The 2016-17 NBA season ends on Wednesday. Well, the regular season ends. The playoffs begin on Saturday. We tend to remember seasons by what happens in the postseason, even when the 82 are filled with surprise and wonder.
This year we decided to celebrate the regular season at its close, before the playoffs wash our brains with new achievements. We’re taking a moment to acknowledge the amazing things that happened over the last six months before we devour and catalog what happens over the next two.
These moments are listed in NO PARTICULAR ORDER, and we apologize if your favorite moment (or team) isn’t represented. Please share those moments in the comments! We’re sure we missed some. With 1,230 games to recall — not including Wednesday’s finales — things are bound to fall through the cracks.
But we are confident these 101 unforgettable moments are worth remembering. They are sorted into convenient (and sometimes overlapping) categories and numbered. We apologize to your phones and hope you enjoy.
Let’s open at the close with the most memorable daggers of the year.
Harden is an MVP favorite, so he leads the list. This slaloming full-court, one-man fast break sealed a win for the Rockets ... whether Nene held a Nugget or not.
You’ll never see a weirder clutch shot than Ibaka putting it off the glass without looking, to send it to overtime.
The only thing better than The Greek Freak’s shot is Carmelo Anthony’s reaction to it.
Kawhi buried a clutch jumper and then smothered James Harden on the other end to seal a win for the Spurs. This had people speaking in tongues and denouncing the entirety of Houston.
After hitting the dagger that gave Cleveland its first championship in decades last June, Kyrie followed it up with a turnaround fadeaway over Klay Thompson to beat the Warriors on Christmas. Golden State has nightmares about Uncle Drew.
The best dagger of the year, and not just because of the shot. It’s the triumphant pose that really sells it. Business is booming on Waiters Island.
We experienced some special emotional moments together this season.
The Truth is playing his 18th and final season in the NBA. There hasn’t been too much pomp ... except in Boston, where Pierce received an appropriate hero’s send-off.
This was a damn cool moment that was uniquely NBA in every way.
There hasn’t been a whole lot for the 76ers to celebrate in the past few years. So to see Embiid’s ecstasy after McConnell beat the Knicks was refreshing and heart-warming. And it gave us one of the greatest photos ever.
10. Coaches speak out
There isn’t really a good category for this one, but it was rather surreal and, for the majority of NBA fans, refreshing. It helped define the league, given the silence of management in other major American sports. Here’s Paul Flannery’s Shootaround on coaches speaking up in the wake of Nov. 8.
In a season rife with beef, two talented big men found friendship and mutual respect. There is hope for America.
One of the dominating storylines at the All-Star Game was the opportunity for Durant and Westbrook to reunite on the West team. Would Steve Kerr play them together? (Yes, of course.) Would they acknowledge each other? Would Westbrook feed Durant for a transition alley-oop? He did, and the world reacted like the Berlin Wall fell. The reaction from the other West All-Stars was worth the price of admission.
The Raptors annual Drake Night turned into an evening of Canada’s favorite son wooing ESPN’s star broadcaster Doris Burke. It culminated in Drake asking DoBu to dinner on live television and Burke later accepting on Twitter. Basketball and romance — all in a night’s work for the Toronto Raptors.
Everything good about the Spurs is on display here.
The world lost a bit of color in December when Craig Sager died after a years-long fight with leukemia. TNT paid tribute to the beloved sideline reporter with a five-minute eulogy narrated by Ernie Johnson.
Two months later, on All-Star Saturday, the NBA put together a special moment starring DJ Khaled, Steph Curry, Candace Parker, Reggie Miller, and others. The purpose: raise $500,000 for the Sager Strong Foundation. Curry couldn’t hit a halfcourt shot in street clothes, so to punctuate the moment, Shaq lifted up Sager’s youngest son for an assisted finger roll.
The NBA stays weird. Note that the LMAO category has plenty of items that could double in this category.
Golden State officially began work on its new arena in San Francisco in January. The Warriors don’t do anything boring these days. So of course, the ceremony featured dancing construction workers and excavator ballet. YES, EXCAVATOR BALLET.
THE CRANES ARE DOING A SYNCHRONIZED DANCE WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON pic.twitter.com/VfbbcsFGx5— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) January 17, 2017
The Pacers had a blasé season ... until Lance Stephenson blew into town in March. In his first game back in Indianapolis, he led a stirring comeback, insulted the Raptors with a garbage time layup, acted like he had no clue why they were so mad, and earned Paul George’s highest praise. It was better than MJ in the 4-5.
In March, various NBA players began receiving personalized potatoes in the mail. Of course, it was viral marketing. For two days there, you had internet writers going full Rust Cohle.
Just before All-Star Weekend, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye revealed on their podcast (which was a revelation in itself) that Kyrie Irving believes the Earth is flat. Most of All-Star Weekend, thus, was filled with serious questions about Kyrie’s beliefs — Adam Silver even had to respond to it during a press conference! — and jokes at Irving’s expense. Shaq later pranked everyone by claiming he too believes the world is flat.
If there was one constant this season, it was BEEF. Everyone’s so mad at each other all of a sudden.
21. Russell Westbrook vs. Zaza Pachulia
22. Kevin Durant vs. Andre Roberson
23. Steph Curry vs. Russell Westbrook and Semaj Christon
Let’s get the NBA’s biggest running beef out of the way with these three critical moments. When the Thunder visited Golden State in January, Zaza put Westbrook on his tail and the OKC star vowed retribution. In Durant’s highly anticipated return to Oklahoma City, ex-teammate Roberson got into his face and butted heads with him. Durant missed the second game in OKC due to injury, so Semaj Christon and eventually Westbrook mixed it up with Curry. I’m starting to think there’s some bad blood here.
Ibaka and Lopez almost traded punches in a late-season battle between the Raptors and their arch-rival Bulls. Luckily, both whiffed and so each were only suspended a game. This could have been much more notorious.
Denver traded the Bosnian Beast to Portland — its closest rival for the No. 8 seed in the West — and Nurkic immediately became an All-Star-caliber player. He groaned at his diminished role with the Nuggets, so when the Blazers freed him, he made sure to remind Denver what it was missing. At the conclusion of his epic revenge game against the Nuggets in March, he wished his old team a “happy summer.” Savage.
Knicks owner James Dolan had Knicks legend Oakley booted from a game, arrested, and banned from Madison Square Garden over some personal drama between the two. The entirety of Western civilization took Oak’s side; eventually, the league tapped Michael Freaking Jordan to broker a cease fire.
We hit the lottery by not signing you https://t.co/eSiBaNT061— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) January 28, 2017
These dudes had such a petty social media fight that the league had to send a memo to teams telling everyone to chill their Twitter fingers.
There’s actually nothing funny about this one. The Warriors and both dudes’ moms got involved. This was definitely a season in which beef went a little too far.
LeBron had enough of Chuck’s chatter and produced the research to bear. He brought up Barkley spitting on a kid and throwing a dude through a window! So of course, Chuck announced that the feud was over. YEAH it is, buddy. It’s over.
Oh, God. LaVar Ball. LaVar talked about how Lil’ Bronny won’t ever measure up to his dad because NBA stars can’t raise talent like LaVar did. Big Bron snapped back. This is the closest he’s ever been to old-man status and it’s just great.
Now this is a great beef. Inexplicable, even to the parties involved.
Speaking of inexplicable, Wizards vs. Celtics came out of nowhere to become the fiercest team rivalry in the league. John Wall did not appreciate getting booped by Jae Crowder, and next thing you know, the Wizards are wearing all black to a game in January to signify the Celtics’ “funeral.” Needlessly intense, like all good NBA beefs should be.
A close cousin of BEEF is Drama, from the courtroom to the locker room.
Jeanie Buss hired Magic Johnson, fired her brother ... and then her brother tried in hilariously inept fashion to replace her as the controlling owner of the Lakers. She sued, her brother disappeared, and all is now well in Lakerland. What a weird family.
DeMarcus Cousins had a strange All-Star Sunday, playing only two minutes as trade rumors swirled. Immediately after the game, as he faced the media scrum, a Kings PR staffer apparently whispered in his ear that it looked like he was going to be traded. The news broke less than an hour later.
We covered the beef involved above, but the scene in Oklahoma City was something else. The cupcake shirts and signs, the chants, the boos.
Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler decided to trash their teammates in the media ... so Rajon Rondo (whose current role in the NBA is apparently to cause havoc wherever he goes) lit them up on Instagram.
Be honest, this is what you came for. Enjoy.
37. Willie Cauley-Stein on the Celtics
38. Terrence Ross 360
Holy cow! Terrence Ross throws down a 360 degree jam pic.twitter.com/HbeUfuJoJS— CSN Northwest (@CSNNW) December 27, 2016
You have to click through for that one because Vine died for our sins. But YO.
40. Andrew Wiggins on JaVale McGee
A better look at Andrew Wiggins' monster dunk! pic.twitter.com/OHGPXFDyBV— NBA (@NBA) November 27, 2016
Another Vine, so click through. But trust me: Do it.
43. Larry Nance Jr. on Brook Lopez
Here is the Dunk of the Year by the Dunker of the Year. To my knowledge, Nance has still not apologized to West for his incredible disrespect. This is unacceptable.
Here at SB Nation, we like to laugh. (You’ll notice that this is the biggest category.) The NBA came through for us this year.
When social media goes wrong.
This brilliant Chris Ballard profile fueled two weeks’ worth of Twitter takes. I treasure this story like the beautiful young child it is.
After the Warriors bludgeoned the Thunder in Kevin Durant’s aforementioned return to OKC, Curry and Green acquired cupcake T-shirts ... and wore them in the postgame.
During a meal while NBA owners negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement, the Hornets’ boss, who once won 72 as a player, trashed the Warriors’ empty 73-win record to Golden State owner Joe Lacob’s face because his team didn’t win the ring. MJ never loses.
No one has more fun than the Warriors. Speaking of which ...
Curry won’t be the MVP again, but he has some magical moments.
One of the funnier subplots at All-Star was Giannis Antetokounmpo playing way harder than anyone else. So when Curry was back to defend a Giannis break, he decided to avoid posterization by literally lying down. Giannis got him on a putback, like, a minute later anyways. Sheesh.
This is my nominee for NBA Meme Material of the Year.
There’s no friendship in the NBA more special than the one between Lowry and DeRozan. This moment captures that perfectly.
NBA Twitter denizen Loren Chen made it to Jeopardy! and delivered some high-profile meme jokes at the Warriors’ expense.
As if the Warriors-Cavs rivalry needed more heat, LeBron had jokes for Golden State at his Halloween party. They have gravestone cookies for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson!
To be fair, Dion Waiters is too busy HITTING DAGGERS to remember stuff.
When Randy Moss visits Inside the NBA, Shaq takes the opportunity to do what he wants to do every week: tackle Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.
Maybe the funniest scoop of the season from ESPN’s Chris Haynes:
After suffering a [...] loss to Milwaukee, Ezeli, in street clothes, addressed the team in the locker room with a stern speech centered on playing with urgency, sources told ESPN. Then two games later, after a crushing defeat in Memphis, Ezeli once again started giving a team speech, but he was cut short.
McCollum interrupted Ezeli in midsentence and told him that was enough, sources told ESPN. [...] Players were desperately pouring out every ounce of effort trying to change the trajectory of the season, and being lectured by someone who wasn't even playing wasn't received favorably.
Kobe Bryant is getting even weirder in retirement. This is a snip (via @cjzero) from his education puppet show/horror film, which debuted in the middle of the day on ESPN and is intended for children.
Latvian music video of the year every year for the rest of Porzingis’ career.
... because he thinks that nobody is watching.
After a horrific loss to the Warriors, Speights, then brand new to L.A., implored the Clippers to stop being the Clippers.
64. Sweater Mom vs. Gold Suit Man
CHRISTMAS SWEATER MOM VS GOLD SUIT MAN DANCE OFF pic.twitter.com/F4WJZibHFh— the geek freak (@rachaelhoops) November 27, 2016
Nothing about this game made sense. Nothing.
J.R. Smith stopped playing defense so he could say hello to his friend Jason Terry on the bench. The other team scored.
67. Klay Thompson living the best life
No one enjoys his awesome NBA life more than Klay Thompson, which is odd considering he so often looks grumpy. He enjoyed a mid-interview beer, showed off his paper plane engineering skills during a press conference, and brought his very good dog to work.
The Cavaliers hustled to visit the White House two days after the election. Once there, No. 44 got in a crack on the Clown Prince of the NBA.
Zaza smacks his own butt and dances. Go Warriors.
This was overall the chillest ejection ever. Booker gave the ref a thumbs up, said bye to his homies, and signed a card for a fan on his way out.
This apparently existed out there in the world before this year, but the Cavaliers brought it to NBA intermissions and the world was never the same.
Grizz, the Memphis Grizzlies mascot, stripping to Ginuwine’s “Pony” is squarely in the middle of the Venn diagram that constitutes SB Nation’s wheelhouse. It gets better on every viewing, too.
Dekker almost had the Dunk of the Year, but he succeeded in winning Doink of the Year.
It’s difficult to understate how hilarious the Lakers’ failed attempt to lose to the 60-win Spurs in the final week of the season was. L.A. played Metta World Peace 17 minutes and still won!
Here’s the blooper of the year. Kemba takes the classic Nick-Young-celebrating-a-miss moment and revs it up by giving us a shimmy.
We all crave moments that take our breath away. Basketball provides.
I mean ... what? What? How? I don’t think I watched a highlight more times than I watched this one in 2016-17.
For 55 years, Wilt Chamberlain held the record for most points in the All-Star Game with 42. Davis destroyed it by double digits when he dropped 52 at home in NOLA in February. Those 52 points included 36 off dunks. It was that kind of All-Star Game.
Curry and the hoop must have a telepathic relationship or something.
We saw Westbrook go between someone else’s legs on the break. Wall does it to himself. Magical.
The dude hit 13-of-17 from deep in a game back in November. If there were any questions as to how he’d play with Kevin Durant, he answered them. (We kept asking, nonetheless.)
Best handles in the NBA.
This game included multiple clutch Carmelo Anthony shots, Paul Millsap playing 35 straight minutes and a full 60 overall, and a bonkers fourth overtime. The Hawks won, but isn’t it the journey that counts?
If anyone can compete with Kyrie on insane handles, it’s Wall.
It’s too bad this only registers as a blocked shot in the box score. I feel like the Nets should have lost points when Kristaps did this.
This is a dribble equivalent of a poster dunk. So much disrespect. Poor Shabazz is left having no idea what has occurred.
... and they didn’t even break a sweat! In fact, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green all sat the fourth quarter.
Serge actually got a perfectly respectful welcome back to Oklahoma City in his first game there after being traded to Orlando. But he was not respectful to the Thunder, scoring a career high and hitting a game-winner.
Cleveland recruited Michelle Obama to participate in the best sports Mannequin Challenge during that meme’s run. What a way to cap eight years of basketball being the official sport of the White House.
Isaiah has been incredible all season, but it was in January where he became the King in the Fourth with a string of clutch performances, including this game-winner against the Hawks.
When you play with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, you get clean looks more often than usual. That doesn’t mean that scoring five dozen in less than a half-hour of play is anything less than insane. Klay is my top candidate to drop 75 in a game in the next five years.
This was the individual performance of the year for me, edging the next moment on the list. The Thunder, fighting for favorable playoff position, trailed the Magic in the fourth. Russ took over and sent the game to overtime with a game-tying triple. He ended up registering the highest-scoring triple-double ever.
The young Booker became the sixth player ever to score 70. Sure, he did it in part because the Suns intentionally fouled the Celtics in garbage time to get the ball back for Devin. They still count. Booker is super legit.
As LeBron and the Cavaliers prepared for the playoffs and PG and the Pacers were fighting just to make it, the duo had an epic duel that eventually ended with a Cleveland win but an Indiana moral victory.
Houston’s signature win of the season came in the best game of the season ... and the first one that kept everyone up way too late on a weeknight. We had a James Harden triple-double, a Kevin Durant explosion, and a Draymond Green kick — pretty much everything you could want from Rockets-Warriors minus Patrick Beverley ending someone’s season.
This was the season in which Marc’s latent swag came into full view.
This is one of those plays that looks so pretty in realtime and then completely blows your mind when you slow it down and see what happened. It’s a perfect symbol of the extraordinary season Harden had.
Steph Curry just throws it up & KD flushes it home! https://t.co/BFKnzbfVnn— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 6, 2016
Eighty feet without the ball ever touching the floor, and after it leaves Draymond Green’s hands, it never even touches someone whose feet are touching the floor. Unreal.
This incredible play sent an incredible game between the Cavaliers and the Wizards to overtime. In case you’d forgotten, Love can pass as well as any big man and LeBron is cold as a Popsicle in Nunavut.
101. THE BEST MOMENT OF THE NBA SEASON
And finally, the best, most appropriate moment of the 2016-17 NBA season: Metta World Peace hitting a free throw and declaring to all who care to listen: “I love basketball!”
Thanks for spending the regular season with us. Stick around for the playoffs, too. It’ll be great.