On Tuesday, Lower Merion (Pa.) High advanced to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state finals with a 67-63 victory against previously undefeated New Castle (Pa.) High. The win was a statement victory for Lower Merion, signifying a return to prominence for Kobe Bryant’s alma mater. Yet the Aces’ victory was somewhat overshadowed by what an opponent did on a single drive in the middle of the game.
Playing in Williamsport, New Castle guard Malik Hooker attempted to put his team on his back while building an early lead. Taking the ball from the top of the key, Hooker drove right around the side of the defense and finished with a slam easily among the dunks of the season, a full-extension flush in traffic that required both remarkable athleticism, agility and confidence.
The dunk was notable of its own merits, of course, but the fact that it came against Lower Merion had added significance in a way, because of its Kobe-esque athleticism. In fact, Hooker’s dunk bore an eerie similarity to one of Bryant’s signature dunks from his time at Lower Merion, where he took off down the right side of the court, glided toward the basket, extending and dunked over an opponent and then landed with a massive, moose-eared celebration.
You can see Kobe’s big prep slam directly below.
Incredibly, Bryant’s high school dunk, as impressive as it was, may not have been as overpowering as the one thrown down by Hooker. The difference is that Bryant’s dunk helped lead Lower Merion to a win that night, and eventually to a state title.
In the long run, Hooker’s athletic slam couldn’t quite achieve that. Despite New Castle’s early lead, Lower Merion came storming back and eventually escaped with a win, leading to a rushing of the court by the Aces’ student section.
"We were outmanned out there," New Castle coach Ralph Blundo told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Maybe they were on the scoreboard, but they certainly weren’t on the highlight reel, thanks to Hooker’s dunk of the year in Pennsylvania, if not even more far and wide.