(April 12) — Before revealing the Top 10 Plays of the 2018-19 season, here’s a look back at the names of players who delivered the No. 1 play over the last three years.
2016: Stephen Curry
2017: Russell Westbrook
2018: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Each of the past three belt holders are first-class superstars with preternatural talents. The accolades between them include 17 All-Star appearances, 14 All-NBA selections and four Kia MVPs.
The NBA’s best players simply make the best plays. With that in mind, the highlight of the year was bound to come from yet another elite talent, right?
Welcome, Jeremy Lamb.
Lamb’s half-court heave in Toronto follows up Giannis’ unreal dunk at Madison Square Garden, Westbrook’s insane buzzer-beater in Denver and Curry’s legendary game-winner in Oklahoma City as the latest Top Play of the Year.
* * *
1. Jeremy Lamb, Charlotte Hornets | March 24 vs. Raptors
It was the unlikely hero that propelled Charlotte to a win on the road against one of the best teams in the league. After fumbling the inbounds pass with just 3.1 seconds left, Lamb recovered and drilled the shot of the year with an unbelievable, rainbow-arching 48-foot heave at the buzzer. It was an epic moment for a franchise rather devoid of epic moments. But the exhilaration didn’t stop there. Lamb gave Hornets fans an encore during their next meeting against Toronto by hitting another game-winning 3.
2. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat | Feb. 27 vs. Warriors
One day there will be some kid watching old YouTube clips of Heat legend Dwyane Wade. Most of the highlights shown will be from his prime, but at some point that kid will realize Wade still had game in his later years. His circus 3-pointer at the buzzer, one that knocked off the two-time defending champs, was the highlight play from the future Hall of Famer’s last dance. Even his opponent Stephen Curry labeled it an “iconic moment.”
3. James Harden, Houston Rockets | Jan. 3 vs. Warriors
Rest assured nothing was iconic about this game-winner to Stephen Curry and the Warriors, losing on their floor in overtime to ostensibly their biggest threat in the Western Conference. Harden’s bid for Kia MVP reached fever pitch levels after this tough basket.
4. Derrick Jones Jr. | March 10 vs. Raptors
“Airplane mode” simply isn’t playing fair at this point. A poor lob from Heat center Bam Adebayo winded up working in Jones Jr.’s favor as he threw down the most impressive dunk of the season. Take notice of Pascal Siakam’s reaction on the opposing bench.
5. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics | Feb. 7 vs. Celtics
Just how former Lakers coach Luke Walton drew it up. The ball somehow found Rondo’s hands with 1.3 seconds left, and the former Celtic drilled a midrange jumper at the buzzer to fulfill a long-time desire. “Believe it or not, I’ve always dreamed of something like this,” Rondo said after the game.
6. Kevin Knox, New York Knicks | Feb. 13 vs. 76ers
Last season’s poster of the year was printed in Madison Square Garden when Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked, excuse me, jumped over Tim Hardaway Jr. This season the home team flipped the rim-rocking script. Kevin Knox saw an opportunity to go up over Ben Simmons, and he did. Violently.
7. Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets | Dec. 18 vs. Lakers
Allen proved to be a fearless big man for Brooklyn this season, unafraid to challenge the game’s biggest stars. That included LeBron James. The Nets center emphatically denied James’ 260-pound frame at the rim, becoming just the eighth player to ever block a James’ dunk attempt.
8. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder | Feb. 23 vs. Jazz
George split two defenders at the top of the key, only to have the league’s reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year waiting for him with 2.5 seconds left on the clock. That wasn’t a problem for the Thunder star, who hit a high-arching floater over Rudy Gobert to put a cap on double-overtime and his 45-point night. Remarkable.
9. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers | March 12 vs. Bulls
As LeBron put it, “some things never change.” James has repeatedly demonstrated that he still has the power, flair and hops to pull off some extraordinary slams at age 34. What decline?
10. Jimmy Butler, Philadelphia 76ers | Nov. 17 vs. Hornets
Just five days after joining the team via trade, Butler drilled a game-winning 3, then followed that up a week later with another game-winning 3. Consider both a top play of the year.