WAY BACK IN NOVEMBER, long before the Spurs began their march to a fourth title, the biggest story in the NBA was a microfiber ball that replaced the leather basketballs in use since 1946. The balls drew the ire of many players, including Heat center Shaquille O'Neal. "It feels like one of those cheap balls you buy at the toy store," he said. One player who didn't mind the new ball was Celtics guard Delonte West, who said, "I never really paid that much attention to it. I'm just a player, and I just play with whatever. If we gonna play with a sock, we gonna play with a sock." In the end the league caved, and the leather balls were back on Jan. 1.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, here are some other headlines you may have missed during this NBA season.
NOT ON HIS WATCH
CELTICS ICON RED AUERBACH (left), the architect of 16 NBA championships, dies of a heart attack on Oct. 28 at age 89. A week later Boston becomes the final NBA squad to introduce a dance team.
ONE OF the league's biggest early-season stories is high-scoring Wizards guard GILBERT ARENAS (above), who has 40 or more points in three of his first nine games. These high totals are especially noteworthy because Arenas had selected 41 Washington, D.C., area schools—a different one for each home game—to receive $100 for each point he scored. For the season he donates $111,200. "When my career is over, I want people to remember me for what I did off the court as well as what I did on the court," he says.
I WENT TO SEE BASKETBALL, AND A HOCKEY GAME BROKE OUT
THE DEC. 16 melee at Madison Square Garden results in 47 games worth of suspensions and $500,000 fines for the Knicks and the Nuggets. Denver forward CARMELO ANTHONY (above, in headband) is suspended for 15 games, and his sucker-punch-and-run-away move spawns a new dance: the 'Melo Moonwalk. Incidentally, the Nuggets win the game 123-100.
THE ANSWER IS?
AFTER STARTING his 11th season and having scored 19,583 points for Philadelphia, ALLEN IVERSON (left) is traded to Denver on Dec. 19. Many wonder if AI will be O.K. with sharing the scoring load with fellow superstar Anthony, who returns to the lineup on Jan. 22. But the Nuggets go 19-12 after the All-Star break and earn the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Anthony (28.9 ppg) and Iverson (26.3) finish in the top eight in scoring.
TRAIL BLAZERS guard BRANDON ROY (left) scores 28 points to go with his nine rebounds, two assists and two steals in a 99-95 win over Milwaukee. For the season Roy leads all rookies with averages of 16.8 points and four assists. He is a near-unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year honors, earning 127 out of a possible 128 first-place votes despite missing 23 games due to injury and a total of 25.
YOU'RE DOING FINE, OKLAHOMA!
DESPITE 30 sellouts in 71 games in Oklahoma City, DAVID WEST (left) and the Hornets make plans to return for the 2007-08 season to New Orleans, where they ranked last in the league in attendance in '04-05. The move leads to speculation that Oklahoma City businessman and Sonics owner Clay Bennett will relocate his franchise there if Seattle doesn't agree to build a new arena for the Sonics by his deadline of Oct. 31, 2007.
BIG ARISTOTLE'S BIG MILESTONE
IN A 99-93 loss to New York on Feb. 26 Miami center SHAQUILLE O'NEAL (left) scores 20 points to become the seventh player to record 25,000 points and 10,000 boards. He is the top scorer among active NBA players.
NELLIE BALL DOES WORK!
IN HIS return to Golden State, DON NELSON leads the Warriors to their first playoff appearance in 13 years (that team was also coached by Nelson), ending the NBA's longest postseason drought. In classic Nelson style, Golden State ranks second in the league in scoring, averaging 106.6 points. The Warriors then pull off the biggest upset of the playoffs, defeating league MVP DIRK NOWITZKI (defending BARON DAVIS, right) and the Mavericks in six games.