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The Dunk-Celebration Spectrum

Which NBA bench mob owns the wildest post-jam celebration?

With less than 15 seconds left in last week’s Spurs-Warriors game, San Antonio’s Jonathon Simmons was dribbling the ball out past the 3-point line. The Spurs were up by 27, so there was no need for them to take another shot, but there were five more seconds on the game clock than there were on the shot clock, so there actually was a need to take a shot, because a thing that a lot of people don’t know about the Spurs is that anytime they have a shot clock violation, Gregg Popovich gets to cut a finger off of a person related to the player who was holding the ball when the buzzer went off. So, as the clock neared its end, Simmons took off.

He exploded into the lane around poor Patrick McCaw, who no doubt was expecting Simmons to either hold the ball or toss up a Do Nothing jumper. Javale McGee, reacting in time but without understanding the seriousness of the situation, slid over and tried to cut Simmons off. It was of no use. Simmons is a devastating leaper, and so despite McGee’s otherwise overwhelming length, Simmons rose and Rose and ROSE, waiting for McGee to fall back to earth, and then he fucking supreme-clientele-dunked it on his head. He did so with such force that the remaining Warriors fans gasped. He did so with such force that a team of gravediggers jogged out onto the court and dug a plot for McGee under the basket. He did so with such force that several of the Spurs players on the bench reacted, which maybe doesn’t sound like much at first, but it’s the Spurs, so dunking with enough force to make them react is like dunking with enough force to make a painting come to life.

It’s a little bit grainy, but here’s the bench:

That’s Kawhi Leonard on the far left. He stands up, waits for half a second while his microprocessor loads the appropriate response, and then gives a couple of very "Is This How a Human Claps?" handclaps. Tony Parker (next to Kawhi) doesn’t move because Tony Parker only moves for championships. Manu (next to Tony) stands up because he saw Kawhi stand up, and I imagine there was probably a moment during the offseason after Tim Duncan announced his retirement when Kawhi showed up to Manu’s house at, like, 4 a.m. on some "Come with me if you want to live" shit, and so now whenever Kawhi stands up Manu stands up, too. David Lee gets up and looks at LaMarcus Aldridge. LaMarcus Aldridge gets up and looks at David Lee. Pau Gasol and Patty Mills sit there like Tony. And Kyle Anderson appears to pick up a tiny piece of litter, because the Spurs are probably (definitely) very anti-littering.

It was a good post-dunk bench reaction for the Spurs, but a bad post-dunk bench reaction for the league. They didn’t hit any of the Premiere Post-Dunk Celebrations, nor did they create any one-off eccentric ones that can stand on their own.

Here are some of the reactions they missed:

The Reaction: The Flee the Scene

How It Works: You just stand up out of your seat and run the fuck away. That’s it. That’s all. Quincy Acy, sitting on the far left of the Kings bench, does it here. It’s not super complicated, but it’s very effective in relaying the disrespect inherent in a "You Just Got Your Teeth Dunked Out of Your Skull" dunk. The best time to do a Flee the Scene is after DeMarcus Cousins has basketball-killed someone (like he does in the GIF above to Mason Plumlee). In that respect, you treat the situation like you would a crime that you saw but had nothing to do with, in that you just try to get away from it as fast as possible so no one tries to question you about what you saw. (What’s most tragic about all of this is that Mason Plumlee had to move out of Brooklyn after he was basketball-killed by DeMarcus when he played for the Nets. Now, he’s going to have to move out of Portland, too. Poor Mason. He has only 28 more teams left he can go to.)

The Reaction: The Jubilee

How It Works: This is my second favorite post-dunk bench reaction. Everyone just goes goddamn nuts, jumping all around from excitement. I love it. I love a group of adults being so moved by something that happened in a game that all they can think to do is jump and smile and shove each other and hold each other. It’s beautiful.

The Reaction: The Ghost Kick

How It Works: Someone dunks in such an exciting and invigorating manner that you feel the overwhelming urge to kick someone in the crotch, but since you’re on the bench and there are no opposing crotches nearby to be kicked, you opt instead to kick the crotch of a ghost. (They can’t suspend you for kicking a ghost in the dick, FYI.) (Not even on Halloween.)

The Reaction: The Stifle

How It Works: What you see in the GIF here is the Rockets bench. What you don’t see is Gerald Green, then a player on the then–New Jersey Nets, catapulting himself into the stratosphere to not only catch an alley-oop pass, but to catch an alley-oop pass and then windmill it before dunking it, which is just profoundly incredible. The Rockets players want to react. They want to so badly. They can’t, though, because the guy who dunked it ain’t on their team. That’s how the Stifle works. In the GIF, Chase Budinger focuses so much of his energy on stifling his upper body that his legs squirt out a tiny celebration on their own. The player to his left preps to cover his face with his towel. The player to his right has a heart attack from stifling his celebration, like how if you keep your eyes open when you sneeze they’ll fall out of your head*. The Stifle is dangerous.

*I’m not sure if this is actually true.

The Reaction: The Dwight Howard Variant of the Stifle

How It Works: It’s almost the same as the regular version of the Stifle, except in this version you’re allowed to stand all the way up and celebrate someone dunking on your teammate because your teammate is Dwight Howard. There’s nobody in the league that I like seeing get dunked on more than Dwight Howard. Every Christmas morning, I call my entire family into the living room and gather them ’round ye olde laptop and we watch that clip of Kobe Bryant trying to dunk Dwight Howard out of the NBA for, like, two or three hours straight. "Daddy, can we open our Christmas presents now," one of my sons asks. And I say, "Yeah, son. Go for it." And he runs over to the tree and tears open a box and when he gets it open it’s just a different laptop playing that same clip on a loop. "Is every present like this?" he’ll ask. And I’ll say, "Not this one, son," and I’ll show him a very special box. And he’ll get a great big smile on his face and be very excited and open it and when he does he realizes there’s nothing in it, there’s just a hole cut in the bottom of the box, and that’s when I reach up through the hole and flick him in the nose for not appreciating the Kobe-Dwight clip.

The Reaction: The Towels for Sale

How It Works: Someone on your team dunks it so hard that all of a sudden you become a towel salesman.

The Reaction: The Possession

How It Works: Someone on your team dunks it so hard that all of a sudden your body becomes possessed by the devil*.

*This is actually how The Exorcist originally started but they had to change the script when they couldn’t get Wesley Snipes to play Linda Blair’s role. It was also supposed to be called White Devils Can’t Exorcise. It was a whole different movie. Hollywood is very bureaucratic.

The Reaction: The "Is That My Daughter in There?!"

How It Works: This one is always wonderful. Someone liquid-swords-dunks it, then a guy on the bench grabs another guy on the bench and holds him and protects him because his body is trying to explode from all the happiness. The more pairings a dunk can create, the more impressive it is. In this particular GIF, Russell Westbrook is able to dunk it so ferociously that he creates two separate pairings. The move is named after the scene in Mystic River in which that group of policemen has to hold back Sean Penn, who’s trying to get into a taped-off crime scene where his daughter’s body is. It’s like that, except a happy version.

The Reaction: The Ants on the Picnic Blanket

How It Works: You have to stomp on all the ants that got on the picnic blanket. (At this point, I’m really just trying to find every GIF of Dwight Howard getting dunked on that I can.) (I apologize to the Howard family.) (I will say this about Dwight, though, and it’s the nicest thing I can say because I’m jealous of it: He has fucking perfect teeth.) (Too bad Harrison Barnes just dunked them out of his head here.) (LOL.) (That’s a little thing called a "call back".)

The Reaction: The Mosh Pit

How It Works: A person does a thing and Kevin Garnett is on your team.

The Reaction: The Lonely Mosh Pit

How It Works: It’s like the regular version of the Mosh Pit, except you’re Brandon Jennings and it’s your first season playing for the Pistons and you forgot that the Pistons haven’t been allowed to be excited about anything since the mid-2000s, so you’re just crashing into people all on your own.

The Reaction: The Border Patrol

How It Works: This one is my no. 1 favorite. A proper post-dunk celebration should, in part, begin to spill out onto the floor. And that being the case, you need at least one guy (preferably two) to work as a sort of border patrol, holding back people from getting too far out onto the court, which could result in a technical foul (or worse, possibly). It’s a staple in the post-dunk-celebration arsenal. The only time I ever cheered for a Knicks player in my life was when Kristaps yammed it home on LaMarcus Aldridge’s head here. I feel like you should get five or six or seven points for dunking it on LaMarcus.

The Reaction: The 100-Yard Dash

How It Works: This one is the rarest of all the post-dunk bench celebrations on account of how many boxes need to get checked off for it to be appropriate. Not only does the dunk have to (1) be a buzzer-beater, which is exceedingly rare, but it also (2) has to be a buzzer-beater that either wins the game for your team or ties the game for your team, and also it (3) has to happen on the opposite end of the court from where your bench is, that way you can sprint all the way down to the other side. The only other time I can remember all of those things lining up just perfectly like that was in 2010 when Josh Smith tip-dunked it in at the buzzer to beat the Magic back when he was with the Hawks. The league is 70 years old and (I think) there have been only two proper 100-Yard Dash celebrations. You’ll probably die before you see another one of these.

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