakers head coach Fred Schaus said after the game.

Before the Finals, Russell (#6) dispatched Wilt Chamberlain (#13) in the postseason for the fifth time.

“We fell back a little bit, but we still thought we could win it all.”—Sam Jones

48

The Finals 2016

But Game 1 would quickly be forgotten as Auerbach, the master of psychological warfare, lobbed one last volley. On Monday, Auerbach introduced his successor: William Felton Russell, the first AfricanAmerican coach in a major pro sports league. The succession question had been a subplot to the Celtics’ season. The uncertainty had lasted so long only because Auerbach was willing to wait for his first choice to accept the job. Numerous names were floated, including several former Celtics. Auerbach fanned the speculation himself, stating “it’s Cousy’s job if he wants it” in a television interview. Finally, late in the season, Russell called Auerbach one night and said, “Okay, Red. I’ll take the job.” Auerbach replied, “You made the right choice. Who better to motivate Bill Russell than Bill Russell?” They shook hands on the deal but kept it quiet. Auerbach was waiting for the right moment, which came after the Game 1 loss. As Russell’s hiring became front-page news around the country, it drowned out the Lakers’ series-opening statement triumph. Schaus had long ago let Auerbach get under his skin. Now the Celtics’ coach burrowed deeper and took up permanent residence. “They pulled a fast one, announcing that Russell was taking over,” said Goodrich. “We won Game 1, but it was buried under the announcement. Red was saving it just for when it would work against us the most.” On Tuesday, the Celtics raced to a 24-point halftime lead and routed

DICK RAPHAEL (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

While the Celtics were trying to extend their legacy, their Finals opponent hoped for a rewrite. The Lakers had lost four times to the Celtics in the Finals, a litany of frustration that included the first Finals sweep (1959), a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in overtime (1962), and a sixgame loss (1963). The 1965 Finals, which the Celtics had won in five games, had hardly been a surprise. The Lakers had lost forward Elgin Baylor to a knee injury in the first game of the playoffs, and only a superhuman effort by Jerry West had enabled them to win the Western Division Finals. Baylor returned to play 65 games in 1965-66, though by his own admission he wasn’t the same player. He averaged 16.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, well below his 30.6 and 15.6 in the seven seasons before the injury. Forward Rudy LaRusso and center LeRoy Ellis joined Baylor in the Lakers’ frontcourt. West put together his finest season, averaging 31.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. He often could not be stopped, so teams fouled him, if only to get a breather (he made 840 free throws that season, an NBA record that still stands). Second-year man Walt Hazzard (13.7 ppg) and rookie Gail Goodrich, who had each won NCAA titles at UCLA, completed the Lakers’ backcourt, along with Jim King. The Lakers were the NBA’s highest scoring team (119.5 ppg) and at 45-35, they were the only Western Division team with a winning record.


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the Lakers 129-109 in Game 2. Six Celtics scored in double figures, while Boston limited the Lakers to 38.1 percent shooting. The series shifted to Los Angeles for Game 3 the next night, which seemingly gave the younger Lakers an advantage. Schaus went with a small lineup, starting a third guard (King) in place of LaRusso, who had been bedeviled by Havlicek’s quickness. The lineup change worked for a half, but Boston outscored Los Angeles 35-19 in the third quarter en route to a 120-106 victory. Sam Jones scored 36, while West led the Lakers with 34. A fast-paced Game 4 saw both teams make more than 50 percent of their shots from the field. Boston built an 88-73 lead, but the Lakers rallied and took a 105-104 lead with 7:27 remaining. Russell (25 points and 20 rebounds) and Havlicek (32 points) took over from there, and Boston went on to a 122-117 victory. West scored 45 points while playing 48 minutes. The teams returned to Boston for another Sunday afternoon contest, where a packed house eagerly awaited one last victory cigar to be fired. Even Auerbach projected an air of inevitability. “Who would have believed it?” said the Celtics’ coach. “Here we were down 2-1 in the Eastern Semifinals with Cincinnati just a short time ago and now we’re within one game of all the marbles.” The Lakers put that celebration on hold. Schaus had hit upon a winning formula: Small ball at the start, and once the Celtics tired, he

were in control from the opening tip, building a 59-40 lead early in the third quarter. The only drama seemed to be when Auerbach would light his cigar. Russell’s dunk with 30 seconds left gave Boston a seemingly insurmountable 95-85 lead. Massachusetts governor John Volpe stepped up with a lighter as photographers and fans spilled on to the court, blocking Auerbach’s view. By the time the crowd parted, Boston’s lead had dwindled to 95-89, as West had made two jumpers sandwiched around a steal. Auerbach called timeout with 14 seconds left and the police tried to restore order. His cigar dangled discreetly in his left hand. When play resumed, another Celtics turnover led to a reverse layup by King. West forced a turnover on the next inbounds pass, and Ellis made a jumper to cut the deficit to 95-93 with four seconds left. Worry supplanted jubilation on Auerbach’s face. Finally, the Celtics successfully inbounded the ball. K.C. Jones dribbled away from the pressure and found Havlicek in the frontcourt. Game over, though not the peril. Fans swarmed the court, and the players had to fight their way to the locker room, where Russell (25 points and 32 rebounds in Game 7) gave Auerbach his traditional victory dunking. The victory capped a remarkable 20-year coaching career, the last 16 with the Celtics and nine times finishing with the championship trophy.

The 1965-66 Boston Celtics (left) reunited this past season to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their championship.

“Some of us seemed to play better as we got older. We had played together for a long time, [and] knew how to communicate without even talking.”—Sam Jones

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In the series, Russell was his usual stellar self (23.6 ppg and 24.3 rpg) when the title was on the line. There was no Finals MVP honor at the time, but Russell (who the Finals MVP trophy is named after) would have undoubtedly deserved it. Havlicek (23.0 ppg and 10 rpg) and Sam Jones (22.9 ppg) were the other key contributors for the Celtics. West (33.9 ppg) and Baylor (25.0 ppg and 16.4 rpg) made it close, but Boston had the advantage on the boards and on defense. For the Celtics, it not only marked their ninth championship in 10 seasons. The club’s new owner rewarded the team with a trip to Hawaii and Omega watches (Havlicek still wears his). As for Auerbach, he went home after Game 7, relaxed by making himself french fries, ordering takeout from his favorite Chinese restaurant and knowing that the Celtics were the best team in the NBA. For the eighth straight time.

NBA PHOTOS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; MIKE LAWRIE/GETTY IMAGES

returned to a traditional lineup. The Lakers’ three-guard unit built a 17-point lead. Back came the Celtics, who erased that deficit and went ahead by nine in the third quarter. Enter LaRusso, who provided a boost to the Lakers’ frontcourt. They tied the game at 115 in the final minute, and West (31 points) scored four points in a 10-second span to secure the Lakers’ 121-117 victory. Baylor led all scorers with 41 points. In Los Angeles for Game 6, Schaus’ gameplan worked again. The Lakers’ small lineup built a big lead, then lost it. LaRusso came in to take advantage of the weary Celtics, and Los Angeles pulled away for a 123-115 victory. Four Lakers scored 20 or more points, led by West (32) and Goodrich (28). Despite the consecutive losses, the Celtics remained confident. “We had never lost a Game 7,” Jones said, “and we were coming home.” Boston’s defense re-asserted itself in Game 7, smothering the Lakers as Baylor and West made just 3 of 18 shots in the first half. The Celtics


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T

he 1976 NBA Champions were reunited on April 13, one of three legendary Celtics’ teams brought back to Boston to celebrate three decades of excellence. There at the TD Garden, lined up side-by-side, just above the leprechaun at center court, was a trio of Hall of Famers: head coach Tommy Heinsohn, forward John Havlicek and Finals MVP Jo Jo White, to name just a few of the Celtics from that roster on hand, all proudly holding up green jerseys with the No. 76 stitched onto the front. The halftime appreciation ceremony, which also saw introductions for the 1966 and 1986 Celtics’ title teams, was the exclamation point on a three-day weekend honoring the heroes of Beantown. “We did a lot of reminiscing and sharing and laughing,” said Dave Cowens, a seven-time NBA All-Star, who started at center on that 1975-76 team 40 years ago. “It was hard to believe it had been that long, until we all got together and everybody was walking with a limp [laughs]. It’s crazy, but at least we’re here to tell the story. That’s the good news.” The good news and good memories were not exclusive to Boston’s sports icons and their fans, however. Just weeks before the C’s anniversary party, the other half of the 1976 Finals, the Phoenix Suns, enjoyed a class reunion all their own. Prior to the tipoff of a Suns-Celtics game in March, Phoenix favorites Paul Westphal, Alvan Adams and Gar Heard were among eight players, two coaches, their athletic trainer and several staff members from 1975-76, who came back together to watch a brand-new documentary on the story of the aptly named Sunderella Suns. The hour-long TV special arrived four decades after a book was published on The Little Team That Could And Darn Near Did! and an LP record was released with the sounds and calls from the memorable matchup. Although the now senior-citizen Suns, who were recognized with their own halftime ceremony at Talking Stick Resort Arena, have no championship rings to show for it, they won that series in the minds of many, despite falling to the mighty Celtics in six games, plus a few overtimes. You see, Phoenix was not supposed to even be there when the Finals tipped off on May 23, 1976. Much like the city itself, the NBA’s lone desert franchise was still in its adolescent years. To best illustrate the point, the Celtics had more championship banners (12) in their already rich history than the Suns had seasons (8) under their draw-string waistbands, as the first professional sports team in the state of Arizona. “Phoenix was just a sleepy little resort town that had a basketball team,” said Westphal, who was traded from the Celtics to the Suns for guard Charlie Scott prior to the 1975-76 season. “There couldn’t have been a city more different than Boston in those days.” Like Sylvester Stalone’s underdog character Rocky Balboa from the 1976 motion picture of the year, Phoenix was the little-known, working-class team with a less-than-impressive record, lucky to even be standing in the ring with the world champion, let alone fighting for the title.

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By Jeramie McPeek

The Finals 2016

53


At 42-40, the Suns did not appear to be a legitimate threat to the championship-rich Celtics, who cruised to a 54-28 record, en route to claiming the Atlantic Division for the fifth-straight year. At least not on paper. The Suns were full of surprises, though. They went 23-13 after acquiring Heard, and then won their opening-round series vs. Seattle before upsetting Rick Barry and the defending-NBA Champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. As the Suns’ commercial flight approached Phoenix at nearly midnight, after clinching the West on the road, thousands of Phoenicians packed into Sky Harbor International Airport to greet them. “We had no idea what to expect when we got home, until we were notified just before landing about a large crowd that had congregated in and around the terminal,” recalled then-Suns GM, now-Sixers chairman Jerry Colangelo. “It was a stunner, an incredible moment. Almost like a

Paul Westphal (#44) and Jo Jo White (#10)

experienced Celtics. But MacLeod, a former boxer himself, was not about to let his club go down without a fight. “John MacLeod was one of the best coaches I ever played for,” said Miami Heat president Pat Riley, a reserve guard on that Suns’ club. “He was smart, disciplined, a motivator.” Returning home to the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, affectionately nicknamed the “Madhouse on McDowell,” the motivated Suns played like their backs were against the ropes in Game 3, a rare, Sunday-morning game. Tempers flared early when Suns defensive guard Ricky Sobers and Celtics’ guard Kevin Stacom were ejected after a series of shoves turned into a flurry of fists in the second quarter. “We were banging each other and getting a little physical, getting a little chatty, and next thing you know, it just ignited,” described Sobers, who averaged one fight per round of those ’76 playoffs. “I competed hard. I didn’t like to lose. I took that everywhere I went, whether it was the

Westphal

they easily could have won that series . They played a “I’ve always said,

terrific series. Everybody here in Boston has a lot of respect for [the Suns].”—Dave Cowens

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The Finals 2016

playgrounds of New York City or the NBA Championship [series] with the Phoenix Suns.” Whether it was the toughness of his fellow rookie that inspired him, or perhaps the disappointment of being outplayed by Cowens in the first two games, Adams played with a renewed confidence and intensity in Game 3. An athletic, 6-9 center who had been named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, the “Oklahoma Kid” matched his jersey number with 33 points to lead the Suns in a 105-98 win. “He had so much hops,” praised Cowens, who was pictured battling Adams in the paint on the cover of Sports Illustrated during the series. “He was a quick jumper. He had a nice shot. He was a great passer, good hands. He wasn’t as bulky as I was, so I thought I had a definite advantage when he got around the basket, but he was a very clever player and advanced for his age.” Trivial Pursuit fans will appreciate the fact that Game 4 was the first NBA game ever played in the month of June, but what made it even more unusual were the 21 fouls called in the first 10 minutes of play. Boston’s head coach Heinsohn pointed his angry finger at the referees, suggesting that they had been influenced by Phoenix newspapers, which had been critical of Boston’s physicality.

PREVIOUS SPREAD: DICK RAPHAEL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; THIS PAGE: DICK RAPHAEL (3)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

moment of arrival for a team and for a franchise.” Still, the national media were not convinced. Many reporters and columnists predicted a sweep by Boston, which had knocked off Buffalo and Cleveland on its way back to Finals familiarity. Not that the players in Suns head coach John MacLeod’s locker room seemed to mind the doubters. “Guys say they don’t read newspapers, but they did,” laughed Heard. “It gave us incentive.” The Suns were competitive in the opening game of the series, down just five points going into the fourth quarter in Boston, but the Celtics were dominant on the glass. Cowens, the League’s MVP in 1973, pulled down 21 rebounds by himself to go with 25 points and 10 assists, earning a triple-double and an 11-point win for the home team. Game 2 was much of the same, as Boston out-rebounded Phoenix, 60-44. Only this time it was veteran forward Paul Silas with the monster 17-board night and Havlicek with the team-high 23 points, despite playing in pain, having torn the plantar fascia in his foot early in the postseason. It appeared as though the critics may have been correct about the Suns, who fell into an ominous 0-2 hole against the much-more

1976 Finals MVP Jo Jo White (#10)


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Accusations aside, the Suns employed a well-balanced attack, led by “Westy” (28 pts, 9 asts) and Heard (19 pts, 15 rebs), to pull out a hard-fought 109-107 victory, tying up the series at 2-2. The Celtics had a chance to force overtime, but White missed a jump shot at the buzzer, setting up one of the most dramatic games in NBA history. Game 5 was played on Friday, June 4, 1976, and featured a laterthan-usual, 9 p.m. start time on the East Coast. Legend has it that many Boston fans spent the hours leading up to game time in the local pubs, so were feeling pretty good by tip-off. “They were very excited in Boston,” recalled Sobers, who exchanged some heated words with fans behind the Suns’ bench. “They wanted to see blood and not Boston blood. They wanted to see Phoenix Suns blood, and we didn’t mind giving it to them. We played a fierce game.” Well, maybe a fierce second half. No one would have guessed early

Gar Heard (#24)

lead with 19 seconds to play. Going with a small lineup, Phoenix got a quick bucket from their elder statesman, Dick Van Arsdale, followed by a steal by Westphal on the Celtics’ inbound pass, and a jumper from the corner by forward Curtis Perry to take a one-point lead with five seconds to go. Heinsohn drew up a play for White. But as Boston forward Don Nelson looked to inbound the ball, White was covered, leaving their hobbled leader to take the final shot for a third time. “I broke towards him and he threw the ball towards me,” described Havlicek, who was competing for his eighth NBA Championship. “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to drive to the hoop and get as far as I can, and hope that I get fouled on the way.’ “Well they were told not to foul, so they backed off and I was up in the air, hung out to dry. So I said, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I

Havlicek

in the game that anyone would still be talking about it 40 years later, as the veteran Celtics ran out to a 22-point lead in the first half. But to continue the boxing analogies, the Suns were not about to throw in the towel. Coming out of halftime, Westphal came alive, scoring on the fastbreak, on turnaround jumpers, on bank shots and at the line. “Have you ever seen a visiting player more comfortable on somebody else’s home court?” Adams asked rhetorically of his Suns roommate on the NBA road. “Well, that was his home court for three years! He knew the dead spots. He was not intimidated.” With Westphal’s energy surging through them, the visitors outscored the home team by 11 in the third quarter, and took a 95-94 lead with 22 seconds left. Havlicek made of 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game, but his potential game-winning missed, leading to overtime. Boston took an early lead in the extra period, Phoenix fought back to tie the game, and Havlicek missed a baseline jumper that would have won the game. The two teams traded baskets in the second OT, until reserve center Dennis Awtrey picked up his sixth foul to join Adams, who had fouled out late in regulation, on the bench. Meanwhile, White scored on a driving, banking layup, high off the glass to give Boston a three-point

Westphal

“We were notified just before landing about a large crowd that had congregated in and

It was a stunner, an incredible moment . Almost like around the terminal.

a moment of arrival for a team and for a franchise.”—Jerry Colangelo

The Finals 2016

DICK RAPHAEL (3)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

56

going to do now?’” What he did now, or then, was simply hit a leaning, 15-foot bank shot to give Boston a one-point victory. Or so they thought. As the Celtics ran off to their locker room to celebrate the doubleovertime victory, the crowd poured out onto the parquet. “The security was not very good; I think Red Auerbach had planned it that way,” laughed Van Arsdale. “So fans just stormed the court. There were probably three or four hundred fans on the court.” While most fans were jumping up and down, hugging and screaming, there was one fan who wasn’t very happy and attacked NBA official Richie Powers in the midst of the chaos.


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“They didn’t like his calls,” said Riley. “They actually rushed past security guards and tried to pummel him. Richie was throwing punches trying to protect himself. I remember, I ran out onto the court and four or five other players ran out, pushing fans away...It was a wild, wild night.” The wild night was not over yet, much to the chagrin of the Celtics, who had to be called back out to the court. “I was in the locker room with my shirt off, ready to take a shower and they said there was one second left to go,” recalled Havlicek. Many thought the final second was a mere formality, as the Suns were out of timeouts and only had one second to get the ball the full length of the court. That is, until Westphal called a timeout anyway. Phoenix was awarded the timeout, but given a technical, which put the Celtics up two points. But, it also allowed the Suns to inbound from midcourt instead of

McCoy told his radio audience back home in Phoenix. “Somebody up there is on our side.” The Celtics’ coach would have likely argued that idea had he heard the Suns’ radio call, but he had more important things to worry about at that point, like a third overtime. “It was a crazy scene, obviously,” said Heinsohn, today a color analyst himself. “This game now was somewhere around midnight for crying out loud. You know, everybody thought it was over and, emotionally, you had to go back out and recharge yourself.” With three of their starters having fouled out and others simply wiped out after 58 minutes of play, the Celtics turned to Glenn McDonald for help. The seldom-used reserve guard bounced off the bench to score six points in OT No. 3, giving Boston just enough to pull out a

1975-76 Boston Celtics

(L-R): White, Havlicek and Glenn McDonald reunited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the team’s championship.

“I was in the locker room with my shirt off, ready to take a shower

they said there was one second left to go .” and

Havlicek

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128-126 victory. “That was one of those games that no team should’ve lost,” said White, who played 60 of the 63 minutes that night. It could be said that Phoenix actually lost the series that night. Although they returned home for Game 6 less than 36 hours later, the Suns were emotionally drained after losing the heart-breaker in Boston. The Celtics, on the other hand, were feeling good and so was Scott, who was back where he started his NBA career in 1972. Having fouled out in Game 5, the All-Star guard had his best game of the postseason, putting up 25 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. When the final buzzer sounded on Game 6, the Boston Celtics had claimed their 13th NBA Championship, just as everyone had expected going in. But the Phoenix Suns, much like the “Italian Stallion” after going 15 rounds with Apollo Creed, earned something almost as valuable. “I’ve always said, they easily could have won that series,” admitted Cowens. “They played a terrific series. Everybody here in Boston has a lot of respect for that group.”

NBA PHOTOS; DICK RAPHAEL; BRIAN BABINEAU/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

the opposite baseline. “The fact of the matter was that Westy knew the rulebook,” Sobers said, “knew it better than most, no offense to anybody else. But he called out the rule and said, ‘This is what we can do.’ Brilliant!” “That was the coach coming out of Paul,” added Heard of Westphal, who would go on to coach the Suns to a Finals in 1993. With the bonus timeout, MacLeod drew up one last play, taking chalk to the wood floor in front of the Suns’ bench. Similar to the situation Havlicek had found himself in minutes before, Heard was on the court waiting for Perry to inbound the ball to Westphal for the final shot. Only Westphal was covered, and he was the next man up. “Curtis threw the best pass he ever made in his career,” replayed Heard. “He hit me at right at the top of the key and I just turned and shot the ball.” The high-arching shot seemed to hang in the air for minutes before dropping perfectly through the net, tying the game at 112 and signaling yet another overtime, and the air deflated from the Garden crowd. “I want to tell you something,” Suns Hall of Fame broadcaster Al

—John Havlicek


CELTIC

SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The Finals 2016

60


Ride By Bob Ryan

The 1985-86 Boston Celtics might not have achieved perfection, but it looked every bit it.

The Finals 2016

61


“ I CAN SAY I SAW PERFECTION.” —

The centerpiece of the 1985-86 Celtics was MVP and Finals MVP Larry Bird.

C

an there possibly be such a thing as “perfection” on a basketball court? The obvious answer is “no,” but there have been times when a performance is so exquisite, so dynamic, so downright overpowering and so close to group performance art that it is difficult to imagine anything better. Take, for example, the Game 5 third quarter of the 1986 Eastern Conference series between the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks. Already in control of the game and the series, the Celtics came out of the locker room at the intermission and washed over the stunned Hawks with a 36-6 tsunami, concluding with a 24-0 run. “It was just the finest exhibition of basketball I’ve ever seen.” declared Atlanta guard Doc Rivers, who could not possibly have imagined at that moment he’d one day be coaching the Celtics the next time they would win a championship. Atlanta head coach Mike Fratello had never felt more helpless. “What else is there?” he inquired. “The League doesn’t let you make trades during the middle of the game...I was hoping I had about 40 more timeouts.” We have reached the 30th anniversary for that team, which went on to win the franchise’s 16th title by subsequently knocking off Milwaukee in four and Western Conference champ Houston in six. Other teams, most notably the 1995-96 Bulls and this year’s exemplary Warriors, have won more regular season games than the 67 taken by that team. But when the juicy topic of “greatest team of all time” arises, it would be foolish not to include the 1985-86 Celtics, owners of what was unquestionably the finest frontcourt ever assembled, and a team led by a legend named Larry Bird, who got better as the season went on and especially in the postseason of 1986.

BILL WALTON

The simple truth is that the only reason they didn’t win 70 (the record at the time was 69 wins, set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers) was that it never occurred to them to do so. The gave away a game or two in the early part of the season (including opening night against a mediocre Nets team and against a 26-win Pacers squad in November), but once they locked in during the month of January, they were eerily close to invincible. “I guess we needed a ‘70’ goal,” said Danny Ainge, now the team’s general manager. “I don’t remember anyone talking about anything but winning a championship. Seventy was never discussed.” And just how serious were these guys about winning it all? So much so that they even swore off beer until after the playoffs. The 1985-86 Celtics were coming off a disappointing Finals experience the previous season, having surrendered their championship to the archrival Lakers. Team president Red Auerbach and general manager Jan Volk knew the team needed a pick-me-up, and they zeroed in on a second legend, the wondrously talented, but discouragingly fragile, Bill Walton, who had concluded a frustrating six-year stay with the Clippers, where he had a hard time staying on the court due to his abundance of injuries. Now for any basketball purist, the concept of the smartest player in basketball teaming up with the smartest center in the game was an exhilarating thought. To Bird himself, it was a go from the outset. “I remember Red calling me to say we had a chance to get Bill Walton,” Bird recalled. “I told him that if we got Walton and he was healthy in the playoffs we would win the championship.” Walton himself had always fantasized about being a Celtic. “I grew up in San Diego idolizing Bill Russell and the Celtics,” he explained. “To play for them was an absolute dream come true.” That dream turned into an instant nightmare in the very first game, when the Celtics squandered a 19-point lead and lost in overtime to the New Jersey Nets. Walton’s Celtic debut consisted of 19 inefficient minutes of playing time, during which he committed five personal fouls and turned the ball over seven times. “It was a disgrace to my team and to the sport of basketball,” he sighed.

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ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; DICK RAPHAEL (3)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The Celtics steamrolled the opposition in the postseason, with the only scares coming from two losses to the Rockets in the Finals and a 63-point barrage by Chicago’s Michael Jordan.


In addition to Bird, Boston’s vaunted frontcourt featured All-Stars Robert Parish (#00) and Kevin McHale (#32), and Sixth Man of Year Bill Walton (#5).

There would be better days ahead, for both Walton and the team. The Celtics would only lose once in the next 18 games, and by the time they avenged the Nets loss in New Jersey on December 4 they were 17-2 and had a healthy six-game lead in the Atlantic Division. On December 6 they were jolted when the young, aggressive Portland Trail Blazers walked into the Boston Garden and handed them a 121-103 whipping. It turned out to be a game of significance because it would hold up as their only home loss of the season, playoffs included. They finished 37-1 at the Garden and 3-0 in their then home-away-from-home in Hartford, Conn. December was, by their standards, a rocky month, culminating in a truly shocking double-overtime loss in New York (the NBA’s worst team at 23-59 in 1985-86) on Christmas Day. Losing was one thing, but blowing a 25-point lead was another. One problem was that Bird was not feeling all that well. He was struggling with a bad back. January was another matter. Bird’s back benefitted from the TLC of orthopedic physical therapist Dan Dyrek, and Walton hit his stride. The true love affair between Walton and the Garden fans began on the night of January 22. Walton came off the bench to block a Kareem AbdulJabbar shot and launch himself into a highly productive 16-minute stint (5 for 6 from the floor, 11 points, 8 rebounds). With Bird finally healthy, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish operating at peak

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The Finals 2016

1985-86 Boston Celtics

Dick Raphael (3); Rocky Widner; NBA Photos/NBAE/Getty Images

The Celtics spent plenty of time watching their 67 victories from the bench as they defeated opponents by an average of 9 points during the regular season.

efficiency and Walton playing with unbridled joy, the Celtics frontcourt put on nightly clinics, ably abetted by the backcourt of Ainge and the estimable Dennis Johnson and further bolstered by a bench, that, in addition to Sixth Man of the Year Walton, included former All-Star Scott Wedman and sharpshooting Jerry Sichting. But the artistic highlight was the partnership of Bird and Walton, which actually turned out to be as cerebral a pair as anyone would have expected. When Walton entered the game (he would play a career-best 80 games that season) everyone knew that sooner rather than later, there would be an old-fashioned give-and-go with Bird. Even knowing, no one could ever stop it because they varied the timing so brilliantly. Walton’s artistry captivated all the local college coaches. He had seldom received sufficient credit for his rebound technique. He had the superb timing to sweep the ball off the rim at the exact instant at which it may very well have been goaltending, except that it wasn’t. Picture someone sweeping crumbs off the table into a cupped palm. That was Bill Walton rebounding the basketball. Oh, and often he was outleting the ball before he hit the floor. Here’s the scoop: The major reason many think the 1985-86 Celtics were the best team ever is that no team, before or since, brought a force


The 1986 title would be Red Auerbach’s 16th and final championship. Walton celebrated a championship with a city that embraced him like a lifelong Celtic.

“I DON’T REMEMBER ANYONE TALKING

WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP . SEVENTY WAS ABOUT ANYTHING BUT

NEVER DISCUSSED.”—DANNY AINGE

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They smashed the Hawks in five, swept the Bucks with Bird putting on a Master class in every phase of the game and then finished things off by defeating the stubborn Houston Rockets, with Game 6 becoming the ultimate showcase for the man who somehow managed to encompass everything that was good about basketball in one 6-9 package. The Celtics came home for a Game 6 leading 3-2, but upset about a raucous Game 5 that featured a fight between the 6-1 Sichting and the 7-4 Ralph Sampson. Bird was particularly agitated, and he vowed to end things on that Sunday afternoon. “I was never more mentally prepared for a game,” he maintained. His final numbers (29 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, 3 steals) in no way reflect his total dominance at both ends of the floor. He was in total orchestration of the offense and he was inside the minds of all the entire Houston team on defense. “I saw him take on all five Rockets at once,” marveled Houston’s Jim Petersen. “As far as focus was concerned,” Bird says. “None better. I should have quit right there.” Final score: Boston 114, Houston 97. No one appreciated what had just taken place, both in that game or in the entire glorious season, more than Walton. “I can say, ‘I was there,’” he says. “I saw perfection.” Close to it, anyway.

The franchise celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the 1986 Celtics this season.

DICK RAPHAEL (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; MIKE LAWRIE/GETTY IMAGES

like Bill Walton off the bench. He brought something unique to the table. Walton actually started in place of an injured Parish in two games, and in them he had a combined 25 points and 12 rebounds in the two combined first quarters. This, despite joking attempts by Bird and McHale to keep Walton in his place. Laughed Bird: “Kevin went over to Bill before that first start and said, ‘Don’t get any ideas. Those shots of Robert’s are going to Larry and me, not you.’” That was the lighthearted nature of a team led by a soothing, laissezfaire coach in K.C. Jones. “K.C. was the perfect coach for that team,” Walton said. “We loved playing for that guy.” “We always had discussions,” said Ainge. “He valued our input. He’d say, ‘OK, how do you want to play Isiah [Thomas]?’” “K.C. went with the daily flow,” explained Bird. Bird, meanwhile, began to rev it up. He was Player of the Month in both February and March. Among his highlights were a 47-point game in Portland in which he sent the game into OT with a basket and then won it with another basket. Just for fun, he had seven right-handed hoops and seven left-handed hoops. Never forget, also, who was the original three-point king. He won the NBA’s debut Three-Point Contest during All-Star 1986 (and would defend the crown over the next two contests), and when the real games resumed, he embarked on a spree in which he went 25-for-34 on threes. The Celtics were deep enough to survive a 14-game absence of McHale, thanks to the play of Wedman. The last third of the season was a complete joy ride, likened by Walton to “the circus coming to town.” Bird was at his absolute best. No one could stop McHale’s nightly lowpost barrages. Parish quietly anchored the defense while sticking in his patented deep turnarounds. Johnson was a sponge on defense and a clutch shooter. Ainge was mercurial on defense and an ever-improving offensive threat. Throw in Sichting shooting 63 percent from the floor in his final 17 regular season games—95 percent of them 15-foot jumpers—

and the Celtics were a nightly monster. What everyone remembers most about the ’86 Celtics postseason was Michael Jordan’s 63-point outburst in Game 2 (a game the Celtics won, 135-131) of their opening best-of-five series, and that was a mighty scare. But the fact is the Celtics seized a 2-0 lead in every series and were always in control.


#ThisIsWhyWePlay TM & © 2016 Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. © 2016 NBA Entertainment. Photo by Getty Images.


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By Sam Smith

Runaway Bulls They might’ve just been eclipsed, but the Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 1995-96 season remains the standard for greatness.

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hose 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were a disparate, eclectic and distinct group. They weren’t particularly close off the court, and certainly not in personality or interests. You had basketball’s icon and mythmaker, Michael Jordan, whom many already were calling the game’s greatest player. There was the mercurial and talented Scottie Pippen, the sometimes dysfunctional and idiosyncratic Dennis Rodman, the cerebral Steve Kerr and Luc Longley, the international celebrity in Toni Kukoc and even a couple of Bad Boys Pistons, James Edwards and John Salley.

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“IT WAS JUST SORT OF A SHOCK IF WE DID LOSE. AND THEN AUTOMATICALLY WHEN WE DID LOSE,

But what they lacked in personal camaraderie, they made up for in their shared belief of not only ultimate success, but doing so decisively. It produced one of the greatest seasons in professional sports history, the 72-10 season that became the first in NBA annuals to surpass 70 wins. It was a record that would stand unchallenged for two decades until this year’s Golden State Warriors one-upped them with 73 wins. “The team had spirit and energy and had great fun,” said coach Phil Jackson, now the New York Knicks president who coached six Bulls championship teams. “It was an adult group of guys; not a lot of young guys. They just liked to win every game. “They didn’t take games off,” noted Jackson. Consider that even after going to 71-10 on the penultimate day of the season, the starters played in the second of a back-to-back the next night to beat up on Washington. No rest for guys who never said they were weary. They loved playing, competing and imposing their will on opponents. The bigger the challenge, the more it was embraced. The Houston Rockets were quietly seething over doubts about their back-to-back championships because they never had to face Jordan during both title runs as Jordan had retired for a season to play baseball and came up short in the playoffs after un-retiring in 1995. No way you’d win if 1995-96 Chicago Bulls Michael were playing, was the accusation. The Bulls swept the Rockets that season; with a 38-3 record that season, including a double-digit win at Houston that upped the Bulls’ record to 39-3. The Orlando Magic was the next great NBA team: Shaq and Penny and the brilliant supporting cast with former Bull Horace Grant,

THE NEXT GAME WITH AN ANGER THAT WE’D COME OUT

CAME FROM MICHAEL . HE DIDN’T EVER WANT TO LOSE.”—STEVE KERR

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NBA PHOTOS; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES

Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott. Garnering revenge from last year’s 4-2 series loss that had people questioning Jordan, the Bulls swept them in the playoffs and Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp Jordan essentially ending the dynasty before it ever started as Shaq subsequently left for the Los Angeles Lakers. “That was supposed to be the clash of titans,” recalled Steve Kerr. “It seemed like the bigger the challenge the better that team played. And the Bulls were not lacking in big games all season. After retiring in 1991 with HIV, Magic Johnson made his return to the court. It was the story of the decade after Jordan’s return a year before. Johnson had 19 points and 10 assists in a double-digit win in his first game back. The Bulls were to be his second. The Bulls blew them out. The Bulls suffered their only bad loss that season in early March, by 32 points in New York. Then they won 18 of their last 21 games in the regular season, all Jordan three losses coming by a point, and then opened the playoffs 14-1, the only loss in overtime in the Conference Semifinals. They held a 3-0 lead in the Finals over the 64-win Seattle SuperSonics before they finally real, that the guy you saw in the [1995] playoffs the previous season took their feet off the competitive pedal that season. was a guy who wasn’t at his peak in basketball performance level. He “That was a team that really liked playing,” said Jackson. “Michael wanted to drive that home. Dennis was proving to be what he always was out to prove something, that his comeback was going to be for has been: a great rebounder and defender and disturber. He was great


at it. It fit like a glove. Toni and Dennis played center. We had a mobile, manipulative, ballhandling group of guys. People had a very hard time against that lineup.” In many respects, that was the progenitor of the Golden State Warriors’ so called “death lineup”—five players of similar size and ability who could switch all the pick and rolls and thwart offenses. Except the Bulls did it with three defensively recognized players in Jordan, Pippen and Rodman (16 combined All-Defensive First Team nods going into the season), the athletic, long-armed Ron Harper, and the 6-10 Kukoc. It was a virtually impenetrable defensive wall with arguably three of the best defensive players in NBA history. A versatile unit that liked to pressure and trap upcourt, comprised of defenders who were so unique, they played together and were so fueled Michael Jordan by their own passions that even getting into the frontcourt against them could prove troublesome. “There was no letup, no complacency,” recalled Edwards, who played on two championship teams with the intimidating

the Bulls were losers in the second round of the playoffs, overwhelmed by the younger, stronger, faster and hungrier Orlando Magic. Pippen had collapsed under the weight of the post-Jordan responsibility, the low point coming when he refused to enter Game 3 of the 1994 playoff series against the Knicks. Harper had been brought in to replace Jordan in 1994 but was a big free agency flop, averaging 6.9 ppg in his first season after a 20-ppg campaign the previous year as a member of the L.A. Clippers. Rodman had become a basketball pariah, his bizarre antics and alliance with singer/actress/provocateur Madonna getting him virtually banned from the NBA after undermining the San Antonio Spurs’ title hopes in 1994 and 1995. Jordan then went off to Hollywood the summer before the 1995-96 season started to film Space Jam, and Jackson admitted he was worried. Had Jordan lost that famous love for the game? Had the killer instinct become too commercial? “Everyone was telling me, ‘No no, don’t worry, he’s on it; basketball is his priority.’ Everybody was out there in L.A.,” Jackson recalled. “It had become the place to be, to be in Michael’s games.” They all had to see, however, and it wasn’t long. Sometime into training camp, Jordan got into a fight in a scrimmage and gave Kerr a black eye. “We understood from the start Michael was upset losing in the

“THE TEAM HAD SPIRIT AND ENERGY AND HAD GREAT FUN... THEY

JUST LIKED TO WIN EVERY GAME . THEY DIDN’T TAKE GAMES OFF.”—PHIL JACKSON Jordan

Ron Harper

defenses of the Pistons. “Every game they went out like it was their first game or last game. Once we got closer and closer to that record they played stronger and

Payton

stronger every game.” In many ways, it was a season driven as much by talent and competitive zeal as it was defiance of convention and personal and professional renewal and redemption. After all, despite the celebration of Jordan’s comeback in March 1995, 72

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BARRY GOSSAGE (2); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER (2); ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Kemp and Dennis Rodman (#91)

playoffs the year before,” said Bill Wennington, now a Bulls radio broadcaster. “I think it was within the first couple of days of practice and I’m talking to Steve and he’s saying ‘Mike is playing with a big chip on his shoulder.’ We looked at each other and said, ‘This could be a real interesting year.’ We didn’t know how interesting. You could tell right away it was going to be a different kind of year.” The 1972 Lakers record of 69 wins wasn’t the motivation. It was a return to a championship as well as a professional resurrection. Breaking the record was merely a byproduct. Ironically, Jackson remembered that back in the Bulls’ second championship season [in 1992] when the team was on a 69-win pace, team owner Jerry Reinsdorf sent Jackson a note. “It said, ‘I hope you are not trying to break the all time best record,’” Jackson related with a laugh. “I was like, ‘No, we’re just playing.’” [Ed note: the team finished with 67 wins] But there was no holding back Jordan and this team in 1996. The first ever to 70 wins: That sounded like the right fit. “Incredible motivation,” recalled Kerr. “Everything clicked. As motivated as Michael always was, that year was another few degrees higher based on what he had been through, the absence from the game, the loss the previous year to Orlando. The motivation was incredible. It carried on the entire season and that’s what made it so remarkable, the competition level in the scrimmages and the practices. He was ferocious.


It was just a byproduct of the tone he set right from the beginning.” And then as Christmas was approaching they were 23-2. “After the first month of the season we realized how good we were,” said Kerr. “It was just sort of a shock if we did lose. And then automatically when we did lose, we’d come out the next game with an anger that came from Michael. He didn’t ever want to lose. “Losing one game would spur the next 10-game streak and we’d keep going from there.” There was no letdown. Finishing up a long Western Conference road trip, the Bulls were actually losing late in the game to the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies. A young Vancouver guard, Darrick Martin, began chiding Jordan. Uh oh. Jordan led a burst from a double-digit deficit with 19 points in the last six minutes for the Bulls win. “I told you not to trash talk me, little man,” Jordan told Martin as they left the court. It was a different Bulls team. There was Pippen, but Jordan hadn’t played with the others, who were somewhat intimidated by Jordan as well. Eventually, Pippen and Harper would have a daily “breakfast club” workout regimen with Jordan, though all three admitted they rarely spoke with Rodman. Rodman bonded more with Jackson, fond of Jackson’s Native American interests and Jackson’s understanding approach. Rodman said he wouldn’t participate in shootaround since he didn’t shoot in games. OK, made sense. Jackson did make Rodman Rodman, Jordan, Pippen attend, however. He rode an exercise bicycle. There wasn’t anything like this group or this season. “Michael kind of let it be known the only reason you didn’t practice was if you were dead or at least couldn’t walk,” Wennnington said. “I remember one day being the last getting taped and I’m in the locker room and we’re going to start in 15 or 20 minutes. Ron and Toni were in the training room and had let it be known they weren’t going to practice. Michael comes in and says, ‘Harp, what are you doing?’ He said his knee was a little sore. ‘I’m sitting out today,’ Ron said. Michael says, ‘Heck with that. Get on the floor! We don’t need you in here.’ Then he looks at Toni and says ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Toni says, ‘My hand, my thumb hurts.’ Michael says, ‘We don’t need either of you guys in there. Unless you can’t walk you are out there.’ They got up, got taped and got out there. That was kind of it for everyone.” One day, Wennington said, rookie Jason Caffey asked him if this was what the NBA was like. “I said, ‘Jason, you need to pay attention to what is going on with this team because it is never like this,’” said Wennington. “This is freakin’ amazing what is going on now; it freakin’ doesn’t happen.’” The talk of 70 wins, basketball’s four-minute mile barrier, began sometime midseason as the Bulls steamrolled to 41-3, then lost their only back to back games of the season. The first was in Denver, the Bulls

falling behind by 25 points and driving back to actually taking a lead and then losing. They lost in Phoenix two nights later after lots of Michael golf, and then won 13 of their next 14. Jackson didn’t talk much about a record season, throwing out hints, as he would do, like mentioning offhand one day how it would be nice to have a season with single digit losses. Harper had T-shirts made that read, “Don’t mean a thing without the ring.” Though not winning a championship seemed inconceivable to them as they chased every win, including the one against Milwaukee that pushed them to 70-9 on April 16, 1996. Many from the team still complain about a Hue Hollins call that enabled the Indiana Pacers to win 100-99 on a free throw, costing the Bulls a chance to tie Boston’s

Jordan

THE BIGGER THE CHALLENGE THE BETTER “IT SEEMED LIKE

THAT TEAM PLAYED.”—STEVE KERR

The Finals 2016

record 40-1 home season. And 73 wins. The Bulls went into Washington the next night in the second of a back to back and won by double digits. Jordan had 26. The Bulls did a fastbreak into the playoffs without a care for the opponent. They swept a Miami team with Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway by an average of 23 points per game. They had one hiccup against a seasoned Knicks team with Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, John Starks and Derek Harper, dropping Game 3 in New York in overtime. Of course, Jordan had 46 points in that game and rallied the Bulls into overtime after they trailed by 13 with 5:30 left.

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1995-96 NBA MVP Jordan


Nathaniel S. Butler (2); Fernando Medina; ; Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Toni Kukoc (#7), Scottie Pippen (#33) and Steve Kerr (#25)

Remember when Jordan returned from his hiatus a year before and in Game 1 of the Conference Semifinals of the eventual loss to Orlando Jordan lost the ball to Anderson and the Magic stole Game 1 and the series? When Anderson afterwards chided that, No. 45 (Jordan’s new number) doesn’t look like No. 23? Jordan famously changed back. Jordan scored 45 points in the Game 4 elimination. Revenge exacted. It didn’t stop. In the Finals, the Bulls met the Seattle SuperSonics who were no slouches, having won 64 games. They were led by Defensive Player of the Year Gary Payton Phil Jackson and at-his-peak Shawn Kemp, dunking virtuoso (19.6 ppg, .561 field-goal percentage) on one end and a defensive force (11.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg and 1.2 spg) on the other. The Sonics initially feared the aggressive Payton getting into foul trouble defending Jordan so they played Payton on Harper. It wasn’t until after the Bulls won the first three games by an average of almost 15 points did Chicago take a breath with two off days. They lost two, but returned to Chicago to close out the dream season. “We never anticipated Michael would return back to the way he was, if not better,” said Jackson. “He was more of a post-up scorer, get to the basket and still score, amazing. Scottie was at the top level of his game and had a leadership role that was very strong. With Dennis as a post player defending centers and being active and stripping and knocking the ball away, Jordan the length of the defenders Pippen (#33) and Luc Longley on the outside and Toni being as long and active as he was, Jordan had eight points in the last minute. The Bulls rebounded defensively what that team could do was impressive. [Assistant] Jimmy to win Game 4 in New York and then closed out the series with a Rodgers had been with the Celtics and seen all their great teams. He was 94-81 win at home. awed by the way this team played.” “It wasn’t important the team we were playing against,” said Kukoc. They were the greatest traveling show in NBA history with “The main focus was on our game, the way we played, the way we needed the consensus greatest player in Jordan and unchallenged most to execute, the way we needed to understand what was happening on the unpredictable player in Rodman. They had one of the game’s most court more than, ‘Oh, we are playing New York, we are playing Orlando.’ versatile stars in Pippen, five-time Euro player of the year in Kukoc It was all about the way we played.” and Zen Master Jackson. As a result, the accolades followed. Jordan They were playing history; the other guys were just mortals. captured the MVP triple-crown: All-Star, regular season and Finals The Orlando Magic of the 1990s became one of the great “what ifs” MVP. Rodman won the rebounding title and Jordan won the scoring of NBA history. They went to one Finals in 1995, and were swept. They title. Jordan and Pippen were All-NBA First Team; Jordan, Pippen and perhaps should have been to five or six. They were deep, with a young Rodman were All-Defensive First Team. Kukoc was named Sixth Man Shaq and Penny, fast, tough with Grant, could shoot threes with Scott of the Year. Jackson won the only Coach of the Year in his legendary and Anderson. The Bulls officially broke up the budding upstarts with coaching career. Jerry Krause took Executive of the Year. It was a the four-game sweep that started with a statement 38-point win in Game season to remember. 1. Welcome to the playoffs, fellas. The Finals 2016

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The Rio D

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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eal

By Darryl Howerton

USA Basketball will have to make some tough choices when it comes to putting together a squad for the 2016 Olympics that will face challenges from around the world.

D

ecisions, decisions. It’s getting close to roster selection time, so behind closed doors, USA Basketball’s managing director Jerry Colangelo and the USA Basketball Men’s National Team coaching staff are making tough decisions on which NBA stars make the 12-player team from its 31-man roster of finalists. You would think past Olympic gold medalists and accomplished stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala and Dwight Howard, among others, would be pretty good bets to make the men’s national team, right? But if all eight of those players made the squad, what about the deserving players from USA Basketball’s 2014 World Cup gold medal-winning crew like Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Kenneth Faried, among others? How about other gold-medalists and other players from USA Basketball’s list of 31 finalists that got hurt late during the NBA’s 2015-16 regular season or in the 2016 NBA Playoffs, like Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, John Wall and Mike Conley? Yes, Paul had his name withdrawn from consideration so that he could rehab and recover from his broken hand, but who’s to say the others wouldn’t have earned a spot, if they were healthy and able to give it a go. Such is the challenge of the decision-makers, as they must not only whittle down to 12 the list of the aforementioned by the end of June, but also consider the candidacy of other possible first-time Olympians like LaMarcus Aldridge, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Draymond Green, Gordon Hayward, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard and Damian Lillard, who comprise the rest of the finalists pool. “The players on our roster are very passionate about USA Basketball,” says Colangelo. “They also recognize it’s an opportunity to represent their country.” Unlike previous years, when the team had a tryout to determine the final 12—and unlike the USA Basketball Women’s National Team, which announced its Olympic roster in late April—the USA Men’s National Team will not be made known until the summer, which means a quick turnaround from the end of the NBA season in mid-June to the 2016 Olympics in Rio that begin August 5. “Sometimes you have to be flexible and change your process with the circumstances around you,” says Colangelo, who didn’t want to announce a team too early, cautious of injuries that occur in the postseason, and he didn’t want to announce a team too late via tryouts because sometimes a player’s pride is hurt when it is perceived by the public that he was cut. “I found out a long time ago that life is relational,” says Colangelo. “You have a leg up on life once you realize that. The players recognize the value of being on the national team, but we also know it is our responsibility to protect them, whether it be through the media or the workload or in practice sessions. We’re always looking out for their best interests, so sometimes that is why we do things the way we do.” As the behind-the-scenes leader of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team since 2005, Colangelo has become the program’s “fixer” so to speak, taking care of matters before they become problematic, in similar form to famous fictitious fixers like The Wolf in Pulp Fiction or Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad.

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The gold-medal winning 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team.

Since 2008, Mike Krzyzewski has led USA Basketball to two gold medals in the Olympics and two golds in FIBA World Cups, most recently in 2014.

In the mix for possible players for the 2016 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team will be two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, DeMarcus Cousins (receiving a pass from Rudy Gay) and Kyrie Irving.

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In October 2015, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo named Gregg Popovich as the team’s head coach to succeed Krzyzewski.

“There has never been a mountain of success like the success we’ve enjoyed this past decade. Ever. All of the teams: the senior men’s and women’s, the boys and girls in all age brackets. “Back in 2004, our men’s national team was struggling, not to mention the men’s junior teams, too. We had a number of players drop out. It was not our best time.” USA Basketball “challenged everyone to earn back the respect,” says Colangelo. The end result is what we see today. “A new program,” says Colangelo. “First of all, all of the top players are participating or have the desire

Jesse D. Garrabrant; Nathaniel S. Butler; Garrett Ellwood (2); Chris Coavtaa/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; David Ramos/Getty Images

After all, that is why USA Basketball brought in the former Phoenix Suns owner/general manager to fix a model featuring pro players gone bad in 2004 when that year’s star-studded USA Basketball squad returned home with the bronze medal in a disappointing finish. “I don’t know if I would call myself a fixer,” says Colangelo, who was brought in at age 76 by the Philadelphia 76ers this season to clean up their program, too. “But I see myself willing to take on a challenge when asked to do so, and if I believe in the cause, I will put in the time and effort to make it happen.” At Colangelo’s side during his USA Basketball revival has been Mike Krzyzewski, the longtime Duke head coach with five NCAA titles. The only head coach since Colangelo stepped into his role, Krzyzewski forged a 52-1 record in official FIBA and FIBA Americas competitions that has not only led to gold-medal finishes at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, but also gold-medal wins at the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cups. The 2016 Olympic Games will be Krzyzewski’s swan song before he hands the reins over to five-time NBA Championship head coach Gregg Popovich, who was named as his successor. Besides his previous international experience as USA assistant on the 2002 FIBA World Cup, 2003 Olympic Qualifying Tournament and 2004 Olympic Games teams, Popovich is also very familiar with many international players, many having played in San Antonio where he’s served as head coach for the past 20 years. Pointing the way in the locker room could be the on-court leaders of USA Basketball since 2004, three-time Olympic medalists James and Anthony embody the talent, desire and heart of what USA Basketball is about and have the narrative that ties both players with architects of the national teams we see before us today. “We’re all one big family here,” says Colangelo. “From Coach K to LeBron to Carmelo to Chris Paul and so on. The commitment our players have given us goes beyond what words can describe.


Competition for gold in the 2016 Olympic Games will come from host country Brazil (left), Argentina (bottom right) and the experienced and talent-laden Spanish team (top right).

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to another clash of the titans, with both squads ranking high atop the FIBA world rankings (Spain is second and Argentina is fourth, while USA ranks first). “We have nothing but the utmost respect for Argentina and Spain,” says Colangelo. “In fact, we respect them so much that years ago, our national team adopted some of the things they do to our program. Like, for instance, the larger 30-man roster. That was something we began after we saw the success those two countries had with pulling players from a larger selection pool.” Teams like Lithuania (led by Jonas Valanciunas) and Serbia (led by Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic and perhaps Boban Marjanovic) have also established a rep and level of consistency that affirms their No. 3 and No. 6 world rankings. And don’t count out a powerhouse like France (led by Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier), who has yet to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, but may— or may not—be getting Tony Parker (his wife is pregnant and set to deliver in mid-July), Boris Diaw (possible NBA free agent) and Nicolas Batum (foot injury in the postseason) for a July 5-10 qualifying tournament that could earn the world’s fifth-ranked country a berth. “We learned a long time ago that five guys playing team basketball will beat five stars unfamiliar with each other,” says Colangelo, “But what makes many of these teams so tough is the level of talent and teamwork internationally keeps rising. “That is one of the main reasons we had to extend to a 31-man roster because we have to be ready to deal with many different styles of play and players from different countries all over.” So as the 2016 Finals get underway, just know that the puzzle of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team is being put together as we speak. Within weeks, we all will know the dozen selected to represent America at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Garrett Ellwood (2)/NBAE/Getty IMages; Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

to do so. USA Basketball has value to them. They want to represent their country and win the gold medal. It helps the players’ brand for sure, but more than that, I believe everyone in life wants to be part of a winning environment.” The vibe does not start and stop with the United States. Many players from around the world who now play in the NBA first made their reputations known on the world scene, and also came to our attention by hailing from winning environments created by their own countries. Manu Ginobili was introduced to America in 2002 when he led Argentina and La Genoracion Dorada (a.k.a. The Golden Generation) to an upset win over the Americans in World Championship action, USA Basketball’s first loss in years, in addition to a gold-medal finish at the 2004 Olympics. “I’ll never forget, being disappointed that the United States lost in 2002, but also being excited after seeing Manu play, because I knew he would be my Spurs teammate the following season,” says original 1992 Dream Team member David Robinson, whose San Antonio Spurs won that 2003 NBA championship in his final season and Ginobili’s rookie year. Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and/or Ricky Rubio were Spain silver-medalist sensations—and thorns in the heels of USA Basketball for years—as they consistently battled the Americans to hard-fought gold-medal games at international competition in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, not to mention winning gold at the 2006 FIBA World Cup. It is little surprise then both these rivals are looking to turn back the hands of time for yet another crack at USA Basketball and a gold medal, even as Ginobili turns 39 in July while the older Gasol brother, Pau, turns 36 next month as well. Who knows? They both may have the wherewithal to lead their talented teammates


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GILDED IN GOLD The USA Basketball Women’s National Team is looking to continue its run of golden success. legendary squads that ultimately begat a program that created five-time defending Olympics gold medal champions. American basketball fans are simply hoping they will continue the process, winning in dominating fashion, as the eternal point guard (Bird), the versatile small forward (Catchings) and the sharp-shooting guard (Taurasi) continued to do, winning Olympic golds in 2004, 2008 and 2012, as USA Basketball added to an 86-1 record in FIBA and FIBA Americas competitions since the program’s inception in 1996. Of course, Bird, Catchings and Taurasi received help on their quest. The 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team will return three veterans from the 2004 team Along the journey, they were joined (pictured): Diana Taurasi (#12), Sue Bird (#6) and Tamika Catchings (#10). by special forces in 2008, when They say death comes in threes, as in, when a celebrity passes away two others all-around big Sylvia Fowles and complementary forward Seimone Augustus came are soon to follow. aboard the USA Basketball champion ship to win more gold medals. Well, if that is so, should not the converse also be true? Then, the American crew was made even more formidable at the 2012 Olympics Do births also come in threes? Does life begin in similar linkage? when defensive-minded center Tina Charles, phenom forward Maya Moore, along If so, what are we to make of wonder women Elena Delle Donne (the 6-5 overall with scoring guard Angel McCoughtry and venerable point guard Lindsay Whalen offensive force), Brittney Griner (the 6-8 rim protector) and Breanna Stewart (the made their Olympic debuts. 6-4 incomparable icon), three towering prodigies who will be making their Olympic And, yes, they continued to add even more gold to the vault. debuts this summer on the USA Basketball Women’s National Team, while playing So what are we now to make of it when the aforementioned golden gals—from on a veteran squad that has proven to be the world’s most dominant sports age 36 (Catchings) to the golden child age 21 (Stewart)—team up for this latest program for two decades now? team of the ages? So what happens when these three celebrated talents—whose careers “In some ways, it reminds me of the 1996 USA National Team,” says Carol Callan, already have “separated them from the rest of the pack” of their 25-and-under who has been the USA Basketball National Team director since 1995. peers, according to USA Basketball head coach Geno Auriemma—join forces with “Not in terms of Olympics experience, because that team only had two other millennial legends like three-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird, Tamika players—Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain—while the other 10 women were Catchings and Diana Taurasi? playing in their first Olympics. But that 1996 team had a collection of great leaders After all, we are talking three former prodigies who themselves joined other who would remain in the program for years to come.”

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NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; GETTY IMAGES

The core of the team (left) that secured gold at the 2014 FIBA World Championship will return, bolstered by new additions like rising star and 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne (right).


GETTY IMAGES (2)

Teams like Turkey (top), should it qualify, and Australia will look to challenge the USA’s run of Olympic gold medals dating back to 1996.

So back then, it wasn’t surprising to see Dawn Staley come away from that 1996 experience with a gold medal, and later also lead our 2000 and 2004 teams to golds. Just like it wasn’t surprising later to see Bird win a gold medal on the 2004 team and do so again on the 2008 and 2012 U.S Olympic teams. “You hope to have that continuity with the players,” says Callan, “and we’ve been fortunate to have players that really want to be a part of this Olympics experience time and time again.” They aren’t the only ones clamoring for another Olympics golden experience, which is what makes these 2016 Games in Rio so exciting.

You’ve got Australia, who has made the medal podium in nine of the past 10 Olympics and World Championships, including gold at the 2006 World Championship. You have Spain, who has a silver (2014 World Championship) and bronze (2010 World Championship) in those four recent global events. Then there is France (silver at 2012 Olympics) and Czech Republic (silver at 2010 World). It is not a coincidence these four medal-winners rank second (Australia), third (Spain), fourth (France), fifth (Czech Republic) in the FIBA World Rankings, behind only top-ranked United States of America. Like USA Basketball, they blend a leadership mix of veterans and youth, best illustrated by the Opals of Australia, who are led by 35-year-old veteran wing Belinda Snell and 25-year-old Liz Cambage, a 6-8 center with the tall task of replacing basketball legend Lauren Jackson, who has retired from basketball. “Australia has always been very competitive and they always bring out the best in us,” says Callan. “France and Spain are always there, playing us in gold medal games, just like the Czech Repubic when it comes to talent and experience. “We can’t forget the host country, Brazil, who like us, has some tremendous athletes with some extremely tall players. “And there are so many different styles of play, you really have to be ready to match up with a team like Brazil one day, and then face another team, like the Asian countries—China, Korea, Japan—who have their own distinct style of play.” Because of the propensity for women’s basketball players to play in international leagues—in addition or in place of the WNBA—throughout most of the professional basketball season, many of the USA Basketball players have year-round international experience that perhaps other teams don’t have at the professional sports level. “We oftentimes rely on the players’ scouting reports because in some cases,” says Callan, “they know some opposing players’ tendencies better than our own people might.” That is one big reason why the blend of new and old is so important in women’s basketball, because you never know when the next 25-year-old standout has transformed herself into an elite player. “Some of the players I coached in college may be the same people that I knew at Connecticut,” says Auriemma, who coached five USA Basketball players at UConn, “but they aren’t the same players when I see them here, as I found out in the Czech Republic at the 2010 World Championship.” That is what makes the 2016 Olympics especially intriguing because, well, you just never know who will step up big on the biggest stage of them all.

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By

20 FOR 20 20 things to know about the WNBA’s 20th season.

I

t’s been two decades since the women’s basketball world declared “We Got Next” when the NBA Board of Governors approved the creation of the WNBA. The league plays its landmark 20th season brimming with young talent and intriguing storylines. Maya Moore captains a dynasty in Minnesota after leading the Lynx to their third title in her five seasons. Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne enters 2016 in the afterglow of a historic MVP campaign. Seattle rookie Breanna Stewart arrives on the scene fresh off her fourth consecutive national championship at UConn, boasting a résumé virtually unmatched in college hoops history. But the new wave still shares the spotlight with the old guard. After 14 spectacular seasons, Tamika Catchings will say a long goodbye to the game during her final year as the heartbeat of the Indiana Fever. Alpha dog Diana Taurasi is back with the Phoenix Mercury, ready to chase her fourth title. In August, she’ll join forces with Catchings, Seattle Storm vet Sue Bird, and nine other stars as Team USA goes for its sixth straight Olympic gold medal in Rio. All that and more will be on display as the summer heats up. Here are 20 things to know about the WNBA’s 20th season:

DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

1. MINNESOTA REIGNS OVER THE LEAGUE... FOR NOW. Three titles in five years certainly qualify the Lynx as a dynasty, which is nothing new to the WNBA. The league opened with a four-peat from the Houston Comets, and four teams in all have won at least three rings. The Lynx are a formidable champion built on continuity of their Big Four of Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson. But Finals MVP Sylvia Fowles, who was acquired in a midseason trade last season, may emerge as Minnesota’s No. 2 option this season. With Moore still in her prime at 26, she and Fowles form a virtually unstoppable inside-outside combo. Fowles was a force that the Fever couldn’t handle in a five-game championship series last October that went down as an instant classic. Moore’s winning shot in the final seconds of Game 3 will be the indelible image of the series, stamping her place at the top of the game. The Finals 2016

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Tamika Catchings

Kobe Bryant, exit stage left. Now it’s Tamika’s turn. Catchings is held in that kind of esteem in women’s basketball circles, and her place in the WNBA compares to Bryant’s on the NBA side. In fact, they met as children when their fathers were both playing professionally in Italy. Catchings, too, has a competitive fire that should make her final season unforgettable. The 36-year-old announced her retirement before last season, and stunningly guided Indiana to its third Finals appearance during her 14-year career. Always tough and dependable in the mold of their leader, the Fever should be right back in the title mix. Even if “Catch” can’t add a second ring, she will leave the game with a Hall-of-Fame resume: 10-time All-Star. Five-time Defensive Player of the Year (league record). No. 2 in career scoring and rebounding; No. 1 in steals. 2002 Rookie of the Year. 2011 WNBA MVP. 2012 champion and Finals MVP.

3. D iana Taurasi and the Mercury are back at full strength. It was no secret that the Mercury played shorthanded in 2015 after Taurasi opted to sit out the season to rest. And they still earned the No. 2 seed in the West and advanced to the Conference Finals. That speaks to the type of talent on Phoenix’s roster. Taurasi returns to a team that features veteran All-Stars in DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree and ever-improving fourth-year center Brittney Griner. Penny Taylor, a key contributor on all three Mercury title teams, also returns after missing last season. The last time that core was intact, Phoenix blitzed through the league, posting an all-time best 29-5 record and going 8-1 in the playoffs en route to the 2014 title. In other words, the list of contenders who could challenge the Lynx starts in the desert.

4. The new regular-season and playoff formats are sure to shake things up.

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Additionally, the teams will be re-seeded each round. What does this mean for the power structure of the league? Start with the league’s preeminent rivalry: Minnesota vs. Phoenix. The Lynx and Mercury have met in the Western Conference Finals in four of the past five seasons. This year, they could theoretically meet in the Finals for the first time.

5. T he WNBA is under new leadership. Lisa Borders brings more than 25 years of experience in operations, marketing, government relations and public service to her new role as the WNBA’s fourth-ever president. “It’s humbling to me, it’s inspiring to me, to have the opportunity to take the baton at this particular juncture,” she told WNBA.com after accepting the position in February. Borders’ infectious energy has already been palpable. Players know her as the Atlanta Dream’s No. 1 fan, cheering from the sidelines at Philips Arena. In fact, Borders was instrumental in bringing the franchise to Atlanta in 2008, when she served as vice mayor of Atlanta and president of the city council. She comes to the WNBA from Coca-Cola, which is based in Atlanta. Fans now know her for bringing the “W” handshake to April’s Draft—a greeting she introduced to the national TV audience when welcoming the draftees on stage.

6. Elena Delle Donne took her game to another level last season. Known as a generational talent since high school, EDD put it all together during her third pro season. The numbers speak for themselves: Her scoring average of 23.4 points per game ranked fifth all-time. Her Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 31.9 ranked third all-time. She became the third player in league history to average at least 2.0 blocks and at least 1.0 three-pointer per game. She shot 95 percent from the foul line, a single-season record (minimum 100 attempts) and raised her career numbers to an incredible 448-of-477 (94 percent). What will Delle Donne do for an encore? First and foremost on her plate is chasing the Sky’s elusive first title; her first three seasons have led to the franchise’s first three playoff appearances.

7. Breanna Stewart could be Seattle’s next superstar. She’s been called the best Connecticut Husky ever, compared to Kevin Durant and touted as the WNBA’s next franchise-changing No. 1 pick. Now all Stewart has to do is deliver on those expectations. The Storm’s selection of Jewell Loyd (the eventual 2015 Rookie of the Year) and Stewart with back-to-back No. 1 picks recalls the 2001 and

Ron Hoskins; Steven Freeman/NBAE/Getty Images

This milestone year comes with major changes that will give the season a different feel from the opening tip until the last buzzer sounds in the Finals. A more balanced regular-season schedule means more crossconference matchups than ever before. And rather than seeding each conference one through four, the top eight teams regardless of conference will qualify for the postseason. From there, the top two overall seeds receive a double bye while the first two rounds of the playoffs feature single-elimination games.

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2002 Drafts, when the Storm landed cornerstones Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. Two years later, the duo hoisted a championship trophy— becoming two of the seven No. 1 overall picks who went on to win a title with the team that drafted them. Stewart has the skill set to be that type of player. Between “Stewie,” Loyd and Bird, Seattle will be a team to watch this season and beyond.

11. T he Dallas Wings usher in a new era. The Detroit Shock won three titles during a six-year span. The Tulsa Shock reached the playoffs for the first time in six seasons last year. Now, after stints in Michigan (1998-2009) and Oklahoma (2010-15), the franchise has moved south to Texas. Introduced last November, the Wings head to Dallas with considerable momentum. They climbed to third in the West last season at 18-16 thanks an exciting young roster anchored by the experienced frontcourt of Courtney Paris and Plenette Pierson. Third-year guard Odyssey Sims, 2015 No. 2 overall pick Amanda Zahui B. and returning All-Star Glory Johnson round out the playoffcaliber talent surrounding star Skylar Diggins on the new Wings squad.

12. Skylar Diggins is on the comeback trail.

UConn stars Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck were taken first, second and third in the 2016 WNBA Draft.

8. T he Huskies are well represented at the next level. Stewart and teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck made women’s college basketball history when they won their fourth consecutive national title on April 5. Nine days later, they made WNBA history as the first-ever trio from the same school to be selected Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the Draft. The WNBA has, not surprisingly, reaped the benefits of the UConn program’s monumental success. A total of 33 Huskies have been drafted into the league—second only to Tennessee’s 37 picks—including five No. 1 picks. Names like Lobo, Bird, Taurasi and Moore headline that decorated club. Current WNBA rosters include 17 Connecticut alums in all—more than double the total of any other school.

The Shock were in the midst of their eighth straight win, improving to a league-best 8-1 to open 2015, when Diggins suffered a torn ACL. The timing of the season-ending injury could not have been worse. Diggins, the third pick in the historic 2013 Draft that featured Griner and Delle Donne as the top two picks, emerged as one of the league’s most dynamic guards in 2014 and was primed to take one of its up-andcoming teams to new heights. Instead, that rise was put on hold. This could be the year the franchise joins the elite.

13. Candace Parker has become a triple-double waiting to happen. After resting for the first half of last season, two-time MVP Candace Parker emerged as a triple threat the likes of which the WNBA has never seen. No player had ever averaged 10-plus rebounds and at least four assists, let alone six. Parker put up an incredible 19.4 points, 10.1

9. In July, 12 WNBA stars will break to chase Olympic gold. Team USA will be eyeing its sixth straight gold medal when the team heads to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Summer Olympics. The WNBA season will be put on hold from July 23 to August 24. Three-time gold medalists Bird, Catchings and Taurasi will captain this year’s National Team, which is coached by UConn’s Geno Auriemma. How that trio blends with younger stars like Delle Donne and Moore will be fascinating to watch. One thing is near-certain: Expect dominance. Team USA rides a 41-game winning streak into the event and owns a 58-3 all-time Olympic record.

10. T he Liberty are looking to finish what they started.

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rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.8 blocks—numbers that would place her in the top five in all five categories had she played enough games to qualify for the 2015 leaderboard. Can that 16-game stretch carry through a full 34-game season? If so, Parker will be back in the MVP conversation and the Sparks back in the title contender mix. L.A. has five former All-Stars on its roster—Parker, guards Kristi Toliver and Alana Beard, and forwards Jantel Lavender and Nneka Ogwumike—to go with a championship-caliber coach in Brian Agler, who is in the midst of his second season with the team.

Steven Freeman; David Sherman/Getty Images

In Bill Laimbeer’s third season as head coach, the Liberty clicked on all cylinders. New York stood atop the league with a franchise-best 23-11 regular-season record, owned the league’s best defense and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. But the Liberty have some unfinished business after falling to the Fever in a decisive Game 3. Forward Tina Charles has been dominant out of the post, but they will have to cope with the loss of Epiphanny Price, who is likely to miss a significant portion of the season after offseason knee surgery. Fortunately, New York signed former Fever guard Shavonte Zellous, a key addition to one of the league’s deepest and toughest rosters.

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14. L ook to Washington for the most promising young frontcourt tandem in the league. Stefanie Dolson is 24 years old. Emma Meesseman turns 23 in May. That equals a bright future for the Washington Mystics. Both made their All-Star debuts in 2015, when the Mystics made their third straight playoff appearance. Unfortunately they’ve endured firstround exits in all three years. They will turn to Dolson, the No. 6 pick in the 2014 Draft, and Meesseman, a Euro competition veteran from Belgium, to progress and get over the hump.

15. It’s Sunny in Connecticut. Three straight seasons without a playoff berth prompted change for the Connecticut Sun, who hired Sparks assistant Curt Miller as head coach to fill the void left by Anne Donovan’s resignation. Then Connecticut added three promising rookies in the top six picks of the Draft: Tuck, Minnesota shooting guard Rachel Banham and George Washington forward Jonquel Jones. (Jones was acquired from L.A. in a Draft night trade.) They join star Chiney Ogwumike—the 2014 Rookie of the Year who missed last season due to injury—and much-improved fourth-year pros Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone to form a team that could very much be on the rise.

16. L ongtime contenders are retooling in Atlanta.

17. F aces young and old lead the Stars into a year of transition. For years, the Stars could count on two constants: head coach Dan Hughes and point guard Becky Hammon. Hammon, of course, 90

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retired and took a role as a Spurs assistant coach. In April, the Stars announced that 2016 will be Hughes’ last as head coach and former player Ruth Riley would assume his role as general manager beginning this season. The two vets will preside over a roster highlighted by a young backcourt. Third-year shooting guard Kayla McBride has developed into a bona fide go-to scorer. Rookie point guard and Dallas-area native Jefferson—the second overall pick in the Draft out of UConn—arrives in San Antonio as a proven winner to say the least; she’s won nine straight titles dating back to eighth grade. Jefferson will look to make an immediate impact with Danielle Robinson potentially out for the season after undergoing Achilles surgery.

18. ESPN networks will air up to 33 games this season. The WNBA steps into the national spotlight from the opening tip when the Lynx and Mercury started the season with an ESPN showdown in Minneapolis. Thirteen other games will air on ESPN2 during the regular season, and the reconfigured postseason will—for the first time—feature live telecasts by ESPN networks of every playoff and Finals game.

19. Even the uniforms were given a facelift. When the WNBA’s best do take the national stage, the 20th season shakeup will be readily apparent. The league unveiled new uniforms during the offseason, and all 12 teams will feature a special “WNBA 20th” commemorative logo on the back neckline of their jerseys. Most noticeable will be the colored home uniforms that have replaced the home whites league-wide.

20. #WatchMeWork. “20 years ago, I was just a little girl,” begins the WNBA’s 20th season campaign spot, titled “Watch Me Work,” which features Moore, Bird, Griner, Taurasi, Diggins and Parker. The six stars are the perfect representatives of a season all about recognizing the past while looking toward the future. They are just six of the many reasons to tune in over the months ahead. Watch them work.

Jennifer Pottheiser; Chris Covatta/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Dream were a fixture in the East playoff race until last season, when their string of six straight postseason appearances came to an end. That run of success—which included three Eastern Conference titles—coincided with the drafting of unstoppable guard Angel McCoughtry. Now Atlanta is rebuilding around their four-time All-Star. Laker legend Michael Cooper continues to steer the ship as head coach, having won two WNBA titles with the Sparks.

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Rewind 2015-16 S h o o t t o Th r i l l With a flick of the wrist—402 times to be exact—Stephen Curry transformed the way the game was played, stretching the limits of a defense and helping the Golden State Warriors notch an unprecedented 73 wins in a season. Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

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W i n n i n g Tr o i k a On Nov. 1, 2015, the longtime San Antonio Spurs’ trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili achieved their 541st regular season win, surpassing the all-time mark set by Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale with the Boston Celtics between 1981 and 1992. In the same game, Duncan also scored his 26,000th career point. Brian Babineau (3)/NBAE/Getty Images

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O o p , Th e r e ’ s 2 5 K On Nov. 2, LeBron James caught an alley-oop to become the 20th player all time and the youngest player (30 years and 307 days) to notch 25,000 career points, surpassing Kobe Bryant’s previous mark of 31 years and 151 days. David Dow (6)/NBAE/Getty Images

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Golden Start The Golden State Warriors started the season collecting the final spoil of their 2015 Championship season: their rings. Then they picked up where they left off, winning their first 24 contests, shattering the previous best of 15 wins without a loss. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

50K Club

Passing Milestone

Kevin Garnett became the fifth player to log 50,000 minutes in his NBA career. KG joins the rare company of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (57,446), Karl Malone (54,852), Jason Kidd (50,111) and Elvin Hayes (50,000).

Rajon Rondo can pass some. This season he led the League in assists per game (11.7, the fourth time in his career finishing with more than 11) and dished his 5,000th career dime.

David Sherman/ NBAE/Getty Images

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Rewind 2015-16

The Finals 2016

Bean Retirement Kobe Bryant made it official on Nov. 29, 2015, announcing to the world that the 2015-16 season would be his final, after 20 years in the NBA. It also unofficially kicked off the Kobe farewell tour, as teams and fans from around the League feted Bryant with gifts and love at every stop. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

B u c k i n g Tr e n d Alternate uniforms are so passé. The Milwaukee Bucks unveiled an alternate court on Dec. 9, 2015, which features a silhouette of a buck on both sides of the court to ensure that visitors “Fear the Deer.” Jeffrey Phelps/NBAE/Getty Images

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Climbing the Charts LeBron James started out the season at No. 21 on the all-time scoring list. As the season passed, so did the number of greats he left in his rear-view mirror—Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Alex English, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, John Havlicek, Tim Duncan and Dominique Wilkins—leaving him at No. 12.

V e r y Fr e q u e n t F l y e r Vince Carter’s 39-year-old legs are no longer what they once were, but he can still take flight from time to time.

Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

Kobe Runs 33K Kobe Bryant became just the third member of the 33K-Point Club, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. Coincidentally, all three members of the exclusive club have spent time playing for the Lakers. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

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300 and 400 Stephen Curry became the first player in NBA history to reach 300 three-pointers in a season on Mar. 7, 2016. A month later in the regular-season finale, Curry connected on his 400th trey of the season, finishing with 402 and shattering the previous record (which was Curry’s) of 286. Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

128 to 152 and Counting

Going Out With a Bang

On Feb. 25, 2016, Stephen Curry connected on a three-pointer for the 128th consecutive game, breaking Kyle Korver’s previous record. Curry’s streak is still going as he finished the season with three-pointer makes in every game, running the streak to 152.

Kobe Bryant’s final game was supposed to be a final celebration of all his momentous career achievements, but he turned it into an exclamation point by capping off his legendary 20-year run with a 60-point effort, the most scored in anyone’s final NBA game.

Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

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Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images


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Hot Potatoes As part of NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service, Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade made sure not to “burn” any potatoes while putting together bags of food from the food bank for needy families. NBA Photos/NBAE/Getty Images

D r a y o f A l l Tr a d e s Draymond Green cemented himself as one of the most versatile talents to play. Besides notching 13 triple-doubles in the season, Green became the first NBA player to collect 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks (and about 50 arm flexes) in one season. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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A q u i , P o r Fa v o r Sacramento’s Seth Curry offers tutelage in the finer points of basketball during an NBA Cares Clinic at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico before the Kings and Celtics played a game in Mexico City as part of NBA Global Games. Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Fly on the Paul Even though he briefly dipped his foot into the NBA pool for six games at the end of last season, Paul George fully showed that he was back to his pre-injury form with career-highs of 81 games played and 23.1 ppg, to go with career-tying 4.1 apg and 1.9 spg—­and this soaring block. Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images

KD is OK After being sidelined most of last season, Kevin Durant was back to MVP form. He topped 2,000 points in a season for the fifth time with a 28.2-ppg average while showing he never lost a step. Andy Lyon/Getty Images

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Just as Splashy He might be overshadowed by his fellow Splash Brother, but Klay Thompson stands on his own merit. He trailed only Steph Curry in three-pointers made with 276 (which is good for third-best all time) and can surprise with the occasional hammer.

Mid-Flight Reroute When you have LeBron’s ups and athleticism, it doesn’t matter how bad of a lob you throw his way, he’ll stay in the air and find a way to make it work.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Off-Court Assist Chris Paul is used to assists—be it on the court or as his alter-ego, Cliff Paul. Here he is offering an assist to Oaklandarea youths as part of the NBA Cares State Farm Exist to Assist Dedication teen center at the Boys & Girls Club. Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Movin’ on Up It only looked like Charlotte rookie Frank Kaminsky was giving fellow Nets rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson a boost on this soaring dunk. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

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Tr i p - D u b Th r e a t Strong as Ok The Philadelphia 76ers had another rough season, but a bright spot was that first-round pick Jahlil Okafor was as good as advertised with 17.5 ppg and 7 rpg. Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

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Russell Westbrook applies full effort to everything that he does—be it a rebound, a dime and especially a dunk. Combined, Westbrook turned this intensity into 18 triple-doubles this season, matching Magic Johnson’s record for most in a season since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. Gary Dineen; Layne Murdoch Jr. (2)/NBAE/Getty Images


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C l a s h e s o f t h e Ti t a n s When the Warriors met the Spurs on April 7, it marked the only time in NBA history that two teams with at least 65 wins played against each other in the regular season. Three days later, the NBA’s top two teams met up again as the Warriors took both games. Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Dubs SZN The Golden State Warriors replaced the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls as the greatest team in the regular season. The Warriors bested the Bulls by a win, finishing with a 73-9 record. Golden State won by an average margin of 10.8 points and never had a losing streak all season. Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

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Th e L a s t D a n c e Kobe Bryant and LeBron James squared off for the last time on Mar. 10. A month earlier the two future Hall of Famers faced off at the All-Star Game, as LeBron cajoled Kobe (with an assist from Drake) to take it to him one last time. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images; Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

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Pregame Show Steph Curry gave fans plenty to get excited about during games, but he offered much incentive to arrive early, too. His pregame routine of dribbling exercises, shooting drills and autograph sessions— all capped off with a shot from the tunnel—made Curry a fan favorite even before the opening tip. Noah Graham (2); Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images; Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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Milwaukee Brewing The Milwaukee Bucks are long on potential and literal length with its tandem of Jabari Parker (#12) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (#34). Nathaniel S. Butler (2)/NBAE/Getty Images

Gotham Duo The New York Knicks missed the playoffs again but things are looking up as they found a “Robin” in rookie Kristaps Porzingis to pair with “Batman” Carmelo Anthony. Nathaniel S. Butler (2)/NBAE/Getty Images

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Serving the Butler Derrick Rose serves up an easy dish to Jimmy Butler. Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images

High Brow

6ix Stars

The Pelicans battled injuries all year, but Anthony Davis remains a shining star in the Big Easy with his third straight 20-10 (24.3 ppg and 10.3 rpg) season.

Toronto was well represented during the NBA’s first All-Star Game outside of the U.S. with the backcourt of Kyle Lowry (#7)and DeMar DeRozan (#10).

David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images

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#SagerStrong The love and support for Craig Sager’s courageous ongoing battle with leukemia poured out from everywhere in the NBA family. All-Stars like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade offered well wishes, Dwight Howard organized a blood drive in honor of Sager, and even Gregg Popovich managed to crack a smile upon seeing Sager on the sidelines. Jesse D. Garrabrant; Bill Baptist; Joe Murphy; Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images

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© 2016 Boys & Girls Clubs of America • 2958-16

found my rhythm.

When school’s out, Clubs are in. Boys & Girls Clubs prepare teens for a great future. Clubs provide a safe, fun setting that empowers teens to find their voice and achieve success through out-of-school experiences rooted in what matters most to them – choice, access and passion. This back to school season, encourage the teens in your life to join a Boys & Girls Club. Find a Club near you at GreatFutures.org.


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Still Rising Star

Fr o n t - R o w S e a t

Russell Westbrook made it back-to-back All-Star MVPs with another West-leading performance: 31 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals.

When you toss a great alley-oop lob, it’s only right that you get a good view of the outcome. Just ask Shabazz Muhammad. Then again, having the springy Zach LaVine affords him plenty of opportunities.

NBA Photos/NBAE/Getty Images

David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

Klaw Defense All Ball Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein met Damian Lillard at the rim and by the looks of it, got the best of him on this dunk attempt. Rocky Wider/NBAE/Getty Images

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He might be the most quiet man in the League, but you’d be hard pressed to make much noise on offense against Kawhi Leonard, who became the first perimeter player to cop back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year trophies. Ronald Cortes/Getty Images


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The Finals 2016

Old Dog and the Pups Kevin Garnett is Gandalf to the Minnesota’s young fellowship consisting of the past two Rookie of the Years Andrew Wiggins (#22) and Karl-Anthony Towns (#32) and Zach LaVine (behind Towns). Jeff Haynes/NBAE/Getty Images

C.J. Improvement

Th r i l l B a r t o n

No other player in the League saw as big of a jump in production as C.J. McCollum. He went from 6.8 points per game in 201415 to a 20.8 average this season.

Denver’s Will Barton was given an opportunity this season and he made good on the minutes, putting together a campaign that had him considered for Most Improved honors and Sixth Man of the Year. He even showcased his big hops during the Verizon Slam Dunk at All-Star.

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

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Dunk Kings In one of the most closest Slam Dunk Contests of all time, Orlando’s Aaron Gordon and Minnesota’s Zach LaVine took turns netting 50s (there were eight perfect scores between the two) with their aerial artistry. It took an additional two rounds of dunks before LaVine narrowly defeated Gordon to defend his dunk crown. Garrett Ellwood (2); Nathaniel S. Butler (2); NBA Photos/NBAE/Getty Images; Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

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Jazz Quartet The Jazz just missed the postseason, but they should make sweet music for years to come with a core four featuring the interior scoring of Derrick Favors (#15), the sweet stroke of Rodney Hood (#5), the rim-protecting Rudy Gobert (#27) and the versatile Gordon Hayward (#20). Rocky Widner; David Sherman; Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images; Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

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Booked for Stardom

Starring Role

The 13th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft was anything but unlucky as Devin Booker became the rare rookie who led his team in points scored.

Damian Lillard was easily the biggest All-Star snub. His numbers—25.1 ppg and 6.8 apg—were All-Star worthy as was his leadership that kept the Trail Blazers winning despite losing four starters from last season.

Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

Cous He Can DeMarcus Cousins is the best center in the game. It’s a brash statement until you consider his per-game output of 26.9 points, 11.5 boards, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks. He even flashed a three-point stroke this season, making an average of one per game. Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

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Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images

Th r e e - n i e r If the NBA adopted a four-point line, Evan Fournier has the name for it. In the meantime, the Magic guard has to settle for threes, of which he made 156 at a 40 percent clip. Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images


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Skywalker Kemba Walker brought the buzz back to Charlotte with his electrifying handle and speed that eluded defenders around the basket. Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images

German Engineering Even in his 18th season, Dirk Nowitzki is showing little performance drop-off despite the high mileage. His scoring actually improved from last season (18.3 from 17.3). Nowitzki also cruised into sole possession of sixth place on the alltime scoring ledger, passing Shaquille O’Neal when he scored his 28,596th point against the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 23. He finished with 22 on the night, including the game-winning layup. Next season should see Nowitzki enter the 30,000 club, as he is just 509 points shy. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Hardened Game By most metrics, James Harden had as good—if not better—a season as last year when he finished runner-up in MVP voting. He actually scored more (29 ppg to 27.4), dropped more dimes (7.5 apg to 7), and rebounded better (6.1 rpg to 5.7), while remaining as elusive with his slippery offensive game. Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Borough Brothers Identical twins Brook and Robin Lopez continued their childhood battles on the court as the two now play in the same city (Brook for the Nets, Robin on the Knicks). After the games, the two part ways as they can’t live together since their cats don’t get along. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

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Grin and Bear it The Grit ‘N Grind Grizzlies wore themselves down to the nub this season. They lost their core unit of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph for a combined 88 games. If that wasn’t bad enough, their replacements and backups got hurt, leaving Memphis to shuffle an NBA record 28 players through its roster throughout the season. Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

L o b U p / Th r o w D o w n With Blake Griffin shelved most of the season to injury, it was up to Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan to keep the Clippers sailing, mostly with precise lobs from Paul and emphatic finishes by Jordan. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images; David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

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Wall to Wall Speed

Raging Bull

When he corrals a defensive rebound and dashes upcourt, there are few—if any—players who can keep up with the foot speed of John Wall, who just missed a 20-10 season with 19.9 ppg and 10.2 apg.

One of the best two-way players in the game, Jimmy Butler took another career leap with his second AllStar selection.

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

Fu l l y K i t t e d Atlanta’s Paul Millsap does everything well, including getting overlooked. The forward is a fantasy basketball dream as he dropped 17.1 points, 9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks on a nightly basis. Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images

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N e v e r D o u b t i n g Th o m a s In his previous four seasons, Isaiah Thomas has had to prove to his team that he was an NBA starting point guard. He certainly made his point this year as he was named to his first All-Star team, tying him with Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy as the shortest (5-10) player to take part in the midseason extravaganza. Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Vacuum Motor The undisputed top rebounder this season, Andre Drummond sucked up any loose carom that came his way. He led the League in offensive boards (395), defensive rebounds (803), total boards (1,198) and per-game average (14.8). Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images

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Chip off the Old Block Taking after Alonzo Mourning, Hassan Whiteside is making the longtime Heat legend proud with his play at center. Whiteside challenged all shots within his rather formidable reach, leading to an NBA-best 269 rejections. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images


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Hairsanity Charlotte’s Jeremy Lin went through many stages of grooming throughout the season. There was the mohawk (which he purportedly “stabbed” a player with during play), the slick-back, the side-part, the headbanded shag, the samurai tail and the product-free au naturale. While the hair was inconsistent, Lin was firmly settled in his role of reserve scorer, contributing 11.7 ppg as one of the League’s best sixth men. Mike Bernstein; Sam Greenwood/Getty Images; Kent Smith; Nathaniel S. Butler; Brock Williams-Smith; Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

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FINALLY. IT’S MONDAY. Compelling, Engaging and Thought Provoking Basketball. David Aldridge’s MONDAY MORNING TIP nba.com/david-aldridge TM & © 2016 Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. © 2016 NBA Entertainment. Photo by Getty Images.


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Poster Definition There are varying degrees of it, but generally a poster dunk requires that a dunker go around or through an impeding defender. Elsa; Christian Petersen; J. Pat Carter/NBAE/Getty Images; Rocky Widner; Gary Dineen; Jesse D. Garrabrant (2); Joe Murphy; Andrew D. Bernstein (2)/NBAE/Getty Images

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Get Low NBA players are usually found above the rim, but when the need arises, they can fly at ground level, too. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images; Brian Babineau; Ned Dishman; David Sherman; Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

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WE TALK MORE THAN A GOOD GAME. TM & © 2016 Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. © 2016 NBA Entertainment. Photo by Getty Images.

NBATV.COM @NBATV


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Mamba Out For the final time as a player, Kobe Bryant walks through the tunnel of Staples Center. Juan Ocampo/NBAE/Getty Images

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3 TOURS. 2 PURPLE HEARTS. 1 EVICTION NOTICE.

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When my landlord found out I had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I received an eviction notice. That’s when I called HUD for help. If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against because of a mental or emotional injury or disability, report it to HUD or your local fair housing center.

Visit hud.gov/fairhousing or call the HUD Hotline 1-800-669-9777 (English/Español) FAIR HOUSING IS YOUR RIGHT. USE IT!

A public service message from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in partnership with the National Fair Housing Alliance. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status or disability. For more information, visit www.hud.gov/fairhousing.


NBA Cares

By Bill Russell

The Finals 2016

Bill Russell: We are nothing without our mentors

I

f not for George Powles, I would have never played basketball. A mentor who changed my life. Who was George Powles? The year was 1949 and I was a sophomore at McClymonds High School in Oakland. Back then, freshman couldn’t try out for the Junior Varsity basketball team, and as a sophomore, I was cut after just one try-out. As I stared at the list of players on the bulletin board who advanced to the next tryout, I did not find my name on it, no matter how many times I read it. Peering over my shoulder was my junior high coach, George Powles. He told me that he wanted me to try out for the Varsity team. I told him that I was just cut from the JV team. He said, ‘I am the Varsity coach. Wait for me after practice.’ After practice, I met him at his car and he drove me to the local Boys & Girls Club and said, “I want you to play basketball every day.” And he took two dollars out of his wallet and paid for my membership. And that’s what I did. I played basketball every day after school and honed my skills. If it wasn’t for the kindness, support and vision of George Powles, I would not have played basketball. My story isn’t unique. If you ask any NBA player, executive, or 138

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coach about their path to success, on and off the court, you’ll quickly see the same pattern emerge. None of us made it on our own. The truth is, that in all walks of life, mentors transform lives. Whether it’s the middle school math teacher who drove you home from school every day; the uncle who busted your chops when your grades started to slip; the older student who kept you under a watchful eye—none of us would be where we are today without the support of our mentors. I am proof. That’s why, 25 years ago, I became a founding board member of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership to build and lead the mentoring movement and since then, MENTOR has helped create and drive support to thousands of programs mentoring millions of kids. It is my proudest accomplishment in life. And that’s why I’m telling my story now, as part of the work MENTOR and the NBA family are doing together in response to President Obama’s call to action around the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. This January, during National Mentoring Month, we joined forces to tell stories about the power of mentoring and challenge people to pay it forward, to make a difference in someone’s life as someone once did for them. We’re called it “In Real Life” because when it comes to mentoring young people, you

can’t make a difference by simply sending a tweet or using a hashtag – you need to get involved “in real life.” You need to be there, physically present and in the moment, so you can look a person in the eye. That’s how you make a difference. With more than nine million children in this country growing up without an adult role model in their life, it’s up to each of us to unleash the potential of our nation’s young people, one at a time. It’s part of the NBA’s ongoing commitment to engaging millions of young people through the values, skills, and camaraderie of basketball. Just take a look at the Jr. NBA program, which is teaching the game of basketball to more than 5 million young people over the next five years. The reality is that there has never been a more important time to remind ourselves that in America, there is no such thing as other people’s children. So, I’m asking you to be that change, just as George Powles was for me. Bill Russell is a founding board member of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the most celebrated NBA champion of all time. You can find out more about the In Real Life campaign at www.mentoring.org


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The NBA family has hosted and supported mentoring events in communities across the country, for NBA coaches, players, legends and executives to share their stories and wisdom with young people, and highlight the importance of mentoring.

Be someone who matters, to someone who matters. Become a mentor today at mentoring.org

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THANK YOU TO THE MORE THAN 25,000 YOUTH THAT PARTICIPATED IN THE INAUGURAL JR. NBA SKILLS CHALLENGE PRESENTED BY VERIZON! Regional competitions were held in Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. with the top 18 regional competition champions earning an all-expense paid trip to New York City to participate in the National Finals on June 22. Best of luck to all of our finalists!

Chicago

Connecticut

ngeles A s o L

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Washington D.C.

For more information about the Jr. NBA, please visit www.JrNBA.com! 140

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D-Velopments

By Jon Cooper

The Finals 2016

JaMychal Green

Earl Watson (right)

Origin Stories Be it coach or player, the NBA D-League is a great way to get back to the NBA.

D

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in July 2015, where he was promoted to head coach this past February. “The D-League is unique and I advise any young coach to start in the D-League,” he added. “Your roster is going to constantly change, which means you’re going to be forced to grow and teach different styles and techniques of basketball. You have to be creative, you have to innovate, you have to motivate, you have to inspire and you have to love the process. The D-League is all about passion, compassion and competitive play.” Watson led Phoenix to a 9-24 record, but reinvigorated the franchise and was rewarded as the team’s full-time coach. Davis took steps in reigniting his career in Delaware. At 37, he got back on the court for the first time since completely tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee on May 6, 2012. The two-time NBA All-Star, who’d played 835 games and averaged 16.1 ppg, 7.2 apg and 3.8 rpg, joined the 87ers on March 2. He averaged 12.8 ppg, 3.5 apg and 1.2 spg in 22.5 minutes over six games. “It’s everything that I expected,” Davis said. “It’s a bunch of young guys playing their hearts out, trying to figure it out. The travel is tough, but it puts you back in the grind of basketball. “This is, by far, my toughest feat and a journey that I’m all-in on,” he added. “I draw inspiration from the younger guys, them chasing after the dream and their love of the game and their love of wanting to be in the gym. It’s all in camaraderie, being and staying humble and being true to the sport and the connection and the love for the game.” At 25, Green is one of those younger guys and has shown all of the above. A four-year star at Alabama, he went undrafted and played two years in Europe before coming back to the States in 2014. After being waived by San Antonio, he was acquired by Austin. From there, things took off.

In 60 games (45 starts) over two seasons, he averaged 15.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists for Austin. He’d sign a pair of 10-day contracts with Memphis and earn a spot on the Grizzlies 2015 playoff roster. He hasn’t left Memphis since. “It was a great experience, a great coaching staff that worked with me and got me ready for the next level and got me ready for my callup,” Green said. “Going through the D-League prepared me and got me mentally focused for the next level. I used it for motivation. I knew what my dream was and I knew where I wanted to go.” This season saw Green appear in a teamhigh 78 games, averaging 7.4 points on 46.5 percent shooting to go with 4.8 rebounds, and play a key role for the injury-depleted Grizzlies. He had seven double-doubles, nine doublefigure-rebounding games and 22 double-figurescoring games, including a career-high 17 points on March 6 against Watson’s Suns (he’d top that mark with 21 points five days later). Seeing Green succeed was satisfying to Watson, who coached him in Austin. “Embracing the process is what he did best,” Watson said. “He’s definitely an NBA talent. He probably didn’t have to go through the D-League but he did it and I think it built character within his game and appreciation for being in the NBA. It’s great to see his impact that he had through the D-League and everything he took from it and carrying it into the NBA.” Watson and Davis hope to carry their dream of being reunited in Phoenix into the 2016-17 NBA season. “Anything is possible,” said Watson. “One thing I learned from being a teammate of Baron at UCLA and actually living with Baron is never count Baron out. He’s a winner, he’s a champion. If anyone can pull off anything amazing it is him.” “Oh, man, that would be incredible,” said Davis. “We talk about it on the phone. That is something that I would love. I think that would just be a fun story.”

Tim Cattera (2); Jack Arent/NBAE/Getty Images

reams don’t need to have an expiration date, a boundary or a road map. The only qualification for fulfilling a dream is wanting it bad enough. Best friends and 13-year NBA veterans Earl Watson and Baron Davis, and 13-month NBA newcomer JaMychal Green, found common ground and extended the road to their NBA dreams via the NBA Development League, in cities as diverse as Austin, Texas, and Newark, Delaware. Watson finished the 2015-16 season as interim head coach with the Phoenix Suns after serving as an assistant coach with the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s NBA D-League affiliate, where he coached Green, now a forward with the Memphis Grizzlies. Davis rediscovered his game and dream of getting back on the NBA court as a player with the Delaware 87ers, Philadelphia’s affiliate. Davis and Watson began their journey in the summer of 1996, when they used to drive through Beverly Hills following nightly workouts on the way to Davis’ grandmother’s house, where both lived, prior to starting stellar college careers at UCLA. Davis played in Westwood for two years before being selected third overall by Charlotte in 1999. Watson joined him two years later in 2001 as Seattle’s second-round pick. After 13 pro seasons, both knew where they wanted to go—Watson into coaching, Davis back to playing despite a horrific knee injury— and knew they had too much passion to simply let the game go. The NBA D-League provided an opportunity. “I tell [San Antonio Spurs general manager] R.C. [Buford] all the time, I am forever grateful that they gave me the opportunity to coach in part of their program,” said Watson, who served as an assistant coach in Austin from October 2014 until being hired as an assistant for Phoenix by then-head coach Jeff Hornacek

Baron Davis


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NBA Digital

By Jeramie McPeek

The Finals 2016

David Aldridge (left) interviewing Chris Paul during All-Star 2016.

Resting his Case The “DA” David Aldridge has been on the case of reporting the NBA over the past two decades, earning him a spot in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

T

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the then-named Washington Bullets. He also covered a number of big events, such as the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup Playoffs, World Series and even the 1992 Olympics. But it was while on the Washington Redskins beat that Aldridge was invited to join a new local TV program, featuring a panel of DC media personalities discussing the football franchise. A little over two years later, the moonlighting gig led to a surprise phone call in 1996 from ESPN, which was looking for its first fulltime NBA reporter. The decision was easy for Aldridge, who was enjoying learning the broadcast side of media almost as much as he enjoyed the NBA itself. “Every night you see something you’ve never seen before,” he said of covering the NBA for eight years with ESPN and the past 12 with Turner Sports. “It’s like a great jazz quintet, where somebody just gets up and just really has a great riff, and they just go on for eight or nine minutes, and you’re just amazed at the end. “The things they can do athletically just defy description to me. So I just love that kind of artistic expression, if you will.”

Tom O’Connor/NBAE/Getty Images

he 2016 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Enshrinement weekend is still a few months away, but David Aldridge is already working on his acceptance speech. “I’m just trying to think of some way I can avoid sobbing,” said the TNT and NBA TV reporter of being named one of two recipients of the Curt Gowdy Media Award. “There is a lot of really talented people that I came into the business with over the years, any of whom could have very easily received this honor. So to get it was quite humbling. Something you don’t expect.” The truth is, Aldridge didn’t always expect to be a journalist, let alone a Hall of Fame one. He became interested in the business as a young boy when his hometown paper, The Washington Post, broke the story on the Watergate scandal. But entering American University with a duel major of history and journalism, his “Plan A” was to become a history teacher. Aldridge quickly fell in love with writing, however, and got a job out of college with The Washington Post, where he spent nine years reporting on a variety of sports, including basketball, covering the Georgetown Hoyas and

Although “DA” may now be known best for expressing himself on air, whether as a sideline reporter or studio host for NBA TV, he has never forgotten his roots. The 51-year-old scribe continues to pen his “Monday Morning Tip” column weekly for NBA.com. “Writing is very central to my kind of personality,” he said of his online hub, found at NBA.com/david-aldridge. “So I need to write. “I love the TV side, too. I love the immediacy. It’s a visceral medium. You absorb it and have a different reaction seeing something on TV than reading it on a printed page. But they’re both important to me, and it would be hard for me to do one and not the other at this stage in my life. So I’m grateful that I’m at a place like Turner, where I can do both.” Aldridge will be doing a lot of both during the 2016 Finals for NBA TV and NBA.com, covering all of the practices, all of the games and all of the press conferences. Oh, and covering his suit with a plastic bag during the champagne showers in the eventual champion’s locker room. “The Finals are the end of the book,” he said of his favorite time of year. “We do all this travel, we do all these games, we’re in the studio, we’re on the road. The only reason you do all that is to find out who the best team is at the end of the year. That’s why I love being at the Finals.”


IT’S IMPOSSIBLE T O B E A T C A N C E R. A L O N E.

Julie Bowen SU2C Ambassador

It takes all of us to beat cancer. Doctors, researchers, volunteers, and most importantly, people like you. Join the movement to beat cancer at StandUp2Cancer.org

Stand Up To Cancer is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Photo Credit: Randall Slavin


Finals Gear

The Finals 2016

01

 DIDAS 2016 NBA FINALS A CHAMPIONS LOCKER ROOM T-SHIRT

Show your pride with the adidas 2016 Finals Champions Locker Room T-Shirt. Crafted with comfy cotton, this shortsleeve tee displays screen-printed team and championship graphics (final product will feature images and team logos of the 2016 NBA Champion) and will be the official T-shirt worn on court and in the locker room by the champs. Available in men’s, women’s and youth sizing.

$23.99 (men) $25.99 (women)  $15.95-19.95 (youth) 02

 DIDAS 2016 NBA FINALS A CHAMPIONS LOCKER ROOM HAT

Tip your hat to this year’s champion with the adidas 2016 Finals Champions Locker Room Hat (final product will feature images and team logos of the 2016 NBA Champion) that will be worn on court during the championship celebration. Available in adult and youth sizing. (adjustable snapback)

$29.99 (adult) $25.99 (youth) 03

 INCRAFT 2016 NBA W FINALS CHAMPIONS LOCKER ROOM TOWEL

Bask in your team’s glory while you dry off after an action-packed game. The vibrantly-decorated Wincraft 2016 Finals Champions Locker Room Towel (final product will feature images and team logos of the 2016 NBA Champion) will be used on court and in the locker room to wipe off the victory champagne.

$19.99 04

 016 NBA FINALS 2 CHAMPIONS HIGHLIGHTS BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO PACK

The 2016 Finals Champions Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is loaded with sensational regular season and postseason highlights from this year’s Championship team (final product will feature images and team logos of the 2016 NBA Champion).

$24.99

NBAStore.com One Store, Every Team.

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®


All-Time Finals Records

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Individual, series

145 131

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2002 Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston 1995

178 169

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 2001 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers 1965

246 245

Michael Jordan, Chicago 1993 Rick Barry, San Francisco 1967

284 265

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers 1962 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers 1969

187 186

Robert Horry, Houston 1995 (tied) Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Boston 1959

240 237

Wilt Chamberlain, L.A. Lakers 1973 Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 2001

292 291

Bill Russell, Boston 1968 John Havlicek, Boston 1968

345 338

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee 1974 Bill Russell, Boston 1962

.739 .649

Derrek Dickey, Golden State 1975 Mario Elie, Houston 1995

.702 .653

Bill Russell, Boston 1965 John Paxson, Chicago 1991

.667 .611

Bob Gross, Portland 1977 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2000

.638 .625

James Worthy, L.A. Lakers 1984 Wilt Chamberlain, L.A. Lakers 1970

56 50

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston 1995 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2002

66 63

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 2001 Michael Jordan, Chicago 1991 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2001

101 96

Michael Jordan, Chicago 1993 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2000

101 97

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers 1962 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee 1974

11

Anfernee Hardaway, Orlando 1995 + Robert Horry, Houston 1995 Nick Anderson, Orlando 1995 + Brian Shaw, Orlando 1995 + Manu Ginobili, San Antonio 2007

16 11

Rashard Lewis, Orlando 2009 Shane Battier, Miami 2012

25 22

Stephen Curry, Golden State 2015 Ray Allen, Boston 2008

27 17

Danny Green, San Antonio 2013 Derek Harper, New York 1994

1.000

1.000 .978

.957

Bill Laimbeer, Detroit 1990 + Vlade Divac, L.A. Lakers 1991 Jim McMillian, L.A. Lakers 1972

10

1.000 .944

Dennis Scott, Orlando 1995 Phil Chenier, Washington 1975

James Posey, Boston 2008 Reggie Miller, Indiana 2000 + Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas 2011

.960 .959

Ray Allen, Boston 2010 Bill Sharman, Boston 1957

45 34

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2002 Phil Chenier, Washington 1975

51 48

Jerry West, L.A. Lakers 1965 Bob Pettit, St. Louis 1961

75 67

Dwyane Wade, Miami 2006 George Mikan, Minneapolis 1950

82 75

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers 1962 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers 1970

118 76

Bill Russell, Boston 1959 Wes Unseld, Baltimore 1971

144 138

Bill Russell, Boston 1961 Wilt Chamberlain, San Francisco 1964

171 160

Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 1967 Nate Thurmond, San Francisco 1967

189 175

Bill Russell, Boston 1962 Wilt Chamberlain, L.A. Lakers 1969

27 19

Moses Malone, Philadelphia 1983 Horace Grant, Orlando 1995

31 21

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2001 Elvin Hayes, Washington 1979

46 41

Moses Malone, Houston 1981 Dennis Rodman, Chicago 1996

35 33

Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers 2010 Elvin Hayes, Washington 1978 + Marvin Webster, Seattle 1978 + Tim Duncan, San Antonio 2005

53 45

Wes Unseld, Washington 1975 Moses Malone, Philadelphia 1983

62 58

Jack Sikma, Seattle 1979 Dwight Howard, 2009

91 79

Bill Walton, Portland 1977 Tim Duncan, San Antonio 2003

72 66

Larry Bird, Boston 1984 Tim Duncan, San Antonio 2005

51 50

Bob Cousy, Boston 1959 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1983

62 57

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1991 Michael Jordan, Chicago 1991

84 78

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1985 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1987

95 91

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1984 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1988

14 12

Rick Barry, Golden State 1975 Robert Horry, Houston 1995

14 13

Michael Jordan, Chicago 1991 Charlie Ward, New York 1999

16

Julius Erving, Philadelphia 1977 + Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1980 + Larry Bird, Boston 1986 + Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers 2008 Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia 1980 + Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1982 + Byron Scott, L.A. Lakers 1985 + Danny Ainge, Boston 1986

20 17

Isiah Thomas, Detroit 1988 Derek Harper, New York 1994

Tim Duncan, San Antonio 2003 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers 1980

30 27

Patrick Ewing, New York 1994 Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston 1994

15

11

148

Elvin Hayes, Washington 1975 + George Johnson, Golden State 1975 + Julius Erving, Philadelphia 1983 + John Salley, Detroit 1989 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2002

The Finals 2016

17 16

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2001 Jack Sikma, Seattle 1979

32 23


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All-Time Finals Records

The Finals 2016

Team, Series

487 456

Boston vs. Minneapolis 1959 Houston vs. Orlando 1995

617 605

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1965 Boston vs. St. Louis 1961

747 707

Philadelphia vs. San Francisco 1967 San Francisco vs. Philadelphia 1967

827 824

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1966 Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1962

322 346

Cleveland vs. San Antonio 2007 San Antonio vs. Cleveland 2007

399 409

New York vs. San Antonio 1999 L.A. Lakers vs. Detroit 2004

481 492

Utah vs. Chicago 1998 New Jersey vs. San Antonio 2003

594 603

San Antonio vs. Detroit 2005 Houston vs. New York 1994

188 180

Boston vs. Minneapolis 1959 Minneapolis vs. Boston 1959

243 238

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1965 Boston vs. St. Louis 1961

287

Philadelphia vs. San Francisco 1967 + San Francisco vs. Philadelphia 1967 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1987

332 327

New York vs. L.A. Lakers 1970 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1984

280

41 37

Orlando vs. Houston 1995 Houston vs. Orlando 1995

55 46

San Antonio vs. Miami 2014 Miami vs. San Antonio 2014

67 52

Golden State vs. Cleveland 2015 Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 2008

64 61

Miami vs. San Antonio 2013 San Antonio vs. Miami 2013

.785 .776

L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 1983 Detroit vs. L.A. Lakers 1989

.826 .824

Chicago vs. L.A. Lakers 1991 Miami vs. Oklahoma City 2012

.852 .851

Indiana vs. L.A. Lakers 2000 Seattle vs. Chicago 1996

.827 .805

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1966 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1962

295 268

Boston vs. Minneapolis 1959 Minneapolis vs. Boston 1959

369 316

Boston vs. St. Louis 1961 Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1965

435 425

San Francisco vs. Philadelphia 1967 Philadelphia vs. San Francisco 1967

487 448

Boston vs. St. Louis 1957 Boston vs. St. Louis 1960

Houston vs. Boston 1981 Houston vs. Boston 1986

131 127

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1984 Seattle vs. Washington 1978

72

Golden State vs. Washington 1975 + Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers 1983

82 72

Washington vs. Seattle 1979 Detroit vs. Portland 1990 + Detroit vs. L.A. Lakers 2004

112 111

143 136

Golden State vs. Washington 1975 Orlando vs. Houston 1995

162 161

Seattle vs. Washington 1979 San Antonio vs. New York 1999

240 228

Boston vs. Phoenix 1976 Portland vs. Philadelphia 1977

223 220

Seattle vs. Washington 1978 Milwaukee vs. Boston 1974 + Washington vs. Seattle 1978

114 110

Boston vs. Minneapolis 1959 Orlando vs. Houston 1995

139 130

Chicago vs. L.A. Lakers 1991 Boston vs. St. Louis 1961

192 188

L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1985 L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 1982

198 192

L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1984 New York vs. L.A. Lakers 1970

55 45

Golden State vs. Washington 1975 Washington vs. Golden State 1975

49 41

Chicago vs. L.A. Lakers 1991 L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 2001

71 64

Philadelphia vs. Portland 1977 Portland vs. Philadelphia 1977 + L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 1982

65 63

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1984 Detroit vs. San Antonio 2005

32

Golden State vs. Washington 1975 + Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers 1983 L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 1983

44 39

L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 2001 Seattle vs. Washington 1979

60 59

Philadelphia vs. L..A. Lakers 1980 San Antonio vs. New Jersey 2003

53 49

Detroit vs. San Antonio 2005 Seattle vs. Washington 1978

29

150

The Finals 2016


The Finals 2016

Individual, series 9 62 61 60 49.3 48.7 48.5

Kevin Johnson, Phoenix vs. Chicago, June 13, 1993 (3 OT) Garfield Heard, Phoenix vs. Boston, June 4, 1976 (3 OT) Jo Jo White, Boston vs. Phoenix, June 4, 1976 (3 OT) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee vs. Boston, 1974 (345/7) Bill Russell, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, 1968 (292/6) John Havlicek, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, 1968 (291/6)

53

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, April 14, 1962 Rick Barry, San Francisco vs. Philadelphia, April 18, 1967 + Michael Jordan, Chicago vs. Phoenix, June 16, 1993 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, April 23, 1969

41.0 40.8 40.6

Michael Jordan, Chicago vs. Phoenix, 1993 (246/6) Rick Barry, San Francisco vs. Philadelphia, 1967 (245/6) Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, 1962 (284/7)

42 37

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, May 16, 1980 Joe Fulks, Philadelphia vs. Chicago, April 16, 1947 + Tom Heinsohn, Boston vs. St. Louis, April 13, 1957 (2 OT) Joe Fulks, Philadelphia vs. Chicago, April 22, 1947 + Elgin Baylor, Minneapolis vs. Boston, April 4, 1959

61 55

34

1.000 .917

22 21

8 7

Scott Wedman, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, May 27, 1985 (11/11) + John Paxson, Chicago vs. L.A. Lakers, June 5, 1991 (8/8) Bill Bradley, New York vs. L.A. Lakers, April 26, 1972 (11/12) + James Worthy, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, May 31, 1984 (11/12) (OT) Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, April 14, 1962 + Rick Barry, San Francisco vs. Philadelphia, April 18, 1967 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, April 23, 1969 + Michael Jordan, Chicago vs. Phoenix, June 16, 1993 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 7, 2000

Ray Allen, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, June 6, 2010 Kenny Smith, Houston vs. Orlando, June 7, 1995 (OT) + Scottie Pippen, Chicago vs. Utah, June 6, 1997; Ray Allen, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, June 17, 2008; Mike Miller, Miami vs. Oklahoma City, June 21, 2012; Danny Green, San Antonio vs. Miami, June 11, 2013; Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 9, 2015

Frank Ramsey, Boston vs. Minneapolis, April 4, 1959 + Michael Jordan, Chicago vs. Utah, June 11, 1997 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000 + Austin Croshere, Indiana vs. L.A. Lakers, June 16, 2000 + Allen Iverson, Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers, June 10, 2001

39 25

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000 Dwyane Wade, Miami vs. Dallas, June 16, 2006 (OT)

22

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000

16 16

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. New Jersey, June 5, 2002 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000

40

Bill Russell, Boston vs. St. Louis, March 29, 1960 + Bill Russell, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, April 18, 1962 (OT) Bill Russell, Boston vs. St. Louis, April 11, 1961 + Bill Russell, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, April 16, 1963 + Wilt Chamberlain, San Francisco vs. Boston, April 24, 1964 + Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia vs. San Francisco, April 16, 1967

38

21 20

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, June 3, 1984 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, June 4, 1987 + Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Chicago, June 12, 1991

14.0 13.6 13.0

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, 1985 (84/6) Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, 1984 (95/7) Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, 1987 (78/6) + Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Detroit, 1988 (91/7)

7 6

Robert Horry, Houston vs. Orlando, June 9, 1995 John Havlicek, Boston vs. Milwaukee, May 3, 1974 + Steve Mix, Philadelphia vs. Portland, May 22, 1977 + Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers, May 7, 1980 + Isiah Thomas, Detroit vs. L.A. Lakers, June 19, 1988 + Rajon Rondo, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, June 17, 2008 +Dwyane Wade, Miami vs. San Antonio, June 13, 2013

9 8

Dwight Howard, Orlando vs. L.A. Lakers, June 11, 2009 (OT) Bill Walton, Portland vs. Philadelphia, June 5, 1977 + Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston vs. Boston, June 5, 1986 + Patrick Ewing, New York vs. Houston, June 17, 1994 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, June 8, 2001 + Tim Duncan, San Antonio vs. New Jersey, June 15, 2003

15 14

Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 7, 2015 (OT) J.R. Smith, Cleveland vs. Golden State, June 7, 2015 (OT)

10

John Starks, New York vs. Houston, June 22, 1994 + J.R. Smith, Cleveland vs. Golden State, June 16, 2015

10 9

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, May 14, 1980 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, May 31, 1983

15 14

Terry Porter, Portland vs. Detroit, June 7, 1990 (OT) Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, May 16, 1980

59 50 48

Dan Majerle, Phoenix vs. Chicago, June 13, 1993 (3 OT) Wes Unseld, Washington vs. Seattle, May 29, 1979 (OT) Rodney McCray, Houston vs. Boston, June 5, 1986

21 19

Dwyane Wade, Miami vs. Dallas, June 18, 2006 (OT) Bob Pettit, St. Louis vs. Boston, April 9, 1958

13

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000

10

Paul Pierce, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, June 15, 2008 The Finals 2016

151


All-Time Finals Results

The Finals 2016

THE FINALS RESULTS

2015 June 4 - June 16

Golden State (Kerr)

Cleveland (Blatt)

4-2

Andre Iguodala, Golden State

1979 May 20 - June 1

Seattle (Wilkens)

Washington (Motta)

4-1

Dennis Johnson, Seattle

2014 June 5 - June 15

San Antonio (Popovich)

Miami (Spoelstra)

4-1

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio

1978 May 21 - June 7

Washington (Motta)

Seattle (Wilkens)

4-3

Wes Unseld, Washington

2013 June 6 - June 20 Miami (Spoelstra)

San Antonio (Popovich)

4-3

LeBron James, Miami

1977

May 22 - June 5

Portland (Ramsay)

Philadelphia (Shue)

4-2

Bill Walton, Portland

2012 June 12 - June 21 Miami (Spoelstra)

Oklahoma City (Brooks)

4-1

LeBron James, Miami

1976 May 23 - June 6

Boston (Heinsohn)

Phoenix (MacLeod)

4-2

Jo Jo White, Boston

2011

Dallas (Carlisle)

Miami (Spoelstra)

4-2

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas

1975 May 18 - May 25

Golden State (Attles)

Washington (Jones)

4-0

Rick Barry, Golden State

2010 June 3 - June 17

L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

Boston (Rivers)

4-3

Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers

1974 April 28 - May 12 Boston (Heinsohn)

Milwaukee (Costello)

4-3

John Havlicek, Boston

2009 June 4 - June 14

L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

Orlando (S. Van Gundy)

4-1

Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers

1973

New York (Holzman)

L.A. Lakers (Sharman)

4-1

Willis Reed, New York

2008 June 5 - June 17

Boston (Rivers)

Los Angeles (Jackson)

4-2

Paul Pierce, Boston

1972 April 26 - May 7

L.A. Lakers (Sharman)

New York (Holzman)

4-1

Wilt Chamberlain, L.A. Lakers

2007 June 7 - June 14

San Antonio (Popovich)

Cleveland (M. Brown)

4-0

Tony Parker, San Antonio

1971

Baltimore (Shue)

4-0

2006 June 8 - June 20 Miami (Riley)

Dallas (Johnson)

4-2

Dwyane Wade, Miami

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee

2005 June 9 - June 23 San Antonio (Popovich)

Detroit (L. Brown)

4-3

Tim Duncan, San Antonio

2004 June 6 - June 15

Detroit (L. Brown)

L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

4-1

Chauncey Billups, Detroit

2003 June 4 - June 15

San Antonio (Popovich)

New Jersey (Scott)

4-2

Tim Duncan, San Antonio

2002 June 6 - June 12

L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

New Jersey (Scott)

4-0

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

2001 June 6 - June 15

L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

Philadelphia (L. Brown)

4-1

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

2000 June 7 - June 19

L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

Indiana (Bird)

4-2

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

May 31 - June 12

1999 June 16 - June 25 San Antonio (Popovich)

New York (J. Van Gundy) 4-1

Tim Duncan, San Antonio

May 1 - May 10

April 21 - April 30 Milwaukee (Costello)

1970 April 24 - May 8

New York (Holzman)

L.A. Lakers (Mullaney)

4-3

Willis Reed, New York

1969 April 23 - May 5

Boston (Russell)

L.A. Lakers (van Breda Kolff)

4-3

Jerry West, L.A. Lakers

1968 April 21 - May 2

Boston (Russell)

L.A. Lakers (van Breda Kolff)

4-2

*

1967 April 14 - April 24 Philadelphia (Hannum)

San Francisco (Sharman) 4-2

*

1966 April 17 - April 28 Boston (Auerbach)

L.A. Lakers (Schaus)

4-3

*

1965 April 18 - April 25 Boston (Auerbach)

L.A. Lakers (Schaus)

4-1

*

1964 April 18 - April 26 Boston (Auerbach)

San Francisco (Hannum) 4-1

*

1963 April 14 - April 24 Boston (Auerbach)

L.A. Lakers (Schaus)

4-2

*

1962 April 7 - April 18

Boston (Auerbach)

L.A. Lakers (Schaus)

4-3

*

1961

Boston (Auerbach)

St. Louis (Seymour)

4-1

*

1960 March 27 - April 9 Boston (Auerbach)

St. Louis (Macauley)

4-3

*

Boston (Auerbach)

Minneapolis (Kundla)

4-0

*

1958 March 29 - April 12 St. Louis (Hannum)

Boston (Auerbach)

4-2

*

1998 June 3 - June 14

Chicago (Jackson)

Utah (Sloan)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1997 June 1 - June 13

Chicago (Jackson)

Utah (Sloan)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1996 June 5 - June 16

Chicago (Jackson)

Seattle (Karl)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1995 June 7 - June 14

Houston (Tomjanovich)

Orlando (Hill)

4-0

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

1994 June 8 - June 22 Houston (Tomjanovich)

New York (Riley)

4-3

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

1993 June 9 - June 20 Chicago (Jackson)

Phoenix (Westphal)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1992 June 3 - June 14

Chicago (Jackson)

Portland (Adelman)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1991

Chicago (Jackson)

L.A. Lakers (Dunleavy)

4-1

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1957 March 30 - April 13 Boston (Auerbach)

St. Louis (Hannum)

4-3

*

1990 June 5 - June 14

Detroit (Daly)

Portland (Adelman)

4-1

Isiah Thomas, Detroit

1956 March 31 - April 7 Philadelphia (Senesky)

Ft. Wayne (Eckman)

4-1

*

1989 June 6 - June 13

Detroit (Daly)

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

4-0

Joe Dumars, Detroit

1955 March 31 - April 10 Syracuse (Cervi)

Ft. Wayne (Eckman)

4-3

*

1988 June 7 - June 21

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

Detroit (Daly)

4-3

James Worthy, L.A. Lakers

1954 March 31 - April 12 Minneapolis (Kundla)

Syracuse (Cervi)

4-3

*

1987 June 2 - June 14

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

Boston (Jones)

4-2

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

1953 April 4 - April 10

Minneapolis (Kundla)

New York (Lapchick)

4-1

*

1986 May 26 - June 8

Boston (Jones)

Houston (Fitch)

4-2

Larry Bird, Boston

1952 April 12 - April 25 Minneapolis (Kundla)

New York (Lapchick)

4-3

*

1985 May 27 - June 9

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

Boston (Jones)

4-2

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers

1951

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

4-3

Larry Bird, Boston

1983 May 22 - May 31

Philadelphia (Cunningham) L.A. Lakers (Riley)

4-0

Moses Malone, Philadelphia

1982 May 27 - June 8

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

Philadelphia (Cunningham) 4-2

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

1981

Boston (Fitch)

Houston (Harris)

Cedric Maxwell, Boston

L.A. Lakers (Westhead)

Philadelphia (Cunningham) 4-2

June 2 - June 12

1984 May 27 - June 12 Boston (Jones)

May 5 - May 14

1980 May 4 - May 16

4-2

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

Team with best record (or tied for best record) during regular season in italics *Finals MVP not named before 1969

152

The Finals 2016

April 2 - April 11

1959 April 4 - April 9

April 7 - April 21

Rochester (Harrison)

New York (Lapchick)

4-3

*

1950 April 8 - April 23

Minneapolis (Kundla)

Syracuse (Cervi)

4-2

*

1949 April 4 - April 13

Minneapolis (Kundla)

Washington (Auerbach)

4-2

*

1948 April 10 - April 21

Baltimore (Jeannette)

Philadelphia (Gottlieb)

4-2

*

Chicago (Olsen)

4-1

*

1947 April 16 - April 22 Philadelphia (Gottlieb)


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NBA Finals 2016  

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS vs. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

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