Top Shot’s Run It Back Set: What NBA Seasons Should be Featured?

Top Shot’s Run It Back Set: What NBA Seasons Should be Featured?

by Brandon Sowle

9/6/2021

Run It Back is coming back to NBA Top Shot. Or at least some form of it.

If you’re unfamiliar or new to Top Shot, in Series 1, Run It Back was a rare set that featured Moments from a specific historical season. The idea behind Run It Back, as we’ve gathered, is to accurately tell the story of a specific season in Moment form, so to speak.

For instance, the first (and currently the only) Run It Back back set tells the 2013-14 NBA Season; we have a then-MVP Kevin Durant, a less-than-chiseled rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo, and a Carmelo Anthony Moment from his record-breaking 62 point performance in Madison Square Garden as a Knick, among other iconic NBA stars. These are only three of the 40 legitimately great Moments in the set.

Series 1 Run It Back Set. The next Run It Back set is scheduled to drop this summer.

For basketball fans in the Top Shot community, the first Run It Back has created excitement around what’s to come in this round of historical Moments. The new set of Run It Back Moments are coming before the end of summer 2021.

For the Summer of 2021 Series, Top Shot has floated the idea of creating historical Moments across all  tiers, no longer limiting Moments to just the rare tier and it’s corresponding Run It Back set. This means more throwback Moments and more possibilities. This is a good (and fun) thing for Top Shot that can bring even more fans to the platform! 

So, here I sit today. I ponder, what might the next Run It Back (and other historical Moments) look like? What NBA season, or seasons, might Top Shot bring to the masses?

I’ve got some thoughts on that. In chronological order, here are some of the best possible NBA seasons to be featured in Run It Back that come to mind. Pay special attention to the links, as I’ve included highlights to add to the fun!

1979-80

NBA Champions: Los Angeles Lakers over Philadelphia 76ers

MVP: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

ROY: Larry Bird

Finals MVP: Magic Johnson (R)

Other notable players: Julius Erving, George Gervin, Moses Malone, Rick Barry, World B. Free, Sidney Moncrief (R), Vinnie Johnson (R)

Fun fact: The 1979-80 season was the NBA’s first using the 3-point line. Brian Taylor (who?) led the league with 90 three-pointers. For reference, 122 players last season made 90 or more three-pointers. Steph Curry alone knocked down 337! The league has changed.

Imagine pulling a goggled Kareem Abdul-Jabbar knocking down a clutch skyhook? Or better yet, pulling a rookie Magic Johnson scoring 42 points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals? I guess I’d settle for Rookie of the Year Larry Bird. Sure.

The 1979-80 season was also the final season for Hall of Famers Walt “Clyde” Frazier, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, and Rick Barry. Give me an underhanded free throw Moment. I need it.

Darryl Dawkins shattered two backboards. So that’s neat. Mint it.

One more great potential Moment would be the infamous Dr. J reverse scoop layup from the 1980 NBA Finals

1984-85 NBA Season

NBA Champions: Los Angeles Lakers over Boston Celtics

Most Valuable Player: Larry Bird

Rookie of the Year: Michael Jordan

Defensive Player of the Year: Mark Eaton

Finals MVP: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Other notable players: Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon (R), Charles Barkley (R), Isiah Thomas, John Stockton (R), Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, Kevin McHale, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Bernard King, Tom Chambers, James Worthy

Two things make this a great candidate for Run It Back: a stacked rookie class, and a plethora of Lakers and Celtics Moments to choose from.

A rookie Michael Jordan Moment would make 95 percent of collectors faint, especially if it’s this iconic cradle dunk.

If you whiffed on an MJ rookie, there’s plenty of other stud freshmen to go around in Hakeem, Barkley, and Stockton. 

We’ve got an elite milestone Moment with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar breaking the all-time scoring record on one of his patented skyhooks.

And for Celtics fans, we’ve got Kevin McHale dropping 56 points on the Pistons and Larry Bird embarrassing the Hawks with 60 points.

Let’s just say the 1984-85 season is high up on my wish list.

1990-91 NBA Season

NBA Champions: Chicago Bulls over Los Angeles Lakers

MVP: Michael Jordan

ROY: Derrick Coleman

DPOY: Dennis Rodman

Finals MVP: Michael Jordan

Other notable players: Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, Gary Payton (R), Chris Mullin, David Robinson, Tim Hardaway, Reggie Miller, Kevin Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Larry Bird

Jordan and the Bulls’ first championship. Prime Jordan. The path, the struggle, and the triumph. How could you settle on just one highlight? There’s 30 minutes of them right here.

Scott Skiles of the Orlando Magic dished out 30 assists in a game, a record that still holds today.

Round out the storyline with the death of the Celtics and Lakers dynasties, the emergence of Stockton-Malone in Utah, and culturally significant Run TMC in Golden State (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin), who swept the Spurs in the playoffs as a 7-seed.

1992-93 NBA Season

NBA Champions: Chicago Bulls over Phoenix Suns

MVP: Charles Barkley

ROY: Shaquille O’Neal

DPOY: Hakeem Olajuwon

Finals MVP: Michael Jordan

Other notable players: John Stockton, Mark Price, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Drazen Petrovic, Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning (R), Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Glen Rice, Scottie Pippen, Shawn Kemp, Christian Laettner (R), Robert Horry (R), Latrell Sprewell (R)

This is the season of the Bulls 3-peat. Jordan scored 55 points in Game 4 of the Finals, a part of a string of four-straight Finals games tallying 40+ points. 

Charles Barkley as the MVP is fun. Rookie Shaq in those nostalgic Magic uniforms would hit the spot. And one more fun nugget: This is the final season Dennis Rodman had normal hair.

The list goes on for the 1993 season. This marks the year that the NBA had entered its (then) golden age. 

1994-95 NBA Season

NBA Champions: Houston Rockets over Orlando Magic

MVP: David Robinson

ROY: Grant Hill and Jason Kidd

DPOY: Dikembe Mutombo

Finals MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon

Other notable players: #45 “I’m Back” Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Penny Hardaway, Reggie Miller, Nick Van Exel, John Starks, Jalen Rose

The Rockets, led by their star duo Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, became back-to-back champions as the sixth seed in the Western Conference by sweeping Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic in the Finals. 

Michael Jordan returned to the NBA late in the season, wearing No. 45 for the Wizards, and dropped 55 points in just his fifth game back. Imagine the thumbnail being the faxed letter that read “I’m back.” Chills.

Co-Rookies of the Year Grant Hill and Jason Kidd make for exquisite garnishes to a long list of stars in this season. Oh, and a young Penny Hardaway would be dope, too.

1996-97 NBA Season

NBA Champions: Chicago Bulls over Utah Jazz

MVP: Karl Malone

ROY: Allen Iverson

DPOY: Dikembe Mutombo

Finals MVP: Michael Jordan

Other notable players: Kobe Bryant (R), Ray Allen (R), Steve Nash (R), Dennis Rodman, Peja Stojakovic (R), Glen Rice, Mark Jackson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Grant Hill, Reggie Miller, Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Webber, Shawn Kemp, Kevin Garnett, Derek Fisher (R)

This season simply must be included because of that stout rookie class. A Rookie Kobe Bryant Moment as his debut? Are you kidding me? People would lose their minds, Top Shot would erupt in flames, all of their servers would crash, and everybody’s Moments would burn. Or something. 

A Rookie Iverson crossing over Michael Jordan?! Are you kidding me? People would lose their minds and Top Shot would … okay, you get the point.

There are tons of fun storylines for the 1996-97 NBA season. “The Mailman” Karl Malone stealing Jordan’s MVP (according to Jordan himself) and the Jazz finally reaching the Finals. There’s also Shaq’s first season with the Lakers. Barkley’s first season with the Rockets. Hardaway, Mashburn, Mourning, Majerle and the Heat reeling off 61 wins. The Flu Game. You could go on and on.

1997-98 NBA Season

NBA Champions: Chicago Bulls over Utah Jazz

MVP: Michael Jordan

ROY: Tim Duncan

DPOY: Dikembe Mutombo

Finals MVP: Michael Jordan

Other notable players: Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady (R), Chris Webber, David Robinson, Gary Payton, Chauncey Billups (R), Allan Houston, Ray Allen, Bryant Reeves, Mitch Richmond, Stephen Jackson (R), God Shammgod (R)

1997-98 was a loaded season. Jordan got his MVP back. We saw an absolute all-time rookie season by Tim Duncan. Rookie Tracy McGrady. Dominant Shaq playing in Los Angeles alongside Kobe. 

But let’s be real. There’s one Moment everybody would want from this season and that’s Michael Jordan’s game-winner over Bryon Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.  This could even be made into the longest Moment of all-time by adding the Jordan strip on Karl Malone from the preceding play. 

Another elite potential Moment would be this Reggie Miller game-winner in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals that I’ll never forget watching live. The shove on Jordan, the call, the twirl celebration. It’s so Reggie. 

1999-2000 NBA Season

NBA Champions: Los Angeles Lakers over Indiana Pacers

MVP: Shaquille O’Neal

ROY: Elton Brand and Steve Francis

DPOY: Alonzo Mourning

Finals MVP: Shaquille O’Neal

Other notable players: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Vince Carter, Jason Williams, Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Chris Webber, Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, Scottie Pippen, Tracy McGrady, Arvydas Sabonis, Allen Iverson, Reggie Miller

There’s one play that stands out above the rest when thinking about the 1999-00 season, and that’s the Kobe-to-Shaq alley-oop in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. This would instantly be a Top 5 Moment on Top Shot. Would it be a Shaq Dunk, or a Kobe Assist? Who cares, really — it would make for an amazing Moment.

I highlighted a Vince Carter Moment candidate above, but how cool would a Vice Carter Dunk from the best performance in Dunk Contest history be? Or maybe this 360° Vince Carter dunk? Or maybe this one-handed alley-oop? Wow. Vinsanity had himself a year, eh?

The 1999-00 season was also Patrick Ewing’s last with the New York Knicks, among the many other superstars in this season. 

2003-04

NBA Champions: Detroit Pistons over Los Angeles Lakers

MVP: Kevin Garnett

ROY: LeBron James

DPOY: Ron Artest

Finals MVP: Chauncey Billups

Other notable players: Carmelo Anthony (R), Chris Bosh (R), Dwyane Wade (R), Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Michael Redd, Kenyon Martin, Rashard Lewis, Rip Hamilton

The 2003 draft class is the most star-studded NBA rookie class of all-time. Having a shot at pulling a rookie LeBron James (the only badge he has left), Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, or Dwyane Wade in a Run It Back pack would send collectors into a frenzy. 

You think collectors might enjoy a T-Mac alley-oop off the glass to himself in the 2004 All-Star Game? Or McGrady dropping a career-high 62 points against Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards?

Karl Malone and Gary Payton in Lakers uniforms would make for weirdly fun Moments.

2005-06

NBA Champions: Miami Heat over Dallas Mavericks

MVP: Steve Nash

ROY: Chris Paul

DPOY: Ben Wallace

Finals MVP: Dwyane Wade

Other notable players: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Manu Ginobili, Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, Yao Ming, Tony Parker, Shaquille O’Neal, Paul Pierce

How sick would this dunk be from Vince Carter?

The Heat won their first-ever title in Shaq’s second season with the team as Dwyane Wade went Michael Jordan Mode in the Finals, averaging 34.7 PPG and putting the world on notice.

But this Wade-to-Shaq hookup might take the cake for me. 

It might be tough, but I think the Top Shot crew might be able to find a Moment to mint from Kobe Bryant’s epic 81-point performance in this season as well. Kobe averaged an absurd 35.4 points per game in this season, so he’d be a must-have. 

The Hornets played 32 games in Oklahoma City in this season due to damages caused by Hurricane Katrina in Chris Paul’s rookie season. This laid the path for OKC to eventually get an NBA team of its own, and would be a great rookie badge Moment for a future Hall of Famer.

2007-08 NBA Season

NBA Champions: Boston Celtics over Los Angeles Lakers

MVP: Kobe Bryant

ROY: Kevin Durant

DPOY: Kevin Garnett

Finals MVP: Paul Pierce

Other notable players: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Manu Ginobili, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Mike Conley (R), Al Horford (R), Ray Allen, Amar’e Stoudemire

The 2007-08 season has a little bit of everything you’re looking for in a great historical season. The renewed Celtics-Lakers rivalry. The new age Celtics Big 3 in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen notching 66 wins and Boston’s first title since the 1980s. There’s Kobe Bryant winning his only MVP award. Then there’s Kevin Durant as a rookie in the last remembrance of the Seattle SuperSonics. A 2007-08 set would eat my wallet. 

In a fun potential milestone Moment, LeBron James became the youngest player ever to reach 10,000 career points against the Boston Celtics.

Teammates Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony finished third and fourth, respectively, in points per game on the season, which is a fun little factoid.

We also saw the emergence of the Point God Chris Paul, who led the Hornets on an impressive playoff run, eventually losing to the mighty Spurs in 7 games. 

2009-10

NBA Champions: Los Angeles Lakers over Boston Celtics

MVP: LeBron James

ROY: Tyreke Evans

DPOY: Dwight Howard

Finals MVP: Kobe Bryant

Other notable players: Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry (R), Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, James Harden (R), Joe Johnson, Derrick Rose, DeMar DeRozan (R), Jrue Holiday (R), Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love

The 2009-10 season was simultaneously the death of an era of legends and the birth of the NBA that we know and love today. 

Kobe got his final championship, although I love this buzzer-beater for a Moment.

LeBron’s second-straight MVP award in his final year of his first stint in Cleveland. Kevin Durant becoming the best scorer in the world at the pubetic age of 21. Allen Iverson played his final NBA game (in a Grizzlies jersey, weirdly enough). 

There were 83 international players on NBA rosters, which was a then all-time record.  

Rookies Steph Curry and James Harden make this a super fun year to revisit for Top Shot as well, as we’d get rookie Moments from two future Hall of Famers.

2011-12

NBA Champions: Miami Heat over Oklahoma City Thunder

MVP: LeBron James

ROY: Kyrie Irving

DPOY: Tyson Chandler

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Other notable players: Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Klay Thompson (R), Kawhi Leonard (R), Jimmy Butler (R), Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, Nikola Vucevic (R), Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Tony Parker, Jeremy Lin, Tobias Harris (R), Kemba Walker (R)

This is my personal favorite. The most near and dear to my heart, as a Thunder fan. Probably the best opportunity to get Moments from the what-could-have-been Big 3 young guns in Oklahoma City: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Great, now I’m sad.

LeBron’s first championship makes the 2011-12 high on most collectors’ wish lists, but there are plenty of individual plays that make this season an exciting candidate:

Like this clutch Carmelo Anthony 3-pointer vs Derrick Rose and the top-seeded Bulls at MSG.

Speaking of the reigning MVP Derrick Rose, how about this game-winner in Milwaukee?

Timberwolves Kevin Love was an absolute beast. His game-winning three versus CP3 and the Clippers would make for a great Moment. Elite thumbnail opportunity with the celebration as well. 

Young Blake Griffin was an athletic beast, and he nearly ended Pau Gasol’s life with this nasty poster.

Which Kevin Durant game-winner against the Mavericks do you mint? This 3-pointer, or the shooter’s roll over Shawn Marion in the Playoffs? Both?

Remember when LeBron jumped clean over John Lucas to flush home this ridiculous alley-oop?

And who could forget Linsanity, a Jeremy Lin emerged to be one of the biggest storylines of the season! Mint it and the legend lives forever.

2012-13

NBA Champions: Miami Heat over San Antonio Spurs

MVP: LeBron James

ROY: Damian Lillard

DPOY: Marc Gasol

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Other notable players: Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis (R), Bradley Beal (R), Draymond Green (R), Khris Middleton (R)

The Heatles won back-to-back championships, and the potential Moment that immediately comes to mind is that famous Ray Allen corner 3-pointer. What a heartbreaker. What a moment from a legend and Hall of Famer.

A very notable storyline is James Harden in his first season as a Rocket, where he quickly showed the world he should’ve never been traded. 

Make Joe Johnson dropping Paul Pierce a Moment right this instant. Kobe was aging, but he wasn’t done just yet, as showcased by this hammer dunk in Brooklyn.

2015-16

NBA Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers over Golden State Warriors

MVP: Steph Curry

ROY: Karl-Anthony Towns

DPOY: Kawhi Leonard

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Other notable players: James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, Damian Lillard, Nikola Jokic (R), Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Devin Booker (R), Kristaps Porzingis (R)

LeBron’s first and only championship in Cleveland over the greatest regular season team of all-time, the 73-win Warriors, in an epic 7-game Finals. Moments galore from that memorable series.

But the LeBron chasedown block is the ultimate prize, of course. The Kyrie Irving clutch Game 7 three-pointer is a somewhat distant second place. The stories of these Finals will be remembered for decades to come.

And what better way to release Klay Thompson’s Top Shot Debut than one of his 11 threes from his series-saving performance in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals in Oklahoma City?

2016-17

NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors over Cleveland Cavaliers

MVP: Russell Westbrook

ROY: Malcolm Brogdon

DPOY: Draymond Green

Finals MVP: Kevin Durant

Other notable players: James Harden, Stephen Curry, Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brandon Ingram (R), Jaylen Brown (R), Jamal Murray (R), Kyrie Irving

The big storyline of the 2016-17 season was Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors and winning his first NBA championship, which he topped off by earning the Finals MVP award. I’m sure there are countless Moments to choose from here, but it hurts me too much to do that level of research. Sorry to everybody.

However, I happen to be a big fan of this game-winning 3-pointer from league MVP Russell Westbrook, from the game in which he broke the single-season record for triple-doubles. It would make for quite the Moment. The shot also gave him 50 points for the game and eliminated the Nuggets from playoff contention. 

There were plenty of great Moments from the playoff too, including this Manu Ginobilii strip of James Harden in overtime.


Run It Back on NBA Top Shot: A Recap

As it turns out, the Top Shot team has plenty of ammo for these historical sets — Run It Back or otherwise — going forward. I could’ve easily included four times the amount of plays than I did, and I have all the confidence in the world that they’re going to knock it out of the park. What better way to launch us into Series 3?

I can’t wait for the new Run It Back Moments. This is gonna be fun.


Follow Brandon Sowle on Twitter for more NBA Top Shot talk.