The NBA also happens to be one of the few sports where the offseason is just as exciting thanks to player movement and the soap-opera-esque storylines that can emerge. This can make it easy for fans to quickly move on from the previous season.
However, each season deserves recognition, and last year was no exception. From historic accomplishments to jaw-dropping plays, there were a number of unforgettable moments worth discussing from the 2022-23 season.
5. De’Aaron Fox Hits Unreal Buzzer Beater
Last season saw the revival of the Sacramento Kings. Finishing as the third seed in the Western Conference, they clinched their first postseason berth in 16 seasons. Leading this resurgence was De’Aaron Fox, who averaged 25 points per game on a career-best 51.2% from the field.
What really stood out about Fox’s season was his play during clutch situations. He consistently showed up late, averaging 8.3 points in the fourth quarter – the second-best mark in the league behind only Kyrie Irving (9.8). Ending the season, he led the league in clutch points (194) and was recognized as the NBA’s first-ever Clutch Player of the Year.
Fox had some incredible moments en route to winning the inaugural award. In November of last year, the Kings were involved in a tight contest with the Orlando Magic. Tied at 123-123 in overtime, Fox brought the ball up the court and drained a three-pointer from nearly half-court with no time left on the clock to stun the hometown fans in Orlando.
Fox and the Kings certainly made their mark on the league and will look to carry that momentum into the 2023-24 season.
4. Steph Curry Shows Off Against Former Finals Foe
Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry is familiar with long-distance threes. The NBA’s all-time leader in three-point field goals utilizes his deep range often, making him dangerous at the end of quarters.
Curry notoriously takes shots from near half-court and beyond when quarters are coming to a close, and he doesn’t shy away from showing his excitement when they go down. The one he hit in January of this year against the Boston Celtics had to feel good. It was the first time that Curry had been back in TD Garden since Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals, where he clinched his fourth NBA championship and earned first NBA Finals MVP award.
The last thing Boston needed is another reminder of Curry burying their hopes for a league-best 18th championship, but the sharpshooter did so in quite the fashion. Curry stripped Celtics forward Jayson Tatum just past half-court and attempted his patented logo three, sending the ball through the net as the first-half buzzer sounded.
Curry is heading into his 15th NBA season and has yet to show signs of slowing down, leaving the four-time champion looking to add even more unforgettable moments to his resume.
3. Morant’s Ja-Dropping Dunk
The NBA is constantly evolving, and these days the league features arguably the most talented and athletic players of any era. Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant may be one of the best example of this, as the 6-foot-3 point guard has made a habit of posterizing taller players almost nightly. Morant makes an effort to try these nasty dunks over significantly larger defenders, keeping fans on the edge of their seat anytime he enters the paint.
Morant pulled off arguably his greatest dunk to date earlier this year. Facing the Indiana Pacers on the road back in January, the high-flying Morant would split a double-team and throw down a monster slam over forward Jalen Smith.
Unfortunately, Morant’s multiple firearm-related incidents off the court will keep him off the court for some time, as he was suspended for the first 25 games of the 2023-24 season by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. After the suspension, hopefully a refocused Morant will add more posters to his collection.
2. Luka Doncic Hits Game-Tying Shot During Historic Performance
While the Dallas Mavericks had a forgettable 2022-23 season in terms of team performance, Luka Doncic certainly had his fair share of impressive moments. Doncic has already racked up a career’s worth of highlights in just five seasons in the NBA. The 24-year-old has a very unique style of play, and the term “Luka Magic” was coined to describe his highlight-reel plays.
Magic was most definitely in the air on the night of December 27, 2022. Doncic and the Mavericks were taking on the New York Knicks. With 33.2 seconds remaining in the game, the Knicks held a nine-point lead over the Mavericks. According to ESPN Stats and Info, teams were 0-13,884 over the last 20 seasons when trailing by at least nine with 35 or fewer seconds remaining in regulation.
That record would become 1-13,884 by the end of the night.
The Mavs and Doncic would go on a miraculous 9-3 run, leading to a situation where Doncic was at the free-throw line with the Mavs down 115-112 with 4.2 seconds left. Doncic would convert the first free throw, then intentionally miss the second in an attempt to tie the game. After multiple bounces, the ball miraculously found its way back into Doncic’s hands and he threw up a quick shot, getting it to go and tying the game with one second remaining. The game would go into overtime and the Mavericks would finish the job, defeating the Knicks 126-123.
This would go down as arguably Doncic’s best performance since entering the NBA. He dropped a historic stat line of 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists – the first 60-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist game ever in NBA history. This was an unprecedented performance on several fronts, and Doncic will look to add even more magical moments to his already-impressive resume this upcoming season.
1. LeBron James Breaks All-Time Scoring Record
Heading into the 2022-23 campaign, many expected Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record. Once the season got underway, the record-setting performance drew closer and closer with James scoring at his expected pace.
The fabled moment came to pass on February 7 of this year, with the Lakers taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Los Angeles. James entered the game needing 36 points to pass Abdul-Jabbar, and The King made it apparent that he wanted to break the record that night, showing an eagerness to score that we typically don’t see from the 38-year-old these days.
James reached 34 points and, with just over 10 seconds left in the third quarter, Abdul-Jabbar’s record was broken after a 39-year run. James backed down Thunder wing Kenrich Williams and hit a fadeaway jumper, officially putting his name No. 1 in the record books with 38,388 points.
The 2023-24 campaign will mark the 21st season of LeBron’s legendary career and if it’s anything like his other campaigns, it will feature plenty of iconic moments.