The 2016-17 regular season was full of ups and downs for the Los Angeles Lakers. There was progress made and development certainly happened, though not quite at the rate fans had hoped. There were some excellent highs and some terrible lows but at the end of the day the Lakers are at a better place now than they were at the outset of the year.
Even though the Lakers only finished with 26 wins this season, there were plenty of amazing and memorable moments throughout this season and that is why we are here now. We take a look back at the 10 best moments from the Lakers season.
10. Nick Young Participates In Three-Point Contest
No player did more to change their rep this year than Nick Young who went from candidate to be cut to reliable starter. One could argue that Young was the Lakers’ most consistent starter this season and where he did the most damage was from the three-point line.
As All-Star Weekend neared, the calls for Young to be included in the field for the Three-Point Contest grew louder and louder and the fans got their wish. Young performed well, only missing making the finals by a single point. Regardless, just seeing Young donning the purple and gold in the contest was an awesome moment.
9. Brandon Ingram Posterizes Cheick Diallo
As nearly every player pointed out after the season, rookie Brandon Ingram really turned things on down the stretch of the season for the Lakers. Most noticeable was his increased aggression attacking the basket and that was never more apparent than in the Lakers’ next to last game against the Pelicans.
Ingram made a great move to get to the basket and with his length rose way up over Diallo to slam it down over his fellow rookie. The best part however, was Ingram letting out a huge yell after the slam, showing the emotion that had been missing early on. Ingram put the rest of the league on notice with that move.
8. D’Angelo Russell Drops 40 Against the Defending Champs
D’Angelo Russell was pretty inconsistent throughout the season with great nights being followed by listless performances. Every so often however, he showed the world just why he was the number two overall pick in 2015 and when he dropped 40 points on the defending champion Cavaliers, everybody took notice.
Going head-to-head with Kyrie Irving, Russell got any shot he wanted for basically the entire night. He made seven three-pointers and added six assists with only one turnover. The Cavs basically switched their entire defense in the fourth quarter in order to calm his hot hand. The Lakers couldn’t quite get the win that night, but Russell’s performance showed what he is capable of. Now fans just want to see it more often.
7. Metta World Peace Has His ‘Kobe Moment’
One of my personal favorite moments, I believe no game this season brought more pure joy than Metta World Peace’s final game at Staples Center. With his teammates feeding him like Kobe during his final night, Metta scored 18 points (all in the second half) as the Lakers won their fifth straight game.
The best part about everything was the happiness and joy on all of his teammate’s faces every time Metta scored. The bench was going absolutely insane at every basket and wouldn’t even allow him to check out of the game when Luke Walton tried to sub him. Metta may not have played much this year, but he clearly made a major impact on all of his young teammates as was apparent on this night.
6. Nick Young Steals Game-Winning Shot vs. OKC
Usually when someone steals a pass and then hits a three it’s 100 percent a great thing, but with Nick Young nothing is ever that simple. With Lou Williams set up on the outside, Young swooped in front of him from out of nowhere, stealing the pass from Brandon Ingram and knocking down the three with five seconds left to give the Lakers a two-point win over the Thunder.
During the Lakers impressive start to the season, this was one of the best moments as everyone had a good laugh at Young’s thievery. Had he missed the shot there might have been some issues, but with the shot improving the Lakers early-season record to 8-7, everyone laughed, cheered, and insisted that Young get credit for a steal in the box score.
5. Shaq Gets Immortalized Outside Staples Center
The most dominant force to ever step foot in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal led the charge for the Lakers in the early-2000s. With Staples Center opening up in 1999, and Shaq leading the Lakers to three-straight titles from 2000-2002, it is literally the ‘House that Shaq Built.’ That’s why it was such an amazing moment to see Shaq forever immortalized with a bronze statue.
Everyone came out for the ceremony including Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and of course, Kobe Bryant. Aside from all of the stars out to commemorate the Diesel, the statue itself was truly a thing to behold. Unlike all of the other statues, Shaq’s would actually hang on the outside of the building. Considering the signature pose that was chosen (Shaq mid-dunk, hanging on the rim with his feet in the air) it made perfect sense.
Everything on this day was perfect for someone who was certainly deserving of the honor. Even the current young Lakers capped off the night with an exciting comeback win over the Timberwolves. Literally nothing went wrong on this night for the Diesel.
4. Lakers Dominate Warriors For Wire-to-Wire 20 Point Win
Now you would think that after the Lakers had a crazy, dominating victory over the Warriors last season that they would come out looking for revenge in their first meeting of this season. Add in the fact that Luke Walton left his assistant job with the Warriors to become the head coach of the Lakers and it just made sense that the Warriors would send a message to the young upstarts.
On this night, nothing made sense.
The Lakers absolutely dominated the Warriors from the opening tip. They never trailed the entire game, Steph Curry’s streak of 157 games with a three-pointer came to an end, the Warriors as a team made only five three-pointers all night, and the Lakers came out with a 117-97 victory. The Lakers had six players in double-figures including Julius Randle who had 20 points and 14 rebounds and just to cap the night off, Larry Nance Jr. absolutely posterized David West with a massive fast break dunk.
Sure the Warriors got their revenge the rest of the season, but for the third straight year the Lakers got a win over the league’s best team (record-wise). Things fell off the rails, but this was the moment when everyone took notice of the young Lakers.
3. D’Angelo Russell Hits Game Winner Following Grandmother’s Passing
As anyone who has been through it will tell you, it’s never easy to lose someone close to you. Unbeknownst to anyone outside of the Lakers locker room, D’Angelo Russell’s grandmother had passed away on the morning of April 9 and even though he considered not suiting up, Russell would ultimately play in what would turn out to be his final game of the season for the Lakers.
Russell actually had a pretty terrible night, shooting 6-19 from the field and committing five turnovers. But as he showed down the stretch of the season, he didn’t let the slow start stop him from remaining engaged in the fourth quarter. Larry Nance came up with a huge block to give the Lakers the ball back and after Metta World Peace missed an open three (after “shaking like a stripper”), the Lakers got the offensive rebound and the ball ended up in Russell’s hands.
The ball went in and out then somehow bounced back in as Russell’s teammates mobbed him. Afterwards, Russell would run into the stands and hug his brothers in what was truly an emotional moment for anyone watching.
2. Larry Nance Jr. Ends Brook Lopez
It took everything in my power not to eschew all rational and logical thinking and put this as the top moment of the year. So lets get the obvious out of the way: Larry Nance Jr. absolutely obliterated Brook Lopez on a dunk attempt in Brooklyn that had everybody going crazy. But for something like this, it’s just as important to remember everything else that happened.
First off, let’s not forget that former number one pick Anthony Bennett got crossed out of his shoes before the dunk ever occurred. There’s also Lopez realizing his mistake immediately and just curling into the fetal position. And then there are the reactions.
Larry Nance Jr’s face is absolutely priceless. Timofey Mozgov did his best Home Alone impression while running back down the floor. Metta World Peace on the bench looked completely shocked. My personal favorite was the Nets bench almost jumping out of their seats themselves before realizing how bad that would look.
IT WAS SO BAD THAT NANCE APOLOGIZED TO LOPEZ AFTER THE PLAY!!!!!
Nance does so many things that go unnoticed. And then he does things like this, that will be very much noticed forever. I love Larry Nance Jr.
1. Magic Johnson Takes Over As President Of Basketball Operations
Quite simply, there is nothing that shook the Los Angeles Lakers world more than this moment. For all of the games, plays, shots, and dunks, when news came down that Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak had been removed from their positions and Magic Johnson was taking over as president of basketball operations, it immediately changed everything.
Most had assumed that a decision being made on the futures of Jim and Kupchak would be made after the season, but Jeanie Buss just felt that she couldn’t wait anymore and dropped the ultimate hammer.The move signaled a complete change in the direction that the Lakers were headed.
Magic installed Rob Pelinka as the team’s new general manager and the pair have been hard at work ever since, looking at ways to improve the team and return the Lakers to their previous level of greatness. And even before then, Magic went straight to work, acquiring an extre first-round pick for Lou Williams at the trade deadline, and also bringing in Tyler Ennis and David Nwaba, both of whom played major roles for the Lakers down the stretch.
There were other things that were more exciting, but nothing was more important than Magic becoming the main man over basketball operations for the Lakers. The future of this franchise finally looks like it is on the upswing and this is the main reason why.