With 2012 rapidly disappearing in the rear-view mirror, it's time to take a look at the sickest dimes, swats and jukes of the most recent NBA calendar year.
If there was a highlight to be found in the NBA between last January and today, you'd better believe we have it. Remember, though, we're not after dunks and long-range bombs. Instead, we've combed through hours of footage to find the choicest bits of highlight-reel glory from the likes of Manu Ginobili, Ricky Rubio and Serge Ibaka, just to name a few.
First, a couple of guidelines apply: A "dime" has to actually lead to a bucket. Obviously, there were plenty of incredible passes and falling-out-of-bounds saves in the last year, but everyone knows assists are what matter.
You'll note we took some liberties with the definition of a "swat" as well.
Finally, the "jukes" category is a little broader than you might think. You'll get your crossover fix, but we looked at fakes and trickery too. After all, jukes are about leaving opponents off balance and wondering what the heck just happened. You'll find our rankings reward all jukes equally.
Keep your hands up, get those ankles taped and remember to pump fake once in a while. This collection of otherworldly dimes, swats and jukes will leave your head spinning.
Honorable Mention: Ricky's Back
When Ricky Rubio went down last year with a torn ACL, it sucked the air right out of the Minnesota Timberwolves' promising start. But here he is, back on the court in December and pumping up the Target Center in his first game action in months.
This is why we love Rubio; he casually pulls off passes few other players even think about trying.
Spanish Fly will have plenty more assists as he starts to get his legs under him, but this one felt special. It signaled that he was back, ready to wow crowds and embarrass foes with his unparalleled vision and creativity.
No. 3: Rondo's Spin Cycle
This dime from March simultaneously represents the best and worst of Rajon Rondo. On the one hand, he executed a brilliant spin move and whipped a bullet behind his back to Ray Allen, who he somehow saw amid all the whirling he was doing in the lane. It was a spectacular play.
But why not just finish the easy layup?
Rondo's sky-high assist totals are partly a product of his continued unwillingness to shoot (or put himself in a position to get fouled). That might not be the best thing for the Boston Celtics, but it sure makes him fun to watch.
No. 2: Galo Finds Manimal
Danilo Gallinari's not primarily known as a passer, but he proved in March that he could dish with the best of them.
A whole bunch of things had to happen at once to make this pass possible. Andre Miller led Gallinari too much with his outlet, forcing him to veer away from the bucket. Then Kenneth Faried, as always, kept running toward the rim. And finally, Brandon Bass had to completely lose vision of the ball.
Add all of that up, and you've got yourself the No. 2 dime of 2012.
No. 1: Manu's Laser
It takes a lot to earn the recognition of being the top dime of 2012. But Manu Ginobili's rocket-armed assist rates highest here because there simply weren't any other passes like it.
Ginobili, always good for a spectacular play, saw a tiny seam from about 40 feet away and fired a one-handed missile to a waiting Matt Bonner underneath. The fact that he caught and whipped the ball in one motion is great on its own, but the guts and vision to even see the near-invisible angle are what set this pass apart.
No. 3: Courtney Kirkland Denies Kris Humphries
OK, this isn't technically a block, but on the strength of its novelty alone, this "swat" from December deserves the third spot on our list.
Seriously, has anyone ever seen anything like this? Was Courtney Kirkland concerned that chaos might somehow erupt if Kris Humphries shot a free throw before the officials were ready?
We may never know what led to one of the weirdest plays of the year, but it's fun to speculate. Maybe Kirkland was showing his support for Kim Kardashian in Humphries' divorce drama.
No. 2: Catch Me If You Can
Like our last entry, this isn't really much of a swat either. But that's because DeAndre Jordan was up so high he had time to decide how to deal with Rajon Rondo's shot attempt.
In this instance, Jordan took the Bill Russell route by keeping the ball in play. Of course, Russell used to gently tap his blocks, so Jordan has taken that practice a step further by simply catching and securing opponents' offerings at the basket.
It's something of an evolutionary leap in defense, and not only does it look incredible, but it's also best for the team.
And please, don't start complaining that the shot was on it's way down. We're not here to nitpick.
No. 1: Serge Protector
It seems like we're cheating with this category because once again, the No. 1 swat isn't really a swat at all. It's three.
Serge Ibaka is the best shot-blocker on the planet by a healthy margin, and he showed the Cleveland Cavaliers why he's not going to let go of that title anytime soon.
Although no individual denial in this clip is worthy of especially high ratings, the combined effect of all three make this the nastiest defensive sequence of the last 12 months.
No. 3: Kemba's Cross
Choosing from all of the crossovers of the past year is a tough task. There were a handful that involved more than one move, and some had the added element of a defender falling to the floor (often because he tripped over somebody's feet, but that's beside the point).
Kemba Walker's juke of Brandon Knight makes the list because it perfectly embodies the ideal crossover. Change of pace, hesitation and wicked quickness combine here as Walker leaves Knight in the dust.
There might have been nastier ones, but no cross-up from 2012 was any purer.
No. 2: Ginobili's Ball Fake
Admittedly, we're unabashed fans of the things Manu does on the court, so it's no surprise he makes the list in two different categories.
This play involved a slick fake and a wrong-footed layup. If deception is a component of a good juke (and we like to think it is), this one has double the trickery.
No. 1: Patent Pending
Rajon Rondo absolutely owns this move. Nobody in the league does it better, and nobody does it more often.
Watch closely and you'll notice that no fewer than four Miami Heat players were completely fooled by Rondo's trademark fake behind-the-back pass. And the only reason it wasn't five is because LeBron James cannot be fooled. It's not in his basketball genius programming.
Rondo takes the top spot here because his patented "juke" keeps working, even though everyone in the world should know by now that it's coming.
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