As 2013 winds to a close, TSN.ca looks back at the stories and moments that made the year memorable. TSN.ca's writing staff reflects on the best basketball moments from the past 12 months including the return of Kobe, the fall of the Raptor, D-Rose's poor luck and more!
The Kobe Bryant Saga
By: Isaac Owusu
The year for the LA Lakers went from bad, to worse to maybe optimistic, back to bad again.
With their star studded lineup that included Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant they fell way below expectations. The team created in 2012 with aspirations of an NBA Finals appearance opened the calendar year with a 24-28 record.
As the team found themselves pushing for the eight seed in the western conference, Bryant willed himself to lead the Lakers until his body wouldn't allow him to do it anymore.
On April 12 facing the Golden State Warriors, he finished with 34 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists but it was the final two points that are mostly remembered. He limped to the free throw line and made his final two free throws under obvious pain in his legs. and after the game it was revealed that he had torn his Achilles.
The NBA and sports community took a morose tone when news hit and the immediate question was if Kobe could return and at what capacity. The Lakers never wavered in their belief of Bryant's return, extending him to a two-year, 48.5 million dollar contract extension.
On December 8, He made his triumphant return to the court against the Raptors. He started the game, logging 28 minutes and finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds.
But on December 17, in his sixth game of the season, he seemed to be coming back to form. He finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists against the Memphis Grizzlies. There was a scary moment in the third quarter when he appeared to have been favouring a hurt left leg but came back into the game.
It was announced on December 19 that he would have to miss 6 weeks going forward due to a fracture in that knee. Surgery is not required, but this is another chapter, in possibly the finality of his Hall of Fame career.
Toronto Raptors lose their beloved mascot to injury
By: Ryan Horne
Toronto Raptors' fans have said goodbye to some crowd favourites over the years. Jerome "The Junk Yard Dog" Williams, Morris Peterson, Matt Bonner, Jose Calderon.
But when their beloved mascot - The Raptor - went down with a torn Achilles tendon in October that will likely cost him the season, it was as if they had lost their franchise player.
And that's not too far from the truth.
The Raptor has been with the organization since 1995 and has arguably become the most popular mascot in the Association (and maybe the best thing about going to a Raptors game), entertaining crowds with acrobatic slam dunks, eating referees and rollerblading down stairs.
Not often does a head coach talk about the team's costumed cheerleader during a presser, but Dwane Casey did.
"The Raptor will be back," he said after a pre-season game.
When Casey told his daughter of the bad news, she cried.
Stripes - The Raptors' younger cousin - stepped in to replace the fallen hero for the 2013-2014 season, but will be in tough to provide half the joy of his predecessor.
Now we must wait until next season when The Raptor hopefully makes his return. Sadly this could be the most exciting thing Raptors fans have to look forward to.
Derrick Rose can't catch a break
By: Ken Rodney
At this point it doesn't even really seem fair.
Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is not only one of the most dynamic and talented players in the NBA, but is by all accounts also a very well-liked teammate and member of a community where he not only plays but was born and raised.
It was with league-wide excitement that Rose finally returned to the court to start the 2013-14 season after missing the entire 2012-13 campaign recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee.
On Nov. 22, Just as his game was starting to show sparks of returning to the form that already has one MVP trophy in his cabinet case, the 25-year-old point guard suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee once again causing him to go under the knife, ending his season prematurely and stealing more games from the prime of his career.
Those around Rose - former and current teammates and coaches - believe that he will make it back from this latest injury just as he did the previous one, but how much of this promising career was lost on that November night in Portland?
Jason Kidd says "Hit Me!"
By: Isaac Owusu
There's often an idea of a coach "dropping the ball" in regards to a bad job, but dropping the cup? That's a brand new low.
There's no denying that Jason Kidd will be a Hall of Famer for his contributions in the NBA as a point guard. NBA Champion, 10-time NBA All-Star, perennial All-NBA team member, second on the all-time assist list, second on the all-time steals list, third on the all-time three pointers made list and Olympic gold medalist
Kidd's coaching career however hasn't been as glorious, and can be exemplified by one night in Brooklyn.
During the late stages of losing a game to the Lakers inside the Barclays Center, and out of timeouts Coach Kidd executed probably the most creative play of his career.
Who knew spilling some diet soda on hardwood would cost you $50,000!
Stephen Curry torches the Knicks, then loses
By: Shane McNeil
In the grand scheme of things, Stephen Curry's night at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 27 wasn't really that historic. After all, what's 54 points in a game where Wilt Chamberlain can drop 100 or Kobe Bryant can torch the Raptors for 81?
But what was impressive was how Curry racked up his points. The Knicks kept giving him open looks and he kept draining threes, winding up with 11 on 13 attempts. As if that wasn't enough, when he wasn't launching from behind the arc, he was driving the lane or hitting pull-up jumpers.
Yet, in the dying minutes, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony come through and the Knicks win by four, 109-105. It's one thing to have a career night. It's oddly exceptional to do it and not even get a W out of it.
Raptors blow 27-point lead against the Warriors
By: Ryan Horne
There have been plenty of moments in Toronto Raptors' history that fans wish they could forget.
Kobe Bryant dropping 81 points in 2006, trading Vince Carter for spare parts in 2004 and the drafting of Rafael Araujo are all memories that sting.
On Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, the Dinos added to that list in sunny California.
The Raptors led the Golden State Warriors 75-48 with 9:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Up 27 points with less than half of the game remaining. Surely they'd be able to close it out, right?
After an onslaught of three-pointers, Toronto was outscored 42-15 in the final quarter and lost by nine.
It was arguably the worst - most miserable loss - in franchise history and may or may not have led to the trading of the trigger-happy Rudy Gay a week later.
The pill was made even tougher to swallow when it was reported former Raptor, Jermaine O'Neal, apparently made an inspirational halftime speech that led to the dramatic and historic comeback.
Just more salt in the wound.
The supporters of Canada's lone NBA franchise must be wondering how many more years of suffering will they have to endure before things improve.
Here's hoping 2014 is the start of something better.