One year ago, Kawhi Leonard hit the shot that made Joel Embid cry. It turned Mark Gasol immediately into a big brother consoling his younger brother.
It is likely to be one of the most memorable buzzer beaters in all of NBA history. Nothing like Embid’s breakdown at the end of the game catches the moment either. It just seems that in that moment you understand just how hard NBA players play in the second season (the playoffs). They train and prepare and practice and play 82 games. They then enter the playoffs. It is like the World Cup’s knockout round. The stakes are enormous.
Moments before the shot finally dribbled on the rim and bounced around, and then dropped through, the look on the faces of Embid and Leonard is like two guys watching a roulette wheel slowly spin to a stop with thousands of dollars on the line. For once, in my life, and in the lives of us all, time stopped (it is even appropriate that there are 0 seconds on the clock as it drops through). Those few seconds as Leonard’s fall away 22 footer from the deep corner with Embid draped on him made its slow, historical climb, descent, and then resolution into the basket, are something that might never happen ever again either. How can a basketball shot stop time? I assure you, it did. The shot dropped through and Toronto wins 92–90. Time restarted.
With this NBA season already altered due to the pandemic, it is seems almost like a bittersweet blessing that this season is likely over and there will be no playoffs. How could the NBA answer last year? The Blazers’ Damien Lillard’s 37 footer at the buzzer to beat the Oklahoma Thunder. Kevin Durant trying to get it done for the Warriors on a heel that was destined to pop any moment. But this one is a shot for the ages and for all who saw it, knew it.