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The Four Most Disrespectful Moments of the NBA Playoffs

From Cussin’ John Wall to Beer-Drinking LeBron, we’re grading the most disrespectful postseason moments — now with video

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

During the regular season, we ran a recurring column called The Disrespectful Dunk Index. We’d take several big dunks that happened during a particular stretch of the season, then figure out how disrespectful they were by running them through a grading rubric that consisted of six parts: Difficulty, Dunker’s Reaction, Defense Attempted, Backstory, Dunk Cleanliness, Secondary Reactions.

When the playoffs started, we took the idea and sped it up: Rather than collecting the dunks over a two- or three-month stretch, we turned The Disrespectful Dunk Index into a short video series that was updated in real time. For example, when Myles Turner did this during Game 3 of the Pacers-Cavs series —

—we graded it immediately and posted the results shortly thereafter:

As the playoffs moved along, though, we noticed two things happening, both of which were less than ideal:

First, the number of big dunks shrank. This was because there were fewer games, sure, but also because the further into the playoffs teams made it, the more valuable each basket became, and so defenders became less and less likely to allow them to happen. Mostly, they chose to just wallop potential dunkers and force them to shoot free throws. (It’s the same reason we were robbed of what was going to be the most devastating and crippling dunk of LeBron James’s career at the end of Game 7 last year.)

Second, and this one was even more philosophically concerning, there were a lot of fun, disrespectful things that were happening that were not dunks. Some of them were moves that embarrassed defenders (like the time Steph Curry turned Rudy Gobert into a fidget spinner). Some of them were violent blocks that were less like basketball plays and more like existential crises (like the time Draymond Green blocked a Damian Lillard dunk into dust). Some of them were celebrations that bled outside the purview of traditional celebrations (like the time LeBron pretended to drink a beer after barely missing an and-1 against the Raptors). And some of them were just all-the-way disrespectful trash-talk moments (like the time John Wall cussed out Dennis Schröder after he stole the ball from Schröder and then dunked on him).

Because those things all need to be appreciated and evaluated, we’re turning The Disrespectful Dunk Index video series into a more expansive, more inclusive thing. Now, it’s The Disrespect Index video series, which we will be running during the Finals. We’re still scoring disrespectful dunks, but we’re also adding scores for disrespectful blocks, disrespectful moves, disrespectful celebrations, and disrespectful trash talk.

Let’s run through an example of each of the new categories using plays that have happened in the playoffs so far so you can get a feel for how things will be scored. Look at this play:

That’s the one I mentioned earlier, where Steph turned Rudy Gobert into a fidget spinner. This one is a Disrespectful Move. It happened during Game 1 of the Western Conference semis, and I laugh every time I watch it. Poor Rudy looks like someone just shook him awake from a months-long coma. I think my favorite part comes after the play, when one of the commentators laughs and then the other one says, "Rudy was outside of his comfort level," which felt a lot like if you dropped a guy into an alligator pit and then said, "He looks outside of his comfort level" as the alligators pulled his arms and legs off. Here’s how it scores on The Disrespect Index:

You’ll notice that the grading rubric here is slightly different than the one used for scoring Disrespectful Dunks. That’s because a Disrespectful Move is made up of different parts than a Disrespectful Dunk. This one scores Difficulty, Deception’s Effect, Defense, Backstory, Bucket Cleanliness, and Secondary Reactions. If we expand all the pieces a bit, it looks like this:

  • Difficulty: This is probably the trickiest category to score here because what Steph is doing is both absolutely difficult (for basically everyone else on the planet) and also incredible easy (for Steph and, say, maybe 10 other people). 13/20
  • Deception’s Effect: Huge score here, given that Gobert started the play on Earth and ended it spinning in circles somewhere out near Jupiter. 18/20
  • Defense: There’s this episode of The Office where, after Pam (the receptionist) leaves with Michael Scott (the manager), Kevin (a lovable but oafish accountant) gets assigned to answer the phones in Pam’s absence. It’s a disaster. One of the other office employees (Jim) gets asked about Kevin’s performance. He says, "How do I say this diplomatically? I think Kevin is doing exactly as well as someone might’ve expected someone like him to perform in a position like that." I feel the same way about Gobert trying to guard Steph at the 3-point line. 14/20
  • Backstory: Near the end of 2015, Steph and Draymond both sent tweets at a then-Jazz reporter following a game. (The Warriors won the game. The reporter was upset because he felt like the Warriors had been slightly dismissive of the Jazz.) So, if you squint, there’s at least a tiny bit of backstory here. Low score. 5/15.
  • Bucket Cleanliness: This one is the same as when we’re scoring Disrespectful Dunks: Did the ball go cleanly through the basket or did it touch part of the rim? The cleaner the make, the higher the score. Curry’s layup touched just a tiny bit of the rim, so he loses a point there. 4/5
  • Secondary Reactions: It happened during a Golden State home game, so of course the crowd went bozo. (A big part of the reason moments like these are so much fun is because they happen in two parts. First, there’s the actual move, and whenever a move like this happens, the crowd gets loud. Second, there’s the actual shot. So there’s the first roar that happens when the move gets pulled off, then there’s the second, louder roar that happens after the shot goes in.) The Golden State bench all stood up and cheered and laughed, and that’s always great. The commentators joked like I mentioned earlier, and that was great. And then we had Boris Diaw, who was the guy that Steph actually made the shot over, committing an offensive foul on the other end of the court in frustration. All of that is good for a 14/20.

Add all those up and: Steph’s move on Gobert was 68 percent disrespectful.

That’s how they’ll all work now. Each different category will have a different grading rubric, but the changes are small and intuitive so it’s very easy to follow.

Here’s the Draymond block on Damian:

Here’s what that play scores on The Disrespect Index, and also how all blocks will be graded in The Disrespect Index:

  • Difficulty: For this one, all you have to do is ask yourself, "Was it easy or hard for the defender to block the offensive player?" In this case, it was fairly easy since Draymond is about four inches taller than Damian and also about 35 pounds heavier than him. He gets a tiny bit of extra credit for helping off his player in time to make the block, but mostly it’s pretty standard fare here. 11/20
  • Blocker’s Reaction: Draymond is an all-world needler. There might not be anybody in the NBA right now who’s better at celebrating a thing he’s just done in an especially offensive, annoying, irritating way. (And let me be clear: I say that as an absolute compliment. It’s one of my favorite things about him, and one of the reasons he is among the most exciting and enjoyable players to watch.) On this particular block, he stares at a defanged Lillard as Lillard lies on the floor following their collision, then he runs back down on offense well after everyone else, then, following a Trail Blazers timeout after a Kevin Durant layup, Draymond enjoys himself a victory lap around the court as he waves his gigantic bear paw in the sky. It’s a very firm reaction. 14/20
  • Swat Velocity: Draymond absolutely stops the ball’s movement, but it’s less of a swat and more of a stop the way that water stops bullets, you know what I’m saying? 8/20
  • Backstory: There’s definitely a one-way rivalry going on between the Blazers, who hate the Warriors, and the Warriors, who could not care less, so that factors into the score here. But the bulk of the backstory comes from how Draymond, earlier in that same game, blocked a Noah Vonleh dunk back into the Paleolithic era. 9/15
  • Block Thoroughness: Draymond gets a lot of the ball but not all of the ball. 4/5
  • Secondary Reactions: The best part of all the reactions is Mike Breen shouting, "Oh! A block by Green! He did it again!" Mike Breen is probably the best today at shouting things during a big moment in a basketball game. He’s always got the right amount of excitement and awe and poetry and regality. It’s a remarkable talent. (Quick sidebar: I met Breen at an event a couple of years ago. It was a catered thing, with a bunch of food trucks where you could get whatever you wanted for free. I was standing with some other people in a circle and he came walking up and stood there, too. He made mention of how they’d gotten his order a little wrong. I told him he should go get it right. He said it wasn’t that big of a deal. I said, "You’re Mike fucking Breen. You can do whatever you want." He just smiled and then that was it. That was the only conversation we had. He was so nice.) 13/20

Add all those up and: The Draymond block on Damian was 59 percent disrespectful.

That’s LeBron James pretending to drink a beer during a game, which falls under the Disrespectful Celebration classification. Let’s score it:

  • Brashness: (1) This happened during a playoff game. (2) This happened during a playoff game against the team many felt was going to be the biggest test for the Cavaliers. (3) This happened during the third quarter(!) of Game 1(!!) of their series. (4) This happened after LeBron missed an and-1 chance and then high-stepped to the sidelines in giggly frustration. (5) This happened when the Cavs were up 16. (6) IT WAS A BEER. Very brash. 16/20
  • Length of Celebration: From the time LeBron missed the layup until the time he finished pretending to drink the beer, five seconds passed. That’s a long time. Most celebrations take two, possibly three seconds. Five seconds is very disrespectful. 15/20
  • Profoundness: A good way to measure the profoundness of a thing or an event is to just look at the reverb it has on the people involved in it. After the game, when Kyrie Irving was asked about LeBron pretending to drink the beer, he said, "If it was meant to happen, it was meant to happen." That’s a big, cosmic, we’re-all-just-tiny-specks-in-the-universe way of responding. When J.R. Smith was asked about it, he leaned the complete other way, saying, "I thought it was hilarious … until I thought about if I did it." That’s a specific, inward, what-has-this-moment-taught-me-about-myself way of responding. 16/20
  • Backstory: The Raptors hate the Cavs. The Cavs think it’s just hilarious that the Raptors hate them. 11/15
  • Distance Covered: LeBron covered approximately 25 feet during his celebration. That’s more than average, but less than the most. The third-greatest distance ever covered in celebration was when Reggie Miller hit what would become the game winner in Game 4 of the 1998 Bulls-Pacers series and then ran about 75 feet. The second-greatest distance ever covered in celebration was when Eddie Johnson hit that buzzer-beater in Game 4 of the 1997 Jazz-Rockets series and then ran about 85 feet. And the greatest distance ever covered in celebration was when Kevin Durant lost in the 2016 playoffs to the Warriors and then ran about 1,400 miles to join them in Oakland the next season. LeBron gets a 3/5 here.
  • Innovativeness: First, I would like take a second to formally apologize to Kevin Durant for taking that cheap shot at him in the section above. He didn’t deserve that. I have no problem with him having joined the Warriors. In fact, I find their dominance since he joined them quite captivating. Second, LeBron pretending to drink a beer is about 75 percent innovative, so he gets 75 percent of the highest score available. 15/20

Add all those up and: The LeBron celebration against the Raptors was 76 percent disrespectful.

Last one:

That’s John Wall asking Dennis Schröder, "Fuck is wrong with you, boy?" and then telling him, "Don’t do that" after Schröder tried to stop Wall from scoring on a fast break. This one gets the Trash Talk classification, a category I’m especially excited about. Seeing NBA players talk and yell at each other is one of my favorite things in basketball. The scores:

  • Situation: This didn’t happen during a dead ball or even in a skirmish, when everyone is shoving everyone else and talking shit to each other. It happened DURING the game, AS the game was still being played, AFTER Wall had stolen the ball from Schröder and then dunked on him. Rough 10 seconds for Schröder. (I like how if you watch the replay you can see Schröder immediately turn to blame Dwight Howard for what just happened. I am always in favor of blaming Dwight Howard for any bad thing that happens on a basketball court, even if it happens to be a basketball court he’s not even on.) 17/20
  • Lip Readability: There’s very little question what’s being said. That’s all we’re looking for with this category. 18/20
  • Curse Words: Treat this like a My Mom Just Caught Me Cussing kind of situation. Some words are just more offensive than others. "Fuck" is, of course, the top shelf. With a couple of exceptions, everything else after that is pretty much just the same. Since we get Wall asking Schröder, "Fuck is wrong with you, boy?" twice then that’s an automatic max score. 20/20
  • Backstory: The Wizards and the Hawks played against each other in the second round of the playoffs two years ago. Wall ended up falling and fracturing his wrist during Game 1, missed games 2, 3, and 4, then returned for Game 5. After Game 5, Wall said that Schröder was telling a teammate to target Wall’s wrist. Add to that Schröder posting an image on Instagram of him and Kent Bazemore celebrating while John Wall walked by sadly (a thing that Wall appears to not have forgotten), and we’ve got ourselves a strong backstory. 13/15
  • Was Anyone T’d Up: This is an all-or-nothing-type situation. If someone gets T’d up, then a 5/5 is awarded here. If no one gets T’d up, then a 0/5 is awarded here. Thus: 0/5 for Wall.
  • Secondary Reactions: We get the all-hands-on-deck standing celebration from the bench, plus we get the commentators making mention of Wall’s nastiness, plus we get the crowd somehow getting louder and louder and louder the longer that Wall stares at Schröder. 15/20

Add all those up and: John Wall cussing at Dennis Schröder was 83 percent disrespectful, our highest score yet.

I hope that something similar happens during the Finals. (Remember last year when LeBron blocked Steph in Game 6 and then barked something ferociously condescending at him?) I also hope we get a couple of disrespectful dunks and blocks and moves and celebrations. I’m certain we will get all of that, given that the Cavs and the Warriors have been openly hating each other for the past year. It’s such great theater. And now it’s all quantifiable.