‘Tis the season – the season of joy, thankfulness and love. It’s the best time of the year. In other words, basketball season is well underway. As the remnant aroma of Thanksgiving fills the air and Christmas decorations begin to pop up around the city, it’s the perfect time to reflect on basketball moments that have left an indelible mark on my heart. Moments that serve as reminders of the jubilation, passion and unity that basketball brings us. In the spirit of gratitude on the heels of Turkey Day, let’s take a journey through five of my favorite hoop memories. Memories I’ve seen with my own eyes in real-time that have made me endlessly thankful to be a witness to the best sport in the world.
Villanova Defeats UNC in the National Championship Game at the Buzzer (2016)
UNC’s Marcus Paige had just hit what would be one of the NCAA’s craziest shots in national championship history to tie the game at 74 a piece with just under 5 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for Paige, that shot is erased from many people’s memory bank because of what transpired shortly after. Coming out of a timeout with the length of the court to go and 4.7 seconds on the clock, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins inbounded the ball to Ryan Arcidiacono. He’d make his way up the court and pitch the ball back to Jenkins who was trailing the play. With 1.2 seconds left, Jenkins walked into an open three-pointer, let off a picture-perfect textbook release and the rest was history. Buzzer beaters are among the most exciting plays in basketball. But a buzzer-beater to win the national championship?! There’s a pretty good chance I’ll never see another walk-off buzzer-beater in the national championship again in my life. For that reason alone, I’ll savor this moment forever.
LeBron James Breaks the NBA’s All-Time Scoring Record (2023)
I’m just old enough to remember watching LeBron James when he was at St. Vincent-St. Mary. It feels like yesterday he was deemed “The Chosen One” as a 17-year-old junior in high school. Love him or hate him, there’s no true basketball lover who doesn’t respect the man. As a Kobe fan, I never rooted for LeBron growing up but I always respected his greatness. Quite frankly, he didn’t leave me with much of a choice. His journey from high school phenom to the Mount Rushmore of basketball has been admirable, to say the least. Watching him shoot one of his patented mid-range fadeaway jumpers to break Kareem’s all-time NBA scoring record is a basketball memory I’ll tell my kids about one day. At the rate he’s going, LeBron looks like he could play another 20 years. My future kids just might get to watch him for themselves.
Stephen Curry Breaks the NBA’s All-Time Three-Point Record (2021)
Every time Stephen Curry makes a three-pointer, he breaks a record. His own record. It’s no secret that Steph is the best shooter to walk this planet. On Dec. 14, 2022, under the bright lights of the world’s most famous arena Madison Square Garden, he stamped what was already a foregone conclusion. As he broke free from the Knicks’ defense, he caught a pass on the right wing from Andrew Wiggins and let it go with no hesitation like he’s done too many times to count over the course of his career. Nothing but net. Watching him lead his underdog Davidson Wildcats on an unprecedented NCAA Tournament run back in 2008 was mesmerizing. Experiencing watching him break the NBA’s all-time three-point record, and counting, is the epitome of what makes Steph the greatest show on earth.
Dawn Staley Becomes the First Black Coach to Win Two Division I Titles (2022)
I’m a fan of so many women’s college basketball programs, but since I was a kid UConn has been my favorite. I never ever root against them. This was the case in 2022 as they faced the South Carolina Gamecocks in the national championship. From the tip-off, South Carolina controlled the game and ended up pulling out a 15-point victory for what’d be Dawn Staley’s second national championship. As much as I would’ve loved to see Paige Bueckers capture a chip, I couldn’t help but be proud of witnessing history with Coach Staley becoming the first Black coach, male or female, to win two Division I titles. She’s known for no-nonsense approach to the game, but it’s evident how much she loves her players. In a sport that’s made up of mostly Black athletes, Black women coaches aren’t represented equitably. Coach Staley takes pride in her Blackness and carries that chip on her shoulder. Being able to watch her handle herself so gracefully on the way to making Black history is one of my favorite hoop memories that I can recall.
Kobe Bryant Scores 60 in his Farewell Game at Staples Center (2016)
On April 13, 2016, basketball enthusiasts had a tough decision to make. You could either choose to watch the Golden State Warriors strive for their record-breaking 73rd victory or you could tune in to watch Kobe Bryant’s last game ever. As much as I love some Golden State, Kobe’s farewell was the easy choice for me. At this point, Kobe was fighting through a broken down body that he put on the line for two decades on his way to becoming one of the greatest hoopers to ever grace a court. The aura surrounding the game was charged with emotion as Kobe delivered a performance for the ages. He willed his way to 60 points, and most importantly a comeback win over the Jazz. Every basket felt like a poetic punctuation mark to an illustrious career. As the final buzzer sounded, the cheers of the crowd echoed gratitude, respect and a profound farewell to one of the game’s greatest icons. Kobe’s last game was more than a spectacle; it was a symphony of greatness that basketball fans will cherish forever.
Hoops: College Basketball “Feast Week” is underrated as a series of sporting events. This past week, we’ve seen some great hoop from some of the top teams in the country. Feast Week gives teams a taste of tournament-style play in preparation for March Madness down the road. The Zach Edey-led Purdue Boilermakers won the Maui Invitational for the first time in program history. Could this be the year they win the Big Dance, too?
Rap: Like most rap fans, Scary Hours 3 has been on constant rotation for me. Every track is barred up, and you hatin’ if you say otherwise. “Evil Ways” and “The Shoe Fits” are my go-to’s from the EP. Furthermore, I’m patiently waiting for Cole’s “The Fall Off” and really curious to hear what it will sound like. What are the chances we get it before the year is out?
Everything Black: André 3000’s “New Blue Sun” is beautiful. It’s the perfect background music for any occasion. I love how comfortable André is living in his truth. As much as I’d love one, he doesn’t owe us a hip-hop album. His legacy is set in stone as one of the culture’s greatest artists ever.
As always, here’s the official Hoops, Rap and Everything Black playlist. It’ll be updated weekly with each column. Add the playlist to your library to stay in the know, and be sure to follow SLAM on Spotify.
Photos via Getty Images