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Buzzer-Beaters, Dunks & The NBA Season’s Top 25 Plays

Finally, at long last, the real season begins. But that doesn’t mean we can’t stop, look back, and appreciate the highlights and events that captivated us and stole our attention during the 2013-14 season. We’ve been treated to some great games, as recently as Sunday’s Golden State-Portland affair, and some highlights that may have been forgotten because of all the entertaining games we’ve witnessed this year. In case you may have forgotten, fans have been able to witness some of the greatest game-winners, poster dunks, and alley-oops in recent memory.

Dating back to as far as the first week of the year, the NBA has delighted its fans with memories that will easily transcend this season, and will be relayed to our fellow NBA viewers for years to come. No matter what transpires in the postseason this year, we will still have the memories of the electrifying moments that added excitement to what can be a road that’s too long to the playoffs.

We took the time to pull out 25 of the best highlights of the season, and came away with a top five composed of a pair of game-winners, two poster dunks that sent the NBA community into a frenzy, and one alley-oop that should be replayed to future NBA players.

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25. Kevin Durant coolly knocks off the Raptors
The most astounding characteristic of Kevin Durant will always be just how cool, calm and collected he is when going for a three-pointer in a two-point game with time winding down.

Just look at how confident he is when he pulls into that shot. Besides Stephen Curry, that’s a horrible shot. But because it’s Kevin Durant, who is constantly brimming with confidence, the shot falls and the Thunder win behind his 51 points.

24. Andre Iguodala goes behind-the-back against his former team
Is there anything better than a player’s return to their former team? They always seem ready to break out the best of their repertoire.

As we see here with Andre Iguodala, he definitely had something up his sleeve, playing against his former team in Philadelphia, with this incredible pass to David Lee.

23. Kemba Walker sticks it in Toronto
Is it just me or does it seem like the Toronto Raptors are on the opposite end of a lot of improbable game-winning jumpers? Law of averages say that Toronto’s overdue for a couple of their own. Good thing they waited until the postseason to possibly break them out.

22. Spencer Hawes hits the impossible shot vs. Milwaukee
There wasn’t much for the Philadelphia 76ers to celebrate this year, outside of an early season win against Miami and Michael Carter-Williams being the potential Rookie of the Year, but they will always have this incredible shot by Spencer Hawes that sent this meeting with Milwaukee into overtime.

Philadelphia would eventually win it, proving that they are clearly the 29th-best team, and not 30th.

21. Stephen Curry doing Stephen Curry things against Dallas
Stephen Curry likes to make the difficult look routine, as he does here with this game-winning jumper over Dallas. He toys with Jose Calderon so much that it’s jarring to watch an NBA player capable of doing that to another professional basketball player. Then again, nobody is exempt from the exploits and crossovers of Steph.

20. Chris Bosh hits the game-winner on Portland
Without LeBron James, the Miami Heat went into the hostile environment of Portland just to upset the fans that came out to see the reigning MVP a little more.

With time waning, Dwyane Wade threw a behind-the-back pass to seemingly nobody, but fortunately ended up in the hands of Chris Bosh. The converted center, who plays shooting guard more than any other position, was able to shoot right over the top of the two smaller defenders, dropping a three and stealing a victory over the Trail Blazers.

It’s reached the point where we legitimately have to recognize Chris Bosh as an extremely clutch player. This certainly isn’t the first time Bosh has come through under pressure and without LeBron.

19. Tobias Harris throws down the game-winner against Oklahoma City
I’m not sure if Maurice Harkless was either afraid to take that layup or thought Tobias Harris would be able to get to the rim in time, because he was really cutting it close.

Also, how often do you see this? Kevin Durant missing a clutch shot and having it lead to a game-winning dunk by his inferior opponent? It doesn’t seem right, but we’re not going to complain, because the Orlando Magic deserved something out of yet another year of rebuilding.

18. LeBron gets nose broken, dunks on Serge Ibaka
Just your standard LeBron drive; beats his initial defender, gets slapped in the face and has his nose broken, and then dunks all over the same defender that just broke his nose a second before.

LeBron, you’re just so predictable.

17. Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond go off glass
Hey, who’s telling teams outside of Miami that they can use the glass to their advantage? I’m certainly not going to complain, especially if they’re as well-done as this alley-oop off the glass from Brandon Jennings to Andre Drummond.

It wasn’t a good year for Detroit, but, hey, Drummond is going to be an All-Star as soon as next year.

16. J.R. Smith takes Anthony Bennett dancing
I’d say this was Anthony Bennett’s proverbial ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moment, but the entire 2013-14 season was a ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moment for the first overall pick.

J.R. Smith must have been foaming at the mouth when he saw the slow-footed forward defending him. He shed him with ease and then threw down a vicious reverse dunk to put a period on Anthony Bennett’s rookie campaign.

15. Paul Millsap destroys Jared Sullinger
How mad do you think Jared Sullinger was at Vitor Faverani for allowing Paul Millsap to go baseline that easily? Then again, I’d be peeved in general if I were a part of the Boston Celtics this year.

14. GERALD GREEN
Whenever Gerald Green jumps, you know you’re about to see something special.

Rather than take one play away, we thought it would be best to just have all of his highlights from this breakout year of his in one video.

13. Derrick Rose floats in the game-winner over New York
There was only a short amount of time we had to see Derrick Rose this year before injuries took him away from us for a third consecutive season. In that time, however, he gave us one of the finest game-winners of the season, in the form of a difficult, seemingly impossible floater over two Knick defenders to win it for Chicago.

12. Andre Iguodala puts Quincy Miller to sleep
Not since Allen Iverson put a hurting on Antonio Daniels have I seen a player get crossed up this badly.

Quincy Miller was no match for Andre Iguodala and his crossover dribble in the open court, but at least he had a good sense of humor about it.

11. Dirk Nowitzki hits the dagger vs. New York
Carmelo Anthony earned a lot of flak for his defense on this play, but it isn’t bad to start off with. He’s harrassing Dirk Nowitzki and forced him into a pretty difficult shot that blasted off the backboard and shot up about ten feet in the air, only to have it drop in.

This is more Mike Woodson’s fault than anyone else’s. How does 7-foot Dirk Nowitzki end up being guarded by Carmelo? That’s not fair to either side.

10. LeBron hits the game-winner against Golden State
It feels like it’s been a while since we were treated to our last game-winning jumper at or near the buzzer by LeBron James, but those wishes came to fruition when LeBron had the ball in his hands in the waning seconds of a game in Golden State.

With time running down, LeBron threw up a 28-footer over the outstretched hands of Andre Iguodala, just to watch it fall in with .1 seconds left to give the Miami Heat a one-point lead and the eventual victory. You have to admire the Heat’s ‘Who Cares’ attitude when they go for a three, rather than a two, when they only needed two to push the game to overtime.

9. Zach Randolph did what?
The most recent play to be featured on this list, this connection between Zach Randolph and Nick Calathes may be one of the most unique and innovative plays in NBA history.

We’ve seen bounce passes leading to alley-oops before, but a behind-the-back alley-oop in the half-court? That’s something none of us ever thought conceivable.

8. Jeff Green hits the insane game-winner against Miami
The Miami Heat just can’t figure out Jeff Green.

The Heat thought they had all they could get out of Green when he found a way to score 43 against them last year, but this game-winner fadeaway from the corner with .6 seconds left is as improbable as any other feat Green has pulled on the Heat.

7. Xavier Henry dunks all up on Jeff Withey
Chances are, at the start of the 2013-14 season, you didn’t expect the likes of Xavier Henry and Jeff Withey to be involved in a conversation of the league’s 25 best plays of the year. Well, maybe Withey on the opposite end of a poster dunk, but Xavier Henry? These Los Angeles Lakers really did bring some oft-forgotten names into the light for their 15 seconds.

6. Russell Westbrook got your back
Sweet, sweet justice was in store for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their second meeting with the Golden State Warriors.

After Andre Iguodala hit an insane game-winner against the Thunder earlier in the year, Russell Westbrook hit the Warriors with a little bit of their own medicine by nailing a three-pointer in the corner, in front of some very enthusiastic fans, to give OKC the eventual victory.

5. Andre Iguodala hits the game-winner against OKC
After Russell Westbrook hit an insane 29-footer just a few seconds before, the Golden State Warriors dropped a bomb of their own, in the form of Andre Iguodala hitting an insane turnaround at the buzzer.

Yeah, I think I’d be content if these two teams were to meet in the playoffs. In fact, any playoff series featuring either the Thunder or Warriors would be worth watching.

4a. Blake Griffin just kills Kris Humphries
C’mon, Kris, you knew Blake Griffin was overdue for his obligated poster slam of the year, so why’d you have to get in the way?

Kris Humphries joins Timofey Mozgov and Kendrick Perkins on Griffin’s Wall-of-Shame of players whose careers he has nearly ended.

And we might as well count this run of three oops in a row for Griffin, as well, even if it isn’t “one” highlight.

4b. Blake Griffin‘s windmill alley-oops
The first one against Philly was pretty good… but the second one was just absurd.

3. Terrence Ross ends Kenneth Faried’s career
Everything about what Terrence Ross does to Kenneth Faried here seems inhuman and unnatural. The dunk itself is incredibly ferocious, but the way Ross is able to cock back, absorb contact and throw down all over Faried is so jarring that it borders on insane.

2. Paul George 360
When you perform dunks that bring about memories of Vince Carter in his storied days as the league’s most volatile dunker, you’re going to earn some props for at least almost replicating what ‘Vinsanity’ was capable of doing.

Once again, we witness an in-game dunk that’s as good as any dunk we’ve seen in the Dunk Contest over the past decade. Either we stop with the gimmicks or the Contest entirely, because guys like Paul George are putting it to shame.

1. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade see your alley-oops and raise
There goes Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, performing feats that viewers of the NBA have never seen before.
The duo has pulled off some impressive alley-oops over the years, but there may be none better than this incredible connection, featuring Wade going off glass and James throwing it down, with his eyes closed, left-handed.

What do you think?

Follow John on Twitter at @jfriel1990.

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