Earlier this week, I posted a James Harden dunk on J.J. Hickson with the comment that it was a serious competitor for Dunk of the Year honors. Obviously, I was mistaken, because I completely forgot the real Dunk of the Year candidates sear your retinas and make you speak in tongues.
For proof, watch Thursday night's J.R. Smith(notes) dunk over, on, and through Gary Neal(notes) of the Spurs. If any other dunks match this one for the rest of the season, I will eat my shoe with a side of cole slaw.
In case you have trouble keeping track of awesomeness, here's a list of amazing things Smith does on this play: the crossover, the leap from a step inside the free-throw line, the ability to maintain power through the collision with Neal about six feet from the rim, the finish with two hands, and the extraneous hanging from the rim to add an exclamation point to the play. This dunk is the equivalent of an entire dominant game; Smith only scored 10 more points on the night, but this jam will be remembered for years.
The only question now is if anyone already has topped it or can hope to for the rest of the season. In my mind, the only worthwhile challenger is Blake Griffin(notes), although his aerial artistry comes more from the sheer volume of dunks than any one slam. In terms of single-moment greatness, J.R. Smith may have just turned the next four months of dunks into a competition for honorable mention.
As with any great play by Smith, the temptation is to claim that he could be a real star if he ever got his brain to work. I beg you not to resort to this line of reasoning. It diminishes the immense power of this moment and robs you of an awe-inspiring experience in a world increasingly lacking in wonder. This play is to be cherished, not analyzed within the context of an entire career.