It’s no secret that part of what makes the NBA so successful is its ability to dominate the news cycles outside of the actual season. It truly has become a year-round entertainment product.
From the end of the playoffs, we’re immediately thrown into the NBA Draft and free agency. Before the dust can settle, it’s time for the Summer League, international competitions, workout videos, and endless hype and speculation about the upcoming season.
That leads us to the present — the preseason, our first real chance to see what teams look like with their new offseason signings. In general, preseasons in sports are largely optional viewing — it’s cool to check out your favorite team or the top few picks in the draft, but since the games don’t technically count, it doesn’t hold near the importance of the start of the regular season.
Certainly, some of this holds true for the NBA as well. However, we’ve already seen a ton of viral moments come out of just the last few days, as the NBA content machine already appears to be in midseason form.
And for a league currently mired in a geopolitical crisis with China as a result of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeting support for the Hong Kong protests, all of this positive content being generated serves as a welcome distraction.
Even as the rest of the sports world heats up with the NFL and NHL seasons underway and the MLB and WNBA in the postseason, the NBA still more than holds its own on social media, a testament to the league’s impressive fandom. Here are just some of the exciting moments from recent preseason action.
Ben Simmons Hits a Three-Pointer
Thus far in his young NBA career, Ben Simmons has had a highly-exploitable shooting liability. The 76ers point guard’s reluctance to take any shot outside of the paint has been a source of frustration among the team’s fans and laughter for the league as a whole.
This offseason, we’ve seen plenty of footage of Simmons working on his shot, but by this point, we know better than to trust anything we see in a hype video. Anyone can make shots in an empty gym. An NBA game is a different atmosphere entirely. And while yes, it’s still a preseason game against a Chinese team, and Simmons was practically being egged on to take the shot, it’s exciting to see Simmons begin to expand his range.
And just to show you where we are in 2019, Steven Adams and Boban have also joined in on the three-point shooting fun, because why not?
Zion Williamson’s Quest to Dunk on Everyone Begins
It was only a matter of time before Zion’s incredible leaping ability was unleashed on the league.
Zion dropped not one, not two, but three impressive dunks during his first half of preseason action. The Pelicans are seen by most as having an outside shot at making the playoffs in Zion’s rookie season, but the young Williamson is facing pressure from veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick to help Redick continue his streak of consecutive seasons making the playoffs.
Marcus Morris Ejected In Hilarious Fashion
Offseason Knicks signing Marcus Morris wants everyone to know that the Knicks won’t roll over for teams this year. And honestly, as hilarious and dumb as this ejection for shoving the ball into Justin Anderson’s face is, I think it succeeds in getting that message across.
At the very least, it should get some more people to pay attention to a team that was written off by most when they failed to sign any of the A-list, or even B-list free agents.
It’s Officially Nutmeg Season
Well, Redick’s streak of 13-straight seasons making the playoffs certainly won’t continue if he plays defense like this.
It’s just not fair. Trae Young has already established himself as one of the best ballhandlers in the league, and I think it’s safe to say Redick won’t be the only defender made to look foolish this season.
Speaking of great ballhandlers, here’s the unstoppable James Harden making another nutmeg look far too easy.
Between this move and his new one-legged three-pointer, Harden’s game continues to evolve to new levels.
Markelle Fultz Looks Good…
Safe to say, it’s been a disastrous start to former #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz’s NBA career. After a mysterious shoulder injury left Fultz out indefinitely and left him seemingly forgetting how to even shoot a basketball, there were more than a few concerns about whether or not we’d ever see the Fultz that was promised when he was at Washington.
And while it’s still too early to tell if Fultz’s time with the Magic will be more successful than his spell in Philly, these early preseason clips are encouraging, and will no doubt get the hype train back on the rails.
BONUS: A Typo Leaves Bulls Fans “Contused”
Wait, what kind of rib injury does Bobby Portis have? Social media and Twitter, in particular, are prone to little spelling errors, and Fred Katz, The Athletic’s Washington Wizards reporter, found himself going viral for a mistake in his write-up of the Knicks’ injury report for their game against the Wiz.
The typo led to one of the most perfect uses of a GIF I’ve ever seen.
Never change, NBA Twitter.
Connor Groel is a writer who studies sport management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as editor of the Top Level Sports publication on Medium, and the host of the Connor Groel Sports podcast. You can follow Connor on Medium, Facebook, and Twitter, and view his archives at toplevelsports.net.