The five worst things in the NBA in 2011

In less than a week, ghouls and goblins will be haunting us again.

Yes, both sides in the NBA lockout will be darkening our doors -- along with the costumed youths pounding doors and demanding candy for Halloween.

But NBA fans are likely getting no treats, just more unwanted tricks -- a steaming pile of curried prunes in our treat bag. Thanks, NBA.

This ongoing hardwood catastrophe is our panelists' clear-cut choice for worst thing in the 2011 calendar year. See how other hoop-related maladies that afflicted the NBA rank in the minds of our totally bummed-out observers.

1. What was the fifth-worst thing to happen in the NBA in 2011?

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes Of Hell: Reggie Miller's absence from the list of Hall of Fame finalists. Miller may not have been a first-ballot HOFer, but arguably the greatest 3-point shooter of all time and one of the iconic athletes of the 1990s deserved to at least be on the ballot.

Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: The Cleveland Cavaliers. If losing LeBron James wasn't bad enough, they lost a record-breaking 26 straight games from Dec. 20, 2010 to Feb. 10, 2011. Those two events may be related.

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: Rajon Rondo's injury. Take an epic series between two of the biggest rivals the league has. Set it in the playoffs on a huge stage with a chance to face the MVP and the Bulls on the line. Then have the best point guard in the series suffer a severe injury to taint the outcome. Such a bummer.

Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Rajon Rondo dislocating his elbow in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Definitely a homer pick, but the gruesome injury on what some considered a dirty play by Dwyane Wade stained the series. Without Rondo healthy, fans were deprived of what could have been an epic showdown between the old and new guard in the East.

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Lakers' playoff meltdown against Dallas. Losing to, even getting swept by, a better team is one thing. But the way they went out in Phil Jackson's last game on the bench, with Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum getting ejected for back-to-back cheap shots, was a stain on an otherwise exceptional NBA playoffs.

2. What was the fourth-worst thing to happen in the NBA in 2011?

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes Of Hell: The sustained hatred of LeBron James. The criticism James received for "The Decision" was deserved but, Clevelanders aside, most people have no reason to continue hating him. He was well within his rights to choose Miami as his destination. At this point the ubiquitous disgust for LeBron feels forced and irrational.

Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: The end of the 2010-11 playoffs. The most wildly entertaining and competitive playoffs that I can remember. Seriously, are we sure the Mavericks and Heat couldn't play best-of-77?

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: LeBron's "wake up to their lives" comment. Reinforces the image of NBA players as arrogant, reinforces the criticism of LeBron after two minutes earlier he admitted he'd failed, reinforces the story of LeBron's failure being bigger than the Mavs' triumph. It was like sandbags for idiocy.

Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: The resignation of Jerry Sloan. After 23 years and 1,127 wins in Utah, seeing the coaching legend step down so abruptly after reported locker room turmoil was a bitter pill to swallow. The man who gave so much to the game and the Jazz deserved a better farewell tour.

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Derrick Rose, MVP. He was a legitimate candidate, but as is often the case with big awards, a narrative took over and the award wound up with the popular guy and probably not "the best." In the process, an ugly divide resurfaced between those who value advanced statistics and those who eschew them.

3. What was the third-worst thing to happen in the NBA in 2011?

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes Of Hell: The spate of homophobic remarks by star players. We often forget that the NBA court is also an office. The players are at work. And bigoted remarks, whether toward a fellow employee (NBA referees) or customers (fans) should not be tolerated at any place of business. NBA players should be combating homophobia, not encouraging it.

Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Goodbye, giants. With the abrupt retirement of Yao Ming and the not-so-abrupt retirement of Shaq, we bid farewell to the two largest human beings to put on an NBA uniform. Can't forget about Zydrunas Ilgauskas either. Don't worry, we still have Hasheem Thabeet!

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: Tie between Joakim Noah's homosexual slur and LeBron James' depiction of a question as retarded. Sorry, not going to delineate between insulting homosexuals and insulting the mentally challenged. Both of these comments were in the playoffs, both were reprehensible, both were at once pointless and ignorant.

Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: The Carmelo Anthony saga. It was the painful soap opera that loomed over three franchises for months as Melo pushed his way out the door in Denver. Players have a right to choose where they want to suit up, but the never-ending speculation and hysteria surrounding Melo's unceremonious exit was painful to watch.

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Blazers' health. In a season that featured outstanding performances from teams led by young stars, perhaps nothing was as disappointing as Portland's injury issues. Greg Oden didn't play one minute and almost worse were the 47 games (23 starts) in which we saw Brandon Roy's decline continue to play out in front of our eyes.

4. What was the second-worst thing to happen in the NBA in 2011?

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes Of Hell: Yao Ming's retirement. Yao was an iconic figure who did as much to spur the game's international growth as any player since Michael Jordan. The fact that chronic injuries cut his career short isn't just sad for Rockets fans. It's sad for any fan of the game.

Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: The cancellation of NBA games. Another dark chapter of the league's long history and it could have been avoided. A real shame.

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: Dan Gilbert becoming involved in the NBA lockout. Hey, you know what we really need? We're in a tense negotiation that threatens to ruin all the momentum of one of the best seasons in league history. These negotiations lie on a thin line between progress and utter collapse. I've got it! Let's let the Comic-Sans-ing, embittered, blogissist-hating ego have a whirl at being in charge! Great plan, guys!

Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: The retirement of Yao Ming. The gentle giant was one of the most entertaining big men to watch in NBA history and served as an ambassador of the game all around the globe. His departure served as a tremendously solemn occasion for the league both on and off the floor.

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Carmelo Anthony engineering a trade to the Knicks. Despite being in the last year of his contract and playing for a contending team, Melo set a precedent that it is acceptable for a player to essentially hold a team hostage to get where he wants. Worst part: This becomes yet another negotiating hurdle to a new CBA.

5. What was the worst thing to happen in the NBA in 2011?

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes Of Hell:
The lockout. If anybody says anything other than the lockout (or some variation of that), I'll be shocked. The reasons the lockout is a catastrophe are almost too self-evident to name. How could anything be worse than actually missing games and potentially losing an entire season?

Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: The early deaths of Robert Traylor, 34, Lorenzen Wright, 37, and Armen Gilliam, 47. Hope Wright's family can find some closure even though his murderer is still at large. It's an absolutely heart-wrenching story.

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: The lockout. Just. Pathetic.

Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: The lockout. The fact we are not answering questions about a looming opening night, the Mavs defending their crown, the debut of Kyrie Irving, and about a thousand other compelling topics says it all. Instead, we are left waiting and wondering thanks to all parties involved with no basketball in sight. An ugly picture for NBA fans everywhere.

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: This lockout. Even though it has been looming for years now, a sensational 2010-11 season enabled us to block this out until we started missing games. It is worse, by far, than any combination of other "worst" things, a scenario in which everyone gets hurt and no one escapes without looking bad.

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Tom Haberstroh covers the NBA for ESPN.com and TrueHoop. Graydon Gordian, Matt Moore, Brian Robb and Charlie Widdoes contribute to the TrueHoop Network.

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