A new all-time scoring record holder, a first title for the Denver Nuggets and a brilliant effort for Canada at the FIBA World Cup. This is only a small part of what marked the basketball world in 2023. Here is an overview.
The year began with the San Antonio Spurs setting the attendance record for an NBA “regular” season game, welcoming 68,323 to the Alamodome on January 13 against the Golden State Warriors .
San Antonio made headlines again in May, winning the draft lottery. The Spurs of course chose Victor Wembanyama.
The Texas team was also in the spotlight in August: Hall of Fame inductees included Gregg Popovich and Tony Parker, in a cohort led by Dirk Nowitzki.
Wembanyama, a Frenchman who turns 20 on January 4, has won over fans, but Spurs as a whole remain in poor shape. On December 15, they stopped an 18-game losing streak. The Detroit Pistons are even more miserable, having lost 24 straight as of December 20.
On February 7, Lakers star LeBron James hit a perfect 15-foot shot in Los Angeles against the Oklahoma City Thunder, becoming the leading scorer in NBA history. James eclipsed the 38,387 points of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was on hand for the occasion.
Meanwhile, Wemby is amazing, but another rookie is wowing this year: Chet Holmgren of the Thunder. He was drafted second in 2022, but missed an entire season with a foot injury.
The Nuggets celebrated their first NBA championship in their 47th season. Denver went 16-4 in the playoffs, including 4-1 in the final, against a Miami Heat who melted like snow in the sun. Nikola Jokic, however, was deprived of what would have been his third straight Most Valuable Player title, with the honor instead going to Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
In September, the FIBA World Cup crowned the Germans, powered by tournament MVP Dennis Schroder. Very efficient and endowed with a remarkable sense of the game, the six-foot-one athlete was acquired by the Toronto Raptors in July, on the free agent market.
Germany also benefited greatly from the brothers Franz and Moritz Wagner; they also help the Orlando Magic to show very good results this season, including a series of nine victories.
For its part, Canada displayed a strong and convincing game at this World Cup, winning bronze by beating the Americans in overtime. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished fourth in points. He had among his accomplices the Montrealer Luguentz Dort, also from the Thunder, as well as RJ Barrett and Dillon Brooks, in particular.
Gilgeous-Alexander, who has become a big star on offense and defense this season, is fourth in points and tops in steals. He is the main asset of a Thunder which excels with a record of 17-8, in second place in the West.
For his part, Dort continues to shine on defense. Additionally, he has by far the best three-point shooting rate of his career (40.6%). On October 12, during a preparatory match between the Thunder and the Pistons, a packed house at the Bell Center warmly cheered the Montreal-North athlete, touched by this enthusiasm from the public.
Oklahoma City voters on Dec. 12 said yes to building a new $900 arena downtown, voting 71 percent in favor of a 1 percent sales tax that will help finance it.
In June, Olivier-Maxence Prosper was drafted by the Sacramento Kings then traded to the Dallas Mavericks, adding Dort, Bennedict Mathurin and Chris Boucher among the Quebecers in the league. The same month, Dort, Mathurin (Pacers) and Boucher (Raptors) took part in a Basketball Without Borders camp in Longueuil.
In July, the Canadians won bronze at the FIBA U19 World Cup thanks in particular to Cassandre Prosper, sister of Olivier-Maxence. She plays with Notre Dame in the NCAA.
Rick Carlisle, who leads the Indiana Pacers, in November became the 14th coach in NBA history with at least 900 victories.
He is tenacious, the distant dream at best of an NBA club in Montreal. Hope is sometimes rekindled, like when Adam Silver said on November 13 that there was interest in getting a club in the metropolis. The commissioner slipped these words into a broader discussion on the craze on the Canadian side, also mentioning Vancouver.
The league could grow bigger, but it probably wouldn’t be until the end of the current TV deal, which ends after the 2024-25 season. And it’s clear that at the top of the list are Seattle and Las Vegas. “The opportunity will present itself over time [for an expansion into Canada],” Silver said about this, during the broadcast of a game between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics.
Furthermore, the Raptors had a difficult year. After a 41-41 “regular” season, they were defeated in Toronto in their first game of the qualifying tournament.
An important chapter in their history then ended: Nick Nurse took over as manager of Philadelphia, while Fred VanVleet joined the Houston Rockets. The current season is also frustrating, with a record of 11-15. It’s hard to get out of the swamp when you’re in the bottom of the league for three-pointers and free throws.
Finally, note that the Celtics won their first 14 games in Boston this season (by 14.9 points on average). For the first time in 15 years, they’ll face the Lakers on Christmas Day (5 p.m., ABC and TSN).