As the summer wears on, with training camps and preseason play still off in (what feels like) the distant future, 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.
Growing up as a New Jersey Nets fan in the late 1980s/early 1990s was a bit like being Turtle on “Entourage.”
Vinny Chase played over in MSG, and all the pretty people wanted to hang with him. Turtle played in a cavernous, personality-deficient building in a swamp, suffering through attendance challenges so severe that the team’s midweek ticket deals amounted to, “No, seriously, we’ll pay you to see the Nuggets.”
But just as Turtle was only tolerable because of those he associated with, the Meadowlands would only come to life when someone of greater renown came to town: the Knicks, the Celtics or Jordan, for example. Then the crowd would become myself, my father, about 50 other fans who remembered Otis Birdsong, and roughly 19,000 people there to watch the other guys.
I’m reminded of that roundball cuckolding every time I view Shaquille O'Neal’s infamous backboard-demolishing, shot-clock-dislodging dunk from an April 23, 1993, Orlando Magic victory over the Nets.
It’s the way the lower bowl of fans come to their feet after he brings down the backboard. It’s not in a “Hey, wow, never seen that before” way; it’s in a “YES, MAN-CHILD, DESTROY THE TEAM I’M SUPPOSED TO HAVE A GEOGRAPHIC DISPOSITION TO ADORE! TURN THEM TO ASH!”
My father and I were at this game, in the nosebleeds. (As he’d remind you, he’s not made of money.) I remember being in awe of the moment. I had seen backboards shattered before — the Nets’ own enigmatic Chris Morris broke one at the Meadowlands once — but never even conceived that the whole damn basket could be brought down.
I mean, the shot clock hitting your back on a dunk … what’s that, 70 points in an MTV Rock N' Jock game back in ’94?
But that was Shaq. Even as a rookie, he was a force of nature. Certain athletes literally change the game. Jordan did. Tyson did. Lemieux did. And Shaq did, with that mountainous size and preposterous power. I always felt it was perfect symbolism that Michael’s shoe logo had him soaring from the foul line and Shaq’s had him hanging from the rim.
Of course, the best dunks have co-stars.
And in this case, that accomplice was Dwayne Schintzius.
Best known for “the most carefully crafted mullet in NBA history,” the late Schintzius (he died in 2012 after a battle with leukemia) played eight minutes in that game against the Magic, backing up the immortal Sam Bowie at center along with Rick Mahorn. In just his third NBA season, Schintzius had already honed his role as the goofy tall dude that fans chanted for during garbage time. (See also: Dare, Yinka, for Nets fans.)
Look at the way he challenges Shaq! And look at the way Shaq just dunks through his hands like an SUV going through those floppy dangling rags at the car wash …
This was like watching Tyson knock the snot out of Peter McNeely.
Which, come to think of it, was most nights sitting at the Meadowlands around that time.
More from BDL's Dunk History series:
• John Starks, the Chicago Bulls and 'The Dunk'
• Tom Chambers rising like a Phoenix and taking orbit as a Sun
• Taj Gibson starts the break, then breaks Dwyane Wade
• Joakim Noah makes Paul Pierce a memory
• Baron Davis unloads on Andrei Kirilenko, moves beyond belief
• Michael Jordan embarrasses, like, all of the Knicks