Chronicles of the 2016 NBA Season


Lebron James lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy as he and the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate, shortly after winning the 2016 NBA Finals against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

The NBA has been the epicenter of global basketball for about 74 years. Each of those 74 seasons has had its share of memorable and heartbreaking moments that shaped the league and what it stands for. However, there was no season more outstanding, more captivating, or more memorable than the 2015-16 season. Mainly because the Warriors and Steph Curry shaped a new era of basketball, Lebron James fulfilled his promise in his unique path to redemption, and the NBA had many of its best players call it a career.

Few teams have managed to revolutionize the game the way Golden State Warriors managed to do in 2016. The team was led by Steph Curry, who averaged 30 points per game, 2.1 steals per game, and won the league MVP.  Curry’s primary “weapon” of choice was launching the ball beyond the ark- what had been considered a scoring option in years past. The league believed that shortening the midrange (shots from inside the three-point line) layup and dunks were the most reliable scoring methods. Players such as Shaquille Oneal managed to dominate the league for years because of this playing style.

However, with his distinctive launch, Curry led his team to the first seed in the western conference with the best regular-season record in NBA history. They managed to surpass the 1996 Chicago Bulls led by Micheal Jordan, with an overall 73 wins and nine losses. It was evident that the new era of the small ball (prioritizing guards who can shoot instead of dominating centers and forwards in the starting lineup) the Warriors utilized throughout the entire season could guarantee wins and efficiency. Some believe that Micheal Jordan’s Bulls had a better season given that they ended up winning a championship, and their 72-10 record stood for nearly 20 years untouched. Given this, the Warriors season is technically (according to statistical analysis) the best record in the books. Golden State’s record will likely stand for much longer, along with its new style of play.

When Lebron James left for the Miami Heat in 2010 to pursue a championship, many criticized him for not being “loyal” and not having enough leadership skills to bring a ring to his hometown. After winning two championships in Miami, he came home with the sole purpose of fulfilling his promise to the city of Cleveland. Given that the Cavs now had All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, James saw a team work and win a championship with. At the beginning of the 2016 season, Lebron had just come off a loss in the finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and was now determined to dethrone the Warriors and reinstate his title as “King James.” Lebron and the  Cavs managed to have the best record in the East, and James led them through their playoff run in style, as they lost only two games before their reappearance in the NBA finals. Everything seemed to be going Lebron’s way. However, things took a turn for the worst as GSW was 3 to 1 in the NBA finals. This meant that after game four, the Warriors only had to win one game, and they would be crowned back-to-back champions. However, in their time of need, Lebron managed to rally his team back into shape. Because of his leadership and scoring, he managed to do the impossible and win three straight games to come back and win the Finals, fulfilling his promise. James’ path to glory could be mirrored again by Michaell Jordan and his comeback from his anticlimactic baseball career. After he lost in the first round of the 1995 playoffs to the Orlando Magic in a devastating loss, Jordan then came back, dominated the league, and won a ring the following season. Although Jordan did manage to bring a ring home, there was not nearly as much pressure on his shoulders as there was on James, given how the hometown hero promised to bring glory back to his city when he first came into the league. James and Jordan both cruised through the playoffs in their respective seasons. However, James managed to lead a comeback of 3-1 down in the Finals. I believe it’s because of that specific feat that the 2016 season will be a cornerstone of this legend´s success, in which he will be remembered with higher esteem than Jordan’s comeback.

Finally, the 2016 season saw the retirement of some of the game’s greatest players of all time. The first retiree is ultimately the best player in Timberwolves history and a 2008 NBA champion, Kevin Garnett. Then left five-time NBA champion, two-time regular season MVP, and a 15-time All-Star, Tim Duncan. Finally, the Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant, called it a career. He was a five-time NBA Champion, two-time finals MVP, 18-time All-Star, and the 2008 NBA MVP. This decorated class was the inspiration that attracted many young basketball lovers to the NBA, such as myself. Growing up seeing the playing styles of Kobe, KG and TD shaped many of the NBA’s modern players that looked up to them, similarly to how young players looked up to Shaq, Micheal Jordan, and Allan Inversion in the 1990s. There has truly never been such a class that has left the NBA simultaneously, given how different ages, career paths, and injuries shape stars’ decisions to retire at certain times. A class similar to the one from 2016 is the 2013 retirement class which included ten-time All-Star, five-time Assist Champion, six-times All-NBA, and 1995 Rookie of the Year, Jason Kidd. Plus two-time scoring champion, seven-time All-Star, seven-time All NBA, and 2002 Most Improved Player, Tracy McGrady. Although this class was one for the books, looking back now at Kobe’s death and the absence of dominant big men in the NBA such as TD and KG, NBA fans all around the world can now truly understand that the 2016 season was the final year all of their talents were in display, making that season all the while more memorable and meaningful to the basketball world today.

The 2015-16 NBA season was the embodiment of the excitement, thrill, and great basketball that the NBA offers. For anyone who wishes to get into or understand the sport, that season is a great starting point, and it is the key to comprehending the modern era of basketball we currently see today.