Most Valuable Memories: NBA 2008-09

Austin Kent
July 6, 2009

When we look back at the 2008-09 season we’re all going to remember the NBA Finals, the fact that the Cavs didn’t advance and that the Lakers did. We’ll remember the box scores from mid-December and the highlights of the year packaged neatly for future consumption. So many aspects of the season will live on in immortality simply because the NBA archives won’t let them be forgotten. This is where remembering happens. But in addition to all the statistics, video footage and accolades, there – at the core of all that is basketball – are the memories that essentially fuel sport fanship.

We’ll always remember this as the year when LeBron James won his first MVP, we’ll remember the fact that somehow, someway, the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic turned into legit title contenders. We’ll remember Eddy Curry’s limo driver, Allen Iverson’s haircut and the peculiar saga of Darius Miles and the Portland Trailblazers, not to mention Save-a-palooza 2010. At The Good Point we have always played up the feature side of sport with an emphasis on storytelling, but only so many people care about my opinion (and they’re both out of town this week). So we went out and recruited some of the elite basketball writers on the internet to describe their favorite memories of the NBA season, memories that if not shared may otherwise be forgotten.

Rudy Gay, I hope you’re paying attention.

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NBA 2008-09

Ryan McNeillHoops Addict

By far my favorite memory from this past season involved New Jersey’s diminutive point guard Devin Harris. He already had my respect for being a tough player – he ranked near the top of the league in free throw attempts this season despite being the smallest guy on the court most nights – but he took things to another level when he returned to a game after throwing up in the locker room.

Yes, you read that right: after tossing his cookies he returned to help his team snatch what looked to be a victory from the claws of the Toronto Raptors.

“I knew I was going to come back,” a smiling Harris told me after the game. “I got those bad fluids up out of me and I felt great. No problem at all.”

If returning after being sick to his stomach wasn’t enough, check out his stat line: 23 of his game high 31 points came once he returned from being sick. Not only that, but these points came in the fourth quarter and overtime when his team needed all those points to steal a road win against Toronto.

If that doesn’t make you want to cheer for Devin Harris next season then I don’t know what would.

Natalie SittoNeed4Sheed

What stands out for me is the shock, horror and then benefit of the doubt I gave to the Allen Iverson/Chauncey Billups trade. I didn’t like it from the moment it happened. I even gave Iverson a chance to be the guy he said he was going to be when he came into town until he skipped a practice after being with the team less than a month.

I sweated the return of Antonio McDyess while my team fell apart.

I sat back and watched the drama unfold when Iverson chose to sit out with a “back injury” instead of coming off the bench. And have subsequently spent thousands of dollars for a therapist (emotional distress), Rogaine (pulling out my hair) and Botox (for the frown lines he caused). There goes my season ticket money for next season… Thanks A.I.

Tom ZillerSactown Royalty

I will never forget Bobby Jackson

Late in the season, playing back-up on the worst team in the league behind a contemptibly lazy, unfocused Beno Udrih – who had just signed a five-year deal for more cash than Jax had made his entire career – Bobby broke his nose going for a rebound.

Surgery, season over… right? Wrong.

Jax came back about a week later with a mask… to play back-up for the worst team in the league. The mask bothered him.

Ask to come out, surgery, season over… right? Wrong.

Jax ripped off the mask, tossed it on the scorer’s table, and continued to play. I’ll never forget Bobby Jackson’s passion for the game.

Dennis VelascoBarkley’s Mouth

The thing that stood out most for me has been the LeBron James becoming a free agent in the summer of 2010 hoopla, which I admit I was a part of (but really, who wasn’t to even the slightest degree? ). The hype really started before the season and slowly built up as if a Swedish pump machine was the hype’s marketing representative.

But, once the Cleveland Cavaliers started winning, I mean really winning and they seemed for real with Mo Williams playing Gene Wilder to LeBron’s Cleavon Little, things went flaccid… err, I mean, the hype died down. In fact there was talk of LeBron possibly signing an extension during the 2009 offseason! Hip hip hooray, Cleveland! The hometown boy was going to bring home a championship and never ever, ever, ever leave! Woo hoo! Cleveland rocks! Many a shirt were ripped in the Forest City, that’s how excited with anticipation C-Town became.

Then, the loss to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals happened.

LeBron James left the floor in a foul mood and rumors of Cavaliers newly-minted Coach of the Year Mike Brown being fired were starting to circulate. The NBA Finals, one which many people thought the Chosen One would be a part of (ask Vitamin Water and Nike) is over and Kobe Bryant, now a notch better than James in the classic argument of which player makes a better puppet, has his fourth ring. The monkey is off Bryant’s back and ready to jump on LeBron’s.

Somewhere, a formerly disregarded Swedish pump is salivating in some dark corner ready to pump, pump, pump!

Sean DeveneySporting News – The Baseline

Definitely Game 6 of the Bulls-Celtics series, the triple-overtime game at the United Center. The Bulls were down by eight with less than four minutes to go and it looked like that was where the series would end. But then Chicago crawled back into it, got a three-pointer from Brad Miller, of all people, and two foul shots from Miller to tie – after Miller’s missed free throws had made him the goat of Game 5. John Salmons tied it with a layup in the first overtime, Ray Allen tied it with a late three in the second overtime and Derrick Rose sealed it with a blocked shot on Rajon Rondo. It was the most exhausting game of the most exhausting playoff series I’d ever seen.

Eric Rosenhek — The Good Point / This Is Toronto Podcast

I was at a local establishment on the night of Friday, Nov. 21. As I sipped a pint or two, I watched the New Jersey Nets narrowly beat the Toronto Raptors in overtime 129-127. It was by far the most exciting game I saw during the 2008-09 NBA season. Toronto power forward Chris Bosh led all scorers with an incredible 42 points. However, it was Nets guard Vince Carter who stole the show. Carter sank a buzzer-beater to tie the game at the end of regulation and then scored the game-winning basket (an alley-oop play) with milliseconds left in overtime. Looking back, the match foreshadowed the Raptors’ season which was nothing short of a disappointment. It also gave Raptor fans just another reason to hate Vince Carter.

Tassos MelasThe Basketball Jones

Anything that gets Marv Albert excited might be illegal, but it also might be one heckuva basketball play (not sure which one would be my more entertaining highlight). The 2008-09 season was filled with a ton of basketball for me – the most I’ve watched in a single campaign. My best memory is the unexpected, something which one could never envision happening no matter how long he or she had been a fan of basketball.

On Feb. 23, 2009, with the Nets trailing the Sixers by one and inbounding under their own basket with less than two seconds on the clock, Devin Harris got the ball, had it knocked out of his hands and then hit a desperation heave from beyond mid-court. All in less than two seconds. All in rhythm. All so fluid. Watching ball every night can get tiresome, but these plays quickly wake me up and make me realize why I love athletics and basketball so much.

Allen Law — The Good Point / Straight Out Of Vancouver

When you’re a Grizzlies fan living an hour outside Cleveland, Ohio, life isn’t easy. Not only is it nearly impossible to get a quality feed of games, but you have to put up with 20 Facebook posts a day notifying you that the Cavs are guaranteed a championship this season.

The Cavs didn’t get their championship, but I did get one simple moment of enjoyment. With the game tied and a second on the clock, Rudy Gay catches the ball in the corner, turns, and makes an ever-so-slight head fake while still moving. The Magic’s defender is frozen solid. Maybe it was his instincts; but I’m guessing it was mostly shock that a young cub could pull that move.

With the defender on his heels, Rudy rises up and fades slightly. The ball hits back rim, rattles for a fraction of a second and falls, but there was never doubt. Rudy jumps and flaps his jersey with no smile, just pure emotion. He doesn’t really strut, there’s no pride in growing.

According to my newsfeed, LeBron hit a pretty big shot over the Magic this season too, but isn’t that just expected of the King? Rudy’s shot meant so much more because it was something newa veteran savvy, youthful humility and hope.

Andrew PernaRealGM

I covered the Dec. 3 game between the Pacers and Celtics in Boston and witnessed what was then the best game of Rajon Rondo’s young NBA career. Not surprisingly, the Celtics won the game 114-96. The victory was due in large part to the production Rondo provided over his 41 minutes.

His performance was as dominating as I’ve seen from a player that took just 10 shots. He notched his first triple-double, posting 16 points, 17 assists and 13 rebounds as he dominated from baseline to baseline. For me, that was Rondo’s coming out party – not his first-round performance against the Bulls in April.

That night, Indiana’s point guards (T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack) combined for 22 points, 12 assists and four rebounds. Rondo took half as many shots as Ford/Jack, but thoroughly outplayed the tandem. The statistics tell the story, but only a portion of it. Rondo looked like an MVP that night.

Matthew Noe3 Shades of Blue

Halloween night 2008, FedEx Forum. Home opener for my beloved Grizzlies, the game coming on the heels of a tough, but close, loss to Houston the previous night – it was a fresh season pregnant with potential for growth. For the second year in a row, the home opener was a hard-fought game against what many expected to be a contender – the Grizzlies scored and defended right with the Magic. Then came the tie with but a few ticks on the clock. Kyle Lowry inbounding the ball, O.J. Mayo flashes to the elbow – covered. Rudy Gay tries once to break free in the corner, spins, twists, manufactures a couple of feet between him and his defender, but he’s going toward the corner, away from the basket. Kyle gets the pass to him the instant before a five-second violation Rudy catches, spins instantly, draws a bead on the basket, and drops it the backboard lights up as the ball drops through and the roof just about caves in due to the happy pandemonium breaking loose. No matter how many times it happens, there just ain’t nothin’ like a buzzer-beating game-winner for the home team on opening night.

Royce YoungDaily Thunder

There’s really one moment that sticks out above all the rest for basketball fans in Oklahoma City. When David Stern walked to mid-court at the Ford Center and said, “Oklahoma City, welcome to the National Basketball Association”, everything changed for us. We went from perceived cowtown where everybody still went to work in covered wagons to Big League City. We were professional, in the same league with Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago. That’s a lot different than Frisco, Pawtucket, Toledo and Rochester. Opening Night was something we never thought we’d see here. It was a night to let out the emotions and build-up of finally getting a franchise, a night to just celebrate what was on the court. The final score didn’t matter. The only thing that did was that the NBA had come to Oklahoma.

Austin Kent — The Good Point

Last February I sat in an economics lecture with a university professor. He was the youngest of the four or so that I had, and by far the most consumed with basketball and technology. He sat us down in the classroom one day and presented Michael Lewis’ essay on the Houston Rockets and Shane Battier.

I had already been a fan of Moneyball, the Sabermetrics-based baseball novel released in 2002, but had always been a basketball fan at heart. Although today, advanced baseball research has certainly been broken down into a science, the NBA is still a relatively unexplored frontier. We’ve grown too accustomed to ineffective measurements of success in basketball while the secrets to winning remain out there undiscovered, ripe for the picking.

This NY Times article opened my eyes to the uselessness of traditional statistics and allowed me to view the game I’ve long obsessed over in a different light. From that point on I realized how little we really know about the science of basketball.

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The Author:

Austin Kent

Austin Kent is the Editor-in-Chief of The Good Point and the Network.