In honor of 12up's first full season covering the National Basketball Association, here are twelve significant "firsts" that will take place on and off the hardwood in 2016-17.
12. The Golden State Warriors Will Feature the First Pair of 50-Point Scoring Teammates in a Single Game
Last season, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson became the first teammates with individual 50-point performances in the same season since 1994-95 (@ESPNStatsInfo). Kevin Durant will likely make this a trio in his first year as the Bay Area's most infamous villain since that time Jake Gyllenhaal was obsessively investigating Ted Cruz.
The Warriors may not pull a 2013-14 Spurs and resiliently reclaim the title after a gutting Finals loss to LeBron, but their unrivaled ball movement will make Gregg Popovich's most selfless teams look stagnant by comparison. Steve Kerr has four players (including Draymond Green) who warrant frequent double teams. Attempting to swarm any of them will result in at least two others going off. Be very afraid.
11. Larry Sanders Will be the First (Accomplished) Retired NBA Player to Attempt a Newsworthy Comeback
10. Fred Hoiberg Will be the First Head Coach to Lose His Locker Room (and Job)
Tom Thibodeau is a tough act to follow, especially when you have to make sense of a Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, and Dwyane Wade trio on a nightly basis. I feel for "The Mayor."
After a disappointing 42-win first term, Robin Lopez's mascot battles may be the only thing Chicago hoops fans can look forward to after this grueling election cycle.
9. J.J. Redick Will Become the First Active Podcast Host to Reach the Western Conference Finals
Redick's Vertical Podcast is a sneaky must-listen. Whether he's interviewing a severely over-caffeinated Steve Ballmer, or a refreshingly candid Matt Barnes, Redick's successfully transformed from America's most reviled college athlete to a legitimate media pioneer. He's also more invaluable to his championship-deprived franchise than ever before.
A series of fluke injuries crippled the Clippers last April. With any luck on their side, Lob City (I kinda miss this nickname) will push the Spurs and/or Warriors to the brink before this year's inevitable collapse.
8. Despite Early Ankle Injury, Anthony Davis Will Play 70 (or More) Games for the First Time in His Career
Remember when Anthony Davis was Karl-Anthony Towns before Karl-Anthony Towns?
It's easy to forget this 23-year-old unibrowed phenom carried a mediocre Pelicans team to the playoffs two seasons ago. Davis will need to log huge minutes to propel this lackluster supporting cast back towards mediocrity.
A healthier and more competitive 2016-17 Big Easy campaign is the only way both parties can silence (seemingly inevitable) trade rumors before they begin.
AD has at least 24 million incentives to remain on the floor.
7. Lithuanian Rookie Mindaugus Kuzmingas and (His Ridiculously Beautiful Girlfriend) Egle Andreikaite Will be the First New York Power Couple to Challenge Carmelo and LaLa's Throne
Look at their puppy.
6. Kristaps Porzingis Will Start in His First All-Star Game
Hopefully this will ensure we've seen the last of the insufferable "Crying Knicks Kid."
5. Brooklyn Nets Will be First Team in Five Years to Make the Philadelphia 76ers Look Competent
Brooklyn's 21.5 over/under win total couldn't be more hilariously tantalizing. Without control of a first-round pick after their next two seasons, I'm beginning to pity Brook Lopez. He deserves better and will likely be flipped for a first-rounder (if his foot doesn't fall off) before February's deadline.
BrookLinsanity just doesn't have the same ring to it.
4. James Harden Will Win His First Scoring Title While Also Becoming the First Mike D'Antoni Player to Accomplish This Feat
James Harden arguably deserved the 2014-15 MVP award. One year after finishing behind Stephen Curry in that voting, Harden fell 1.1 PPG behind Curry in the 2015-16 scoring title chase.
With Mike D'Antoni now operating Houston's mission control, the league's most efficient one-man offense will be empowered like never before.
Putting Khloe Kardashian in his rearview mirror should also increase Harden chances of soaring past Curry in many major (offensive) statistical categories.
3. Golden State Warriors Will Become the First NBA Team to Win 70 Games in Consecutive Seasons
Can you really envision them losing 13 times?
2. Kawhi Leonard Will Win His First MVP Award
With Finals MVP and back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Awards already on his resume, the sky's the limit for the league's second best two-way forward. At 25, Leonard isn't even in his prime, but he's ready for an offensive leap that will allow the Spurs to (once again) soar near the top of the Western Conference while somehow remaining under the radar.
Tim Duncan's presence rapidly accelerated Leonard's growth, but the former's departure will catalyze the latter's monumental leap.
1. This Will be the First Time We Truly Appreciate LeBron's Greatness
No more awkward coaching conflicts. No more resentful "Decision" backlash. No more rushed Stephen Curry comparisons. No more irreverent Skip Bayless hot takes. No more overbearing, insurmountable, Cleveland-crippling doubt.
While he isn't Michael Jordan, there will never be another basketball player like this version of LeBron James, in this city, in this era.
Becoming immortal has somehow made LeBron more human than ever. After 13 historic seasons, I'm finally ready to enjoy being a Witness.