SPORTS, Grades 10–12, 2nd Place
The NBA is a long season: 82 games played by 30 teams from October to April. Then the playoffs come in April and June, with the top 16 teams whittled down to one championship team. During every season there is a lot of drama that goes on during it. This season was no exception. There have been so many top stories this year that I can’t even begin to count them all. But here is a list of the five biggest ones—in no particular order:
1. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers
Last summer LeBron James decided to take his talents to Hollywood and go to the Lakers. This was LeBron’s first time not in the Eastern Conference and all eyes were on him and his very young teammates.
The Lakers have been one of the worst teams for the past few years and had a lot of cap space to sign two big name players to max contracts. But this season they only got LeBron. LeBron was stuck with half of his roster 23 years or younger. People claimed this would be LeBron’s first time missing the playoffs because his team was so young and that he was in the harder Western Conference, and they were right. LeBron hasn’t missed the NBA playoffs since the 2004-05 season and this season LeBron was the 10th seed and was 12 games shy of making the playoffs.
LeBron got hurt halfway through the season and that may be one of the reasons that they didn’t make it, but also halfway through the season the Lakers attempted to trade half of the team (Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Michael Beasley and first-round picks) to acquire Anthony Davis, a top player in the NBA, and this may have caused chemistry problems on the young team.
2. The MVP Race
Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden have both been having amazing seasons and have been fighting back and forth all season to see who will win the MVP award.
On one hand Giannis has the best team in the league in the Milwaukee Bucks and has been dominating the league, averaging 27 points per game, 12 rebounds per game and six assists per game while his team has won 60 games this season and he is the only “superstar” player on his team, with his best teammates being Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe.
But James Harden’s Houston Rockets are the 4th seed in the Western Conference and he is the first player to average 35-plus points in a season since Kobe Bryant did it in the 2005-06 season. Harden is also averaging seven assists per game and six rebounds per game.
Harden also has help with his teammate Chris Paul, who was injured for some of the season but was an All-Star in the past, and Clint Capela, a borderline All-star player. The narrative is that Harden and the Rockets started off the season very, very poorly, going 3-13 and then Harden kicked it into overdrive and had 50 point games back to back to back to back to put them back into the playoff race and even securing the 3rd seed this season.
While Giannis has had the best team in the league all season, with the highest point differential in the league at a plus 8.9, even higher than the Warriors who everyone predicted to be the best team in the league by far. Giannis surpassed expectations and set the league on fire with his play.
3. Dwyane Wade’s Farewell Tour
This season Dwyane Wade announced his retirement from the league after 16 seasons of playing for the Miami Heat (15 seasons) the Chicago Bulls (1 season) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (less than one season).
After every game this year, he would swap a jersey with a player on the other team. It became something everyone looked forward to after every game the Miami Heat played. He swapped jerseys with players like Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Trae Young and many more great players in this league. Wade was announced as an All-Star this season for the 13th time to go along with his three NBA championships and one Finals MVP. Wade has had an amazing career and everyone is sad to see it end but we are all glad he went out in an amazing way.
4. Russell Westbrook and the Utah Jazz Fan
Late in the season the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz had a controversial regular season matchup. During the first half of the 98-89 Thunder win, Westbrook was on the bench drinking Gatorade when a fan yelled at him from the crowd and said “Get down on your knees like you’re used to” and Westbrook retaliated by saying “I promise you I’ll **** you up, you and your wife.” This went viral on social media but only what Westbrook said. Not what the fan said. This led people to believe that Westbrook was just verbally abusing the fan for no reason.
Later, Westbrook would say in an interview that the fan said racially charged comments toward him. A few days later the Utah Jazz let out a statement that said the fan was banned for life and would never come to any more Utah Jazz games: “The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately. There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.”
The NBA responded by fining Westbrook $25,000 for what he said to the fan and his wife. Utah fans have been harassing Westbrook like this for many seasons before this, this isn’t the first time Westbrook has done something about it. Last season Westbrook knocked away a fan’s phone who was filming him after a loss in the playoffs against the Jazz.
5. Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves
Last season during the NBA draft the Chicago Bulls traded All-Star Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn and a draft pick. This was seen as a steal for the Timberwolves because Lavine has just torn his ACL and Dunn was looking like a bust in the league but oh boy, how did this trade turn out poorly for the Timberwolves.
Butler would play for the Timberwolves for one full season before demanding a trade the very next season. The first season with the Timberwolves was amazing, they made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade with Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns but they would end up losing in the first round to the Golden State Warriors.
After that season people thought Butler was happy in Minnesota but they were very wrong. Early into the 2018-19 season Butler started to “rest” instead of playing in games. He would sit on the sideline and watch the Wolves lose. Butler informed the team that he would not resign next year and that they must trade him this season or he will not play. The Wolves didn’t trade Butler for almost half of the season.
Butler would talk down on his teammates through the time he spent there and would be seen as a “locker room cancer” to people on social media. Social media also thinks he stopped the growth of Towns and Wiggins because they both started to play poorly after Butler came to the team.
Later on in the season Butler would have a heated practice with the Wolves which included Jimmy beating the starters by himself with his third-string teammates, people we’ve barely heard from. He would go on to call Towns “soft” and tell the team that “you … need me, you can’t win without me.” This would lead to the Wolves finally trading Butler to the 76ers for Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a 2020 second round pick.
Butler now shines on the 76ers and Towns has returned to his normal amazing play but Wiggins has not returned to his usual self, he has been awful since Jimmy Butler left, with all of his stats going down since the 2016-17 season.