PHOTO COURTESY OF USATODAY.COM: Kobe Bryant says farewell to the Los Angeles crowd after scoring 60 points in his final game.
With the culmination of the NBA regular season, the playoffs have arrived. There are several teams with promising outlooks coming into the playoffs, finishing strongly at the end of the regular season. But, before we shift our focus to the postseason, let’s take a look back at what’s transpired over the last few months: the fall of a great record and the end of a legendary career.
April 13, 2016 was a historic day in regular-season basketball. There were two historic games in one day. In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant, one of the best players of all time, played the final game of his career. People paid thousands of dollars to see the Black Mamba play his last game in a Laker uniform. Before the game, greats such as Earvin “Magic” Johnson spoke about Kobe and they played a tribute video. Then, Kobe reminded fans why he’s one of the best. The 37-year-old dropped 60 points, leading the Lakers to a win over the Utah Jazz, 101-96. This game was the icing on the cake of a great career. Coming straight out of Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, Bryant made the transition look easy. He is the only player in NBA history with more than 30,000 points, 6,000 assists and 6,000 rebounds. Kobe Bean Bryant has had a spectacular career and will be missed by many.
The Golden State Warriors are one team that is coming into the playoffs scorching hot. They broke the NBA regular season wins record on the same day as Kobe’s finale, notching their 73rd victory. After winning the finals last year, everyone knew there was something special about this team, but nobody expected this kind of success. The previous record was held by the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls. Ironically, Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Warriors, played for the ’95-’96 Bulls. When asked about breaking the record, Kerr said, “I never thought in million years that record would ever be broken.” The Warriors have an amazing roster headlined by the Splash Brothers, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and 2015 Finals MVP, Draymond Green. Looking ahead to the playoffs, Golden State is hoping to end this historic season with another championship; but they will have to face some stiff competition in the Western Conference before they attempt to win their second Larry O’Brien trophy in as many seasons.
Assuming the Warriors make it past the first two rounds, they will most likely face the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals. The Spurs are undoubtedly one of the best teams in basketball; with a lineup full of veterans like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, and younger players such as Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, they are going to be hard to stop. Not to be forgotten is head coach Greg Popovich who has led the Spurs to five championships in his illustrious career on the sidelines. The Thunder are led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, two of the best players in the league. If the duo can stay hot, who knows what could happen?
In the Eastern Conference, there are a handul of strong teams that can’t be overlooked. At the forefront of that group is the Cleveland Cavaliers who are led by the electrifying LeBron James. After losing to the Warriors in the finals last year, they are definitely seeking revenge. After the Cavs, teams such as the Miami Heat, who many think would match up well against the Cavs, Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks are vying to make an appearance in the finals.
This regular season was one that will always be remembered, and the playoffs have the potential to be memorable as well. Stay tuned…
By George Boyle