- Tory Barron is a Bristol-based writer and editor for ESPN.com. After retiring from playing lacrosse at UConn, the DC native decided to try her hand at writing about people playing sports.
By now you know the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Finals in a six-game series that was almost as unpredictable as Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid’s Twitter activity. What you might not know: How you’re going to fill the gaping hole in your evening plans where watching elite-level basketball used to reside.
While we can’t help you with that particular conundrum, we can make you feel even more nostalgic for the 2021-22 season by regaling you with some of the defining #NBATwitter moments of the past nine months — we’re already in our feelings, so might as well go full send.
If you’re not familiar with the mammoth sports community that is #NBATwitter (weird, but OK), some of this might be news to you. If you are well-versed in the space, most of this will likely be a refresher. Either way, you can think of the following as an #NBATwitter yearbook of sorts. HAGS … that’s “have a good summer” for the untrained eye.
The birth of Bing Bong
Linsanity walked, so “Bing Bong” could run. The New York Knicks’ season was off to such a strong start … until it wasn’t. The subway doors-inspired rallying cry — which was adopted by fans and took on a life of its own — lasted longer than the Knicks’ winning record, but all the “Bing Bong” hoopla still made for some fun nights on NBA Twitter.
On this particular night, after Orlando handed New York its first loss of the season, it was probably a little more fun for Magic fans.
You really do hate to see it.
It was a choice. Kyle Kuzma took a (large) risk when he decided to step out in an oversized, pink sweater on Nov. 22. Fashion-forward (and sometimes outlandish) fits have long been ingrained in the fabric of the Association, but this was something else entirely.
To say #NBATwitter took notice would be putting it mildly.
The Raf Simons sweater, priced at a cool $1,360.94, also elicited feedback from the Washington Wizards forward’s former Los Angeles Lakers teammates.
“Ain’t no f—ing way you wore that!!!” LeBron James commented on Kuzma’s Instagram post. “I’m not pressing the like button cause this is outrageous Kuz!” Anthony Davis echoed LeBron’s sentiment, writing “You’re outta line sir!!!!”
Now you’re just somebody KD used to know
Listen, the basketball gods did James Harden no favors in letting news of his trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers break the same day as the NBA All-Star draft. Meanwhile, team captain Kevin Durant did his former teammate no favors in passing on selecting him seven times.
Durant using his last pick on Rudy Gobert instead of Harden? Wildly uncomfortable. LeBron’s reaction? Priceless.
Troel Embiid has entered the chat
Speaking of salty reactions from ex-teammates, Joel “Troel” Embiid had thoughts about the trade that sent Harden to Philly along with Paul Millsap in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and draft picks.
The king of cryptic tweets enlisted the help of a Twitter meme to make his formerly diplomatic feelings perfectly clear about Simmons, who was once viewed as his forever running mate.
On the off chance you’re not eternally online, the photo originated from an Instagram user who posted that he showed up at “one of my biggest haters’ funeral” just to ensure his hater was deceased.
Embiid’s Simmons send-off wasn’t the only time Troel raised eyebrows online this season. During Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Celtics and Heat, he turned to Twitter fingers to lament Miami’s need for another star.
Given the Heat had eliminated the 76ers in the previous round of the playoffs — and Embiid’s close relationship with ex-Philly teammate and current Miami star Jimmy Butler — the response from #NBATwitter was fast and frenzied, with many fans convinced Embiid was eyeing a move to South Beach.
LeBron’s deleted tweet … and other musings
The thing about the internet is you can’t really take something back. Even if you change your mind or think better of a tweet a few hours later, once you hit “send,” it’s out there — this lesson rings especially true if your name is LeBron James and you have over 51.5 million followers.
So was the case with the following message LeBron shared on Aug. 4, 2021, about the Lakers’ offseason moves: “Keep talking about my squad, our personnel ages, the way he plays, he stays injured, we’re past our time in this league, etc etc etc. Do me one favor PLEASE!!!! And I mean PLEASE!!! Keep that same narrative ENERGY when it begins! That’s all I ask.”
If the above hadn’t already been deleted by LeBron, it would have no doubt been fodder for @OldTakesExposed and the like as the Lakers’ season imploded.
For King James’ sake, here’s hoping his April 22 tweet in which he vowed to never miss the postseason again during his career ages better.
Tee Morant has a series
While being the father of up-and-coming Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant is a cool claim to fame in its own right, being a dead ringer for Usher makes for a better party trick. It’s also more useful for being featured on a “Look-Alike” cam.
On April 16, a tweet likening Morant’s father, Tee, to the eight-time Grammy-winning R&B singer had #NBATwitter doing a double take. The only thing left to do was to get Tee and Usher in a room together. On April 26, the Grizzlies delivered.
The uncanny Usher resemblance was just one of the reasons Tee took center stage during the postseason. Earlier in Memphis’ first-round series he made a wager with Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns’ father that called for the losing dad to wear the jersey of the winning son.
Not only did Morant win the bet, he quite possibly scored some Usher tickets in the process. Not bad for a series’ work.
The saga of the ‘Luka Special’
Underestimate Luka Doncic at your own peril. It’s a lesson Devin Booker & Co. learned firsthand during the Western Conference semifinals. The series between the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks was heated from the start. But one particular Game 5 moment would become a gift that keeps on giving for the #NBATwitter faithful.
In the third quarter, as the Suns were blowing out the Mavs, Dorian Finney-Smith fouled Booker as the Phoenix guard was driving to the hoop. Booker went down on the floor and stayed there to sell the foul. As a courtside fan captured, he wasn’t injured, rather having a laugh. He then proceeded to call what he was doing the “Luka Special.”
As you’ll recall, the Mavs went on to win Game 6 and force a Game 7 in which the +6.5 underdogs blew out the Suns 123-90. Dallas was led by Doncic, who had 35 points, 10 boards and 4 assists in only 30 minutes in the win. “You can’t get this smile off my face right now,” Doncic said after the victory. “I’m just really happy.”
Once fans unearthed a photo of Luka uninhibitedly smiling at Book in Game 6, the “Luka Special” took on new meaning.
The Dallas Fort Worth airport even got involved.
Nothing says “taking an L” quite like getting trolled by a public transportation hub.
Pat Bev slanders CP3
DBook wasn’t the only one taking flak after the Suns’ untimely exit from the postseason. On the morning after the Game 7 blowout, Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley joined First Take and Get Up! to share his thoughts on what happened — and did he ever.
Beverley, who admittedly has had beef with Chris Paul since high school, held absolutely nothing back. He even went as far as to compare the 12-time All-Star to a practice cone.
#NBATwitter came alive in support of CP3, with the general consensus being: You don’t say that.
Not to reignite the ol’ Stephen Curry vs. LeBron James rivalry, but in a tale of two proclamations, one aged considerably better than the other. While LeBron’s defense of the Lakers’ shift to a relatively older roster was for naught, Curry’s declaration after being eliminated by the Grizzlies in the play-in tournament in 2021 proved to be spot on.
But long before the Warriors hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the fourth time in eight seasons and Steph earned a previously elusive Finals MVP award, it was Candace Parker who was manifesting for the Golden State star. Ahead of the Warriors’ Nov. 8 game against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks, Parker said Steph would have a 50-piece.
A casual 50 points and 10 assists later, and the Chicago Sky star was looking prophetic.
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