Tag Archives: Patrick Ewing

Alternate Reality – Dream Team vs. 2012 Team USA

In collaboration with Akeli Jackson of DYST Media, Steve Person of Hooptalk365.com and Jon Midget of SLCDunk.com.

The debate has been raging all summer long about which team is better: the 1992 Dream Team or the 2012 US Men’s Olympic basketball team. Members from both teams have spoken publically and most have said that the Dream Teamers would be the victors. But the tally hasn’t been 100% on the side of the Dream Teamers. Kobe Bryant, in an interview, stated, “If you’re asking me, ‘Can you beat them one game?’ Hell yeah, we can beat them in one game. You didn’t ask me if we could beat them in a 7-game series. In one game, we can beat them. No question about it.” This discussion was presented for each of the subsequent “Dream Team” teams after the ’92 team, but the discussion usually died down pretty quickly. For some reason, though, the debate for the 2012 team has lingered on longer than it did for any of its predecessors. Maybe it’s Twitter, where the in your face, non-stop commentary sometimes leads to a paradigm shift in thought, even if it’s just for a moment. Maybe, people see a 2012 team that is loaded with a combination of great players and potential great players. Sadly, though, these types of debates usually remain as they are….figments of our statistical imagination. 

 

Fortunately, I have more money than I know what to do with. So I decided to call a buddy of mine who works at an anti-aging clinic. He told me he would be able to revert the older Dream Teamers back to their 1992 form using hormone replacement and gene therapy. Of course, the players on the ’92 squad would have to agree with this. So, that’s where their ego and my money came into play. I got all the players from the Dream Team to sign on by offering them $10 million each and telling them that the 2012 team would wipe the floor with them. Christian Laettner even asked my buddy if he had anything that would bring his “Duke-swag” back. My buddy told him he didn’t have anything to cure failed potential. Surprisingly, Larry Bird required the least amount of work. His body is basically in the same physical shape now as it was then. Unfortunately, the anti-aging clinic didn’t have anything to bring Chuck Daly back from the after-life, so Lenny Wilkens, who was an assistant on the Dream Team, agreed to be the coach. The fine folks at Coachella kindly declined when we asked them if they could have Hologram Chuck Daly walk back and forth on the Dream Team sideline. 

 

After 2 weeks of intense anti-aging therapy, and a month of “training camp”, the Dream Team was looking like its old self again. Magic Johnson was passive-aggresively talking trash, Larry Bird was sinking flat footed 3 pointers, and Michael Jordan was dunking on Patrick Ewing. The game was set up to happen the night before the gold medal game of this year’s Olympics. Only a few writers were privy to the game. Everyone who was witness to the game was CIA-scanned for electronic devices, meaning no photos or video of the game would ever exist. The 4 writers who were invited were each assigned a quarter to write about in detail. No one was allowed to release any information until after the gold medal game. This, is what transpired: 

Pre-Game 

The game would be played using a mixture of FIBA and NBA rules. The quarters would be 10 minutes in length to maximize the athletic potential of all the participants in the game. The FIBA 3-point line would be used, and the painted area used was the standard rectangular NBA format. Players wouldn’t be able to touch the ball on the rim like in international play. It would be counted as a goaltend, if the ball is touched while still on the rim. A team would have 8 seconds to bring the ball up past the half court line. The style of refereeing would be more international, allowing the players to be a little bit more physical on the perimeter and on the inside. The officials would be Ken Mauer, Dan Crawford, and Dick Bavetta. And, finally, a game like this wouldn’t be right without the use of an official David-Stern signed, NBA Spalding ball.  

One of the most amazing sights to see on a basketball court are the pre-game antics of the different players. Some have customary handshakes and dances that they do. Some have a specific routine of stretching and warming up. One thing that stood out while watching these two teams warm up was the gawking and wide-eyed fandom that was apparent on the 2012 team’s side of the court. It is easy to think of athletes as robotic in nature, while forgetting that they were once young fans wanting to be like they hardwood idols. Especially when their idols are on the other side of the court with their deity-like skills on hand for display. But, just as quickly as they were star-struck, they were just as quickly snapped back into reality by Kobe Bryant, and, surprisingly, by Russell Westbrook. The Dream Team squad was all business on their end. 

The referees called out the captains of each team (Johnson and Bird for the Dream Team and Bryant and James for Team USA). The Dream Team was in their classic whites and the 2012 squad in their new look blues. They all shook hands, the referees explained their expectations of the game, and each team went to their sidelines. Game time!!! 

1st Quarter

 Coach Lenny Wilkens trotted out Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkley as his starting five. Coach Mike Krzyzewski countered with Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Lebron James, and Carmelo Anthony. And, just like that, 10 of the greatest basketball players were on the court exchanging pleasantries and shaking hands. Chandler and Ewing would be jumping at center court. Bavetta tossed the jump ball, and it is controlled by Ewing. Both teams started off by missing their first shot attempts. On the Dream Team’s 2nd trip down the floor, Kobe snuck into the passing lane and intercepted a pass from Pippen to Jordan leading to a breakaway dunk by Lebron James. The first two points were officially on the board. On their next trip down, Magic Johnson found Ewing on a no-look bounce pass for an and-1 layup. The teams exchanged makes and misses pretty consistently for the first 5 minutes. 

After a timeout, Wilkens substituted Larry Bird and David Robinson for Pippen and Ewing. For Team USA, their first substitutions saw Kevin Durant and Deron Williams coming in for Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. On the first trip down for Team USA after the timeout, Durant made a 3 pointer off an offensive rebound from Chandler. Barkley gave Durant a shoulder check as he turned to go to the other side of the floor. Durant pushed Barkley and both players were given a double technical. On the next possession, Pippen, playing point guard, found Michael Jordan on the baseline for a jumper. 12-11 Dream Team at the half way point of the 1st quarter. After a Deron Williams layup, the Dream Team went on a 10-2 run, with Larry Bird supplying two 3-pointers and Tyson Chandler picking up his 2nd foul during that run. 

After a run-stopping timeout, Coach K trotted out a line of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Deron Williams, and Russell Westbrook. Wilkens brought in Bird, Karl Malone, Robinson, John Stockton, and Clyde Drexler. Anthony and Malone exchanged buckets in the next two possessions. On the next Team USA possession, Westbrook lost possession of the ball, which was stolen by Stockton, who found a streaking Drexler for an easy 2. Another turnover, this time, by Kevin Love, led to a mid-range jumper by Malone. 28-17 Dream Team, with under two minutes left in the quarter. After a missed jumper by Durant, the Dream Team brought the ball up the court looking to add to their double digit lead. Stockton passed it to Bird, who is wide open for a corner 3, but missed it, leading to a transition 3 by Carmelo Anthony. On the next Dream Team possession, Williams poked the ball from Robinson as the shot clock expired, which led to a thunderous (pun intended) dunk by Westbrook on the other end. After a Stockton miss, Williams brought the ball up for the final possession of the quarter. Durant got the ball above the 3-point line, dribbled a little while jabbing towards the basket, and let loose a 28-foot dead on three that splashed through the net as time expires. 28-25 Dream Team, after one quarter. 

2nd Quarter 

The Dream Team came out to begin the 2nd quarter with Stockton, Drexler, Mullin, Bird, andEwing. Team USA squad went with Deron Williams, Kobe, Durant, Lebron, and Love. Team USA took advantage of the Dream Team’s limited defense, and scored on their first four possessions. However, the Dream Team extended their lead at the same time with three from downtown: two from Bird and one from Mullin. 

On the Dream Team’s fourth possession, Lebron nearly steals the ball by knocking it out of Ewing’s hands, but it goes out of bounds instead. In a surprising display,Ewing thumped his chest several times, telling everyone in a loud voice, “I am a WARRIOR!” over and over. Mullin looks stunned for a moment as he wonders what his team would actually be like if Ewing really were a (GoldenState) Warrior. The Dream Team inbounded it toEwing, who immediately shows off his WARRIOR-ness by throwing up a running 18-foot fadeway that clanks off the rim (he was, admittedly, intimidated by the perpetual shut-down defense of Kevin Love). 

Still, the Dream Team led 37-33 as Team USA calls a timeout. 

Out of the timeout, The Dream Team came out with the same lineup. The 2012’ers let Lebron rest a bit and replaced him with Carmelo. Williams drove past Stockton to get an and-1. Stockton, one of the better defenders in NBA history, takes it personally, scowls, and on the next inbounds, rushes up the court and dropped a pull-up 3 right in Deron’s face. Realizing that Carmelo had Bird and Mullin taking turns “guarding” him, the 2012 squad goes to him on the next three trips down the court, with Carmelo hitting a 2 and a 3 (and having a missed 3 tipped in by Love). During that same time frame, the Dream Team goes on a bit of a cold streak from the field, and Team USA takes the lead 41-40, prompting the Dream Team to call a timeout.

One of the most amazing things to witness in a game like this is the interactions in the timeout huddle. While Team USA was all high-fives and laughs, it was all business in the Dream Team huddle. Lenny suggested putting in Laettner, but nobody even blinked. The players all knew they were old enough and wise enough to be coaches themselves. They noticed the 2012 squad trotting out Paul, Williams, Carmelo, Lebron, and Love. In response, Pippen tells Wilkens he’ll guard Carmelo so “they won’t have to worry about him touching the ball again”. Jordan says he and Stockton can take Paul and Williams. One of the funnier moments was when the Dream Teamers decided to put David Robinson in on Love, knowing that the Admiral would completely take advantage of the shorter, less athletic Love. The only person left to guard was Lebron, so they decided that, even though he can’t match LeBron’s total athleticism, the Mailman is the guy who can best match his speed and strength. So in came Malone. 

On the first play, Pippen ran Carmelo through a beautiful “elbows-out-I’m-going-to-send-you-to-the-floor-weeping” screen set by Stockton. Anthony gets up a little wobbly and goes back to the bench, replaced by Durant. Pippen smiles. 

At this point in the game, the Dream Team asserted themselves offensively and defensively. They continuously went inside to the Admiral, who routinely dunked it, probably wondering whether it was Kevin Love or a fruit fly he felt along the way. On the defensive side of the court, Chris Paul could barely make it past midcourt with Jordan hounding him. Paul passed to Deron Williams, who was being bumped and maimed by Stockton. Williams probably began to wonder why his team only had four guys on the court since he could not find Durant under that Pippen defensive blanket.   

On Team USA’s next possession, Williams found Love with a nifty pass. Unfortunately David Robinson shoved the layup down Love’s throat. It seemed for a moment, while Love looked at Robinson in awe, that he was wondering if he was looking at a Greek God incarnate, or just the most ripped athletic specimen to ever walk the earth. Fortunately, Lebron wasn’t as impressed with Robinson’s physique, as he picked up the loose ball and put in the score. 

The Dream Team continued to put on an offensive clinic in the next few possessions, going inside to David Robinson and running the 2012 defenders through a series of cuts and screens that sends everybody on Team USA into at least one Stockton screen. Chris Paul and Deron Williams, taking the brunt of the physicality, start to vehemently complain about the screens. As a writer, it’s crazy when the crowd noise is taken out of the equation and you can hear almost every conversation on the court. In response to the complaining about the screens, Dick Bavetta told the two 2012 guards, “Hey, if you want to try to knock down guys 50 to 100 pounds heavier than you 10 to 12 times every game, I’ll let you do it too.” Paul and Williams suddenly realized they were nowhere as tough as the guy with the short shorts.   

On the other end of the floor, Paul and Williams were getting picked apart by Jordan’s defense and Durant was made to seem like he didn’t even exist on the floor anymore. Love kept looking to the bench, wondering why Coach K hadn’t noticed that David Robinson has 5 more inches and 8 times the athleticism on him. Lebron, realizing that he is only player that can do anything at this moment, begins to try to take over the game. He got past Malone on a couple of occasions, but the veteran power forward either stripped Lebron or knocked him off balance on his jumpers. 

In all, it was a 16-6 run by the Dream Teamers that put them up 56-47 with two minutes to go in the half. 

Time out for Team USA.   

The 2012 team put in their small ball line-up for the final two minutes of the half: Chris Paul, Deron Williams,Kobe, Durant, and Lebron. The Dream Teamers decided to show the young guys that they can also go fast AND big at the same time. They trotted out Magic, Jordan, Pippen, Barkley, and the Admiral.

 After the timeout, the 2012 squad looked to take advantage of their small ball lineup, especially at point guard with Magic being in the game. Heading into the game, one of the main headlines was the Kobe vs. Michael matchup. How would the player most compared to Jordan fare against him? In a couple words, not very well (in the first half, at least). Kobe tried to challenge Jordan in the final two minutes, but instead ended up costing his team.Kobe went 0-2 with two turnovers during that time-span.

 Those turnovers and missed jumpers allowed the Dream Team to basically turn every defensive possession into a fast break opportunity. Magic was at his “Showtime” best, setting up Jordan, Pippen, and Robinson for dunks. On the final possession of the half for Team USA, Pippen deflected a Deron Williams pass that ended up in the hands of Charles Barkley who had a full head of steam with 5 seconds left. The only person back for the 2012 squad was Lebron, but even he realized that he’d rather fight another day than try to challenge Barkley with a full head of steam. Two-handed slam, buzzer, and that was the 1st half. 66-51 Dream Team.  

 3rd Quarter

 Coming out of halftime, the 2012 squad looked to get back in the groove, down by 15. Coach K decided at halftime to throw caution to the wind and go with a more assertive lineup to combat these NBA greats. He turned the reigns of point guard over to Lebron, with Kobe alongside in the backcourt, Durant and Carmelo on the wings, and Chandler in the post. The Dream Team decided to start the 2nd half with Stockton, Jordan, Pippen, Malone, and Ewing in the paint.

 Again, one of the great things about eliminating the crowd noise is that you can hear the different conversations going on between the players and coaches. At the scorer’s table, Jordan walked up to Kobe and tells him, “You may be able to sit at many players’ tables, but you still can’t sit at my table, rook.” Kobe, in turn, responded, “We’ll see about that. I still got a couple years left”, while he powdered his hands. On the sideline, Ewing, looking as refreshed as someone with a jersey soaked in sweat could look, barked at Chandler, saying “this my paint, you ready to bang?” Chandler responded with a smirk as Dick Bavetta handed him the ball. Chandler passed it toKobe and the second half began. 

With Lebron controlling the ball at point, Team USA jumped out on a 6-0 run. On their first two possessions, on what looked like to be the same play, Lebron found a wide open Anthony who connected on back to back 3’s. Kack kaack!! “String music” yelled Carmelo. Jordan, disgusted by Pippen’s defensive effort, screams at his Bulls teammate, “get your man, Scottie!!!” Immediate timeout called by Coach Wilkens in an attempt to get the Dream Team’s focus back. The run, got the 2012 squad within single digits early in the 3rd quarter. 

After the timeout, the Dream Team makes the necessary defensive adjustments. The two teams continue to battle back and forth throughout the quarter. Jordan would score, then Lebron would respond. The two teams began to trade baskets in an offensive display like none other. The 2012 squad continued to hang close, only down by 9 points. On the next possession, Kobe swiped the ball from Stockton with a chance to cut the lead to 7, but inexplicably dribbled the ball off his knee. From that point on, the Dream Team turned up their defensive intensity, which seemed to stifle Team USA’s offensive production in the middle of the 3rd. Jordan was all on top of Kobe, giving him a real headache. When Kobe drove left, Jordan was there. When Kobe drove right, Jordan was there. It was his Airness at his defensive best. Malone and Ewing were being savages in the paint, giving Chandler and Carmelo more than they could handle. But no one was stopping Durant, who kept the 2012 team treading water with a couple jumpers. The 2012 team remained down by 9, midway through the 3rd quarter, heading to an officials’ timeout. 

The two teams made line up changes and exchanged baskets and misses for the next 3 minutes. With only a minute and a half left in the 3rd, the lead for the Dream Team was still 9, at 82-73. Lebron knew if something was going to happen, it had to happen now. One of the things that he learned in his championship season was to pick and choose when to take over, especially on a team full of superstars. It was go time. He knew it. Coach K knew it. Everyone on that 2012 bench knew it. After exchanging misses, Lebron drove to the basket using his strength to get an and-1 lay-up after a hard foul by Malone. After sinking the free-throw, Lebron blocked a last second shot attempt by Jordan to end the quarter. As the clock expired, both team walked to their respective sides knowing that the 4th would be a pure dogfight. With three quarters in the books, the Dream Team led 90-84.

 4th Quarter 

At the beginning of the 4th stanza, both teams decided to rest their main guys knowing that in order to win this dog fight, sustaining energy for the long haul was absolutely paramount.  The Dream Team entered the quarter with Stockton, Mullin, Drexler, Malone, and Robinson, while Team USA countered with Williams, Westbrook, Iguodala, Carmelo, and Love.  Team USA wasted their first two possessions on ill-advised 3-pointers by Russell Westbrook, while the Dream Team played much more efficient basketball, getting two easy buckets inside from Karl Malone. With that, the Dream Team took back control of the game, pushing their lead to 10, 94-84, a minute and a half into the fourth quarter. 

On their next possession, Iguodala lets a tipped pass get by his finger tips out of bounds, leading to a turnover. On their way back to the other side of the court, Barkley gets up off the bench and starts barking at Carmelo, “You can’t hold the Mailman!” Carmelo looked back, replying, “Don’t talk too soon Chuck, still a long way to go.” Not even a minute later, Williams was able to strip the ball from Drexler while he was driving to the basket, leading to a 3 on 1 fast break which Williams converted to a layup to cut the lead down to 8. With that, Coach K got off the Team USA bench with two clinched fists in the air, signaling for a full court press. Realizing that Stockton was the only legitimate ball handler on the court for the Dream Teamers, Coach K put Westbrook, and his ravenous ball pressure skills on Stockton, while the other four Team USA defenders went into heavy man to man denial mode. Westbrook’s defensive pressure works as Stockton picked up his dribble near midcourt. Chris Mullin comes to the half court as a pressure release as Stockton passes the ball, but Iguodala is a half second quicker in the passing lane, leading to a fast break opportunity for TeamUSA. Iguodala got the ball to Westbrook, who penetrated to the basket only to have his shot rejected by David Robinson, who came from the other side of the court. Kevin Love (as always) was in the right position to corral the loose ball, drop step, and finish a layup to bring Team USA within 6 points, 94-88. 

With 8 minutes and some change left in this heavyweight matchup, Dream Team coach Lenny Wilkens inserts Scottie Pippen in place of Mullin, while Coach K completes the chess match by substituting Durant and Paul for Iguodala and Williams. Before play begins, Krzyzewski calls Love over and whispers a brief 2-3 second order into his ear, to which Love gives a nod of agreement. After the teams exchange misses, the Dream Team was looking to utilize their advantage in the post. Stockton brings the ball up and passes it to Drexler on the wing. Drexler takes one dribble to the right, but passes it to Pippen who is coming off a Malone screen. Pippen zips a pass into the post to Robinson who has positioned himself for a quick shot. The Admiral goes up for a 3-foot hook shot, but is immediately fouled by Love. Coach K’s message to Love was to foul Robinson on his next shot attempt and make him earn those points due to the fact that Robinson was a 59% FT shooter in the ‘92 Olympics. The plan works as Robinson misses both free throws. Carmelo grabs the rebounds, dribbles up past the half court line as Coach K calls timeout with Team USA down 6. The coach knows that the next few minutes could be very important and wants to discuss strategy with the team.

 And so it begins……. 

6:43 left and both teams bring back their heavy hitters. The Dream Team 5 consists of Magic, Jordan, Barkley, Malone, and Ewing, while Team USA counters with Lebron, Kobe, Durant, Carmelo, and Chandler.

 As expected, Jordan comes out of the timeout hitting a 2 pointer off a flare screen by Barkley, which, in the NBA, would’ve been illegal, but since the refs are allowing a more physical game, it was allowed to happen. On Team USA’s next possession, Lebron, using Kobe as a decoy, was able to complete a give and go in which Lebron backdoors Magic for the 3 point play, giving Team USA a chance to cut the lead to 5.  Lebron completes the 3-point play with the free throw and cuts the lead to 96-91 with 5:44 to go in the 4th quarter.

 After a failed possession by each team, and a costly turnover by Chandler in the post, the Dream Team has the ball with 3:37 to go. Kobe gets a ticky tack foul called on him, as he slightly bumps Barkley while attempting a double team. Barkley looks at Kobe and yells, “I know you’re not double-teaming me with the guy that is guarding Michael!” Barkley gets the ball out of bounds and gets it to Jordan, who raises up for a 17 ft jumper that bounces off the back of the rim. Durant grabs the rebound and quickly gets the ball out to Kobe. Kobe gets the ball up the court and quickly passes to Lebron who finds Durant trailing on the play for a wide open 3….good!  Team USAonly down two, 96-94, much to the dismay of Coach Wilkens. 

 With 2 minutes to play, Coach Wilkens makes what is perhaps the coaching move of the game. He substitutes Pippen for Barkley, whose defensive lapses on the perimeter had cost the Dream Team most their lead. That move pays dividends as the defensive pressure from Jordan and Pippen limits Kobe to 1-4 shooting in the final 2 minutes, and keeps the ball out of Lebron’s hands by double teaming him every time he caught the ball in the perimeter. On the offensive end, the veteran leadership of the Dream Team took over. Magic Johnson showed poise in running the point, managing the shot clock, and finding Karl Malone for two back breaking 20 footers as the shot clock was expiring. The perimeter-oriented offense of Team USA proved to be their demise as they could not get anything easy going late in the game. When the final buzzer sounded, it was 100-96, Dream Team.

 Both teams hugged and congratulated each other like it was the end of a hard fought playoff series. All the Dream Teamers were grabbing their younger counterparts and dispelling small nuggets of wisdom. And, of course, the Team USA members were all ears, soaking it all in like sponges. At center court, Michael Jordan hugged Kobe Bryant and talked with him for about a minute. What was said? Only those two know. But I would bet it would have something to do with respect and love for the game, for these two teams exemplify what being a basketball player and being a basketball team is to us fans. In a game that would seem only to occur in the imagination, this was an incredible display of basketball at its finest.

The Thunder and Derek Fisher

Ask any great player who has retired having never won a championship what they would’ve done to get one. Anything short of selling their first born or their soul would probably be the collective answer. But, realistically, would they have traded their best friend on the team to get that final piece? Would they have signed that one questionable knucklehead if it meant getting that title? The answer, each and every time, will probably be yes. The window of opportunity to win a championship is so small, that when that opportunity knocks, it’s best not to hesitate. Can you imagine what Charles Barkley would have given to get a ring? What about Karl Malone? John Stockton? Patrick Ewing? 

Fans tend to think if their team has 2 young superstars, they will contend for the next decade. Ask Portland fans how that worked out for them. The Oklahoma City Thunder have one of the best young cores in the league. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka are all under the age of 24 and are all primed to see action in future All Star games. But what would have happened if the point guard on the team that was recovering from ACL surgery were Russell Westbrook, instead of Eric Maynor? 

That injury to Maynor is what thrust rookie point guard Reggie Jackson into prime action for a title contending team. Before we get into what Jackson has done since he’s been pushed into the rotation as the main back-up point guard, let’s see what he was supposed to be. As the 24th pick in the draft, a player is not expected to be an instant contributor. If a team is picking that late, it usually means that they have a good record and made it into the playoffs. While they may be needing an impact player, they don’t expect to acquire one this late in the draft. Reggie Jackson was supposed to get his feet wet this year. He was expected to learn the speed and nuances of the game, develop a niche, and possibly spend some time in Tulsa with the Thunder’s D-League team. Instead, with the injury to Maynor, he was expected to manage a bench unit that was one of the best in the league. For those of you with any military experience, this is the equivalent of a private being put in charge a platoon. 

Jackson has played the way a rookie in his position would. Good plays sandwiched between mental errors. One of the hardest things to do as a rookie is to play the game while you are thinking. Young players tend to rely exclusively on instincts and athleticism. But if they start to think too much, it begins to muddle their athleticism. This is currently what is happening withJackson. He wanting to play like a traditional point guard, but his game is more geared towards being a combo guard. Teams are starting to trap him more and, in a way, make him think more. This leads to one of two things with Jackson: either a turnover or Jackson trying to neuter himself on the court, by giving the ball up to a teammate as quickly as possible. 

And don’t get me wrong; I’m not dogging the kid. He’s been put in a situation that he shouldn’t have been facing for at least another season. When Jackson does make a play, all the potential that Presti saw in him gets put on full display. The athleticism, the fearlessness, the comic-book like wingspan, the defensive potential. But he never has gotten a chance to ease into learning how to play in the league. Just imagine getting behind the wheel for the first time, and then getting your license the next day. You would eventually learn how to drive, but you may get into a couple of fender benders along the way. 

This is why the possible signing of newly released Derek Fisher is so important. What Fisher lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in experience and veteran savvy. The signing would not be a chemistry shaker, as Fisher has always been regarded as a great locker room guy. It’s a move that just makes sense. He would slide into the back-up point guard role when needed, and would be the experienced hand that would guide the team when necessary. It’s moves like this that win championships. You don’t just plug up holes in sinking ships. You do that in strong ships too. Good back-up point guard play is a necessity on this team. Fisher provides that. Make the move Presti. Go Thunder!

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.