The NBA is a place, as its tagline suggests, where amazing happens. For better or worse. As basketball fans we are familiar with the gazelle-like fast breaks leading to posterizing dunks, awe-inspiring blocks, and the litany of unique personalities and characters that make up its product, mostly because that's what brought us to watching it in the first place. Though sometimes amazing happens in a different sense, where NBA moments become ingrained in fan memory for other less heroic, but still flabbergasting reasons. Like, for example, that time at a 1995 San Antonio home game where pre-game fireworks set off the emergency fire suppression system which in turn triggered a giant water cannon, drenching the Spurs faithful. You can be sure that kind of recklessness would've never happened under Popovich.
It would be tempting to think that, in the age of social media, the NBA would double-down on goofy errors like these. Can you imagine the laughing stock San Antonio would turn into if viral videos existed in 1995? The amount of mixtape comments all with the same theme of "X's jump-shot is wetter than a San Antonio fan"? But they haven't, and Twitter and Facebook and the like just make it that much easier for fans to point and go "ha ha" when someone, or something, in the NBA falls. No doubt about it, the NBA IS where amazing happens; where fans "ooh" and "ahh" in moments of disbelief. But sometimes, they also go "ugh". This is a list all about those particular moments.
I'll admit, this one is really only weird from a numbers standpoint. Corey Brewer isn't some scrub roster-filler, but his overall output isn't exactly mind-blowing either (career numbers: 9.8ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.7apg). His inclusion on this list comes mostly from the sheer statistical outlier that his 51-point game represents, and what's doubly bonkers about that is those 51 points ALMOST ALL came from lay-ups. Oh sure, he has a corner three here, a buzzer-beating heave there and a pull-up jumper somewhere in the mix also, but the majority of his output that night came from the easiest move in basketball. Was it the patented James Harden defence that allowed this to happen? The fact that Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin all rode the pine for this game, so the points had to come from somewhere? Who knows.
Did you ever play pick-up basketball against some people who were maybe a bit younger or less skilled than you? And in that game you torched them for an absurd amount, scoring way more than you usually do, using the same move EVERY time? That's what this Corey Brewer game is.
Look, 51 points is still 51 points. The guy had an incredible scoring line, and I'm not saying that he was somehow gifted with talent for this game only either. It's not like Brewer had a free run to the hoop on all of those attempts either; there's many times where he absorbs the defensive contact and still finishes, using some torso-twisting acrobatics along the way. Scrubs aren't able to do that. But there is something to be said for the fact that the move that created most of those points was a lay-up. This feat is what makes this game so weirdly amazing; it's so goddamn fundamental that it's almost like an old-school basketball coach's fantasy. Years from now, when all high school kids wanna learn how to do is shoot threes like Steph Curry, their coach will pull them aside and say "Hey, you wanna be an NBA star? You wanna drop 50-plus in a game? Then what you wanna learn.... is the lay-up", while pointing to a dog-eared poster of Brewer.
4. The Raptors' malfunctioning shot clock aka The Horn Game.
Game 1 of the 2014 first-round playoffs saw the Toronto Raptors taking on the Brooklyn Nets, in what would be the Raptors' first playoff appearance since 2008. Pretty amazing circumstances already, right? Well, they're etched forever now in the psyche of the Raptors devoted, thanks to one bumbling ninny from ESPN. See, halfway between the Raptors-Nets game, the shot clocks begin to malfunction and are eventually rendered unusable. For the rest of the game, the shot clock becomes a stopwatch, and is called out manually.
They eventually figured out that an ESPN technician had plugged into the same power source used for the shot clocks, eventually cooking the circuit board (or something like that, I don't know how things work). The announcer for the game, Herbie Kuhn, would call out '24' when a player took possession, then commentated whatever play was happening. The stopwatch would get close to 24 seconds, and Herbie would then count down the remaining '5, 4, 3, 2, 1, horn'.
I should probably specify that there was no horn sound after the 1. It was literally Herbie saying the word 'horn' to signal the end of the shot clock.
In the 4th quarter, they actually found and used an airhorn in place of the spoken-word, which somehow made things worse. The only reason it doesn't rank as high on this list is because that Raptors-Nets playoff series just wasn't that memorable. Both teams were middling around in the first round and were kinda unremarkable anyway; if it happened in a Heat-Spurs Finals Game 7, you could be ensured of a Commissioner-sized wingtip firmly implanted in ESPN's rectum. I can only imagine the stressful indignity of competing in the NBA playoffs, for the first time in 6 years, and having to get back on defence following a missed shot to the tune of an airhorn-fueled 'PAAAAARRRRRP'.
3. Carmelo Anthony lies motionless on the court... and the game goes on.
Oklahoma City were playing the Denver Nuggets in a home game taking place in the last few days of the 2010 regular season. What happened, as far as I can tell, was this: last minute of the third quarter, Carmelo Anthony receives the ball at the elbow and attempts a lane drive, running into defender Kevin "The Wall" Durant in the process, 'Melo collapses like a QWOP avatar and is called for a travel. OKC now have possession and inbound the ball (with Anthony still completely prone), J.R. Smith gets the steal and goes for the J.R. 1-on-5 fast break special, nearly smooshing an out-cold Melo's head in the process. It is only then that the officials stop play to actually check on Carmelo to find out that, no kidding, he wasn't playing possum.
Years later, I'm still not sure how to rationalise or explain this. Early on in his career, 'Melo had somewhat of a deserved reputation for being difficult. He feuded with coaches Larry Brown and George Karl, and his backpedal after clocking Mardy Collins remains one of the most bitchmade moves in NBA history. Anthony has since matured, and his recent activism should be commended. But even if a player is an absolute headcase when upright, how do you not at least walk over in that situation to see his chest moving, eyes flickering etc.? You know, signs that maybe it's not just 'Melo doing his best impression of Ezal from 'Friday'?
Also, I refuse to believe the explanation that the referees were wise to Anthony maybe attempting a dirty trick. To this day, NBA refs still pay Anderson Varejao's ridiculous flops as fouls. They don't learn.
2. Bob Sacre plays on with 6 fouls, Chris Kaman snoozes on bench.
Man, the last days of the regular season really bring out the worst in already-pitiful teams. In a race to the bottom of the barrel, the 2013-14 Lakers played the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game of what started out as basketball, but ended as a comical farce. With less than 4 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, Robert Sacre records his sixth foul. In any ordinary basketball situation, this would've caused him to be ejected from the game, but due to extenuating circumstances and a little known NBA rule, he was allowed to stay on the court.
Essentially, each team needs to have five people on the court at all times, and if one of those five receives a sixth foul and no one is able to replace him, then that player stays in the game and receives a technical. Should Sacre pick up more fouls after that, they would all be technicals. This situation isn't that unheard of, in fact the same thing happened a few years earlier to the Nellie-ball Warriors (baby Steph sighting!). What rounds out this rare occurrence into a Python sketch though, is this:
Chris Kaman, with the bench now all to himself, naps away the rest of an entirely-forgettable road game, becoming a prime Photoshop opportunity in the process. This one would have to be my favourite:
1. Tim Duncan is ejected from the game, for laughing.
When the Kobe Retirement Tour finally ended this year, Duncan used the opportunity to tack on his own departure from the NBA. In contrast to the pomp and drama that Kobe's retirement would create, Duncan's farewell was like a courteous "see ya". It exemplified Duncan's nothing-but-class Hall of Fame career; a player whose insanely consistent yet visually unexciting play won him 5 championships, without ever using the moment to say "look at me!"
Goddamn, I'm going to miss The Big Fundamental. It's only right that I give him the top spot on this list too, which represents one of the few times Timmy shows a bit of silliness to his personality. So of course he gets reprimanded for it.
In a 2007 game against the Dallas Mavericks, Duncan is riding the San Antonio bench when referee Joey Crawford makes a blocking foul call in the Mav's favour. Duncan laughs on the bench with his teammates in response to this, which results in the first technical foul call. Incredulously, Duncan says nothing to Crawford and the Mavericks shoot the free throw. Moments later, with Duncan still giggling on the sideline, he receives his second technical from an enraged Crawford, and is automatically ejected from the game. Two technicals, an ejection from the game. For laughing. Of course Duncan got the last laugh, with Crawford being suspended for the remainder of the NBA season and having an entire section of his Wikipedia page devoted to the incident, meanwhile Duncan and the Spurs won the championship that year.
Tyson Chandler's shoe block
Ron Artest pantsing Paul Pierce
Kenyon Martin's stalker wanders onto the court during a Nuggets-Lakers playoff game (while he was playing for the Clippers)