Dunk History: The East Bay Funk Dunk

Ball Don't Lie
Dunk History: The East Bay Funk Dunk
Dunk History: The East Bay Funk Dunk

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.

Today, Shane Bacon takes a look at what Isaiah Rider did at the 1994 Slam Dunk Competition, with a dunk we all now know, simply, as the "East Bay Funk Dunk."

There was something a bit off when the 1994 NBA season rolled into the All-Star break. This was the first All-Star weekend A.M. (After Michael), as Mr. Jordan had taken his talents to the baseball diamond, and we were all left a little confused at just who was going to take the reigns from the most competitive man in the world and bring the goods.

I was in fourth grade at the time, and could sit in front of a television for hours as long as the channel had some sport on it. That was my life as a kid; NFL season turned to the NBA, which turned to baseball, which switched right back over to the NFL like a digital clock does each evening at 11:59.

Isaiah Rider was not a player I loved. For a small town kid from East Texas, Minnesota might as well have been Kuala Lumpur, but it was the dunk contest, and any kid who dreams of the NBA, even when size wasn't a box God checked when creating you, is hunkering down and watching some guys throw down dunks.

But that night was all Isaiah Rider. From the start to the finish, we got to see what we had hoped to see from a man that climbed invisible stairs in the sky. Rider's closing dunk, famously coined the "East Bay Funk Dunk," still goes down as one of the best ever, and I'm not alone. 

At the time, Charles Barkley yelled after he completed the EBFD, "that might be the best dunk I've ever seen!," a compliment coming from a man who, at the time, was one of the best in the world at the game. If Twitter had been around in 1994 I'm assuming your timeline would have just been a whole lot of "Stop." and "Oh my!" and "Game over." It was the type of dunk that, even in a contest against other high-flying NBA players, stopped the entire basketball landscape for a few seconds.

DVR wasn't around back then, but what you saw stuck in your brain. It was the type of effort that didn't even look possible, a man that hung in the air for what seemed like minutes as he passed the ball through his legs and finished with, as they say, authority.

The crazy thing about the East Bay Funk Dunk is that these days, it doesn't even look that impressive. We've seen hundreds of guys do this in dunk contests, adding in an extra element or two to make it even more difficult. We've seen guys jump over cars (trains and airplanes still pending) in the past few years, and as the abilities of these guys continue to skyrocket, the thrill of the dunk contest, for some reason, continues to plummet.

Never again will the hype be what it was at these 90s dunk contests. From Jordan to Kobe to Rider to Minor, the dunk contest used to be a show-stopping night in the basketball community, and while we can long for the days of that level of interest, it's the Internet that keeps around these clips of moments like what Rider did that will be impossible to forget.

Decades later, I was playing pick-up basketball in Phoenix when a man on the other team looked very familiar. It took me and a buddy a few minutes to realize that Isaiah Rider was playing hoops, far from his playing weight, but still the same guy that ripped down that Target Center rim around Valentine's Day of 1994.

His team was down as the game was coming to an end, and that was when Rider started throwing up threes. He hit one. And another. And another. And just like that, his team was staying on the court as we were heading for the water fountain.

It might not have been the same feeling we got watching him on the biggest stage of the All-Star weekend, but seeing someone with that level of confidence take over a game was special, especially considering how the East Bay Funk Dunk has always been one of those lasting memories I had as a kid who loved the game.

What to Read Next