NBA fans (and media members) have a lot to be thankful for. On a nightly basis they get to watch some of the world’s most elite athletes and best basketball players go head-to-head. On any given night, James Harden could catch fire and drop 60, or Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns could . Or, Zach LaVine might . The possibilities are endless, and the intrigue generated by those possibilities keep fans coming back for more, night after night.
Thus, it only seemed fitting to use this year’s Thanksgiving holiday as an opportunity to express some gratitude for a league that provides endless entertainment to millions. Here are five reasons to be thankful about the NBA this season.
1. LeBron continuing to hold off Father Time
LeBron James is in his 17th season, but you wouldn’t know it from watching him play this year. James looks about as good as ever, as he has the Lakers sitting at the top of the Western Conference and looking like legitimate title contenders. On the season, James is averaging 25.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and a league-leading 11.0 assists per game — numbers that put him at the center of the MVP discussion.
If James isn’t the best basketball player of all time, he’s right up there, and we should all be thankful for the opportunity to watch him do his thing year in and year out. It’s even better considering he’s still performing at such a high level so deep into his career. Appreciate James’ greatness while it lasts.
2. The Greek Freak getting even freakier
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the reigning NBA MVP and already one of the most unique players that the league has ever seen, thanks to his combination of size and athleticism. However, his MVP campaign apparently wasn’t his ceiling as he has been even better so far this season. He has improved his per game scoring, rebounding, and assist numbers, and perhaps more importantly, he has also improved his long distance shooting. He is taking 4.7 3-pointers per game this season (compared to 2.8 last season) and bumped his percentage up to 30 (up from 25 percent last season).
Over the offseason, Antetokounmpo said that he had, and it seems like he was on to something. Getting to watch such a uniquely talented player continue to expand his game is plenty reason to be thankful.
3. Another decade-plus of ‘The Don’
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic can’t legally drink a Coors Light in a bar in the United States, but he can captivate the entire basketball-watching public with ability that belies his age. After winning Rookie of the Year last year, Doncic has taken a major step forward in his second season and established himself as a likely All-Star and a true MVP candidate. He has also established himself as one of the most entertaining players to watch in the entire league.
On the season, Doncic is averaging 30.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game, and he has propelled the Mavericks into the thick of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. The fact that he’s only 20 years old and has a whole heck of a lot of basketball yet to play — and that he will very likely get even better as he ages — is something to feel appreciative about.
4. Getting to watch a cyborg ball
OK, Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard isn’t an actual cyborg (or is he?), but he sure seems like it out on the court, where he operates in such a cold, calculated manner that one can’t help but think that he’s programmed and made of metal. Leonard may be in a new uniform this season, but he’s picked up right where he left off when he led the Toronto Raptors to their first title in franchise history last spring.
There’s nothing that Leonard can’t do out on the court. He’s a lock-down defender and a killer on offense, and he’s clutch, too (). He has even improved his passing (5.4) and rebounding (8.0) with the Clippers, as he is averaging career highs in both categories this season. In other words, Leonard is still evolving. This is a scary thought for the rest of the league, but an exciting one for the fans that enjoy watching him impose his will on opponents.
5. A reprieve from Warriors dominance
The Golden State Warriors might not be done being great just yet, but it’s at least on a season-long hiatus due to injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. After several straight seasons of Golden State entering the year as overwhelming title favorites, it’s refreshing to have a more wide-open pool of contenders. For the first time in several years, it feels like at least a handful of teams could conceivably win a championship in June, and that is definitely something to be thankful for.