With Labor Day coming and going, summer is officially over. Summer ending is always a bit sad as the constant warm weather will soon shift to autumn hues and then winter in various parts of the country. Despite the seasonal change, the end of summer also signals that the NBA season is just around the corner.
In a few weeks, teams will hold their media day and then training camps will start. And before we know it, preseason will be in full swing and the actual season itself will be tipping off. But before we embark on an in-depth look at the upcoming season, it is important to step back and take in what happened around the league this summer. Basketball truly never stops, and for several players, their summers were just a mixture of fun-filled high points and momentous life-changing events.
So for fun, here is a ranking of five players whose epic summers stand out from the rest of the league:
In all honesty, has anyone had a better summer than Carmelo Anthony? Based on his wishes, the Knicks re-tooled this offseason by trading for Derrick Rose and signing Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee. The Knicks are now a super-team, according to Rose, and while that still remains to be seen and is a rather ambitious claim, New York should at least be much better than it’s been for the last couple of seasons. This means the playoffs are an actual tangible goal for the Knicks this season.
Besides gearing up to play for a revamped Knicks team, Anthony also suited up for Team USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics, where he won his third gold medal — a feat no other USA Basketball player has ever accomplished. Melo is also the all-time leading scorer in USA Basketball history. Anthony was the main veteran presence on a rather young Olympic roster. As the old head on the team, he was routinely ridiculed by Draymond Green on Snapchat. This led to Anthony returning the favor by joining Snapchat simply to make fun of Green and the other youngster on Team USA.
Anthony also fully embraced the realities of Rio by going to the favelas and hooping with the kids there. He did this all on his own, not with any entourage or any of the other players.
This was yet another example of Anthony’s commitment to social justice, something which he has always been involved in but has been very vocal about this summer. Anthony called for all athletes to speak out and address the senseless violence that has been happening around the country. He then worked with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul to deliver a powerful message along the same lines at the ESPYs. Melo followed that up by leading a community panel in Los Angeles about non-violence. Anthony is not just posting messages on social media and hoping that makes a difference. He is actually going out in the community and backing his words up with actions, something not a lot of players do.
This is already a jam-packed couple of months but the summer of Carmelo still continues. Like a true boss, he made a late night bodega run in New York City in a monogrammed robe, and then a week later Anthony stylishly celebrated Beyonce’s birthday.
Sorry Drake, but all of summer 2016 belongs to Melo.
Starting his summer off by bringing a title to Northeast Ohio like he prophesied, James has been on a championship high ever since.
He paraded through the streets of downtown Cleveland and then got real animated when addressing his teammates and the fans in attendance. James also has let his clothes do the talking this summer, wearing a seemingly jabbing Ultimate Warrior T-shirt and an updated meme championship hat. Everywhere he went, LeBron was in full championship mode, like when he brought the Larry O’Brien trophy with him to dinner.
James may have been savoring the championship a little bit too much though as he did take his sweet time when it came to re-signing with the Cavs. But his return to Cleveland was never in question as James agreed to a new three-year $100 million deal with the Cavs. James got seriously paid with his new contract; the $33 million salary he will earn in 2017-18 will be the highest single-season salary in NBA history.
So what will James will do with all of that influx of cash? For starters, acquire a podcast for Uninterrupted, his multimedia platform for athletes. James’ 90-minute conversation with the fellas over at Open Run kicked off the partnership and led to some insightful gems about LeBron and his mystique.
James wasn’t all about gloating and business this summer. He teamed up with Melo at the ESPYs to advocate for non-violence and melodically wished his teammate Kevin Love a happy birthday. But perhaps even more significant, in the wake of Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors, James has started his intense offseason workouts earlier than usual. His eyes has never wavered from the prize of winning back-to-back titles.
Perhaps the most confident player in the league, Westbrook remained in the shadows when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Oakland but then revealed himself with much fanfare after a few weeks had past.
Soothing the hurt feelings of Thunder fans and quelling any fears the organization may have had, Westbrook signed a three-year max extension with Oklahoma City. Westbrook not only got paid by signing the extension, but the move also made it crystal clear that he was putting the Thunder on his back now and he was the team’s No. 1 star. OKC is now motivated to build around Westbrook and has a clear plan going forward in the wake of Durant’s departure.
But perhaps the best part of Westbrook cementing his status as the franchise star in OKC is how he’s handled his “break up” with Durant. In that, he hasn’t really directly addressed it. Instead of clearly talking about Durant, Westbrook has sung breakup songs all summer and had a Jordan commercial seemingly aimed at his former teammate. Westbrook did talk about Durant briefly at a press conference to announce his extension, but he also scoffed at the notion that his former teammate’s decision had a legitimate impact on him.
This type of fiery deposition that we’ve gotten accustomed to with Westbrook and his motivation to figuratively and perhaps literally crush Durant and the Warriors is why Vegas believes the Thunder superstar guard will win the MVP next season. Even if he doesn’t win that award, he will be a force to be reckoned with next season and it will mainly be because of what occurred between him and Durant this summer.
Making the biggest splash this summer, Durant decided to alter the landscape of the NBA by signing with the Golden State Warriors on July 4. K.D. had plenty of suitors, but motivated by the desire to win a ring, the high-scoring All-Star forward packed his bags and headed West to team up with fellow All-Stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. The Warriors are now a seemingly invincible team and are heavily favored to win the championship.
Durant’s decision drew a fair share of criticism as former players and extremely passionate Thunder fans vocally expressed their displeasure with his move. Luckily for Durant, he doesn’t pay his haters any mind. However, his lack of communication with Russell Westbrook about his decision has created a new rivalry in the league — a rivalry that has seemed to cause Westbrook to have a personal vendetta against Durant and the Warriors.
Despite Westbrook staring him down in his rear view mirror, Durant’s summer hasn’t been all contentious. He was the star of Team USA at the Rio Olympics, leading the team in scoring and is now second overall on USA Basketball’s all-time scoring list. When he wasn’t dominating on the Olympic stage, Durant enthusiastically and patriotically showed his support for Michael Phelps and the USA women’s volleyball team.
He also hammed it up in Carmelo Anthony’s and Draymond Green’s snapchat videos, got two giant-sized tattoos — a Tupac calf tattoo and a Rick James thigh tattoo — and celebrated his second gold medal by partying it up in Greece.
We all knew that J.R. Smith, due to his reputation, was going to turn up after winning his first ever championship. And not only did Smith celebrate by popping some seriously expensive bottles, he did it shirtless.
Smith’s shirtless look was so omnipresent that it even caught the attention of President Obama, who advised Cavs coach Tyronn Lue to get his starting shooting guard to put on a shirt. Think about that for a second. The President of the United States of America actually wanted Smith to put on his shirt. What a time to be alive.
Smith also got married, or as he eloquently said on his big day, “Two rings, one year.” and speaking of shirts, Smith teamed up with a local Cleveland-based T-shirt company to sell a shirt that was a cotton replica of his fully tattooed upper body. The shirts were an instant hit and were bought by the thousand-full.
Hawking shirts of his shirtless bod was not the only retail endeavor Smith got into this summer. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, Smith opened up a sneaker store in his hometown in New Jersey that will sell custom Team Swish merchandise among other things.
Now at the time of this writing, Smith is still unsigned. LeBron wants him back though and Smith wants to return to Cleveland as well. And considering those two factors, it is rather curious that the two sides haven’t come to an agreement yet. But Smith wants to get paid fair market value and after a strong performance in the Finals, he will likely get it. And when he does, Smith’s summer will become that much more sweeter.
Source: CBS Sports / These five NBA players made the biggest splashes this summer