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The NBA Top Shot Run It Back Wishlist: Volume 01

The beauty of a collectible is that the value it holds and the memories it evokes are completely different to each owner it has. They tell stories. They’re time capsules. Their worth defies a price tag. A beanie baby isn’t just a plush doll stuffed with little beads, affixed with a heart-shaped tag; it’s my 7th birthday party.

NBA Top Shot is a digital collectible that I happen to genuinely enjoy, but it’s also a conduit through which the story of my life in 2021 will be told. Forever. No matter what happens a week from today or five years from now, my Top Shot experience that started in February will always be embedded deep into my DNA.

Life is full of moments like that; decisions that shape and transform our past, present, and future. Some fleeting, some more significant, and if you’re like me, plenty orbiting around sports.

Run It Back is my favorite set of Moments on NBA Top Shot. It’s nostalgia wrapped in a beautiful neon green cube.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, “Run It Back” is a dedicated set of Top Shot Moments from a historical NBA season. The first set is from the 2013–2014 season, which started on October 29, 2013, and ended on June 15, 2014, with the San Antonio Spurs avenging their NBA Finals loss from the previous year against the Miami Heat’s Big Three by defeating the Miami Heat’s Big Three in dominating, methodical, savage fashion.

I wasn’t around for the Series One pack drop, but have admired all 40 of them in the marketplace, written about them in my list of the 25 best NBA Top Shot debut Moments, and added three to my personal collection. Beyond the nostalgia factor and rarity (only 275 exist of each) of Run It Back Moments, I also really dig the art. The neon green and blue color palette and font really pop.

There are plenty I don’t own and would love to have one day. There’s Dirk Nowitzki’s game-winning three in Madison Square Garden over Carmelo Anthony, a game I was lucky enough to attend in real life with my older brother. There’s Manu Ginobili's epic dunk in the NBA Finals, which I believe is the best Top Shot debut Moment to exist. There’s Kevin Durant’s double-overtime game-winning dagger in OKC. Tim Duncan dazzling with the fundamentals. Rookie, baby-faced Giannis undressing J.R. Smith on his way to a beautiful layup. Seriously, what happened to J.R. here? It looks like he was hit by a bullet from the rafters.

During the 2013–2014 NBA season, I was 26 years old, living in a tiny 800 square foot one-bedroom converted into a two-bedroom apartment for $3,700 a month with a friend in the Gramercy neighborhood of New York City.

On the corner of our block was the greatest sandwich shop to ever exist, Defonte’s. From the window of my cramped bedroom, I could see this neon blue clock glittering through the night sky, unobstructed by any other buildings, standing tall in Union Square. On Thursday nights I would go to Professor Thom’s in the East Village, drink picklebacks and eat nachos with my friends while we watched basketball and shot the shit. Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire were coming off their best season as a tandem, poised for another playoff run. J.R. Smith was J.R. Smith and I unapologetically loved him.

On the way back to my apartment, I’d drunkenly get a slice of pizza from Joe’s Pizza that I would eat while walking because that is how you eat a slice of pizza in New York; always on the move. Then I would pass out and miraculously feel perfectly fine in the morning.

Three weeks after the NBA season started, I’d get fired from my job; the company I interned at my sophomore and junior Summers during college and worked at ever since graduating. I will literally never forget the day. It changed the course of my life.

A few months prior, in August, I had taken a two-week trip to Israel. It was near the end of the adventure when the group I was traveling with found ourselves in the middle of the desert, spending the night in Beduin tents, riding camels, and sleeping under the night sky.

It was truly a majestic evening. Unable to sleep, I stumbled upon a group of kids hanging outside a neighboring tent, smoking hash, and soon enough I was smoking hash too.

That didn’t really help my ability to sleep, so I ended up staying up all night, looking into the stars. For hours. You truly do not realize how many stars there are in the sky until you are surrounded by pure darkness. Every constellation you’ve ever heard of or seen in a book was pulsating in the sky, crystal clear. Also, drugs.

I’m a city boy. We don’t get that kind of view very often. It was a hell of a night. By the time my friends and travel companions woke up around 5 AM for an early morning hike to Masada, a mythical mountain in Israel, I was still awake in the middle of the desert, running on zero hours of sleep. It was 12 hours later on the bus to an actual hotel when I had an idea for a silly listicle-style blog post about my trip. I would end up publishing it online a week after returning home. It was the first thing I ever wrote and published on the internet for fun.

The post went live the morning before I went into the office and would end up on the front page of Buzzfeed and accrue 100,000 views in the next 24 hours.

To say I was a bit distracted at work in the weeks that followed would be an understatement. But did I really think I would end up getting fired? Absolutely not! I was and still am good at my job. Nevertheless, one moment you walk into the bathroom, and the next you come back with an invitation to a conference room where you and dozens of your colleagues were getting let go due to a compliance violation that cost the company millions of dollars.

Shit happens, literally and figuratively.

I went home, shocked and betrayed, that the company I had put so much time into could dispose of me so easily. So I did what any level-headed, logical twenty-something would do; went to Defonte’s, got a chicken parm hero, and proceeded to eat it with a very large serving of cheap vodka with blue Gatorade at a very small table in my apartment’s kitchen/living room/six by six square of free space. Then I took a two-hour nap. At the end of the year, I went to Aruba on a family trip with my parents and didn’t realize filing my unemployment claim from the computer in the lobby of our hotel would clearly demonstrate that my IP address was not in New York, where I was supposed to be looking for a new job, and result in my unemployment benefits being revoked for three years.

I was unemployed and broke for the first time in my life. I watched a lot of basketball. I met a girl. I broke up with a girl. I got a new job. Defonte’s would close because developers bought the whole block and decided to convert the space into something more lucrative than a generational Italian deli. I met another girl. The Knicks would let me down, obviously, and miss the Playoffs. That girl broke up with me. The Spurs would defeat the Heat, ending the Big Three era in Miami and putting a triumphant cap on the Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker’s own dynasty. I moved out of that apartment and back into my parent's house for the Summer. On the day I moved out of my parent's house on November 1, 2014, I’d meet my future wife, and mother of my daughter, who was born the day this NBA season started in December 2020.

During every NBA season, life happens, and through it all, wins and losses and record-breaking scoring performances speckled in between.

NBA Top Shot’s mantra is “Witness history. Own the plays.” Aside from the NBA Bubble, no set of Moments embodies the spirit of that statement more than Run It Back. The second Run it Back set, which is most recently rumored to drop in Summer 2021 (not confirmed!), will feature Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, and Shaq (confirmed!), but we do not know which specific season it will be from.

When I think of AI and Shaq, there’s an obvious and iconic moment that comes to mind, which would be a great Moment. We don’t know if the drop will actually be from the 2000–2001 season. If it were, one thing we’d for sure see is the Allen Iverson’s Step Back + Step Over from game one of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001.

It was the one and only game the Philadelphia 76ers won in that series. It is completely reasonable to argue that the Lakers, led by Kobe and Shaq, were destined to win that series; it was two against one, after all. But it’s also reasonable to argue that when AI stepped over Tyronne Lue and completely disrespected his entire ancestral lineage, he gave the Lakers all the motivation they would need to avenge the move and end the series.

When I asked people on Twitter what play they wanted to see in Run It Back, the stepover was the most popular response, followed by John Starks’ absolutely 100% legit dunk over Michael Jordan.

I hope we get AI, Shaq, and TMac from the 2000–2001 NBA season. Not just because it would significantly increase the probability we’d get THE ALLEN IVERSON STEP BACK ON TOP SHOT, but because that season is loaded with players core to my relationship with the NBA.

All-NBA First Team: Tim Duncan, Chris Webber, Shaq, AI, and Jason Kidd (on the Suns!)

All-NBA Second Team: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, Finger Waggin’ Dikembe Mutombo (Defensive Player of the Year), and Tracy McGrady ((Most Improved Player)

All-NBA Third Team: Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, David Robinson, Gary Payton (SuperSonics!), and Ray Allen

That year’s Rising Stars team would include Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Shawn Marion, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Wally Szczerbiak, Rip Hamilton, Jason Terry, Andre Miller, and Quentin Richardson. We’d also possibly get a Doug Christie, Bruce Bowen, Rookie of the Year Mike Miller, and fellow rookies Kenyon Martin, Marc Jackson, Darius Miles, Hedo Turkoglu, and Chris Mihm.

We’d have Rasheed Wallace on the Portland Trailblazers!

So yea, 2000–2001 would be a great season for the next Run It Back set, and if it were the case, certainly a ton of memories from my life that I’ll relive, but there are obviously tons of great options!

Whatever Top Shot does with Run It Back for the next set and future sets, I’m excited about all of it. The thrill of finding out what season it will be and what players will be included. The pack drop for it, and the opportunity to rip open a pure hit of nostalgia straight from the tap. The marketplace feeding frenzy afterward. The Run It Back challenges and reward Moments. All of it. Sign me up right now.

One thing I harp on inside the depths of my brain is the idea that the set will represent the “story of the season,” which I vaguely remember hearing in office hours at some point. I can’t picture any NBA story more impactful featuring these three guys. McGrady came into his own, winning Most Improved Player. Iverson, the league MVP, went up against the force that was Shaq and Kobe, lost, and never made the Finals again. He won one game. It was the first game the Lakers lost in that playoff run. During the game, he stepped over Tyronne Lue. He lost the next four games. The Lakers finished the playoffs with a 15–1 record and their second consecutive NBA title. He made the playoffs three more times with Philly and twice with Denver and never won a title.

So if it’s not the 2000–2001 season, what could it be? Well, between 2006–2009, Allen Iverson did not play on the 76ers and Shaquille O’Neal did not play on the Lakers. TMac was a Houston Rocket, and before you check, his 13 points in 33 seconds game, certainly worthy of the #NBATopShotThis tag, was in 2004.

There is actually a possibility whatever Moments we get of these two Hall of Fame players could be from stints with the Heat and Suns for Shaq and Nuggets, Pistons, or Grizzlies for Iverson.

As Top Shot continues to grow, and today’s NBA players continue to have more Moments minted, it’s clear that a large part of their success in the future will be tapping into nostalgia and basketball excellence of the past.

More Top Shot debuts. New rookie Moments. Run It Back has the opportunity to be a DeLorean through the NBA’s history and for many of us, totems of memories of a life gone by. For that reason, I’m going to write about Run It Back often. It would be impossible to capture all of the incredible opportunities and plays in one post. Posts about Run It Back are going to be a monthly thing and I promise they won’t all come with 1,500-word introductions.

Until the next one comes around, here are five more plays on the Run It Back Wishlist that I hope to have in my collection one day.

Klay Thompson’s First Moment — #Game6Klay, 2016

“ The Warriors entered Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder down three games to two in the best-of-seven series. After a record-breaking 73-win season, the Dubs’ hopes of reaching the NBA Finals for the second straight season were on the line. It was Thompson who answered the call that night. Not only did he drop 41 points on the Thunder in a 108–101 win, Thompson did so in blazing-hot fashion with 11 made three-pointers to set a new NBA record for treys made in a playoff game.” — NBA.com

Steph Curry’s Logo Game Winner — Mike Breen’s Double Bang, 2016

The one and only time Mike Breen ever graced the airwaves with a “Bang! Bang!’ came during one of the most epic performances in Steph Curry’s career. Steph hit twelve threes this game, propelling the Warriors to their 53rd win in 58 games, en-route to a historic season, NBA title, and playoff defeat (covered above) so demoralizing it caused Kevin Durant to fully embrace the saying “if you can’t beat em, join em.”

Jeremy Lin’s Game Winner — Linsanity, 2012

The wave of emotion and excitement that Knicks fans, and the entire population of New York City, felt during Linsanity is hard to put into words. I’m not going to try right now. This stretch of basketball meant so much to so many different people, but most of all, it was so much fun. This is one of the most memorable moments of my Knicks fandom. I have to stop myself before I write 5,000 words about it.

Kawhi Leonard’s Game Winner — “The Shot,” 2019

Hang it in the Louvre.

Kawhi is an assassin.

You already know how this one goes.

Kobe’s Last Bucket (60 Pt Game, 2016)

In Kobe’s last NBA game, he scored 60 points. His final two points were actually free throws (he hit both, of course), making this the last shot he hit. It’s a thing of beauty. He’s just so in control and locked in; the Mamba Mentality in action.

I know a lot of people are hyped about Michael Jordan potentially being on Top Shot, but I would venture to guess that this shot, if it were possible for it to become a Moment, would be the most coveted and desired to exist. You don’t need me to go on and on about the career and achievements of Kobe Bryant; there are too many plays to count worthy of Top Shot, but this one would be extra special.

There is endless opportunity for the Run It Back set, and unknowns around how and who it will involve, which is genuinely exciting. I look forward to experiencing it all with you. Until then, see you at the next pack drop. May the odds be ever in your favor. Thanks for reading.

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