Dunk History: J.R. Smith expresses himself by pulverizing Gary Neal

As the 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, guest contributor Patrick Truby remembers the time J.R. Smith imbued a relatively nondescript Dec. 16, 2010, game between the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs with his special brand of brilliance ... much to the chagrin of Gary Neal.

This isn’t just my favorite dunk. This is an example of why basketball is my favorite sport.

More than any other team sport, basketball encourages the expression of a player’s personality. And J.R. Smith is a crazy person. (The good kind of crazy, I think.) Some players are slow, methodical and calculating, while others just let the game come to them. J.R. Smith is, well, different; no one really has any idea what he’s going to do next, but chances are it’s going to be very entertaining and super-duper athletic.

Look, I'm going to level with you: I have no context for this game. I remember literally nothing else about this game. It happened in mid-December, so I’m guessing it wasn’t super important, even if it was a prime-time TNT game.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Spurs won, 113-112, thanks to a game-winning step-back jumper and charge drawn by Manu Ginobili. It was San Antonio's seventh straight win, improving them to 22-3; Denver fell to 15-10. J.R. finished with 12 points off the bench. It wasn't, in fact, super important.)

The fact that this game didn’t really matter makes it even better. On any given night, someone might do something so ridiculous and amazing that we’ll yell at our TVs and/or break Twitter.

Sure, this is a buzzer-beating dunk, but it comes at the end of the first quarter. This is peak “inbound the ball and shoot a long 3-pointer after the buzzer so it doesn’t affect your shooting percentage” time. Even here, we have no idea what J.R. Smith is going to do. For a moment, it looks like he doesn’t either; it’s like he’s experiencing the game with us.

He dribbles up the court all calm and cool, and for a second, it looks like Smith might turn that quick crossover dribble into a stepback 35-foot 3. (And, to be honest, no one would have been surprised if he took that stupid shot and splashed it.)

One step later, he’s taking off from YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO JUMP FROM THERE and smashing on Gary Neal with a dunk so mean that he probably had to hang on the rim just to stop his own momentum and avoid landing on the now-deceased Gary Neal on the ground below him.

The posturing is all gravy. Smith plays to the crowd because he can. Carmelo Anthony kinda-sorta mean-mugs because 'Melo has literally never been excited about anything.

'Yaaaaaaaaaay.' (Screencap via NBA)
'Yaaaaaaaaaay.' (Screencap via NBA)

It’s all just so entertaining that not even Reggie Miller saying words could ruin it.

Patrick Truby is a writer and illustrator based in Portland, Ore. Find him at patruby.com and on Twitter @patricktruby.

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