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NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494953 Happy New Year! Happy+New+Year%21++ NBA

For a while, it looked like there might not be any NBA games in 2012. But the lockout was resolved in time for the Heat to blow out the Bobcats on New Year's Day, a portent of things to come for both teams. Here are our 10 biggest stories of an extraordinary year in the NBA.

Steve Mitchell - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494942 LeBron's first title LeBron%27s+first+title NBA

One NBA player towered above all others – except for Jeremy Lin in February – throughout 2012. LeBron James was simply too dominant and too determined to be denied anything he wanted all year. As a result, he earned his third MVP award, first NBA championship and second Olympic gold medal. Now in his physical prime with his 28th birthday Sunday, King James may be just beginning his reign. We'll see whether 2013 and 2014 bring more of the same.

Derick E. Hingle - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494944 Linsanity! Linsanity%21 NBA

The emergence of undrafted, Harvard-educated, Taiwanese-American point guard Jeremy Lin as the New York Knicks' savior for a month transcended the confines of the NBA. There was no bigger, better sports story – arguably no better story, period – than Linsanity, which gripped New York, America, Asia and elsewhere as Lin led the Knicks to seven straight wins and turned around their season with his dynamic play and joyful spirit. It easily would have been the No. 1 NBA story of the year had it not been so fleeting. His falloff in play, knee injury and free-agency departure to Houston ended Linsanity for good, but it was fun while it lasted.

Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494945 Hollywood drama Hollywood+drama NBA

A team with Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol? What could possibly go wrong?! The formation of this so-called super team in the summer of 2012 had Los Angeles Lakers fans dreaming of a 17th championship. But injuries, age and bad chemistry have kept the Lakers around .500 heading into 2013 and already cost one coach (Mike Brown) his job. Whether this team gets it together or fails miserably, the Lakers will surely be one of the NBA's most compelling stories next year.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494946 Dwight-mare Dwight-mare NBA

You thought Carmelo Anthony's forced trade to New York was bad and that LeBron James' "The Decision" was worse? Well, Dwight Howard outdid both of them with his ugly, drawn-out exit from Orlando. Maybe there's no way for a star player to gracefully leave a franchise these days, but Howard really butchered it by changing his mind several times and making it impossible for the Magic to get anything close to equal value. Finally, after he failed to force a trade to Brooklyn, Howard was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in August.

Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494947 Rose blows out knee Rose+blows+out+knee NBA

After becoming the NBA's youngest MVP winner in 2011, Derrick Rose had a rough 2012. He played only 39 of 66 games in the regular season, but the Chicago Bulls still earned the No. 1 seed in the East and had high hopes for a title run with Rose back on the court. Those hopes were dashed in the first playoff game when Rose tore the ACL in his left knee. The Bulls fell to the Sixers in the first round and Chicago is still waiting for Rose's return some time in 2013.

Dennis Wierzbicki - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494948 CP3 turns Clippers into winners CP3+turns+Clippers+into+winners NBA

For more than three decades, the Los Angeles Clippers were the laughingstocks of the NBA. Since moving to San Diego in 1978, then LA six years later, the Clippers had won exactly one playoff series before Chris Paul fell into their laps last year. (His trade to the Lakers was nixed by the league several days before the Hornets dealt him to the Clippers.) Almost immediately, the point guard changed the culture of the franchise, using his work ethic, talent and determination to forge the Clippers into winners. He led LA to a playoff series win last season and has them poised for much more in 2013.

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494949 Worst. Team. Ever. Worst.+Team.+Ever. NBA

The Charlotte Bobcats weren't just bad in 2012, as so many teams are every year. They were spectacularly awful. With an injury-plagued and minimally-talented roster, Michael Jordan's team lost its final 23 games of the season and finished 7-58. Its .106 winning percentage is the worst in NBA history.

Sam Sharpe - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494950 Spurs win 20 straight Spurs+win+20+straight NBA

San Antonio didn't get old and fade away, as many people expected in 2012 ... and in 2011 ... and in 2010. The Spurs added some young talent to the aging nucleus of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and were a well-oiled machine all season. They won their final 10 games of the regular season to earn the West's top seed, then swept their first 10 playoff games. But just like that, Oklahoma City beat them four straight times in the West finals. So are the Spurs done yet? Hardly. They're again among the West's top teams going into 2013.

Brendan Maloney - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494951 Harden to Houston Harden+to+Houston NBA

NBA economics forced one of the biggest trades of 2012 when the Oklahoma City Thunder, unable to afford James Harden, sent the reigning Sixth Man of the Year to the Houston Rockets just before the start of the season. With three big contracts already on the payroll in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, the Thunder couldn't give Harden a lucrative extension without being hit by the league's new punitive luxury tax. Harden has emerged as a superstar in Houston, but Oklahoma City remains an elite team without him.

Kevin Jairaj - USA TODAY Sports
NBA 73 43 Top 10 NBA stories of 2012 31494952 Durant-Kobe scoring duel Durant-Kobe+scoring+duel NBA

Kobe Bryant turned 34 in August of 2012. Kevin Durant turned 24 a month later. But young or old, they were the two greatest scoring machines in the league all year. Durant barely beat out Bryant for the 2011-12 scoring title, 28.0 points per game to 27.9. This season Kobe has the early lead as he tries to deny Durant a fourth straight scoring crown. Bryant also became the fifth player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points, a milestone Durant may well reach in the next decade.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports
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