Stephen Curry wins Finals MVP, Ja Morant’s dunk of the year and more 2022 NBA best moments

The NBA moves at such a breakneck speed that it can be difficult to keep up with the biggest storylines on a nightly basis, let alone what happens over the course of an entire year. 

But before this current season reaches its halfway point and the calendar flips to 2023, let’s do something crazy: hit the pause button and actually appreciate what we saw in 2022.

We’ll roll through the NBA year that was with a few superlatives. Some will be obvious, some will be silly and some will be oddly specific. Throw them all together, and you’ve got 12 wildly entertaining months of basketball action.

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NBA Year in Review 2022

Best performance: Stephen Curry, Warriors

There were no other challengers. After another All-NBA regular season, Curry delivered the greatest Finals performance of his career in Game 4 against an elite Celtics defense, scoring 43 points on 14-of-26 shooting in 41 minutes.

The Warriors proceeded to win Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, and Curry took home his first Finals MVP award after averaging 31.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Whether you want to focus on Game 4 by itself or the full NBA Finals series, Curry deserves recognition for his brilliance.

Biggest career swing: Andrew Wiggins, Warriors

Speaking of the Warriors, how about the transformation of Wiggins? The 27-year-old forward emerged as a key piece of Golden State’s rotation, earning the first All-Star selection of his career last season.

He then took his game to another level during the Warriors’ championship run. He accepted the task of defending the opponent’s best player, gobbled up rebounds, and provided consistent secondary scoring.

Wiggins was simply a different player than the one we saw in Minnesota. Perhaps he will never live up to the “Maple Jordan” moniker, but he has shown that he can thrive in the right role.

Most likely to succeed: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

Tatum and the Celtics came up two wins short of the title, but Deuce’s dad has a bright future ahead of him.

Tatum landed on the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career last season. Now, he is looking like a legitimate MVP candidate for the Eastern Conference’s best team.

Boston should be a contender for years to come in large part because of Tatum’s fast development into a two-way superstar. Here’s the scariest part, though: What will the 24-year-old do when he hits his true prime? 

Best highlight: Ja Morant, Grizzlies

Picking just one of Morant’s highlights is a nearly impossible assignment. We went with his ridiculous dunk because Ian Eagle was ready for the moment with a delightful one-liner.

“Morant… Oh! A Ja Breaker!”

Yes, we’re going to need multiple angles.

Monster dunk. Perfect play-by-play call. Can’t beat that.

Most clutch performance: DeMar DeRozan, Bulls

DeRozan was the “King of the Fourth” last season, leading the league in fourth-quarter scoring by nearly 100 points.

He also became the first player in NBA history to sink buzzer-beaters on back-to-back days, hitting tough shots against the Pacers and Wizards.

Hail to the King!

Most beloved role player: Jose Alvarado, Pelicans

How do you grow into a fan favorite when you’re only playing 15 minutes per game? You turn into “Grand Theft Alvarado,” obviously.

The Pelicans guard is known around the league for his ability to sneak up on oblivious ball handlers. And even when he doesn’t register a steal, he is still a relentless pest.

Listen to the excitement from the Smoothie King Center crowd when Alvarado forces Chris Paul into an 8-second violation.

As Reggie Miller said, Alvarado is developing into a “cult hero” in New Orleans.

Best meme: Brian Windhorst, ESPN

Windhorst could have offered some routine remarks as part of a “First Take” segment and called it a day. Instead, he gave us internet gold while discussing an offseason trade between the Jazz and Nets.

The veteran NBA reporter inspired countless social media posts. After going through several submissions, we have chosen a winner…

Best celebration: Light the beam, Kings

When you’re trying to snap the longest playoff drought in NBA history, you have to find a way to bring positive vibes into the arena. So, really, why wouldn’t you fire up a big purple beam?

Earlier this year, the Kings began lighting a beam that shines brightly above the Golden 1 Center after each win. Players and fans quickly went all-in on the tradition, embracing the “Beam Team” nickname.

“It’s always been my vision to create a spectacle,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadive told NBC Sports California. “That’s what we did. This is that fireplace — we light the fire, and everyone can just gather around it.

“This is like a huge fire that goes into outer space.”

Most randomly incredible stat line: Desmond Bane, Grizzlies

Bane enjoyed a breakout 2021-22 season, averaging 18.2 points per game while shooting 43.6 percent from beyond the arc, so you may think this superlative exists in order to applaud him for a big scoring night.

Nope. This is just weird.

On Feb. 2, 2022, Bane, a second-year guard wearing the No. 22 jersey, had…

  • 22 points, rebounds and assists combined
  • Two assists
  • Two steals
  • Two blocks
  • Two turnovers
  • Two fouls

Oh, and he also shot 22.2 percent from the field, but he didn’t make a 2-pointer.

Hey, we told you that some would be oddly specific.

Most respectful of fresh Jordans: Gary Payton II, Warriors

Thank you, “Young Glove,” for respecting the kicks. Gotta keep those white Jordan 3s in pristine condition.

Coldest crossover photo: Kevin Durant, Nets

Apologies to Daniel Gafford, but this Durant move was absolutely nasty.

One simple image of the play captured so much, including Durant’s excellence and the sense of despair that defenders must feel when attempting to stop him.

Kevin Durant

“I really thought he slipped on some sweat there, so I can’t take full credit for it,” Durant said. “I was glad that we was able to get some momentum. I was able to get some space to do my thing, and I’m glad I finished the shot, too.”

It’s OK, Kevin. You can take credit. That was awesome.

Most ‘NBA 2K’ performance: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Like a college student full of energy drinks, Doncic just beat the end-of-year deadline with one of the most absurd stat lines in NBA history.

On Dec. 27, the Mavericks star had 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in an overtime win against the Knicks, posting the first 60-20-10 triple-double ever. Good luck trying to complete that challenge in “NBA 2K.”

Only making the performance more impressive, he led Dallas to a one-of-a-kind comeback win. After trailing by nine points with 33.9 seconds remaining in regulation, the Mavs managed to make it a one-possession game, setting the stage for “Luka Magic.”

“I’m tired as hell,” Doncic said after the victory. “I need a recovery beer.”

Don’t we all. Happy New Year, everyone.

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