Sports

The 72 Weirdest Stories of a Very Weird NBA Season

Kawhi Leonard’s hamstring, J.R. Smith’s soup, Charlie Villanueva’s toilet, and a whole lot more.

Kenan Thompson as LaVar Ball, Markelle Fultz, Bryan Colangelo, J.R. Smith, Kawhi Leonard.
Kenan Thompson as LaVar Ball, Markelle Fultz, Bryan Colangelo, J.R. Smith, and Kawhi Leonard.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by SNL, Abbie Parr/Getty Images, Mark Blinch/Reuters, Ezra Shaw/Getty Images, Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

Way back in October, pretty much everyone in and around the NBA—fans, writers, players, coaches, execs, agents, hangers-on, etc.—expected the 2017–18 season to end with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meeting in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season. Everyone was exactly right. But while we’ve ended up exactly where we expected, the ride that brought us here has been flat-out bonkers. Consider that the NBA went so insane this season that one of the Cavs’ most important players throwing a bowl of soup at a coach was not one of the year’s five craziest events.

Here are the 72 weirdest stories from the 2017–18 NBA campaign—one for each year of the league’s existence.

72. Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart punches a hotel picture frame and sustains a lacerated hand that knocks him out for two weeks.

71. 32-year-old Andre Ingram makes his NBA debut after 11 years in the D-League/G League and makes his first four shots on his way to scoring 19 points.

70. Somebody steals Charlie Villanueva’s toilet.

69. The Knicks’ Michael Beasley gets “MVP” chants from the adoring Madison Square Garden crowd … in multiple games.

68. Kelly Oubre becomes a pioneer by wearing a single leg sleeve during games, but when he orders a custom Supreme-branded sleeve, the NBA makes him take it off.

67. The Magic congratulate Shelvin Mack for leading the team with 3.9 assists per game.

66. Ray Allen claims in legal case that he was catfished.

65. The Warriors cancel practice the day after Steph Curry’s 30th birthday party.

64. Fergie’s national-anthem performance at the All-Star Game becomes an instant classic (but not the good kind of instant classic).

63. Kobe Bryant essentially becomes an NBA blogger, starting a video breakdown series on ESPN+ called Detail that curses the team of every player he focuses on.

62. LeBron James shows off his insane photographic memory by recalling several minutes’ worth of game action during multiple press conferences.

61. The Clippers promise Blake Griffin he’ll be a “Clipper for Life” and raise his jersey to the rafters during their free-agency pitch … then trade him to the Pistons six months later.

60. Enes Kanter runs afoul of the Turkish government for, among other things, insulting Hedo Turkoglu on Twitter.

59. Glen “Big Baby” Davis gets arrested with 126 grams of pot and $92,000 in cash, then responds by posting an Instagram video in which he eats Popeye’s chicken.

58. Chris Bosh reportedly evicts his mom from his house after she’s arrested in connection with an alleged drug ring.

57. LeBron James opens the preseason by calling the president of the United States a bum.

56. John Wall calls J.J. Barea a “midget” after an on-court spat, and Barea responds by asserting that Wall’s teammates don’t like him.

55. Steve Kerr accidentally tweets a complaint about James Harden’s ability to bait refs into calls.

54. Anthony Davis tries to play an April Fools’ joke by “shaving” his trademark unibrow. Absolutely nobody buys it.

53. Rudy Gobert responds to Gordon Hayward’s signing with the Celtics by posting a video of himself singing, “These hos ain’t loyal.”

52. Jimmy Butler’s canoe capsizes.

51. The Cavs accuse Kevin Love of making up an illness to leave a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, during which Cleveland gave up 148 points. Former Cavs coach David Blatt makes fun of them for giving up so many points, only for Blatt’s own team to immediately give up 151 points.

50. Jordan Clarkson says “bigger people” used to own dinosaurs as pets.

49. The Thunder’s charter plane gets hit by a bird while flying from Minneapolis to Chicago.

48. Zaza Pachulia “accidentally” falls on yet another player.

47. Meek Mill gets out of prison and is flown to Philadelphia via helicopter by 76ers owner Michael Rubin in time to ring the Sixers’ mock Liberty Bell alongside Kevin Hart before their playoff win against the Miami Heat.

46. Nothing super weird happens with the Kings all season.

45. The NBA tries to rebrand Basketball Twitter as #NBATwitter, complete with its own hashtag and logo.

44. Real live humans pick the Raptors to beat LeBron James in a playoff series, which he promptly wins 4–0 in hilarious fashion, causing people to dub the Raptors’ home city “LeBronto.”

43. The Celtics’ playoff slogan looks like Cus Crise.

42. Tom Thibodeau spends the season assembling the Minnecago TimberBulls. Having traded for Jimmy Butler and signed Taj Gibson, he brings in Derrick Rose after the trade deadline and reportedly shows interest in Joakim Noah.

41. 33-year old LeBron James plays all 82 regular-season games for the first time ever, leading the league in minutes per game for the second consecutive season. By making the finals for the eighth consecutive season, he breaks a tie with longtime teammate James Jones, who retired to join the Phoenix Suns front office last offseason. James now only trails Celtics Bill Russell (10), Sam Jones (nine), and Tommy Heinsohn (nine) for consecutive finals appearances.

40. The Lakers get fined for tampering—twice.

39. Michael Jordan gives a rare interview, during which he essentially pulls Kemba Walker off the trade market.

38. The NBA tries to institute “Weeks” like the NFL but nobody actually uses them.

37. Nobody complains about jersey ads after the first week of the season.

36. Mitt Romney attends Game 4 of the Jazz-Thunder series in Utah and taunts Russell Westbrook, and the Jazz win. Then, Ted Cruz attends Game 7 of the Western Conference finals in Houston, and the Rockets lose.

35. The viewing public slowly realizes Marv Albert is on the downslope of his career. Albert spends the entire season unable to distinguish between a foul and a turnover, an injury and a celebration, and James Harden and Eric Gordon.

34. NBA halftime legend Red Panda’s unicycle gets stolen at the San Francisco International Airport.

33. Kyrie Irving reveals he is an Instagram conspiracy theorist and that’s where he got the idea that the Earth is flat. Kyrie also expresses concerns that the Bucks’ throwback “Return to the Mecca” court was actually made in the 1960s and that it would thus be too dangerous to play on.

32. After traffic forces the Cavaliers to take the subway back to their hotel after shootaround, LeBron films an Uninterrupted video on the ride back, during which one subway rider gets super angry at LeBron.

31. The Knicks exile Joakim Noah after he beefs with coach Jeff Hornacek.

30. Emeka Okafor returns to the NBA after a four-year absence and (briefly) becomes the Pelicans’ starting center and, like, their third-best player.

29. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has to sit out Lakers road games for 25 days because he can’t leave the state of California as part of his sentencing after a DUI. He also has to wear an ankle monitor to the team’s home games.

28. “Pace and space” pioneer Mike D’Antoni coaches a team that sets NBA records for volume and efficiency of isolation plays.

27. DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles), John Wall (knee), Kevin Love (hand), and Kristaps Porzingis (knee) all suffer long-term injuries shortly after being selected by LeBron in the first ever All-Star Game draft.

26. Derrick Rose leaves his team in the middle of the season for the second consecutive year. He returns to the Cavs weeks later without much explanation about what happened while he was gone.

25. Suns coach Earl Watson gets fired three games into the season.

24. After years of ridicule, Andre Drummond spends the summer working with famed trainer Idan Ravin and develops a new free-throw routine that turns him into a 60.5 percent shooter. (His previous career high was 41.8 percent.)

23. The Magic shoot approximately 8,000 percent from 3 (actual figure: 41 percent) while getting off to a rollicking 8–4 start before promptly turning back into the Magic and going 17–53 the rest of the way.

22. After having been mocked by everyone on Basketball Twitter for trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, the Pacers finish with the exact same record as Oklahoma City and push LeBron and the Cavs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

21. Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell latches onto an argument made by Jazz fans that fellow Rookie of the Year contender Ben Simmons is not actually a rookie. Mitchell eventually wears a shirt that has the dictionary definition of rookie printed on it—which actually confirms that Simmons is a rookie.

20. The most notable Ball-related story is the breakout of Kenan Thompson’s LaVar Ball character on Saturday Night Live.

19. The Knicks’ season is so tame compared to recent years that people (read: me) think it passed without a Knicks-related scandal even though they literally banished one of their players during the season.

18. Commissioner Adam Silver sends a letter warning teams about openly tanking in the manner of the Grizzlies (benching Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans), Bulls (benching Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday), and Mavericks (Mark Cuban stating it’s better for the franchise to lose games).

17. Carmelo Anthony goes off about his role during his Thunder exit interview and GM Sam Presti responds by basically daring Melo to opt out of the final year of his contract.

16. Six-foot-ten, 269-pound jersey-wearing Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach Kendrick Perkins and Toronto Raptors mascot–global ambassador–Pusha T diss track target Aubrey Graham get into an on-court fight that eventually spills into the tunnel. Avery Johnson, appearing on Kevin Garnett’s Area 21 that night, wonders if it was “God’s plan.”

15. After Marcin Gortat tweets about a “great ‘team’ victory”—the team’s third straight after John Wall underwent knee surgery—Wall goes on SportsCenter and talks about how Gortat gets “the most spoon-fed baskets ever.”

14. The official NBA Referees Twitter account tweets about “fake news” after a FiveThirtyEight investigation into which teams are most disadvantaged by missed and/or wrong calls.

13. Terry Rozier and Drew Bledsoe embark on a bromance after Rozier “accidentally” refers to Bucks point guard and rival Eric Bledsoe as “Drew Bledsoe.”

12. Nerlens Noel leaves the Mavericks’ locker room at halftime to pick up a hot dog from the media dining room.

11. Eric Bledsoe tweets, “I Dont wanna be here” in the middle of the day after the Suns lost 130–88 to the Clippers. He gets sent home by the team after GM Ryan McDonough refuses to buy Bledsoe’s explanation that he was at a hair salon and did not want to be there. Bledsoe later gets traded to Milwaukee.

10. Five days after firing coach Dwane Casey following a sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers, the Raptors send out a tweet congratulating him for being named a finalist for Coach of the Year.

9. Bulls forward Bobby Portis clocks Nikola Mirotic in the face during practice, breaking multiple bones in Mirotic’s face. In the aftermath, most of the Bulls seem to take Portis’ side. With Mirotic out, Portis gets a significantly larger role in the Bulls’ rotation. Mirotic returns to the lineup in early December and the Bulls go on a seven-game winning streak fueled by the Bulls outscoring their opponents by 39 points in the 86 minutes Portis and Mirotic share the floor.

8. Jason Kidd gets fired by the Bucks and then tells anybody who will listen (though he told Ramona Shelburne first) that Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to save Kidd’s job.

7. LeBron James essentially stages an on-court strike for the entire month of January in an (ultimately successful) effort to get half his team traded. In the final game before the trade deadline, LeBron chest-bumps Cedi Osman and Tristan Thompson while celebrating a game-winning shot … but snubs Isaiah Thomas, who is traded the following day.

6. J.R. Smith gets suspended by the Cavs for throwing a bowl of soup at assistant coach Damon Jones.

5. Kevin Durant, who is definitely not sensitive and/or Mad Online, gets caught operating multiple burner Twitter and Instagram accounts. Durant states, among other things, that he didn’t like the Thunder organization or playing for Billy Donovan. He also says the roster in Oklahoma City featured a bunch of bums (and Russell Westbrook), explaining, “Kd can’t win a championship with those cats.”

4. Shortly after a tension-filled game featuring Chris Paul’s return to Staples Center, it’s reported that the Houston Rockets utilized a purportedly secret tunnel to confront the Los Angeles Clippers’ Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin. The reported plan involved sending Clint Capela to the front door of the Clippers locker room as a distraction while Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green sneak around the back. Several NBA players claim the tunnel isn’t actually secret, but nobody cares because calling it a “secret tunnel” is funnier. Updated reporting indicates that Paul and Harden were peacemakers and that Tarik Black—not Capela—went to the front door of the locker room. Again, nobody cares because the other version is much funnier.

3. In late September, San Antonio announces Kawhi Leonard will be out for the entire preseason with “right quadriceps tendinopathy.” The Spurs issue vague statements about his progress throughout the first two months of the season before he finally returns to the floor in mid-December. After nine games, the Spurs announce he’s out indefinitely. ESPN then reports a rift between Leonard and the Spurs, stemming from Leonard’s reliance on outside medical opinions. As Leonard spends more time away from the team, conspiracy theories emerge about his alleged unhappiness in San Antonio and every person in America fires up the trade machine. Tony Parker, meanwhile, tells the media his own quad injury was “100 times worse” than Leonard’s, and Gregg Popovich repeatedly answers questions about his star’s status by saying that Leonard’s “group” will decide when he can play again.

2. No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz suffers a mysterious injury—or does he????—that robs him of the ability to shoot. Videos (like, dozens of them) surface of Fultz shooting free throws and jumpers with a janky-ass form that looks absolutely horrifying, and Fultz becomes the subject of endless internet fascination as people debate whether the injury is real. Fultz sits out every game from Oct. 25 through March 26, all the while continually taking strange-looking jumpers (including a session in which he strictly shoots with his left hand) in front of media members who film him continuously. Almost immediately upon his return, Fultz breaks his teammate Joel Embiid’s face.

1. Spurred by an anonymous tipster, the Ringer puts together an exhaustive case which suggests 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo operates five burner Twitter accounts that he uses to: disparage the performance of his predecessor in Philly (Sam Hinkie) and successor in Toronto (Masai Ujiri); criticize Sixers coach Brett Brown; telegraph the trade in which the Sixers moved up in the draft to pick Fultz; criticize Sixers players drafted by Hinkie such as Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Joel Embiid; disclose private medical information about Okafor; and engage in gossip about Embiid’s off-court exploits. As of this writing, internet sleuths have decided some of the accounts may have been operated by Colangelo’s wife.