Previously On...The NBA: Highlighting Last Year's Best Highlights

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunking over Tim Hardaway Jr. in Madison Square Garden last year was one of the many special plays of last season. (The Fan 1075)

The 2018-19 NBA season is near. Excitement is brewing as we have had a whirlwind off-season with quite a few storylines. Expectations and predictions guaranteed to be incorrect are being hurled ad infinitum. Even here at TSFJ, we are preparing to get back on our NBA journey. But let's not move on so quickly from last year. Some things happened that deserve one final mention before the new year tips off. Think of it like a TV show that provides a recap of past events before a new episode. Previously On...The NBA: Some Fantastic Highlights of The 2017-18 Season.

Giannis Jumps Over Hardaway (Bonus: Almost Does Count)

In the beginning of his monstrous campaign, Giannis Antetokounmpo had one of the best missed dunk attempts ever. Against the Boston Celtics, Antetokounmpo attacked the basket with sinister intentions. Celtics center Aron Baynes--who ended up as the prop on a few posters last year--made a valiant effort to stop the dunk, colliding midair with Giannis. With a resounding thud, Baynes hit the hardwood, stopping the dunk with a foul but receiving the brunt of the contact instead of dishing it.

Antetokounmpo decided later in the season to jump over defenders instead of fly through them. Against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden, Giannis received an alley oop from teammate Tony Snell. He then soared over 6'6" Tim Hardaway Jr. as if he wasn't there, much to the delight and disbelief of the crowd.

James Harden Drops Wesley Johnson

An age-old debate in basketball is questioning which is more embarrassing: getting dunked on or losing one's balance from a nasty dribble move. While I side with the guaranteed two points that accompany the embarrassment of getting dunked on, what James Harden did to Wesley Johnson on national television is a strong rebuttal for falling from a dribble move. To cause an NBA defender--regardless of the quality of defender--to lose his balance so much that he stumbles to the ground is no easy task. Consider nastier, more effective moves and how far the ball handler shifted the defender and the defender still didn't fall. James Harden made Wesley Johnson fall from a step back dribble, and had time to look at him before nailing the three. It was so good that it sent the entire basketball world into a frenzy. It was the ultimate highlight in his MVP season.

LeBron Over Nurkic

Sure, there were quite a few thunderous dunks last year. There were even some where players smaller than LeBron James climbed moving mountains similar in size to Portland's Yusuf Nurkic. The moment that stands out here is that LeBron rarely demonstrates his power in this manner. He's usually barreling through contact nowadays, saving his athletic explosion for the running portion of each game or if there's a clear path to the rim. Casually bringing the ball up and surveying the defense, LeBron found a seam into the paint. Nurkic, Portland's very good rim protector, assumed his duty as an interior presence. He jumped. Lebron jumped. Nurkic learned that though he is taller than Lebron by four inches, he cannot get higher than even 33-year-old Lebron. The result is one of the best still shots of the year.

This is a truly majestic image, especially when considering that the shorter man is the one higher up in the photo. (Courtesy: @banksy on Twitter)

Kyrie's Spin Shimmy

It is widely understood that Kyrie Irving has the best handle in today's NBA. It's not just because he makes a bunch of defenders fall similar to Harden's play. For me, Kyrie's handle is special because he seems to always be on balance to shoot or score after shifting defenders. He's constantly reading and reacting, but with a set goal in mind. This type of thinking allows for deception through misdirection. Against the Golden State Warriors, Kyrie dribbled down to the baseline. Turning his back to Steph Curry allowed him to hide the ball. He used a bit of a shimmy, faking to his left, then resuming his dribble for a pull-up jumper. The subtle fake was enough for Kyrie to get clear of Curry and complete his ultimate goal and what the game is about: buckets.

Game Winners!

Maybe for this upcoming season, we can track how many game-winning shots are made. Last year definitely had its share of them. Damian Lillard hit a nice step back three against the Lakers. Blake Griffin hit a three against those Trail Blazers while he was still a member of the Clippers. At forty, Manu Ginobili showed why he's one of the best in late game situations against the Celtics. Even Andrew Wiggins stepped up and drilled a three from nearly halfcourt against the Thunder. Those are just a few of the last-second buckets from last year. LeBron James made one against the Timberwolves in the regular season, and obliterated what was left of the Toronto Raptors' confidence in the playoffs. You can find a montage of these and other plays of last year in this video.

There is so much excitement for this upcoming season, but it's good to look back at what happened to get us here. Happy NBA, folks.

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