summer wears on fall descends!, with training camps and preseason play still off in (what feels like) the distant future IMMINENT!, we turn our attention to the past. Join us as we while away a few late-summer moments recalling some of the most scintillating slams of yesteryear, the most thunderous throwdowns ever to sear themselves into our memories. This is Dunk History.
Today, we ask some of our favorite dunk enthusiasts in various entertainment realms to share stories about their favorite throwdowns of yore. Please check the italicized short bios for more information about our contributors!
This dunk made it all OK: the anguish of the '13 Finals loss, watching my favorite group of old men run out of gas JUST before the finish line, seeing Manu Ginóbili seemingly no longer be able to complete at an NBA level. None of that mattered.
The San Antonio Spurs had their vengeance, and Ginóbili was the one who turned the tide in the clinching Game 5; to quote Sean Connery, "Who's the old man now, dog?" (I may not have that quote 100 percent correct).
Also, it made Tim Duncan smile, which is the first time that's happened outside of him laughing at Joey Crawford, so it must've been special.
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Have you ever been shooting on your mini-basketball hoop at home, and in a moment of bored insanity you just throw the ball as hard as you can through the hoop, scaring your dog? Yes? Well then you should seek help. No? Well, in that case, my inability to relate continues to be a constant obstacle in my career.
The throw-in dunk is one of my favorite plays in sports. It’s something that only the most physically gifted athletes can pull off, and yet when it happens, the guy doing it looks he’s never played basketball before.
Shawn Kemp had just come into the league. He was 19 years old and his youth was part of what made this so compelling. When you asked me to write something, it was the first dunk that came to mind. How I remembered it was that he got a pass at the top of the key, dribbled past one Knick and then went up in the air from just inside the foul line.
Kenny Walker, who had been the dubious Slam Dunk champ the year before, went up with him. Kemp hung in the air, pulled the ball back into his chest and stayed in the air for a long time, and then dunked the ball behind his head, long after Walker had returned to the ground. How does someone do that? I understand how someone jumps higher than someone else, but how does the very rare athlete deny the laws of physics and just hang there at the peak of his jump for longer than anyone else?
That was what I had thought was amazing about this dunk. But I was wrong. I found it on YouTube and that was not what had happened at all. What was so astounding was the speed. I don’t know how to describe astounding speed. I have almost only seen it in animals.
At a zoo as a child, a sparrow landed in a pit of motionless crocodiles. One couldn’t even tell if the crocodiles were alive or dead, they were inert for the entire time. Then there was a loud CLAMP! The sparrow was gone. And a wing stuck out of the crocodile’s mouth. But it really wasn’t possible to see the actual thing happen. That was kind of what this dunk was like. It was that fast.
Nicole Conlan is a comedian, video oroducer for Jalopnik and UCB writer. You can follow her @NicoleConlan.
We all know what my REAL favorite dunk is. But in terms of basketball dunks, a few things come to mind. I have the misfortune of being a Denver Nuggets fan, which was fun when I first got into basketball during the 2012-13 season, and got progressively less fun as time went on.
The SB Nation Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs did a really thorough job of detailing what is almost inarguably the greatest dunk in franchise history, and it's impossible to talk about recent Nuggets dunks (Dunkets?) without thinking of Kenneth Faried, the Manimal, whose whole value to our team is his ability to make fast-break points at an altitude that leaves the opposing team dizzy (a talent that was completely squandered under Brian Shaw, but I'll save my 2,000 words on that for another column).
But the dunk that's most memorable to me comes from short-lived Nugget Nate Robinson. This was during the otherwise unremarkable 2013-14 season. It was Brian Shaw's first year, and the transition wasn't easy. When I became a Nuggets fan, Taco Bell had a promotion where they gave out free tacos every time the Nuggets scored 110 points. ONE HUNDRED AND TEN! We were a high-scoring team — which doesn't mean we were necessarily good — but when you're a 22-year-old idiot who doesn't understand the finer points of the sport yet, seeing a team rack up 110 points every game is a great way to get excited.
That had sort of stopped when Brian Shaw arrived. He wanted to focus on defense, which, like, fine, I get it, but what happened to my fast-break points? My crazy turnarounds? My big dunks? I was still a fan, just a slightly more bored one.
Then we played the Los Angeles Lakers. I won't make them the butt of this joke, because I like to think I'm a better comedian than that, but all I'll say is, I finally got got my high-scoring fun team back. And Nate Robinson was ON FIRE. Aside from being a funny guy with a big personality and DOPE sneakers, he's amazing at basketball. This is just one of four big dunks from him that night.
The way he sprinted down the court, the athleticism to make the dunk, and the joy of hanging off the rim? Maybe not very sportsmanlike, but super FUN. I was finally seeing the Nuggets I fell in love with again. That moment kind of encapsulates the Nuggets at their best. They don't have the most basketball intelligence, and they're never going to have the most finesse of any team. They just have the most horsepower. They're sprightly. They get to the basket faster, because they train with no oxygen. And it's fun to watch.
Plus, Nate Robinson is my height. That's cool! That means I could dunk, too! ... Right?
Charlie Bury is a standup comedian who recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. If you book him for your show, he'd definitely be down to talk about Zaza Pachulia. You can follow him @CharlieSaturday.
Arvydas Sabonis taught me geography. His no-look, behind-the-head passes inspired my sixth-grade self to pick up an atlas in search of Lithuania, his homeland. I discovered a Baltic nation bordered by Belarus, Poland, Latvia and that weird, separate part of Russia that seems like a place we aren’t supposed to know about. Watching that giant Arvydas drill standstill threes from the top of the arc made me wonder what Lithuanians ate, which gods they worshipped and who their enemies were.
When Chicago native Jeremy Pargo rolled into town on Dec. 2, 2010, he probably wasn’t pondering the breakup of the Soviet Union. I’d be surprised if he even sampled the local dumplings.
Pargo and his Maccabi Tel Aviv squad were there to battle Zalgiris Kaunas, arguably the most storied franchise in Lithuanian basketball history (not that that’s an argument you’ll ever have). The arena was packed with bearded dudes banging drums, waving green flags and wearing green wigs. Pargo wasn’t fazed. The crossover alone would’ve stopped any summer game with a microphone-wielding MC in its tracks. The poor defender was so shaken he looked like he was struggling to stay upright against a severe gust of wind.
Now all that stood between Pargo and the basket was a 7-foot-3 center — coincidentally, the same height as Arvydas Sabonis, who began and ended his career with that very Zalgiris team. Jeremy Pargo has no time for such folklore. One dribble, ball cocked back and BOOM! A proud nation was momentarily humbled, its traditional chants hushed.
A Lithuanian sixth-grader picked up an atlas and probably already knew where Chicago was.
Starks, left-handed, over Pippen and Jordan. Then he spins around looks into the crowd and practically walks into Scores on the east side instead of getting back on D.
Daniel Van Kirk
Daniel Van Kirk is a comedian and writer. You can check out his sketch show "DVK" on the Nerdist Network YouTube channel, see him regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Los Angeles, and hear him on the podcast "Sklarbro County" that he co-hosts with Jason and Randy Sklar and also as a regular guest on "Doug Loves Movies" with Doug Benson. You can follow him @DanielVanKirk.
Look, I know you're gonna get a few Jordan dunks. I'm an Illinois kid. I get it. And I know there are better-looking dunks than the one I selected. But there are three reasons why I love this one.
1. It's Tree Rollins. Not only is the guy 7-foot-1; he was biting opponents before it was cool. In 1983, he basically clotheslined Danny Ainge at half-court before getting into a brawl that ended with Tree biting Ainge's finger down to the tendon. So any highlight that has Tree Rollins looking like a bitch is a great one in my book. Also, dunking on Rollins means Jordan can say he dunked over a "tree." So that's pretty sweet.
2. Unlike all the players that have come since and tried to emulate him, Jordan really could take on an entire team. In just this play, he dismantles four Atlanta Hawks while the fifth has to hang back in case he dished it out. And the play starts with a pass fake! This isn't a fast-break, dunk on the run, set up something pretty (I mean, it is Jordan, so there's plenty of those). This like Jordan took a bet on how easily he could break this team, and it paid off. Not that Jordan would actually take any sort of bet like that. I mean ... why would he gamble at all? I doubt he would. And I also love his completely unrelated MLB stint purely based on his love of the game. And not Roulette.
3. And this is the best. Let's say Jordan didn't dunk here. Yes, I know that would defeat the entire purpose of this piece of wonderful Yahoo Sports entertainment, but let’s just say he didn't. This would still have made the highlight reel on "The George Michael Sports Machine" for the simple reason that Michael Jordan destroys No. 53, Cliff Levingston. Cliff tries to guard him from the top to the bottom of this play and it just doesn't matter. No. 23 does what Drago couldn't do in "Rocky IV." He breaks him.
Look at the angle in this video. It's number 10 on the list:
Like your grandma after a long walk around the mall, Levingston says, "You guys keep going! I think I'm just gonna lay down here. And please check the window. I feel a draft."
And that's it. This is one of my favorite all-time dunks. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Thanks for letting me play along!
Eric Dadourian is a comedian from Los Angeles, and you can follow him @ericdadourian.
The Chicago Bulls were good in the 1990s.
The Bulls were really good, and cool, and smart and good-looking, popular and funny and nice (kind of) and the Bulls had Michael Jordan. All they did was win, all the time, and look really good doing it. The Bulls beat everybody: they beat my Lakers, they beat your SuperSonics, they beat everybody, and they were, like, really casual and good-looking and fun and smart about it.
Then there was this dunk, this dunk that had a name. This dunk's name was "The Dunk," and I knew that because that’s what it said on the poster I had up in my room of this dunk: "The Dunk."
On the poster was John Starks and he had his mouth wide-open, screaming in mid-air, with his arm cocked back in a real painful looking way and it looked like he was hurling his body full force at the rim, and the ball was just a part of his body. Now, this dunk is not the most impressive dunk, it doesn't have that nasty crunch, or that high-flying grace, but this dunk is my favorite dunk.
What this dunk had was so much purpose and so much anger and so much John Starks, who was not as cool as Michael Jordan, who was decidedly not chill. John Starks, who worked at a grocery store in Tulsa and everybody liked to make such a big deal about that. John Starks, who let the whole world get under his skin, who always lost in the 1990s it seemed like to Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan and the Bulls all the time. It seemed like he was always angry and losing, and maybe, just maybe, there was a weird little chubby 12-year-old who hated Michael Jordan and the Bulls for being so good and popular and cool and good-looking, who was sitting in his room staring at this poster of Michael Jordan getting dunked on (sort of) by John Starks.
This dunk is like scratching an itch, and if you feel like the whole world gets under your skin, scratching an itch is pretty good. Also, he dunked it with his left.
More Dunk History:
• Shawn Kemp, Alton Lister and how memory works
• Chris Webber, Charles Barkley and a poster preserved
• Young Wolf Andrew Wiggins goes straight for Rudy Gobert's neck
• Rajon Rondo leaps past Dwight Howard, ascends to All-Star status
• Blake Griffin defines 'Mozgov,' picks up Stoudemire's mantle
• Vince Carter defies gravity, belief in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest
• LeBron James rises up and Damon Jones 'gets banged on'
• Dwyane Wade welcomes Anderson Varejao to his 'Kodak moment'
• Paul George's 360 windmill causes stir on press row
• Michael Jordan, Mel Turpin and 'Was he big enough?'
• Von Wafer and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dunk
• Dr. J 'jams the jinx,' makes Boston Garden sing different tune
• LeBron James takes flight, sends JET to crash landing
• J.R. Smith expresses himself by pulverizing Gary Neal
• Some of our friends' favorite dunks, Vol. 1: Chris Gethard, Hannibal Buress, Jensen Karp and more
• Dunk History, Season 1: Our 2014 series, collected
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