The Anatomy of a Dunk

Dunks happen every day on the basketball court. There’s a 10 foot rim and a lot of tall men. So there are going to be many instances within the flow of the game where these tall men jump up and push the ball through the cylindrical rim. It’s the easiest shot on the court. Most of the time there is no one in the way between the dunker and the rim. But sometimes, in that special moment, you get a situation where the dunker is challenged by someone to prevent them from pushing the ball through the rim. If the dunker succeeds, then he is awarded two points.

But every once and a while, a dunk happens that completely shatters any modicum of normalcy. It adds a blast of color to a black and white slate. It’s a series of actions that in that instant, completely empowers the dunker, while absolutely emasculating the victim. Everybody who attempts to block a dunk knows there’s a chance they might get dunked on. But, in these instances, the psychological impact that is expounded on the victim is so much, that they lose themselves for a little and forget what its like to be themselves.

There have always been 2 elements to every play in basketball. You have the scorer and the defender. But when this type of play happens, you have to encapsulate all the reactions from everyone on the floor, in the arena, and in the viewing audience to get of complete understanding of what exactly took place. The anatomy of the dunk encompasses so much more than the two players involved in the play. You have the reactions from the teammates of the dunker and from the teammates of the victim. You have the reaction of the fans in the stadium. And then you have the reaction of the opposing fans.

These dunk usually become synonymous with a point in time. It could become someone’s seminal play as their career begins to ascend.  It could be the decisive play in a playoff series that completely changes the outlay of that series. When a play like this happen, fans remember them. If the moment has future ramifications, people remember it even more.

Off the top of my head, I can only remember about 5 core-rattling dunks in my life.

In chronologic order:

  1. 1)      1991 Playoffs – Michael Jordan over Patrick Ewing
  2. 2)      2000 Olympics – Vince Carter over Frederick Weis
  3. 3)      2007 Playoffs – Baron Davis over Andrei Kirilenko
  4. 4)      November 2010 – Blake Griffin over Timofey Mozgov
  5. 5)      January 2012 – Blake Griffin over Kendrick Perkins

1991 NBA Playoffs –Chicago Bulls vs.New York Knicks

This is Michael Jordan at the height of his popularity. Tongue wagging, wearing the Number 5’s. Defending his first title. And here were these “bully on the block” upstarts from New York causing trouble and trying to build their own dynasty. They had their enforcer by the name of Patrick Ewing who patroled the paint and protected the rim. When these two forces met, it would change the course of this series and possibly the course of these two players’ careers.

The first thing you notice is the sick spin cycle move that Jordan puts on Charles Oakley and John Starks. I’m going this way, then, NOPE!, I’m going back towards the basket. Next thing I notice is the great screen by Horace Grant. One common theme in these dunks is that the victim is either screened or late in getting to the dunker. As the dunk is coming, you see Jordan and Ewing contiuously rising. But at one point, that bitch named Gravity takes a hold of Ewing, and he starts coming back down to Earth, while MJ is still rising. Then….BAAAAAMMMM!!!!!! And-1.

The Bulls bench doesn’t really react that greatly. Either they got to see that all the time (it being Jordan and all) or they were just tired of constantly cheering for the greatest ever. Just ask the Vice President whether his hands and glutes get a workout every State of the Union Address, having the get up and clap every 5th word. Hubert Davis, of the Knicks, reacted like his children just got eaten by wolves. Horace Grant decided that the shoes weren’t making him “like Mike” so he decided to slap the butt of Mike. And poor Patrick Ewing decided to shove an invisible man.

You love when these dunks happen on the road. You have that, “OOOOOOOOOO” sound from they crowd where they love the play, but feel bad that it was their guy that got posterized. Nowhere better for that to happen than in Madison Square Garden.

2000 Olympics – United States vs. France

Everyone knows the knock on Vince Carter. Great player who had to tools to be an all-time great player. But, he never played with the necessary determination to be one of the greats. He was okay with just being good. But for one summer, he became a beast. He literally took on the attitude that he was not going to be fucked with. He became the shooting guard version of Kevin Garnett. And then he got a steal in the open court against France with only 7’2″ Frederick Weis between him and the basket. James Bond, Jack Bauer, and Jason Bourne together couldn’t have fixed this international incident.

First off Frederick, you’re 7’2″. If you’re going to be in a poster, at least attempt to block the shot. The whole, “I’m going to stand here and take a charge” thing doesn’t really work out too well when the guy in front of you just won the NBA Slam Dunk competition in resounding fashion 6 months earlier. Read the scouting reports Weis! Secondly, other than the time they interviewed him after winning a title, this is the only other time I’ve ever seen KG not know what the hell to do with himself. Its almost like he said to himself, “I’ve got to match Vince’s intensity, so I’m going to chest bump-push him and show him my war face. Then I’m going to mean-mug the already wounded Frederic Weis.” It was classic KG. Thirdly, look at Vince’s face after the dunk. And then go look any picture of the rap group Onyx (especially Sticky Fingaz) and tell me Vince wouldn’t have been a perfect 4th member at that time. “SLAAAAMMMM! Duuh Duuh Duh Duuh Duuh Duuh Let the boys be boys!!!!” And lastly I love the reaction by French guard Laurent Sciarra. He was literally scared for his life and trying his hardest not to get into Vince’s bubble of unkempt rage. The man doesn’t even want to make eye contact with Carter.

As for the fans, they loved it. International fans love when Americans abuse them. They may not say it out loud, but there’s a reason they come out to see the best in the world. As you can tell in the video, even the French announcers love it.

Side note:  I think Vince Carter is the modern day Samson. When he grows his hair out, he becomes one of the best basketball players on the planet. But when he shaves it, he becomes just a good to great player. Who’s his Delilah?

2007 NBA Playoffs – Utah Jazz vs Golden State Warriors

After upsetting League MVP Dirk Nowitzki and the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round, the Golden State Warriors were riding on cloud-9 heading into their 2nd round matchup with the Utah Jazz. The Bay Area was buzzing with Warriors fever and ORACLE Arena was a house of horror for visitors. After losing the first two games of the series in Utah in close fashion,  the Warriors returned home for their turn in this tango. The house was rocking with the Warrior faithful wearing their golden “We Believe” t-shirts. The Dub’s were up by 20 with 3 minutes to go and looking to put this puppy away. A jump shot or lay-up would have sufficed, but a self esteem-shattering dunk is just what The City ordered.

First thing I notice about this dunk is the crowd. As a season ticket holder for the Oklahoma City Thunder, I can honestly say that this crowd, and the one in Portland, are the only crowds that can compete against OKC’s. Good job Dub’s fans. Secondly, as Baron rises up for the dunk, it almost seems like his body and Kirilenko’s body become one. Almost like Baron is South America and Andrei is Africa and they are finally joined once again. Then the dunk happens and all hell breaks loose. Baron shows us that when he cares, he has a flat belly. And the fan at 0:30 seconds finally has an orgasm for the first time in his life. And Mikeal Pietrus does the internation sign for, “I need a wave cap”. And Matt Barnes walks away and shows some fans what his head would look like with a faux-hawk. And Dick Bavetta shows us how he seduced Charles Barkley. It honestly looked like a club that Stefon talks about on one of his SNL skits (You gotta be an SNL fan to get this one).

I love the reaction that the teammates of the victim have. They usually look away from both parties. They don’t want to feed into the fire that burns in the now powerful dunker. But they don’t want to completely deflate their brethren by letting them know they just saw that. Either way, its comedic gold at its finest.

November 2010 – New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Clippers

We know this won’t last. In a couple season, the post game will develop and the knees will start to hurt a little bit from all the jumping. Once the game develops, the need to jump over people will cease to exist, as the player will play both with his mind and with his body. But until then, hot damn this guy can dunk!!!!!!! He was already on the map, but this one put one of those bold, capital stars next to his name. He was not only on the map; he was to be recognized now.

My first thought, after discussing the Baron Davis dunk, is why do Americans hate Russians? They have beautiful women who become spies, and they make Vodka. What more can you ask for? All kidding aside, whether this was a dunk or not is irrelevant. He gets high enough to just throw the ball into the hoop from a parallel angle. He supplied the arc of the ball, instead of releasing it and letting gravity determine the arc of the ball. Funniest thing about this is the reaction from the ref near the Knick’s bench. He did a pelvic thrust that a porn star would be proud of. Another reaction that teammates of the victim have is that they just stand in place and hardly move. And that’s exactly what Amare Stoudemire, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Fields did. The Knick’s bench actually did a pretty good job of containing the basketball fan within them. All except Kelenna Azubuike, who was inactive, but still had a Tourette Syndrome moment next to Ronny Turiaf.

It can’t be forgotten that Timofey Mozgov actually added fuel to his own fire. When Griffin’s weight was on him, Mozgov pushed him off and in the process, propelled Griffin even higher into the stratosphere to make it look even more impressive. Elevator going up. You know you’ve arrived for all the wrong reasons when you last name is synonymous with being climbed over and dunked on.

One thing I am extremely disappointed in is the crowd’s reaction. I don’t know if they didn’t realize what happened, or didn’t look up from their smart phones in time to see the play, but the react from the crowd is pathetic. You will see this play in the pantheons of great dunks and 95% of you fools are still sitting down. Shame on you Clippers fans. You surely won’t get a chance to redeem yourself from this one…..

January 2012 – Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Oooops, spoke entirely too soon. In the NBA, with the greatest players in the world, you are bound to see great dunks night in and night out. I know I can’t forget Kirk Snyder’s dunk over Von Wafer in which he leaped over him Vince Carter-style. I saw it live and still count it as one of my all time favorite plays. But some players feast on doing this all the time. Names that come to mind are Dominique Wilkins, Jordan, Carter, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Griffin. And sadly, it happened to my team, against my starting center.

As you can tell, I’ve been thinking about this dunk a lot. It was the prompt that made me start writing this article. It was almost identical to the Mozgov dunk, in that Griffin when up against a defender that pushed him up instead of over. I must say that this dunk was a bit more impressive though. Griffin actually reaches the rim, albeit with only a couple fingers.

But what I found completely interesting was Perkins’ reaction. In most plays, Perk will either be jacking his jaw at the refs or at his teammates or at the opponent. Or he’ll be putting on that Perkins Scowl. After this play, NOTHING. Just a face that says, “I admit defeat in this battle, but the war still continues.” As a big man, you’re destined to get dunked on from time to time. But you don’t expect to get posterized.

As far as the atmosphere, good job by the Thunder bench to not ever react at all to the dunk. I don’t know whether they say Griffin assault Perkins or whether they say paint dry. Way to at least support your man, Thunder bench. The Thunder that were on the floor did the customary “don’t look at the two involved in the play and don’t hardly move from where you’re at” bit. But, I do have to give props to the Clippers fans. They did what you are supposed to do after a great play. They stood up and applauded and acted a little bit happy. Baby steps, I guess.

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Never been a writer. Probably will never be a writer. But always a fan.

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Posted in Random Thoughts, Thunder Post-game
2 comments on “The Anatomy of a Dunk
  1. […] YOUR FRANCHISE PLAYER: LeBron James – Cleveland Edition Now That’s Thunder Basketball The Anatomy of a Dunk NESN Celtics Live Blog: Paul Pierce, C’s Survive Another Comeback By Cavs, Earn 93-90 Win […]

  2. Steve says:

    How about KD’s dunk on Haywood in the playoffs last year?

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