Today's national holiday in celebration of Martin Luther King has developed into one of the greatest days for an NBA fan.
While the majority of the country is home in reflection of King's activism, leadership, life and sacrifice, the NBA annually honors him with a slate of games on this day. Today, the league boasts a nine-game schedule beginning with this afternoon's matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks and ending with the Oklahoma City Thunder taking on the Los Angeles Clippers late tonight
The biggest and best game is the 8:00PM (EST) tipoff between the teams who've squared off in the past two NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
Other games include the Wizards vs the Trail Blazers in a showcase of two of the league's best young backcourts with Portland's Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, a Sixers vs Bucks game that will boast two of the most intriguing young prospects and building blocks around in Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Pelicans vs the Pacers aka the Paul George and Anthony Davis show, and an exceptional matchup of dynamic, diminutive point guards when Boston's Isaiah Thomas goes head-to-head against Charlotte's Kemba Walker.
The only true snoozer in today's marathon is the Nuggets taking on the Magic.
The storylines within today's games are boundless.
If the Knicks want to be taken seriously, they'll need to make a statement against the Hawks, who have won eight out of their last ten games and are beginning to look like a serious contender to face the Cavs in this year's Eastern Conference Finals. New York, who has lost 10 of their last twelve games, is coming off of a 116-101 smackdown at the hands of Toronto last night, and looked putrid during the third quarter in which they were outscored 27-8 while falling behind 96-62.
A season of such high hopes in Madison Square Garden is falling apart in dramatic fashion, but they can take the first step toward respectability with a win today.
Quiet as kept, the Wizards, winners of seven out of their last ten and boasting a 16-6 record at home, have been playing some solid ball after starting the year looking atrocious. If they can find a way to win on the road, they'll make some noise in the East.
The Blazers have improved after their own horrid start, and Lillard and McCollum are always worth the price of admission. Philly has won five of their last seven games, albeit against scrubs, but Embiid has people drinking the "trust the process" Kool-Aid. Milwaukee has one of the most exciting young rosters in the league, headlined by the Greek Freak, who does things that make you wonder if your eyes have the capacity to lie. The Pacers had won five in a row, but getting blown out at home by the Nuggets 140-112 is cause for concern. But any opportunity to watch Paul George and the Unibrow on the court doing battle is worth tuning in.
In terms of the Magic vs the Nuggets, ummmm, who cares? Why they put this game on the slate for the league's biggest showcase prior to All-Star weekend is comparable to casting Joseph Fiennes to play Michael Jackson!!! C'mon son, that's an affront to MJ and NBA fans worldwide. Like the Double X Posse once had said, "Nah baby, not gon' be able to do it!"
LeBron James can try to downplay tonight's matchup against the Warriors all he wants, but if you don't think he, Kyrie and Kevin Love are itching to leave some doubt with the league's top team right now in their final regular season tilt, you don't understand the mind of a champion.
If you think you're a serious basketball fan, but have not been studying what's going on with the young Utah Jazz, check it out, you're not a real hoops lover. With the understandable infatuation with Russell Westbrook's statistical assaults in chase of Oscar Roberston's record of averaging a triple-double for a full season, James Harden's similar offensive explosions that are revitalizing the Houston Rockets, LeBron James' overall brilliance in every chamber of the game, KD's ascension to become of the most incredible talents the game has ever seen, and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson's shooting it wild like a child in walker, most people have no idea that Utah is riding a ferocious and exceptional defense back towards viability.
Winners of seven of their last ten games, the Jazz are 26-16 and currently sit in fifth place in the remarkably deep and talented Western Conference.
Martin Luther King day is a day that the basketball world celebrates with a funk, style and flair like no other. With that in mind, here are some of the most memorable performances that we've seen on the holiday in recent years. Here's hoping that we'll be adding some others after today's games.
Kemba scorched for 52 points in a double-overtime win over the Jazz last year. It was his career-high, a franchise record and the highest total by an NBA player on Martin Luther King Day. He also added nine rebounds and eight assists.
Agent Zero exploded for 51 points, including the game-winner against Utah in 2007.
JJ dropped 40, hitting nine three's last year against the Houston Rockets last year.