50 Reasons We're Thankful for the NBA
It's easy to take the NBA for granted.
Although it's simple to turn on your television, crash onto the couch with a soda or beer firmly in your grasp (depending on your age and drinking preferences), kick back and watch some basketball, that doesn't mean that we should avoid giving thanks for what we love about the Association and its players.
There's a lot that all basketball fans should appreciate. Some of the things we're thankful for happen at live games; others are readily available on your TV or computer screen.
They all matter.
These are the 50 things I'm most thankful for as an NBA fan, but please don't hesitate to fill up the comment section with your own.
When it comes to this particular topic of conversations, there are no wrong answers. The only incorrect opinion is silence.
Getting to Witness Underappreciated Greats
While the NBA is a star-driven league, we still have the opportunity to take a gander at all of the world's best basketball players on any given night. Even if they aren't household names, they can still be worth watching.
Take these two Al's as examples.
Al Jefferson toiled away in obscurity for the Utah Jazz throughout the prime of his career, and now he's with the under-the-radar Charlotte Bobcats. Al Horford plays for the Atlanta Hawks, a team that just always seems to be mired in mid-level mediocrity.
Between the left-block brilliance of the former and the versatility of the latter, they're both worth watching, and the NBA lets us do exactly that. It's about more than stars.
Whenever the T-shirt cannon comes out, fans get excited.
Whether it's the mascot or a member of the dance team pulling the trigger, few forms of time-out entertainment are as, well, entertaining. Plus, there's the chance to actually win a free shirt!
Unless you go to a public university, there's no way you can ever have enough T-shirts.
The Ability to Defy the Expectations
Between the countless amounts of information we have at our disposal, our confidence as sports fans and the time we spend watching the sport, we usually figure that we understand the general trend of a season before it gets started.
The Philadelphia 76ers were supposed to be historically bad this season, not beat the Miami Heat to open their campaign and then stay right in the thick of things through Thanksgiving. Michael Carter-Williams was supposed to be a raw rookie who would struggle, not a near lock for Rookie of the Year.
Every once in a while, the expectations are completely shattered, and we thank our lucky stars that our crystal balls aren't infallible. It's nice to be surprised once in a while.
Free Food for Gaudy Point Totals
Each team has its own special deal for reaching a certain point total, and it almost always revolves around food. Hit a certain total by the final buzzer, get a discount. That's just the way it works.
The Denver Nuggets, for example, have to get to 110. And once they do so, Taco Bell gives out four tacos for a single dollar the next day.
But there's one universal aspect: As soon as a team starts to get close to the given total, the focus of the crowd's attention shifts from the margin of victory/defeat to the total number of points scored.
Out-of-Market Commercials on League Pass
Let's be honest here.
No matter how entertaining a national commercial is, it gets old and tired rather quickly. When watching nationally televised games on ESPN or TNT, you're constantly inundated with the same old advertisements, and they eventually grate on your nerves.
But when watching games on League Pass—if you haven't signed up for it yet, just bite the bullet and do it—you get exposed to the local commercials, and they're hilariously entertaining and fresh just about every time.
If you like that San Antonio Spurs one, there are roughly 1,872,415 more like it on YouTube. You're welcome.
I always get a kick out of going to games and seeing the many throwbacks that fans put on to impress the rest of the crowd.
And how many can beat the Dominique Wilkins-era Atlanta Hawks uniforms that Josh Smith is wearing in this picture? Maybe the Denver Nuggets' rainbow jerseys from the 1980s, but that's about it.
Across the board, though, throwbacks are awesome. Whether there's a dinosaur or a mountain on the jersey, a different color scheme or an entirely new design, they're always novel and evoke nostalgia at the same time.
Slam Dunk Contests...Kind Of
It's more of the hope for future Slam Dunk Contests that earns a spot on the list, as the last few exhibitions of jumping/dunking prowess have been filled with too many props, thereby failing to leave a lasting impression.
Yet we still watch. And we still hope that we'll see more moments that truly thrill us, like Nate Robinson jumping over Dwight Howard and actually using props well.
It's this hope we're thankful for, especially because there's a tiny chance LeBron James will eventually take part in the festivities.
Inside the NBA
How many times have you laughed at something Charles Barkley said?
Though the entire cast of TNT's Inside the NBA meshes together quite well and never fails both to entertain and inform, it's clear that Chuck is the star of the show. His indifference for political correctness and willingness to say exactly what he's thinking make this broadcast the best on television with plenty of room to spare.
If you aren't tuning in before, during and after games, you're doing it wrong.
Sometimes you have to be thankful for a true master of a craft's eerie levels of consistency.
In this case, we're talking about Kyle Korver, who goes into Thanksgiving with 88 consecutive appearances in which he's hit at least one three-pointer. All he needs is two more games with a triple and he'll surpass Dana Barros for the longest streak of all time.
Whether you love or hate the Atlanta Hawks, it's hard not to at least appreciate what Korver is doing. Consistency is something that can and should be marveled at.
Craig Sager's Suits
You know you want one.
Craig Sager has made a name for himself with the suits that he never wears more than once. Every night, it's a different get-up, and they all make you want to claw your eyes out. See how Dwyane Wade can't bear to look directly at the man interviewing him?
It's always a trip to see what Sager is going to pull out of the wardrobe.
Gregg Popovich's Sideline Interviews
The NBA's sideline interviewers are not particularly thankful for Gregg Popovich, but we fans most certainly are.
Sometimes, his interviews fall under the umbrella of must-watch television more than his San Antonio Spurs do. He never fails to disappoint, giving short and snappy answers that always leave the interviewer looking a little bit uncomfortable.
"I want some nasty" may as well be his motto when a microphone is thrust into his face.
Little Guys Playing with Giants
Chances are you're much closer in height to Nate Robinson than Joakim Noah.
Basketball is a sport for giants, but there are more than a few little guys who show absolutely no fear when driving in among the trees. And each time they burst to the basket or elevate for a jumper over the outstretched arms of a much bigger defender, they give us normal people hope.
If you're a giant, keep your mouth shut and let us little guys enjoy this.
Uncle Drew Commercials
If you haven't watched all three of the Uncle Drew commercials, please remedy that immediately. You can start with the embedded one up above and move on from there.
Between Kyrie Irving's acting skills, the fantastic dribbling moves, the "Uncle Drew" moniker and the phrases like "don't reach, young blood," everything about this is worthwhile.
It's hard to remember a more anticipated and beloved series of commercials without going all the way back to the Kobe and LeBron puppets.
Dirk Nowitzki's Flamingo Fadeaway
LeBron James and Kevin Durant are both thankful for this move, as they've used it during the 2013-14 season and been successful while doing so.
But we're even more thankful because we're the ones who get to witness the overall greatness of the one-legged flamingo fadeaway.
When Dirk Nowitzki leans back, jumps off one leg and extends his knee to create separation from the defender, you know two things: The shot isn't getting blocked, and the net is about to experience the sensation of a ball falling through it.
Linsanity and Hope for the Next Out-of-Nowhere Craze
If you expected Jeremy Lin to become an international sensation, you're lying.
The Harvard standout was an undrafted point guard already on the verge of becoming a journeyman when injuries created an opportunity with the New York Knicks. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Now Lin is playing well in his sixth-man role for the Houston Rockets, and there's hope for every young prospect, as all it takes is an opportunity. We have no clue who will be the next person to spark a Linsanity-like craze, but we do know there will eventually be another one.
If you can't appreciate watching LeBron James because you still have unresolved hatred for him, I sincerely apologize. You're depriving yourself of greatness on a historic level.
The reigning MVP has taken his game to another level in 2013-14, and he's almost making this whole basketball thing look too easy. Whether he's drilling jumpers, creating for his teammates, dominating in the post or showing off his defensive skills, he's been even more of a can't-miss player than ever before.
Shooting 60 percent from the field and competing for a scoring title are supposed to be mutually exclusive concepts. Should someone tell LeBron that?
Getting to Tell Your Kids About the Greatest Shooter of All Time
Speaking of greatness, let's not overlook Stephen Curry.
At this stage of his career, it's no longer hyperbolic to call the Golden State Warriors floor general the greatest shooter of all time. He doesn't have the career resume of Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, but he has the single-season record for three-pointers made and set it in remarkably efficient fashion.
Few players make three-pointers look easy. Curry makes them look like layups.
If you're not on Twitter yet, what's the holdup? The same can be said if you're not following @Fromal09, but that's beside the point...
Social media has become a great place to interact with athletes and receive breaking news and analysis without having to wait for recaps and more old-school varieties of the information. It's helped usher the NBA into a 24/7 era, and that's done wonders for fans' abilities to fully absorb the game.
Don't hesitate to embrace social media. Instead, be thankful that you have the opportunity to dig this deep below the surface of the sport.
CP3 and Blake Griffin Being on the Same Team
Chris Paul is by far the best point guard in the league, and while he's not quite on Andre Miller's level, he's right up there with the elites when it comes to throwing lobs.
If you're looking for someone to finish lobs with thunderous dunks, creating plenty of highlights on a nightly basis, Blake Griffin should be right at the top of the list.
How can we not be thankful these two get to play together?
It's true story time.
Last year, two of my closest friends were watching a Houston Rockets game and saw James Harden cross over a member of the opposition. One friend goes, "Ohhh! He broke his ankles!"
The other starts looking legitimately concerned before saying, "Wait...he doesn't look hurt. Is he just playing with broken ankles now?"
Yep. Crossovers are awesome.
All kidding aside, it would be easy to fill up at least 20 slides with reasons that we're thankful for Kobe Bryant.
His self-imposed nicknames. His penchant for taking and making difficult shots. The Michael Jordan imitations. The jaw jutting out defiantly after hitting a big bucket. The refreshing candor in interviews.
The list would go on and on, so let's keep it to one slide and say that we're thankful for Kobe Bryant in general.
Ricky Rubio's Passing
When Ricky Rubio is on the court, no passing lane is safe.
He might throw the rock through a player's legs en route to his target. The floor general may also make his trademark, one-handed swing pass with enough Spanish English on the ball that it appears to take a 90-degree turn.
Rubio may play for Minnesota, but he's still a wizard.
Kevin Love's Outlet Passing
Speaking of passing and the Minnesota Timberwolves...
Kevin Love gets a lot of credit for his scoring prowess and rebounding abilities, but we're only now starting to recognize on a larger scale just how good he is at throwing outlet passes. Corey Brewer is certainly aware of it, and he's reaping the benefits on one-man fast-break opportunities.
If you watch a 'Wolves game, you'll end up marveling at least once at a bullet of a full-court chest pass from Love after he corrals one of his many rebounds.
Watching the Next Big Thing
Anthony Davis has been absolutely incredible during the 2013-14 season, and we should all be thankful that we get to watch the early stages of a future legend's career.
Remember when he was drawing Kevin Garnett comparisons coming out of Kentucky? Well, The Unibrow has been better than KG was during his second season at the NBA level, and it's not really even that close.
Going into Thanksgiving, Davis is averaging 19.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 3.8 blocks per game. Any guesses how many players have matched or exceeded those marks over the course of a full season?
Only Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. Pretty nice company there.
Carmelo Anthony's Quick Jumpers
Carmelo Anthony hasn't shot the ball particularly well in 2013-14, but that's largely the fault of his team.
The New York Knicks forward is actually trying to play unselfish basketball, but his teammates are A) missing shots whenever he passes it to them and B) dishing it right back to him at the end of the shot clock, which forces him into unwanted hero-ball situations.
But even when he's struggling to find the bottom of the net, that pull-up jumper—both off the dribble and after a spin—is a thing of beauty. Few players have ever been quicker to get to the release.
This may not happen on the court, but let's all stop and be thankful that the NBA does such a great job promoting community service.
It's about more than the commercials.
Players actually get out and do work on a regular basis for charities and those who are less privileged. It's a nice touch and humanizes these superhuman figures, but it also allows them to do good. It's amazing how many players have set up foundations and charities of their own.
Few athletic leagues do a better job helping out the communities that support their teams.
The Magic That Is Kevin Durant's Scoring Touch
Kevin Durant sometimes makes shots that the rest of us can only dream of successfully converting during a game of H-O-R-S-E.
Need someone to do an imitation of Julius Erving, except from the other side of the court? No problem. Just another day in the life of the league's best scorer.
How do you not appreciate the sheer brilliance of Durant's scoring ability? Putting points up is the most glamorous of all skills in the NBA, and no one is better at doing exactly that.
Gerald Green's Portable Trampoline
Gerald Green cannot possibly have normal human legs.
Maybe he was blessed with twice as many fast-twitch muscles. Maybe he replaced them with springs while he was still in middle school. Maybe he carries around an invisible, portable trampoline that he uses to rise up until his eyes are even with the rim.
Whatever the method, we're thankful for the highlights he provides.
The Joy of Watching a Team Do Everything Right
Every once in a while, an NBA team does everything right. It's been the Portland Trail Blazers this year, a deserving candidate after the injury-related woes they've experienced over the last decade.
Portland entered the offseason needing a defensive big and more depth. Both boxes were successfully checked off, then the Blazers starting using a new defensive scheme that emphasized shutting down the perimeter, and it was perfectly tailored to their personnel.
The result has been one of the most surprising records in the NBA, as Rip City is hanging tough with the San Antonio Spurs near the top of the Western Conference. Hate 'em or love 'em, you have to respect 'em.
Saying No to Father Time
This can apply to either Tim Duncan or the San Antonio Spurs as a whole.
Although "The Big Fundamental" is experiencing a bit of a down season, he's still putting up decent numbers for a 37-year-old big man while slowly rounding into form. And it's not like it's leading to losses for the Spurs, who continue to prove that writing them off is a fatal mistake.
At some point, we just have to sit down and think to ourselves how lucky we are that these guys are consistently able to stave off Father Time.
For any 40-year-olds out there, you no longer have any excuses when you're invited to a pickup basketball game. Get out there!
We don't have anything that looks like Dennis Rodman's hair going on in the NBA right now, but that doesn't mean we're lacking "awesome" hairstyles.
Chris Andersen's mohawk has us covered in that department. So too does Joakim Noah's ponytail, Norris Cole's flattop (RIP Iman Shumpert's), Nick "Swaggy P" Young's makeshift mohawk, Kenneth Faried's dreads, Dennis Schroder's colored spot, Andrew Varejao's Sideshow Bob look, Mirza Teletovic's businessman approach and...well, you get the point.
We aren't having any trouble in the hair department, and—unless you're LeBron James—you've gotta be thankful for that.
Who doesn't love dunks?
Personally, I have to thank the NBA's athletic specimens for throwing down because I can't do it myself. Hey, at least I can touch the rim!
But regardless of whether or not you can get up, there's no bigger spectacle of athleticism and power than an NBA player rising up and slamming the ball through the rim, especially when there's another guy in the way.
And in Victor Oladipo's case up above, there were two.
The Indiana Pacers Defense
But let's not just forget about defense. Even though it's not as glamorous, it's half the battle.
And this season, it's impossible not to appreciate what the Indiana Pacers are doing on that end of the court. Going into their last contest before Thanksgiving—one in which they held the overmatched and outclassed Charlotte Bobcats to 74 points—the Pacers boasted a defensive rating of 93.5, according to Basketball-Reference.
To put that in perspective, Indiana is one of three teams below 100 points allowed per 100 possessions, joining the Chicago Bulls (99.7) and San Antonio Spurs (94.7).
Chris Bosh's Photobombing Skills
No one does it better than Chris Bosh.
Even if you root against the Miami Heat and their quest for a three-peat, you have to at least chuckle when Bosh does his thing. He might not be as dominant as he was back with the Toronto Raptors, but he's an MVP in photobomb (and videobomb) land.
Isn't that worth something?
NBA.com's SportVU Data
How else would we have learned cool stuff like the fact that Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward are in a head-to-head battle to run more than any other player in the Association? Or that John Wall touches the ball more than the rest of the NBA's point guards?
The data is new and quite advanced. You can pull both silly stats and meaningful conclusions out of it, and that's enough to earn my thanks.
A Stacked 2014 Draft Class
Even if you're supporting one of the worst teams in the NBA, you have a lot to look forward to. It actually pays to be bad this season.
The 2014 draft class is shaping up to be one of the most stacked collections of players ever.
It goes beyond the trio at the top—Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. There are potential stars expected to go in the late teens, and every first-round pick has quite a bit of value.
One of the best parts of the NBA season is that we have games on every single night (except for Thanksgiving, of course).
Whether it's a full slate of a dozen or more contests or just a single game set to fill the evening with two to three hours of joyous time in front of the television, there's always basketball. That's the benefit of the 82-game season, even if it can occasionally feel like it drags on for a long time.
In my book, some basketball is better than no basketball.
The Phoenix Suns' Purple Jerseys
Apparently these are controversial jerseys, because it's tough to find anything but extreme opinions on them.
I absolutely love everything about them (hence their inclusion here). Between the color scheme (especially the purple base) and the stripes that represent the members of the Phoenix Suns' ring of honor, they're just...awesome.
But then we have Bleacher Report's Ben Leibowitz, who takes the opposite point of view. In my extensive conversations about the jerseys with him, I've come to realize that our resident Suns supporter absolutely hates them, largely because of the stripes. That said, he's now being less of a scrooge around the holidays and claims that he's now "just super neutral toward them."
So, where do you fall on the spectrum?
Let's just let the picture speak for itself, as this is no-shave November taken to an extreme.
Rajon Rondo's Fake Behind-the-Back Passes
Not many moves are prettier than this behind-the-back fake Rajon Rondo pulls off on a fairly regular basis (when he's healthy and on the court for the Boston Celtics).
Thanks to his massive hands and creative methods of generating scoring chances for himself and his teammates, Rondo is able to fool defenses into thinking he's made a flashy pass. In reality, he's still in possession of the ball with nothing between him and the basket.
It's a beautiful move, one that should spawn plenty of imitators over the years.
NBA Videos Are Actually on YouTube
It's easy to take for granted the ability to get on YouTube and find just about any famous basketball play your heart desires.
But try to do the same with an MLB video. Or how about NFL plays?
The rights to those videos are restricted, and it makes it much tougher to find what you're looking for. Just think about that the next time you look up a big highlight like Tiago Splitter's embarrassing moment against LeBron James.
The Salary Cap
Even after his Twitter and press conference rants about the evil owners making it appear as though he was selfish for taking a lot of money and refusing to acknowledge the presence of the salary cap, it's a good thing we have one.
Would you want to see the major markets steal all of the quality players by overpaying each of them? No thanks. Parity and unpredictability are more fun.
Speaking of the Salary Cap...Larry Coon
Want to know what happens to Jimmer Fredette now that the Sacramento Kings have decided not to pick up his contract option?
All you have to do is check out Larry Coon's CBA FAQ, the definitive source for anything and everything that revolves around the collective bargaining agreement. It's an invaluable resource, and it can help you answer far more complicated questions than the one that let me include a picture of Jimmer.
You may just find yourself tweeting some thanks in Coon's general direction.
You should be particularly thankful if you're a fan of the Denver Nuggets or Phoenix Suns.
But even if you aren't part of the lucky few, you still get to witness mascots. And they're—as Barney Stinson would say—legendary. Some are better than others, truly hyping the crowd up and making no-look shots from halfcourt.
And even so, they're all entertaining.
Just like Craig Sager's suits, the flashy postgame outfits that superstars wear to press conferences are...interesting.
But if you're in the right state of mind, you can appreciate them, all the while knowing that you'd never dare to wear something with pictorial fish hooks on it in a million years. That's what Russell Westbrook is there for.
And Paul George. And Dwyane Wade. And LeBron James. And Nick Young. And what seems like everyone else.
Knowing You're Better at Free Throws Than Andre Drummond
If watching that video isn't enough, how about the fact that you have to sit next to a trash can before you look at Andre Drummond's free-throw percentage?
After going 0-of-2 from the charity stripe against the Chicago Bulls (different game), Drummond is now shooting 22.5 percent on the season. He's still been good enough that he's worked his way into the top-five centers in my reactive rankings of the NBA's best players, but that's just awful.
It's not often that you get to be better at a skill than a legitimate NBA starter. Be thankful.
Getting to Watch Veterans Before They Retire
Enjoy the swan songs that you're witnessing from some of the NBA's most prominent players.
Maybe Paul Pierce has a season or two left in the tank, but it's becoming abundantly clear that Kevin Garnett is done. So is Steve Nash.
Take the time to witness them at least a few more times during the 2013-14 season. After all, you can't watch them once they retire.
Young Studs Getting Opportunities
On the flip side, it's a thrill to watch young players blossom when they're given more responsibility and playing time.
Take Eric Bledsoe, for example.
After impressing crowds while backing up Chris Paul for the Los Angeles Clippers, the dynamic floor general has taken control of the Phoenix Suns (when healthy) and started to assert himself as one of the better point guards in basketball. And he's not the only young player starting to make a name for himself.
Get on the bandwagon before it takes off.
Watching History Unfold
Every time you turn on an NBA game, it's possible that you could be watching something historic.
Maybe it's Chris Paul posting so many double-doubles that he passes Magic Johnson in the record books. Maybe it's Michael Carter-Williams with arguably the greatest debut of all time. Maybe it's LeBron James shooting over 60 percent while averaging well more than 20 points per game.
Regardless, there's always a chance for history to be made when the NBA is in action. In fact, every game alters history in some way, shape or form.
Anything Is Possible
This goes hand in hand with the previous thing to be thankful for, but let's give Kevin Garnett his time in the spotlight after calling him washed up a little bit earlier.
In the NBA, anything really is possible.
You never know when you're going to see Timofey Mozgov explode for over 20 points. There's always a chance that one of the worst teams upsets a title contender. You might watch an unheralded bench player throw down the dunk of the season.
This is basketball.
Anything is possible, and that's what we should be most thankful for.