Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 Moments of 2011: Part 4

This is part 4 of a 6 part series featuring the top New England moments in sports from 2011. #'s 10-5 can be found at the bottom of our main page.

2010-11 was supposed to be an off year for Jim Calhoun's Huskies. UConn entered the year unranked and picked by Big East coaches to finish tenth in the conference. Many questioned whether or not Kemba Walker could step to the forefront and accept the 'star player' role after being such a valuable secondary asset in his first two collegiate seasons. Even if he did, it would be highly unlikely that he would get much help, with a very young and raw group rounding out the starting five. Walker then famously went bonkers at the Maui Invitational, averaging over 30 points per game.
After a tumultuous Big East season, UConn finished 9th with a .500 record. It would take five straight victories- in five straight days- to pick up a conference title. That's exactly what they did, defeating four ranked opponents including #3 Pitt and #14 Louisville (championship game) in the process. One of the most impressive weeks of basketball at the college level that we have ever seen catapulted Kemba and the Huskies to a 3 seed in the big dance.

The tourney run included wins over Arizona, pre-tournament favorite San Diego State, Kentucky, and finally Butler in the championship game in Houston. However ugly that final was, and believe me it was brutal, it was the culminating victory in a wild season that gave us one of the most spectacular individual (Kemba's season: NCAA record for points in a tournament, 23.5/5.5/4.4 averages) and team (4 wins over ranked teams in 5 days) efforts in New England's college sports history.

#3: Ray Allen Breaks Career 3 Pointers Made Record

This one is difficult for me to rank this high. First of all there has only been a three point line since the 1979-80 season in the NBA, so only players in the league after that have had a chance. Second of all, teams didn't start adapting their strategies and using the line as an offensive tool and grooming their players to shoot from distance until even after that. So with that in mind, only shooters who played the prime of their careers in the 90's and into the new millennium have a realistic chance at being the all time 3PM leader. Kind of puts a damper on things, no? Also, the sexiness of the record just isn't as appealing as some of the records in sports that were given the same attention. The list of season 3PM leaders in NBA history includes legends Vernon Maxwell, Kyle Korver, the iconic "Thunder Dan" Majerle, and Antoine Walker.

Any Celtics fan who remembers 'Toine's glory years will be able to tell you that he was an annual threat for this statistical category not because of his prowess as a shooter. It was because he was taking more three's than anyone in the league at the time by an astronomical margin. Reggie Miller of course held the record for many years before this past season. Unlike Walker, Miller actually shot for an outstanding percentage in his prime. He led the league in free throw percentage five times as well. His shot, while unorthodox, had beautiful arch on it.

This leads me back to the reason that I just couldn't look past this record. Ray Allen shooting a basketball is straight gorgeous, his release perfect, complete with jaw-dropping rotation. Anyone can relate to it. You could put anybody in a room with 5 professionals shooting a basketball, and even if that person hadn't the slightest clue about basketball fundamentals, they could tell you that Ray was doing it better. The lead-up to the record blessed us with many highlights of him shredding nylon, including my personal favorite game of his as a Celtic. He is just so much fun to watch play, and maybe that's why this record means more to us than it should. Every time he gets the ball at the Garden, everyone rises to their feet and that sound of anticipation comes out. It probably helps that it happened at home, on national TV with Reggie providing color analysis himself, and it was against the Lakers. We talk about special athletes having that "it" factor that just isn't explainable. Well for me this record and this moment just has "it".

COMING TOMORROW: The game that was referred to by many of this sport's experts as the greatest they have ever seen.

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