2018 is coming to a close and another chapter of NBA history is in the books.
It was a busy year around the Association, highlighted by the Golden State Warriors winning their second consecutive NBA title and LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Take a look at the best of the best from the NBA in the 2018 calendar year, along with things to look out for in 2019.
Best dunk: Jayson Tatum
JAYSON TATUM OH MY GOODNESS pic.twitter.com/q1MuM7UaZU- Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 28, 2018
This was an easy decision to make given the magnitude of the game, the caliber of the players involved and the overall poster in its' own.
Let me set the stage as a reminder for anyone who could have somehow forgotten this dunk. The Boston Celtics were without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward for their 2018 NBA Playoff run. They were relying heavily on a ton of young players to try and see how far this team could go. They overperformed like crazy and ended up in the Eastern Conference Finals against the king of the East, LeBron James.
Just before the start of the series, an old tweet surfaced of a 14-year old Tatum asking James to follow him back on Twitter along with a photo of the two when Tatum was a kid. The tweet and photo went viral, then in the fourth quarter of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, Tatum dunked all over LeBron and even had the courage to chest bump him afterward.
Very few players will dunk on LeBron in their career, Tatum just happened to do so in his first season on one of the biggest stages the NBA has to offer.
Runner up: LeBron James on Jusuf Nurkic
KING! 😱👑- NBA (@NBA) March 16, 2018
Season 15 - #AllForOne pic.twitter.com/xTJI4kjlxL
Best ankle-breaker: James Harden
OH MY GOODNESS. 👀#BEARDING pic.twitter.com/wNVNCNFUPo- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 1, 2018
Every year the NBA's Most Valuable Player has multiple 'MVP moments' throughout the season that we can look back on to easily remember the sheer dominance the individual displayed. Without a question, this ankle-breaker was one of those moments for James Harden.
This is downright one of the most disrespectful (in a good, streetball kind of way) things I have ever witnessed on an NBA court. Harden took his stepback to another level last season making it one of, if not the most unguardable signature move in the league. He torched teams with it all throughout his MVP campaign but nobody took the brunt of it more than Wesley Johnson.
Harden's stepback sent Johnson to the ground, then it seemed like time froze itself for an eternity. Harden stopped, stared down Johnson as he's trying to gather himself off the floor, waited so long to shoot that Milos Teodosic (the help-side defender in the corner) could contest the shot, then buried the 3-pointer in both of their faces.
This sent the entire sports world into a frenzy and left NBA Twitter with a Hall of Fame-type moment with all the input and reactions that followed.
Runner up: C.J. McCollum on Donte DiVincenzo
OH DEER, CJ pic.twitter.com/Ama9EvtAoz- Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) November 7, 2018
Best single-game performance: James Harden
Back to what I was saying about MVP moments, this game was certainly one of those for The Beard.
Fresh into the New Year, Harden was up to the same old stuff he was doing at the end of 2017. On January 30th, 2018, he posted the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history in the Houston Rockets' 114-107 win over the Orlando Magic.
His 60 points came on 19-for-30 (63.3 percent) shooting from the field, 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) shooting from 3-point land and 17-for-18 (94.4 percent) shooting from the free throw line. He added 11 assists, 10 rebounds, four steals and one block in 47 minutes of play. It was one of four triple-doubles in his MVP season and arguably the most impressive triple-double in league history.
Runner up: LeBron James 51 points in Game 1 of 2018 NBA Finals
After LeBron James' 51 PTS, 8 AST, 8 REB in Game 1... we look back at the best buckets from his 8 40+ point games of the 2018 postseason! #WhateverItTakes #NBAFinals pic.twitter.com/1O4ZJESeSk- NBA (@NBA) June 1, 2018
Best game: Raptors vs. Warriors, November 2018
The league's two-time defending champions traveled to Toronto to take on the top team in the Eastern Conference in a game that had an NBA Finals buzz around it all week leading up to the contest. It was everything we could have asked for as NBA fans, watching Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant go clutch shot for clutch shot in an overtime thriller that could act as a 2019 Finals preview.
The Warriors were missing both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green but Durant did everything he could to keep his team in the contest. Down three with the game on the line and time running out he buried a fadeaway 3-pointer in the corner, right in the face of Leonard, to send the game into overtime. He finished with 51 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the game but the Raptors got the best of the Warriors in OT.
Leonard posted 37 points - the most he's scored in a Raptors' uniform - and eight rebounds while Pascal Siakam made his name well known, chipping in 26 points.
Runner-up: LeBron James' game-winner vs. Raptors in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
Sorry Raptors fans, this LeBron James game-winner was incredible. After willing his team past the Indiana Pacers in the first round, James kept things rolling in the second round against a team he's played so well against in his career. He scored 43 in a decisive win in Game 2 on the road to take a 2-0 lead going into a pair of home games for Game 3 and 4.
Toronto trailed by four points with 30 seconds left in the game but a layup from Kyle Lowry and a clutch 3-pointer from OG Anunoby tied things up with eight seconds remaining. We all know how it goes after that - James hits a running floater off the glass as time expires to blow the roof off of QuickenLoans Arena before sweeping the Raptors for the third straight season.
Most over-talked about story/moment: Markelle Fultz
After the first four games of his NBA career, Fultz was sidelined for the majority of his rookie season. He came back toward the end of the year but never made a significant impact for the Philadelphia 76ers. Fultz played in three of the 76ers 10 playoff games last season, receiving 'did not play - coaches' decision' for the other seven - not exactly what you'd want out of the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
The Fultz situation was talked about all last season but sort of blew over in the offseason. Stakeholders of the league started to give him the benefit of the doubt going into this season and many believed he was poised to make an impact in his second year. He played in the first 19 games this year but struggled shooting, most notably from the free throw line.
Everything Fultz did was put under a microscope and everyone had been extremely critical of his play. He began seeing shoulder specialists to try and diagnose his shoulder issues and eventually was shut down by the 76ers with 'Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome'.
I know it's frustrating when a player doesn't immediately live up to the hype of the pick they're selected at, but the coverage surrounding this 20-year old's struggles is unparalleled. There is still plenty of time for Fultz to develop into a solid NBA player and this was without a doubt the most over-talked about storylines in 2018.
Runner-up: Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves
The Jimmy Butler saga of 2018 was one for the ages. This had a little bit of everything that NBA fans love so much - trade rumours, team drama, players getting involved via social media - all that good stuff. From the made-up team meetings to the infamous practice, to Butler actually playing 10 games with the Timberwolves this season, the coverage of this story was nonstop. It was overtalked about, but for all the right reasons. I'm sure talking contract extensions will go just as smoothly...
Most over-looked story/moment: George Hill
Everyone remembers this image from Game 1 of the NBA Finals as it became enshrined in the meme Hall of Fame forever. However, the actions leading up to this photo seem to be hardly discussed.
A Stephen Curry and-1 layup gave the Warriors a one-point lead with 24 seconds remaining. LeBron James held the ball at the top of the key as the clock ticked down with many expecting him to attempt a game-winning shot to try and push the Cavaliers to victory. When James saw a cutting George Hill under the basket, he threw a rocket pass that never made it to its target. Hill was fouled by Klay Thompson, bringing the Cavaliers' guard to the free throw line down by one with four seconds left in the game.
He made the first free throw and missed the second, but J.R. Smith corralled the offensive rebound right in front of the hoop. Instead of going up with the putback he dribbled out to the perimeter, claiming he was unaware of the score. The Cavaliers went on to lose Game 1 in overtime and critics were harsh on Smith's mistake.
Smith's blunder ended up all over social media and every sports news outlet possible, yet Hill's missed free throw went nearly unnoticed. Therefore, you have your most over-looked NBA moment of 2018.
Runner-up: DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors
On the second day of NBA Free Agency in 2018, NBA fans received notification that DeMarcus Cousins, one of the league's best Centres, would join the Warriors on a one-year, 5.3 million dollar contract. Cousins to the Warriors was never mentioned, thought of, or discussed by anyone and all of a sudden, the rich got richer. Sooner than later, we'll see how this pans out for the long-term.
Biggest trade: DeMar DeRozan/Kawhi Leonard
Spurs have agree to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick, league sources tell ESPN. Trade call with league office is starting shortly.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 18, 2018
It was an early morning for NBA fans on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 when ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski announced that the San Antonio Spurs agreed to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick.
It was clear that the Spurs would be moving Leonard at some point in the offseason, but the Raptors were hardly mentioned as a trade partner. It sent shockwaves around the league because the Raptors decided to part ways with DeRozan, a player who spent nine successful seasons in Toronto to start his NBA career. Loyalty was brought into question, Raptors fans were up in arms over trading for a player who could leave after one season and among all, the key pieces of the trade were silent for a while after the trade went down.
Eventually, mumblings of the trade blew over and both of the players have found success with their new franchises. Though the drama that came along with the trade has died down, their first matchup is coming up this Thursday, January 3rd. Talks about the biggest trade of 2018 will surely kick back up this week.
Runner up: Mavericks trade draft rights to Trae Young & protected 2019 lottery pick to Hawks for draft rights to Luka Doncic
Trae Young has been just fine for the Atlanta Hawks this season, but the Dallas Mavericks look like they have found their franchise player to fill Dirk Nowitzki's shoes when he decides to hang 'em up. Doncic has been absolutely incredible this season and people cannot stop talking about him. He continues to impress night-in and night-out, making this rookie sensation a must-watch every time he steps on the floor. This trade deserves the runner up, even if you think it should have been Jimmy Butler.
Best overall player: LeBron James
This was not an easy decision, but it seemed like the right decision.
In his 15th season, he played all 82 games for the first time in his career and led the league in minutes played per game. He averaged 27.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds to lead an otherwise hopeless Cavaliers team back to their fourth-consecutive NBA Finals. He averaged 34.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game in the playoffs but was outmatched against a far more talented Warriors team in The Finals.
To start this season, he has not cooled off. Taking on the challenge of molding a young Los Angeles Lakers team, James played in all 34 games to start the season posting 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists. He had the Lakers way ahead of schedule, sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference before he went down with a groin injury on Christmas Day.
LeBron seems to get better with age and doesn't look like he's slowing down any time soon. It's not to take away from what Harden did in the 2018 calendar year, it's more-so to reward James for doing what he's done at age 33 and 34.
Runner up: James Harden
He was the MVP of the 2018 season and has played extremely well into the 2018 part of this year's NBA season. He led the Rockets to the best overall record in the league but fell one game short of reaching the NBA Finals. He led the league in scoring while dishing out 8.8 assists to go with 5.4 rebounds per game last season and he's mostly improved upon those numbers this season. He's made scoring on other professionals look like he's playing pickup at the local YMCA and has without a doubt been step-for-step with LeBron in 2018.
Undisputed Champion of 2018: NBA Twitter
Sorry Golden State Warriors, the undisputed champion with no runner-up in question is NBA Twitter.
#NBATwitter is... pic.twitter.com/ifr1HRWoXI- Twitter Sports (@TwitterSports) May 30, 2018
NBA Twitter exploded on the scene in 2018 and is certainly here to stay. The NBA was the most-tweeted about sports league in 2018 according to Twitter and the Washington Post and the NBA Twitter community played the lead role in that. It even has it's own hashtag! #NBATwitter
It's more than just the primary news source of anything NBA - it's a place where fans, media members, players, coaches, teams and really whoever wants to be a part of the conversation can be a part of the conversation. It's filled with the personalities of the league, the pettiness the players can showcase, the idiosyncrasies the game has to offer and of course, the rivalries on and off the court.
You can catch highlights, pre- and post-game interviews, quotes from players and coaches, interesting statistics and things of that nature. On a less-serious note, you can often find wardrobe choices on the pregame runway, back-and-forth trash talk and reactions to every single move throughout the season among other things that bring that players, fans and media closer together.
It brought us endless of fabulous moments that help make the NBA the tremendous league it is today and it will only to continue to bring more entertaining content in the years to come.
Things to look for in 2019
• A new NBA Finals: After four rounds of the Golden State Warriors versus LeBron James, we're finally guaranteed a new NBA Finals this season. It was fun while it lasted, but it's time for a change. The Warriors are still favorites the reach The Finals, but there's a handful of competitors in the West itching for a chance to de-throne them. As for the East, it's as up for grabs as it has been since before LeBron took his talents to South Beach.
• 2019 NBA Free Agency: With names like Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in the mix, this free agency has the potential to completely alter the landscape of the league. We already have you covered with a running list of the top free agents in 2019 .
• Loaded draft class: The free agent class is loaded but the NBA Draft comes first, and this class seems to have plenty of talent ready to make an impact in their first year in the league. From guys like Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett and beyond, this draft class should be able to compete with the insane amount of talent that came out of the previous two draft classes.
• Retirement of legends: We already know that Dwyane Wade is officially retiring at the conclusion of this season. Other living legends such as Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki are nearing the end of their historic NBA careers and unfortunately enough, 2019 could be the last time we get to see these first ballot Hall of Famers suit up.