Remember the NBA of yester-year? The one that valued a true center and a clean hook shot. The gritty one where people threw punches with intention because winning was so deep in their souls they would literally fight for it. The NBA that didn't have arenas pumped full of in-game music, and hype men, and a billion tv timeouts.
Remember when Larry Bird would play until he couldn't move? When Bill Laimbeer was an actual villain, not just a "dirty player". Remember when Michael Jordan played no matter what, medical staff and "flu-like symptoms" be damned!
The era of record-breakers. In just the last two years we've seen some of the records we thought were unbreakable, break before our very eyes. The precision with which athletes are trained is a science, athletes are specimens like we've never seen, and what they're able to do now is quite possibly more impressive than it's ever been.
Being able to witness the season where the Bulls' 72-10 record was broken by Golden State is something we'll tell our children about. Watching the Cavaliers break the record for three-pointers made in a game (25 against Atlanta in the playoffs last year), or Stephen Curry's ridiculous three-point records that he continues to break over and over is something most of us thought was reserved only for Reggie Miller and Ray Allen. But we are in an era of basketball where records are truly meant to be broken. Even Klay Thompson's inhuman 37-point quarter was nearly broken when Kevin Love scored 34 points in the first quarter Wednesday against Portland. The things that we watch will become legendary. I'm thankful for that.
The rise of the big man. Centers and bigs are not what they used to be, and small-ball has been a dominating force. But a class of newly trained hybrid-type centers are gaining momentum. Anthony Davis is a force to be reckoned with. The Clippers are blossoming into a power house with the dynamic duo of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin leading the way. Kristaps Porzingis, Andre Drummond, and Hassan Whiteside are top dogs.
These aren't the same hook-slinging middle men of the old NBA. These are guys who can handle the ball, who offenses are run through, and who shoot from the three-point line. They are a dangerous new type of weapon that could emerge as the hardest-to-guard type of player. With new faces like Karl-Anthony Towns and the Sixers' own Joel Embiid proving that bigs are just as valuable as a sharp-shooting guard, I think we are about to see a new type of big take over.
Availability like never before. The NBA is at our fingertips. Every NBA game is available to watch, be it on national tv or streamed online. Fans, who at one time were at the mercy of their local market, are not stuck in a box. You can watch and rewatch your favorite moments as much as you want. If you want to see or hear what a player says after any shootaround, practice, game, or charity event, you can. If you want to follow your favorite players on twitter, instagram, or snapchat and feel like you're a little bit closer to your idol, you can.
I know that technology can be a blessing and a curse, but I would have given anything to look on instagram and see what Scottie Pippen was eating for dinner. Ten-year-old me would have went bananas over that. Fandom is an interesting part of sports and being a fan now is the most immersive and complete experience it has ever been. And on nights when I'm not at work, I'm out of shows to binge, or I just need to escape, having the NBA at my fingertips is one of the things I'm most thankful for. Because I can watch this ten times in a row.
Must Watch List. All times are Eastern
Hornets at Knicks, Friday at 7:30 on NBA TV. Clearly this is not for the Sixers fans (cause you guys will be watching them fight the Bulls). But the Hornets are a team on the rise and the Knicks are faring better than most thought they would this season, and we're all waiting to see what Kemba or Kristaps will do next. For Sixers fans who also want to see these teams battle it out, I've got good news. They'll go at it again the next night (Saturday) in Charlotte at 7:00 on League Pass.
Clippers at Cavaliers, Thursday at 8:00 on TNT. The top teams from each conference battling it out. Enough said.
Grizzlies at Raptors, Wednesday at 7:30. These teams are quietly jockeying for position right beneath the top of the Western and Eastern conference leaders. The Grizzlies are on a six-game winning streak heading into Friday, but they'll be in Toronto against a squad whose team stats are almost identical to their own this season.