Did That Just Happen? 20 Moments That Shocked the NBA World
The NBA has been a storied league since it's creation nearly 60 years ago. We have been subjected to some of the most athletic and entertaining performance's by the world's greatest athletes. Their play on the court dazzels us, inspires, and gives us something to believe it when we see the show's they put on a nightly basis.
While their on the court performances are always highlight material, it's their off the court performance's that grab our attention as well. The NBA is well known for it's humanitarian work, but a number of players and their extracurricular activities that baffle us and turn the NBA world on it's side.
Most of these activities that happen outside of the hardwood aren't too worth noting, but there are other events that occur every few years that rile up the community and shock the world.
Some of the events are felonies, others are misdemeanors, and others are petty differences, but they all affect us in some negative light and give us a different view of how we should see the people we call heroes and idols.
In no specific order, here are the twenty moments that shocked the NBA world.
Alonzo Mourning's Kidney Trouble
Taken by the Charlotte Hornets with the second pick in the 1992 draft, Alonzo Mourning was ready to establish himself as one of the more threatening post players in the league. Zo made an impressive first-year impact with the Hornets by averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks per game.
His first three seasons with Charlotte were nothing short of amazing, but it was his time with Miami where we saw the true tenacity and ambition that Zo possessed. The duo he formed with himself and Tim Hardaway made the Miami Heat into a postseason threat year after year and established the storied rivalry with the New York Knicks in the process.
Following winning his first Olympic gold medal in 2000, Alonzo Mourning was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare life-threatening kidney disease that forced Zo to miss the first five months of the season after needing a transplant.
Without the transplant, Mourning would likely not be walking on the Earth today. It wasn't until December 19, 2003 that Alonzo would receive the left kidney of his cousin Jason Cooper that would save his life.
Since then, Zo continued to play basketball and would win the championship in 2006 that had eluded him for so long. More importantly is that Mourning is healthy now and has established many charities and foundations to fund and research the disease that nearly ended his life almost a decade ago.
Latrell Sprewell vs. P.J. Carlesimo
Before Latrell Sprewell was an NBA player that can barely feed his family on $10 million per year with a bad attitude on the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves, Sprewell was an NBA player that had a bad attitude and didn't exactly know how to control his aggression and emotions.
Sprewell had quickly established himself as a scorer and dangerous shooter with the Golden State Warriors. He had already made three all-star games and was set to become one of the elite players in the league, until one fateful December 1st day where he just couldn't take any criticism any more from coach P.J. Carlesimo.
During a practice, Carlesimo criticized Sprewell telling him to make crisper passes, Latrell didn't take too kindly to the accusations and threatened the coach by telling him that he didn't want to hear it and that he better keep his distance.
When P.J. disobeyed Spree's orders by approaching him, he threw him down and began to choke the coach for 10 seconds before a teammate managed to disband the two. It was only the first round though as Sprewell came back 20 minutes later and punched Carlesimo on the face.
Latrell would be let go by the Warriors soon after and despite having a good career with the Knicks and T'Wolves, he will be most remembered for this event.
The 2004 US Olympic Team Wins ... Bronze?
This was not the 1992 Dream Team. This was not the 1996 Dream Team II. This wasn't the Redeem Team from 2008 either. No, this was an epic fail of USA basketball and it was the first time in Olympic history where the United States basketball team, to put it lightly, sucked.
With elite players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Tracy McGrady declining the invites to join the 2004 USA team, the organizers had to reach when choosing the players to compete on the squad.
With three rookies in Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James joining veteran's in Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom, Tim Duncan, and Allen Iverson, expectations were still high that U.S.A. would still come away with another gold medal.
When they lost 92-73 in the first game against Puerto Rico, it was the most lopsided loss in U.S.A. basketball history. They would finish 2-2 in pool play and come away with a fourth seed. They were lucky enough to beat top ranked Spain in the quarterfinals before losing to Argentina by eight in the semi-finals.
They managed to beat Lithuania in the third place game to win Bronze, their first in Olympic history.
Luckily for us, no big names declined in 2008 and the Americans would redeem themselves with a gold medal.
Marv Albert Has a Dark, Lacy Side
Marv Albert could be considered the Howard Cosell of our time. He has one of the most memorable voices and play-calls of our time and has established himself as a household name when it comes to announcing sporting events.
Albert had been the New York Knicks commentator for 37 years, as well as an announcer with NBC. Albert was becoming one of the best announcers in the world and still was even after his charges in 1997 that were, well a little revealing of his personal life that we knew nothing about.
A woman that had claimed to have had a 10-year relationship with Albert stated that the famed announcer had thrown her on a hotel bed, which was then followed with sodomy, biting the woman 15 times, and forcing her to do many lewd acts. DNA tests would prove that the bite marks were in fact his and he would plead guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery charges.
It was also reported that Albert would dress in women's lingerie as one of his thrill's.
My apologies for the images I have given you.
Tim Hardaway Doesn't Like Gay People
Tim Hardaway is and should be recognized as one of the top point guard's in NBA history. His dynamic plays and cross-over ability made him one of the most recognizable players in the league. Not only that, but he was known for his mouth as well, becoming one of the league's known trash-talkers.
When he went on a local radio show in Miami on February 14, 2007, nobody knew his mouth would get him into this much trouble.
With the first openly gay basketball player John Amaechi coming out, Hardaway was asked about the possibility of playing with a homosexual basketball player. Tim came out with this gem:
"Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."
Ice cold if I say so myself. The NBA would respond by taking him out of the upcoming All-star weekend and the CBA distancing themselves from him by dismissing Hardaway as Chief Basketball Operations Advisor.
He would go onto rescind what he said about the gay community, but what was already said cannot be undone.
Len Bias and the Death of a Dream
Out of the University of Maryland, Len Bias was considered to be the next best thing to enter the NBA. He would be named an All-American in his time at the college level due to his athletic ability, physical stature, and ability to create plays as well.
He was already facing Michael Jordan comparisons even though he was only entering his second year in the league. The Boston Celtics thought they were set for the future after taking the phenom with the second pick.
After flying to Washington D.C. for an endorsement ceremony that was set to give him $3 million with Reebok, Bias decided to have a night on the town by returning to his alma matter of Maryland. After a night with friends, it was reported that Bias took a dose of cocaine at 3am in his dorm.
At 3:30am, he went into convulsions and fell asleep. He would never wake up as he died in his sleep as a result of cardiac arrhythmia from the large dose of cocaine that he had taken only a few hours before.
Bias's death would spark outcry from all aspects of the sporting world and the government where they would take a strong approach between players and the use of cocaine as a recreational drug.
Paul Pierce Uses All Nine Lives (and Then Some)
The Boston Celtics should be very thankful for their NBA championship because the finals MVP in Paul Pierce shouldn't have even been alive to win it for them.
Pierce was only two years into his career before the incident, but was turning into a future all-star with an 18 point average in his first two seasons in the league, while proving to be the future of the Celtics franchise which had seen better days.
While out in Boston at the Buzz Club in the theatre district of the city on the night of September 25, 2000, Pierce was attacked and stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back while having a bottle broken over his head and left for dead. It was reported that Paul was attempting to break up a fight before one of the fighter's turned on him.
If not for Tony Battie and Pierce's brother there at the time to rush him to a hospital, Paul would not have been alive to reach all the milestone's he has broken and made to this day.
Pierce underwent lung surgery to repair the damage suffered from the multiple stab wounds. He is lucky to have his life and the NBA is lucky to have him today to make the Boston Celtics into the franchise they are today.
Jayson Williams' Murder Trial
Jayson Williams was taken with the 21st pick in the 1990 draft by the Phoenix Suns before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers shortly after. He would spend two lackluster seasons with the Sixers before being shipped off to the New Jersey Nets.
In his seven seasons with the Nets, he would average double digits in two seasons which came late in his career when he averaged a high of 13 points in only 40 games. He would earn his first and only All-Star appearance the next season when he averaged 13 points and 14 rebounds.
He would play one more season before retiring due to injuries after a short nine year career.
It wasn't until the spring of 2002 that he would finally make news headlines. While giving a tour of his mansion to his NBA charity basketball team, Williams decided to show off a shotgun. Jayson belligerently played with the gun until it went off killing limo driver Costas Christofi.
Williams was acquitted of the serious charges against him, but was still forced to play the family of Christofi $2.75 million in damages. On April 21, 2006, the trial was brought back up as Williams was once again tried on a reckless manslaughter charge.
It was on January 11, 2010 that Williams plead guilty to aggravated assault and a month later would be sentenced to five years in prison.
Gilbert Arenas and His Six-Shooters
The NBA is considered a business and commissioner David Stern has done everything in his power to try and make the league seem like a business. Gilbert Arenas had other ideas of what he thinks of the NBA as a business.
On December 24, 2009, all-star Gilbert Arenas revealed that he had been storing unloaded firearm's in his locker at the Verizon Center and had given them up to team security. If this wasn't bad enough because it violated NBA rules, but city law's as well, Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton got into an altercation over a gambling debt when firearm's were brought up.
Even though the firearm's were reported to be unloaded, Arenas broke the rules and violated the safety of everybody in the arena and in the locker room at the time and was suspended for the rest of the season by Stern on January 6.
Gilbert would be charged with his crimes and sent to two years probation and 30 days in a halfway house.
It's a sad fate for Gilbert who was voted as one of the most disliked players in the league despite his humanitarian work and mentoring a 10-year old who had lost his family. He will now be remembered more for his gun charges, rather than being one of the clutch shooters and offensive threats in the league today.
LeBron James Leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers
For years, teams were tanking games and saving money for the chance to secure LeBron James when the summer of 2010 rolled around and the phenom would become a free agent. The city of Cleveland didn't want to believe that James could possibly leave them, but after another disappointing postseason, it started to become a reality.
The Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Clippers all became potential suitors, while the Cavs attempted everything in their power to keep LeBron in Cleveland.
When James announced his decision on 'The Decision', the city of Miami was up in arms for the arrival of the two-time MVP who join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat. The city of Cleveland didn't take it well and now LeBron can't enter the state of Ohio without a brigade of security around him at all times.
Cavalier fans reacted by burning his jersey, destroying his memorabilia, and throwing objects at his likeness on a gigantic billboard in Cleveland. General Manager Dan Gilbert reacted much like everyone else in the city by writing an angry letter denouncing James and promising the city that they will a championship before the "self-anointed king.'
LeBron will return to the Quicken Loans Arena for the first time on December 2nd.
Tim Donaghy Gives the NBA a Bad Name.
Tim Donaghy was known as a respected official in the NBA after 13 years of officiating professional basketball games. He had officiated 772 NBA games and 20 postseason games and is most recognized as one of the officials that took part in the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons brawl and Rasheed Wallace's mortal enemy.
On June 20, 2007, the NBA's name would be tarnished after reports started to come in that Tim Donaghy had been placing bet's worth ten's of thousand's of dollars on a number of games in the 2005-'06 season and the 2006-'07 season as well.
Stephen A. Smith had reported that Donaghy was in substantial debt and looked at the NBA as a means of getting out of debt by betting on NBA games that he would sometimes officiate.
A gambling expert would do extensive research on games Donaghy officiated and found a number of significant oddities, including teams scoring more points than Las Vegas expected 57% of the time and ten consecutive games that Donaghy officiated where the point spread would move before the tip due to large amount's of money being wagered on the game.
Donaghy would out other referee's claiming that they were in on it as well, including Bennet Salvatore who was one of the most respected in the game.
Tim's allegations, whether they were true or false, are still held in a negative light and making the NBA into a conspiracy theory with the thought of referee's tampering with every game where there is a bad call or two.
Speaking of bad calls....
The 2002 Western Conference Finals
The 2002 Western Conference Final's was an affair to remember. Not just for the impressive play from both teams in the seven game series, but for the possible tampering in a decisive game six that would be the jump-off point for NBA conspiracy theorists everywhere.
A number of questionable calls occurred in the WCF and it included Mike Bibby being elbowed to the floor without a call, touch fouls that weren't called before somehow being noticed now, and the fact that the Lakers took 18 more free throws than the Kings did in the fourth quarter.
Critics of the officiating in the game became even more skeptical when they found out the infamous Tim Donaghy and a number of other officials had set up the series to go to seven games and for the Los Angeles Lakers to win the series.
The Lakers attempted 40 free throws overall with a ridiculous 27 being taken in the fourth quarter. Nearly every big man on the Kings was in foul trouble with Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Scott Pollard, and Lawrence Funderburke combining for 20 fouls and Divac and Pollard fouling out.
Los Angeles would go on to win the game and the series after the Kings lost it themselves in game seven by shooting 50% from the foul line and 10% from beyond the arc.
Whether the series was truly fixed is unknown, but without a doubt, this series goes down as one of the most memorable for more reasons than one.
Isiah Thomas Kills the New York Knicks Franchise
Isiah Thomas was an amazing basketball player. No one is disputing the fact that Isiah should be recognized as one of the best point guard's to ever step onto the hardwood as he led his Detroit Pistons squad to back-to-back championships in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
As a leader in the head office, now that's a different story.
Thomas was hired to be the New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations on December 22, 2003 and from there, the Knicks franchise would be known as a joke for the next seven years.
Isiah would Jerome James and Jarred Jeffries to drastically inflated contracts, trade away Steve Francis and Channing Frye for Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau, and Fred Jones, and supposedly instigate the brawl between his Knicks and the Denver Nuggets by telling his team to foul hard when the opposition was in the paint.
His most notable move would be the Eddy Curry deal which the Knicks have had to live with for years now. Isiah traded away several important future draft picks to the Chicago Bulls in return for Curry. Eddy had one good season with the Knicks in the 2006-'07 season, but has played a combined ten games in the past two seasons.
Thomas' promises of a championship legacy with the Knicks had never happened as he was finally relieved of his duties on April 2, 2008. The nightmare was finally over Knicks fans as they had Mike D'Antoni take over head coaching duties.
It's too bad GM Donnie Walsh wants Isiah back in the head office for some strange, asinine reasons.
Dennis Rodman's Career
Dennis Rodman has had a storied career as an NBA player with the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks. He has established himself as arguably the greatest rebounder in NBA history at only 6'6" and has five NBA championship's to show for it.
While Rodman's on the court performance captivate us, it's his off the court, and sometimes on the court, activities that made NBA fans love Rodman. Dennis became known for coloring his hair a different color every game, giving his jersey to a fan after every game, and giving 110% every time he stepped on the court.
When he wasn't impressing the NBA with his incredible rebounding and defensive abilities, he was in the tabloids. He would have note-worthy relationships with Madonna and Carmen Electra, where the two of them would be arrested for assault charges against each other.
Rodman would also show up to an autograph signing in a wedding dress and make-up, fight in the WCW, and get into an argument and near fight with nearly every opposing player he went up against.
His most memorable altercation would be as a member of the Bulls when he tripped over cameraman Eugene Amos and reacted by kicking Amos in the groin. For some reason, Amos would need a stretcher and would be given $200,000 by Rodman for essentially getting kicked in the leg.
Many people remember Rodman for his dazzling hardwood performances, but it was all of his off the court and extracurricular activities that most people will always remember Dennis Rodman for.
Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O'Neal
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal have a lot to their name. Three championships and being recognized as one of the greatest duo's in NBA history have made the two teammates into legend's of the hardwood. Shaq and Kobe each have their own legacy to their names with nine combined championships between the two.
It all came apart in the summer of 2004 when Shaquille O'Neal received the traded that he had demanded years for. Even as teammates, the two sent vocal jabs to each other with Shaq calling Bryant selfish at times and Kobe criticizing O'Neal's maturity and his numerous comments against Kobe and the Lakers team as a whole.
With O'Neal on the Miami Heat and Bryant remaining a Laker, their Christmas Day match-up was the highest rated NBA game in ten years. Everybody tuned in to ABC that day to see how the two would react to each other and if they would greet each other before tip-off.
They did not and the feud lived on.
Shaq would continue to call Kobe 'the other guy' in interviews, while Bryant idly sat by and had no public comments towards Shaq in a positive or negative light.
During the 2006 season, the two would begin to reconcile with Shaq praising Kobe's 81 point performance and the both of them being seen talking to each other during the All-Star weekend. It wasn't until the 2009 NBA All-star game that Kobe and Shaq would play together for the first time since their Laker days.
They would go on to win co-MVP's of the All-star game MVP. Overall, Shaq would go onto win the battle winning 6 of the 10 games between the two, but Kobe would win the war winning two championship's to Shaq's one.
The 1998-1999 NBA Season
The 1998-'99 NBA season was set to become the 53rd year of professional basketball. It didn't start until February 5, 1999, nearly five months after the usual regular start of the season.
Due to a dispute between the players and owners, the season was delayed for months and it appeared that the NBA would go through it's first year without basketball in over five decades.
It wouldn't be until a six-year collective bargaining agreement was reached between the league and the players that the season can get back on track and even then the 1998-'99 season was one of the strangest. The season was shortened to only 50 games.
The Los Angeles Clippers tied the record for most losses to start a season with 17 and finishing with a league worst 9-41 record. The New York Knicks became the second eighth seed to defeat a number one seed when they knocked off the Miami Heat in five games. The Knicks were considered an eighth seed despite being only six games behind the Heat in their division.
The Knicks would also become the only eighth seed to make the NBA finals when they met the San Antonio Spurs in the championship and eventually lose in five games. The Spurs set a milestone of their own when they became the first former ABA team to win a championship.
Even though the season was shortened, the 1998-'99 featured some of the most memorable moments in NBA history.
The Malice at the Palace
The Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers have always been rivals. Not just because they're in the same division, but also for the fact that they are both extremely physical teams with large defensive mindset's. The tensions boiled over on one fateful November 19, 2004 night when the two team's met at the Palace in Auburn Hills.
With the game already well decided and the Pacers up 97-82 with 45 seconds remaining, Ben Wallace and Ron Artest got into a shoving match after a hard foul by Artest. Players from both team's began to argue while Artest layed sprawled out on the announcer's table attempting to stay out of the argument and calm his emotion's.
The brawl wouldn't have escalated if not for one asinine Pistons fan that decided throwing a beverage at Artest would be a good idea. It wasn't. Ron responded by running into the stands and going after the wrong fan and punching him in the face. Pistons fans intervened while Stephen Jackson escalated the violence even more by helping Artest fight the small amount of Detroit fans left.
Pistons players eventually intervened by separating the fans and players, until two Pistons fans decided to try and fight Artest and 6'11" Jermaine O'Neal on the court. They were disposed of and the Pacers were eventually led off the court by a chorus of boo's and food thrown at them.
Artest received the worst of the suspensions at 86 games, Jackson received 30, O'Neal was given 15, Ben Wallace was handed out six games, Anthony Johnson was given five, and Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Coleman, and Elden Campbell were each given one.
A number of rules were put in place disallowing players from the bench to intervene in fight's on the court or for players to go into the stands.
Artest received the longest suspension in NBA history. As a member of the Sacramento Kings, Artest would go into the bleachers one more time, but for reasons not having to do with a fight.
Michael Jordan Retires
Michael Jordan was a pretty good player.
Prior to the 1994 season, Jordan already had three consecutive championships under his belt, two slam dunk championships, three finals MVP awards, nine all-star appearances to go with one all-star game MVP, a defensive player of the year award, three MVP's ,and a number of All-NBA first team appearances.
Jordan was living the dream as the best player in the NBA and challenging Wilt Chamberlain as the greatest player to ever live, until he decided to do the unthinkable and retire on October 6, 1993. He had claimed to lose a desire to play the game and that the murder of his father was a driving force in his decision.
Michael did the unthinkable again by signing with a Minor League baseball team. In his brief career with the Birmingham Barons, MJ had a .202 batting average with three home runs, 51 RBI's, 30 Stolen Bases, and 11 errors.
Needless to say the NBA suffered. Their ratings significantly dropped as the Chicago Bulls couldn't make the NBA finals without Jordan, as Houston would take advantage of Jordan's absence by winning back-to-back championships in his time away.
When the team was 31-31 in the 1994-'94 season, Jordan decided that he had enough of staying away from basketball and came back to the Bulls in triumphant fashion by leading the team to the Eastern Conference semi-final's before losing in six games.
The rest...well, we know what happens next.
Kobe Bryant is Accused of Rape
By 2003, Kobe Bryant had already established himself as an elite NBA player. He had three championships to his name and a number of all-star appearances, while being recognized as one of the heroes of Los Angeles. The city of L.A. and the NBA loved Kobe and Kobe loved them right back.
Until one night in the summer of 2003 when Bryant went to The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera Hotel in Eagle, Colorado to help Kobe's knee prior to an upcoming surgery. It wouldn't be released until a few weeks later, but in the process of trying to repair his knee, Bryant was accused of committing the felony of rape against a hotel worker.
19-year old hotel employee Katelyn Faber had stated that Kobe allegedly raped her in his hotel room the night before the procedure and was pressing charges against the All-Star. Bryant would admit to having engaging in sexual relations with the employee during his first public interview with his wife by his side, but claimed that it was consensual.
The trial would last a year before the charges were dropped after Faber refused to testify, but the damage was done and Kobe's image had been tarnished forever. His image in the public eye had drastically changed as Bryant became public enemy number one to anyone who heard about the case at hand.
Bryant was mercilessly targeted in Denver when he had games against the Nuggets and would be taunted with boo's and chants of 'rapist' whenever he touched the ball. He would also lose major endorsement deals with McDonalds and Nutela in the process.
Magic Johnson Retires
Magic Johnson has been recognized as arguably the greatest point guard to ever play the game. His height and unbelievable court recognition coupled with his desire to win elevated him to become one of the top five players in NBA history and make the Los Angeles Lakers a storied franchise in the 1980's.
When he was set to enter his 12th season in the league, it was announced during a physical that Magic was HIV positive. In a tearful conference on November 7, 1991, Magic made a public statement revealing to everyone that he was stricken with AIDS and was retiring.
One of the more memorable moments of Magic's career came in the 1992 All-Star game. Even though he was retired, Johnson was voted by the fans to play and would go onto win MVP honor's after looking like the Magic of old with a 25 point, nine assist, and five rebound performance.
The All-Star game performance would allow him to play in the 1992 Olympic games as well where he would join the Dream Team en route to a gold medal.
Because of his debilitating disease, Johnson has raised AIDS into the light of being a serious disease that could be caught by anyone if irresponsible. Magic is still living a normal life even with AIDS and is an announcer on ESPN, while funding research for a cure for the condition that has failed to cripple him for nearly 20 years.