With another year in the books and the NBA’s landscape essentially changed, we took at probably the most important minute that took place all through the relationship in the course of recent days.
After being dubbed the “greatest to wear the Purple and Gold” by fellow Los Angeles Laker legend Magic Johnson during the emotional pregame ceremony, Kobe Bryant capped off his illustrious career with a performance for the ages. He willed the Lakers to victory one last time, finishing with 60 points — on a career-high 50 shots — in what was the greatest final game of any player in NBA history. By far.
Win No. 73
On the same night Bryant bid adieu to basketball, the Golden State Warriors were breaking records of their own some five hours up the California coast. With a 125-104 win against the Memphis Grizzlies, the NBA’s Golden Boys completed the winningest season in league history, finishing 73-9, which eclipsed the 72-10 mark set by the Chicago Bulls 20 years before. It was only fitting that Stephen Curry, who would later be crowned back-to-back MVP, finished the game with 10 three-pointers made, pushing his season total to 402 — 116 more than the previous single-season record he set the year before.
First came The Block. Then came The Shot. Then came the end of a city’s 52-year championship drought. After falling behind three games to one in the NBA Finals against the Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers fought back for a winner-take-all Game 7, where it all boiled down to two key moments. Led by LeBron James — who blocked Warriors forward Andre Iguodala as he went up for a layup with the game tied under two minutes — and Kyrie Irving — who hit a last-minute three to put the Cavaliers up 92-89 — the Cavs pulled off the most historic comeback in Finals history.
The shot heard ’round the world
If there’s one moment that illustrates the sheer absurdity that was the Warriors’ 2015-16 regular season, this is it. With 11 made threes and 43 points in this late-February game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Curry did as Curry does, pulling up from two steps past half court with less than three seconds remaining and the game tied in overtime. His NBA-record-tying 12th three-pointer of the game splashed home, and the Warriors held on for their 53rd win in 58 tries.
On the Fourth of July, Kevin Durant — one of the most sought-after free agents in recent history — announced his decision to sign with the Warriors, putting an end to an era with an Oklahoma City Thunder franchise where he had spent his first nine seasons, winning one MVP and earning seven All-Star selections. The criticism was widespread, as was the burning of jerseys, but for Durant, the NBA’s newest villain, the decision began the next chapter of what will surely be a Hall of Fame career.