Bryant returned from an Achilles' tear and looked good to start the 2014-15 season. Just before the calendar turned to 2015, though, injuries started to pile up for the Lakers star. And on Jan. 21, he suffered a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder that forced him to miss the remainder of the season. After surgery, he didn't even shoot a basketball again until August. The Lakers, meanwhile, stumbled through the rest of the worst season in franchise history. And Bryant wasn't the only Western Conference star to miss significant time. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant was sidelined for the season in February due to complications with his right foot, an injury that changed the championship landscape.
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Feb. 20-22 -- Heat's rebuild takes a detour after health scare
The 2015 trade deadline was one of the busiest in history. Thirty-nine players changed teams, including Miami's acquisition of Goran Dragic from the Phoenix Suns. Dragic looked like a perfect fit in Miami, but basketball took a backseat when Heat big man Chris Bosh was diagnosed with blood clots on his lung on Feb. 22. The Heat missed the playoffs last season, their first without LeBron James, in large part because of how much they missed Bosh. More important, however, Bosh returned at the start of the 2015-16 campaign, healthy and looking no worse for his health scare. Oh, and the Heat re-signed Dragic in the offseason, too.
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April 18 -- NYPD arrests, injures Hawks' Sefolosha
Last season's surprise squad was the Atlanta Hawks, who sent four players to the 2015 All-Star Game. The team looked ready to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for the East's Finals berth, in fact. That all changed when forward Thabo Sefolosha was arrested and injured at the hands of the NYPD. As he and teammate Pero Antic stood outside of a New York club after the stabbing of NBA player Chris Copeland (in an unrelated incident), the NYPD forcefully detained Sefolosha, breaking his leg in the process. He was later exonerated of charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration. Sefolosha has filed a suit against the police department and the city of New York. On the court, the Cavs subsequently swept the Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals.
David Richard-USA TODAY SportsDavid Richard
May 10 -- LeBron James calls an audible
Before Cleveland could face Atlanta in the East finals, the Cavs had to make it through the Bulls. And against Chicago, James took a turn as coach of his team. Late in Game 4, tied at 84, Cavaliers coach David Blatt drew up a play that had James inbounding the ball. The King nixed that idea, instead declaring that he would take the final shot. And he nailed it, of course, to even the Eastern semifinals at 2-2. There was much ado about the decision in the immediate aftermath, which was strange, since James has had input on plays for most of his career. But the kerfuffle in Cleveland was nothing compared to what went on in the first two rounds in the Western Conference, where the Clippers eliminated the Spurs in a tough seven-game series before imploding in the conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets.
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June 4-16 -- Warriors earn their first title in decades
Yes, the deck was somewhat stacked in Golden State's favor as the Warriors and Cavaliers squared off for the 2015 NBA title, given Kevin Love's first-round shoulder injury. And when Kyrie Irving fractured his left kneecap in Game 1, things got even bleaker for Cleveland. There's no denying that injuries played a factor in the playoffs. But that's true in almost every season. It doesn't diminish what the Warriors did, clinching their first title in 40 years and dispelling a lot of notions about what a 'jump-shooting team' can do. Andre Iguodala took home Finals MVP for his defensive work on LeBron and his central role in keeping Golden State's offense rolling, and the world met Riley Curry, whose dad was the NBA regular-season MVP. You've probably heard of him by now.
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
June 25 -- Kristaps Porzingis takes New York
Porzingis' welcome to the Big Apple was anything but warm, as Knicks fans generally reacted with a mix of indifference and boos when New York picked the Latvian big man fourth overall in the 2015 draft. Less than two months into the season, the 7-foot-3 rookie has already won their hearts. He's the best rookie the team has drafted since Patrick Ewing, and that's no exaggeration. Neither is the possibility that this entire draft class could go down as one of the greatest ever. Karl-Anthony Towns has been even better than Porzingis, D'Angelo Russell has looked good after early struggles (both on the court and in finding playing time), Justise Winslow has fit right in with the Heat -- the list goes on and on. And we still have faith in Jahlil Okafor and The Process in Philly, too!
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July 8 -- DeAndre Jordan has a change of (heart emoji)
As far as we knew, Jordan was as good as a member of the Dallas Mavericks after a whirlwind recruiting pitch by Chandler Parsons. A few emojis and a chill session with his old team later, one of the biggest free agents of the 2015 offseason was instead staying with the Los Angeles Clippers. It's still not clear exactly what happened on that night -- who called whom, what was said by whom, and who didn't answer whose phone calls -- but we know the Mavericks certainly didn't forget what happened. Some might call the Jordan saga a circus, but let's be honest. For everyone not linked to Dallas, this was pretty fun. Who knew that emojis, social media and the NBA could be such a perfect match?
Oct. 13 -- Lamar Odom fights for his life
The NBA world came to a stop in October when Odom, the former NBA star and two-time champion, was found unconscious in a suite (pictured here) at a southern Nevada brothel. Odom was rushed to a Las Vegas hospital and placed on life support. His estranged wife, Khloe Kardashian, arrived to be by his side, and Odom was eventually transported to a Los Angeles hospital after his condition stabilized. According to recent reports, Odom is experiencing problems with his memory and 'can barely walk on his own.' Authorities suspect Odom may have overdosed on cocaine and other drugs. Coincidentally, the Los Angeles Lakers, the team with which Odom won back-to-back titles, had an exhibition game in Las Vegas the day Odom was hospitalized. Both Kobe Bryant and GM Mitch Kupchak left the game to visit Odom.
Getty ImagesSteven Lawton
Oct. 27-Dec. 11 -- Warriors make history, then keep going and going and ...
A title apparently wasn't enough for the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry. Great teams continue to find ways to stay motivated even after they've won a ring, and the NBA world gave the Warriors all they needed by hinting Golden State was fortunate to have its path to a championship paved with other teams' injuries. The defending champs responded with an NBA-record 24 consecutive wins to open the season, shattering the previous mark of 15 straight. And the Warriors have owned the fact that the 1995-96 Bulls' record of 72 wins in a season is next on their agenda.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNoah Graham
Nov. 29 -- Kobe Bryant prepares to say goodbye
The start of the 2015-16 season was unkind to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet whether the future Hall of Famer would retire remained an open question through most of November. Then, on a Sunday before the Lakers faced the Indiana Pacers, there it was. With a poem to the game of basketball -- no, really -- Bryant announced that he would retire at the end of this season. He received a few gifts from other teams before requesting that his opponents not interrupt the games to treat him to a farewell tour. The best gift of all had been the freedom and enthusiasm with which Bryant has once again been playing after the announcement, at least until he was sidelined recently. Here's hoping his recent shoulder soreness isn't a big deal. It'd be nice if Bryant could walk into the sunset with a little spring in his step.