The NBA’s 75th season kicked into high gear with three spectacular plays within a matter of days as the calendar flipped the page to 2022.
Memphis Grizzlies budding superstar Ja Morant is making a strong case for MVP, putting down his signature moment of the 2021-22 season with a two-handed block against the Los Angeles Lakers that defied the laws of physics. Morant has the Grizzlies firmly in the playoff race in the Western Conference and his unbelievable highlights are making Memphis relevant again.
Russell Westbrook’s L.A. homecoming hasn’t gone as well as many Lakers fans have hoped, but the veteran guard delivered a major statement on Jan. 17 MLK Day with an empathic dunk that shook up newly named Crypto.com Arena like an aftershock.
Klay Thompson made his triumphant return to the court on Jan. 9 after a nearly three-year absence due to two devastating injuries. Thompson being able to play basketball again is a minor miracle, considering he suffered an ACL tear during the 2019 NBA Finals and ruptured his Achilles tendon while rehabbing. Thompson scored 17 points in 20 minutes including two 3-pointers, but those numbers pale in comparison to the epic dunk he pulled off that blew the roof off Chase Center and blew up Twitter.
Check out the three best plays of the season, according to OMFB.
Ja goes above the rim for a two-hand block
What may be more impressive than Morant’s block was the way he hustled to get back on defense after turning the ball over. Instead of pouting and complaining to the officials, he sprinted back and erased his initial mistake.
The play started when Morant’s pass was deflected and intercepted by Lakers guard Avery Bradley. Bradley raced down the court and as he went up for a shot against a back-pedaling Desmond Bane, Morant suddenly came into the picture and snuffed the layup by using his 44-inch vertical. We’ve seen chase-down blocks before, many from big guys like LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Morant is listed at 6-3. His head went past the rim and nearly hit the backboard.
“That’s probably the best block I’ve ever seen live,” Grizzlies forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr. told ESPN. “Probably the best block I’ve ever seen, period. That was crazy.”
Klay punches return ticket
Klay Thompson admitted is not a dunker. But when an opportunity to throw down a massive rim-rattler presented itself on his first night back after a 31-month layoff, he went for it. Thompson freed himself by crossing over Jarrett Allen above the 3-point line and challenging Lauri Markkanen and Lamar Stevens at the basket.
“I will never forget the reception that Warriors fans gave us, especially myself,” Thompson said about returning to the court after missing the entire 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
“Gosh it was fun and it was worth every single day of being away and in that squat rack or on that shuttle board and all the conditioning days. It was worth every single moment,” Thompson added. “I am not going to say equivalent to winning a championship. But man, it was pretty freaking close.”
Thompson’s much-anticipated return is not only good for the Warriors, but it is great for basketball fans.
Westbrook jams on Gobert
Russell Westbrook has been the butt jokes on social media and opposing arenas, and the trolling has gotten so bad the league had to step in. During a road game in Sacramento, the Kings’ DJ kept playing Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” each time Westbrook missed a shot. Even Westbrook thought it was funny. But he got the message.
Westbrook got some form of revenge on his trolls by authoring a vicious dunk over three-time NBA defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert.
Westbrook is now in his 14th year in the league and doesn’t have the same bounce he had when he was racking up triple-doubles during his MVP season in 2017. But Westbrook loves proving people wrong. He has done it his entire basketball career. His dunk over Gobert is another silencer to his critics — for now.
“People don’t just want me going down the paint and seeing if I still have my legs,” Westbrook said. “But I know what I’m capable of and know what I’m capable of doing on the floor. When the moment presented itself with being able to finish strong at the basket, it’s still something I can do.”