Blogtable: Biggest NBA story of 2016
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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What was the biggest NBA story of 2016, and why?
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Steve Aschburner: I would have said the Cavaliers’ comeback from that 3-1 deficit, led by LeBron James, to deliver a championship to Cleveland — but I’m kind of covering that in another topic on this week’s Blogtable. So I’ll go with Kevin Durant’s free-agent signing with Golden State, because it connects so many of the league’s big stories in 2016. The Warriors set the all-time season record with 73 victories (big) but didn’t back that up with a title (big), losing in unprecedented fashion (big, see above) to a superstar and his team making good on an outrageous promise (big). So Golden State feels it needs some talent proliferation (big) and becomes the latest “super team,” presumably influencing the CBA talks that might or might not have pushed everyone toward a lockout (big). In the wake of Durant’s move, Russell Westbrook re-ups in OKC (big), ignites triple-double-mania to remind folks how great Oscar Robertson was (big) and sticks two-time, reigning and unanimous MVP Steph Curry with a new challenge (big).
Fran Blinebury: Cavs win championship. Why? The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. Fifty-two years of Cleveland suffering ends with LeBron leading way to the championship he promised to deliver. There is no second choice.
Scott Howard- Cooper: The new labor deal. Agreement, ratification… celebration. The sides found common ground by being smart instead of talking tough. The level of bluster found in many negotiations, not just in the NBA or sports in general, was gone as tough talk was set aside in an understanding that everyone in the league has a good thing going. It had to be a nice early Christmas present for team employees behind the scenes who don’t deal in million-dollar contracts and for arena workers who gain valuable income from directing cars in the parking lot, working in concession stands and helping fans find their seat to know their money will keep coming too.
John Schuhmann: It’s hard not to keep going back to what happened from June 13-19. The Warriors were maybe the best team we’ve ever seen. They won 73 games, were the best shooting team in NBA history, and dominated the first two games of The Finals on both ends of the floor. With a win in Game 4, there was no thinking that this team could lose the series. But Draymond Green’s suspension for Game 5 was just what the Cavs needed to begin the turnaround, and what followed was both an epic collapse from the best regular-season team in history and a miraculous comeback from a team that seemed so flawed in the first two games of the series. The Cavs were the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in The Finals, they did it against a historically good opponent, and the result was Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years. It’s still hard to believe that it happened.
Sekou Smith: The Warriors’ 73-win chase and the way things ended in The Finals captivated us from start to finish. The fact that they came up short in that epic Game 7 doesn’t diminish the ride they took us all on over the course of the season. The opportunity to break records and repeat as NBA champs was a story you just couldn’t ignore. Kudos to the Warriors for going for it and kudos to the Cleveland Cavaliers for stealing the spotlight at the end.
Lang Whitaker: That LeBron James is still the King. We spent most of the last two seasons celebrating the spectacular play of Stephen Curry and the Warriors, and rightly so, as they turned NBA offense into something creative and explosive and new. But during the 2016 NBA Finals, with LeBron and the Cavaliers taking on the Warriors, LeBron boiled the game down to its essentials and showed that he remains the best all-around player in the NBA. And at only 31 years old and still in elite physical condition, LeBron’s prime might extend longer than anyone is expecting. At this point he may be chasing ghosts, as he put it, but I wonder if those ghosts realize how quickly LeBron is gaining on them?
MORE BLOGTABLE: Who is the NBA Person of the Year? | Biggest takeaway from Warriors-Cavs?