Top plays. Thrilling games are remembered, incredible performances stick in the mind, but nothing stands out quite like a ridiculous play. Dirk's layup in the Finals, Game Two. Jason Terry's dagger over LeBron to clinch Game Five. There's so many that are applicable. This is the top ten that stand out in the 2012 season, starting with the bottom half right here.
I cheated just a bit on the "top ten" concept by including an eleventh here, but hey, ESPN ends up with at least fourteen plays in their Top Ten on a daily basis, so I don't feel nearly as bad. You know what would have made me feel bad? Leaving this play out. It was from the excruciating four game sweep, so maybe you all have completely forgotten about it already. That simply won't do. This play sums up why we love Delonte West so much. It exudes "grit". The steal, the hustle to save it from going out of bounds and from an opposing Thunder play, the sprinting of the floor, and of course, the jam at the end beating the potential Durant shot block. This is how the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA Championship -- they played as a team, and with the right individual stepping up at the right moment to make a huge play. Unfortunately, it was not to be in 2012, but no fault of Delonte's. Grit. He has it.
This game is known for another clutch play by #41 himself (if you don't know what I'm talking about, look for part two on Saturday), but this monster block was just a huge in the outcome of this game. Hedo Turkoglu, of all people, drives baseline and rises up for a dunk attempt. In perfect rotation, Mahinmi comes down, rises up, meets Hedo at the apex of his jump, and gets a full hand on the basketball, while keeping his body away to prevent a foul call. Ian had an up and down season, but his defense his was as good as it gets. As for Hedo, it's really kinda sad, because it's doubtful he will ever jump that high again in his life. Keep in mind the same situation: a successful dunk would have given Orlando a three point lead in a game won by just two points by the Mavericks. Don't overlook that as West rebounded the ball, he was fouled and sent to the line for a pair of free throws, something that also never would have happened if Orlando makes the field goal here.
Yes, I know...Brenden Haywood is in one of the top plays. Deep breathe. Exhale. Repeat. Now let's continue. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for this game, and I have to admit something: I was looking down when this happened. Seriously. What I missed was a classic Jason Kidd pass, off the dribble right on target with something on it, all while staring in the complete opposite direction. Nobody even attempts this pass, but Kidd throws it as if he's done it a hundred times. Come to think of it, he probably has. It's just what he does.
Poster time right here, in Mahinmi's second appearance on this top ten list. The ball movement is great to set the entire play up, especially Wright, who immediately gives it up to the crashing Mahinmi without muddling the ball by trying to dribble or look around for a target. From there, Mahinmi does the rest, rising up over Ayon a couple feet from the basket and utilizing those long arms of his to sledgehammer it over. This is the type of offensive execution that coaches dream for, players prepare for, and fans love. Ian's defensive effort has led to him being postered a few times last year, so it's good to see him on the right side of one for once.
When Roddy's at his best, there's one word that describes him: smooth. Describe Dirk as dominant, describe Kidd as masterminding, describe Cardinal as old, but Roddy just has to be smooth. Just watch how he not only splits two Bobcat defenders, but then accelerates leaving them trailing far behind. The around the back to freeze a third defender appears effortless, and it goes with the dunk like cookies go with cream. Please be fun to watch next year, because fun to watch Roddy usually means good Roddy.
I can't tell you how much this kills me to not have this is the top five. When I started this list in my head several weeks ago, it was one of the very first ones I added to it. This is classic Vinsanity, but at the same time, you can see his evolution as a player. Just as Carter has done his entire career, he drives the basket, rises up over the taller player, and dunks all over the top of him. What's new, is how it starts, in the post. Vince is getting older, and while he can still jump high enough to dunk all over Okafor as he did here, he's lost a step to allow him to get to the basket in the first place. Thus, the post up, the classic old man move for basketball players. It's not your dad's post up game, though, because Carter still has his full arsenal of jumpers, layups, and crazy looking flip shots, and as we see here, the occasional facial served out whichever defender is foolish enough to try to contest.