The Most Emotional Moments in the NBA
Throughout the history of the NBA, there have been many emotional moments. A majority of the emotional moments take place in pre-game and post-game interviews on the court and during press conferences after the games.
The fans see joy, anger, frustration, and sometimes even sadness from their favorite players. In turn, this humanizes the players and emotes feelings from the audience. This is in part why basketball is more than “just a game” to many people.
There are endless videos and stories highlighting emotional moments in the NBA, so narrowing the list was a bit of a struggle. Fan favorites such as Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, and Dirk Nowitzki made the final cut for this list.
Allen Iverson Returns to Philadelphia
Iverson spent 11 years in the NBA, 1996-2011, and was selected first overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Iverson spent ten years with the 76ers before playing for the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, and the Memphis Grizzlies over a three-year span.
Philadelphia loves Iverson so much that even when he came to town to play on an opposing team, he still received standing ovations from the crowd. Needless to say, he was welcomed with open arms when he returned to the team in 2009. His first game at home following his return to the 76ers is one of the most emotional moments in the history of the NBA.
Vince Carter Returns to Toronto as an Opponent
Next up on the list is Carter’s first return to Toronto as an opponent. Unlike Iverson, Carter was never welcomed when he faced his former team. Instead, Carter was met with thunderous booing when his name was called during the line-up and nearly every time he had the ball. However, Carter wasn’t intimidated by the jeering – he answered by breaking personal records and securing a victory with a buzzer-beater.
His relationship with the fans was ultimately repaired by the time the Raptors celebrated 20 years as a team. Carter was honored during halftime of that game and for the first time in 10 years, Raptors fans cheered for Carter.
Carter is the only player in NBA history to play in at least one game in four different decades and holds many of the Toronto Raptors franchise records.
Dirk Nowitzki Bids Farewell to the Dallas Mavericks and the NBA
It has become a common thing for different teams to honor players who are retiring when they play their final game in every venue, especially if the player has played for that team. When Nowitzki retired in 2019 he was honored by many teams throughout the league, however, the most emotional tribute was his last game at home in Dallas.
Nowitzki was drafted from Germany in 1998 by the Dallas Mavericks, only playing for the Mavericks for his entire career. He led the team to 15 NBA playoff appearances, including the team’s first Finals appearance in 2006 and their only championship win in 2011. Nowitzki was known for his versatility on the hardwood and his compassion and kindness off the floor.
Kevin Garnett’s “Anything is Possible”
Kevin Garnett spent 21 years in the NBA after he was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves straight out of high school in 1995. Garnett played for three teams during his tenure with the NBA, starting and ending with the Timberwolves. He played for Brooklyn and Boston in between his time in Minnesota. It was with Boston where he won the National Championship and gave us the “Anything is Possible” reaction immediately following the Celtics’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the Nets in 2013, Garnett became the tenth player to surpass 14,000 career rebounds and the third player in league history to reach 25,000 points, 14,000 rebounds, and 5,000 assists (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone). In 2015, Garnett joined Abdul-Jabbar, Malone, Jason Kidd, and Elvin Hayes as one of five players to play at least 50,000 minutes.
Later that year, Garnett surpassed Kidd for third place on the career minutes list. Ten days later he surpassed Malone as the NBA’s all-time leader in defensive rebounds. Garnett announced his retirement from the NBA in September 2016 and became a television analyst in addition to consulting with both the Clippers and the Bucks.
Michael Jordan’s Championship Following His Father’s Death
When the 2020 NBA basketball season was suddenly put on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN and Netflix released the ten-part docuseries, “The Last Dance”. The series focused on Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls but also highlighted pivotal moments along the way in his career.
One of those pivotal moments was the death of his father. In 1993, Jordan’s father, James Jordan, was murdered while sleeping in his car in Lumberton, North Carolina. Two men were convicted for the murder and sentenced to life in prison, however, due to a loophole, one of the offenders is set to be released on parole in 2023.
In 1996, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won their fourth National Championship and the raw emotion Jordan showed after the victory is definitely one of the all-time most emotional moments in the NBA.
It was Father’s Day 2006 and the Bulls pulled off a Game Six victory over the Seattle SuperSonics to give them their fourth title in six years. The emotions flowed in the form of tears for many of the Chicago Bulls’ team, but none were as impactful as Jordan’s raw emotional reaction as he came to terms with that being the first championship without his father by his side.
Jordan collapsed twice in the moments following the victory, once on the court where his team just won another championship, and then again in the locker room. After Jordan was able to regain his composure he came back out on the hardwoods and spoke to reporters. He broke down again as he explained this was the first one without his father, dedicating the win to his dad. “This one is for Daddy”.
The NBA World’s Reaction to the death of Kobe Bryant
No list would be complete without including the untimely and tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash. The death of Kobe Bryant set the tone for the rest of 2020 as the world suffered many other great losses and endured the coronavirus, which changed “the norm” worldwide. Upon Kobe’s passing, the Staples center became a gathering place for grieving fans who left hundreds of items in memory of Bryant. Later, Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, had the items boxed up for her and her children to keep.
In addition to the items left at the makeshift memorial for Kobe, there were sentiments worldwide on the internet. Countless NBA players, both current and former, took to social media to express their sorrow and support for Vanessa and the girls. Celebrities, basketball fans, and people who were shaken by the news expressed their feelings on different social media platforms as well. Analysts and sportswriters penned memorials and letters to Kobe, including a few of our CrownHoops contributors.
Kobe’s death, unfortunately, gave us many emotional moments to look back on, which made it impossible to choose just one. The first extremely emotional memory that will probably live on forever is the first Los Angeles Lakers game following his death. It is hard to watch the pregame memorial to Kobe Bryant without emotions showing up as tears fall.
Michael Jordan again finds himself on the list, but this time for his remarkable and touching speech at the memorial for Kobe and Gianna. It is guaranteed there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the Staples Center or for the millions watching the televised event at home. Kobe will forever be remembered for his greatness and these tributes and memorials to his greatness will also never be forgotten.
(Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)