Hello. I am Shea. What follows is an excerpt from my new book, Basketball (and Other Things), which will be published on October 10. The way the book works is simple: Each chapter is a different basketball question that needs to be answered. That’s it. That’s all. Sometimes the questions are serious, and sometimes the questions are not. Each of them, though, is (hopefully) good and (hopefully) new and (hopefully) smart and (hopefully) fun. You’ll notice when you get to the end of this one that it just sort of cuts off. That’s because in the book it’s a double chapter. This is Part 1 of it. I hope you don’t hate it, and I hope that you don’t hate the book. That would make me sad. Thank you. Goodbye.
Which Dunks Are in the Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame?: Part 1
On March 28, 1999, Shaquille O’Neal, who is like if a mountain came alive and started doing commercials, dunked on Chris Dudley, then a center for the New York Knicks. It was true devastation and real anarchy, the dunk. Shaq caught the ball in the low post, dribbled it a few times as he backed Dudley down closer to the rim, put his shoulder into Dudley’s chest to uproot him, pivoted toward the basket, jumped, and then hit Dudley in the forehead with a dump truck.
Poor Dudley, man—he looked like the boat in that scene in The Perfect Storm when it tries to ride up that giant wave and gets crushed. It was very much a disaster. He was just getting bounced all over in Shaq’s wake as Shaq pounded on him. And what’s worse is that, despite getting banged around, he never all the way lost his balance, which was bad because if he’d lost his balance he could’ve just fallen down and that would’ve been the end of it. Since he didn’t fall down, though, he was able to contest the dunk, which only made things more horrible, because when Shaq dunked it, he pulled himself up on the rim a bit, and when he did so he opened his legs up and so there was Dudley, right in the middle of that warfare, with Shaq’s dick all of a sudden on his chest, and, I mean, if we’re ranking places you’d be displeased to find Shaq’s dick on your body, the chest is probably the third or fourth worst. The mayhem didn’t end there, though.
Shaq finished the dunk and as he came down, Dudley was trying to hold on to him to prevent himself from falling, but Shaq being Shaq, he just shoved Dudley to the ground. And what’s maybe the best part of the whole thing was that Dudley, who—how could you even blame him by that point?—he was so furious from everything that had just happened, he jumped up, grabbed the ball, then threw it at Shaq’s back as hard as he could as Shaq was jogging back down the court. The refs blew the whistle to call a couple technical fouls (Dudley got one for throwing the ball, Shaq got one for shoving Dudley) so the game stopped for a moment, but the camera made sure to stay on Dudley’s face as he was staring at Shaq and you could very plainly see him shout "FUCK YOU!" at Shaq. The whole situation was just really, truly excellent, because if someone dunks on someone else so hard that the dunkee responds by throwing the ball at the dunker and then cussing at him, then that’s a pretty great and exactly perfect example of a disrespectful dunk, which is what this chapter (and the one that follows it) is about.
Shaq’s dunk on Dudley definitely belongs in the Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame. Let’s go over some other disrespectful dunks from the DDHOF, and let’s give each of them Disrespect Scores so as to keep everything nice and tidy, and let’s go in ascending order of disrespect.
Before we get to the Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame, a few questions:
Are all dunks disrespectful?
No. In fact, most dunks aren’t disrespectful. That’s what makes the disrespectful ones so much fun. You know how when you pour a bowl of Lucky Charms and it’s mostly those little brown pieces with a few marshmallows sprinkled in? That’s this.
How do you know when a dunk is disrespectful?
That’s like asking me "How do you know when you’re in love?" or "How do you know when to masturbate?" You just sort of know because you feel it. It’s those big dunks; those nasty dunks; those violent dunks. Dunks where, when they happen, you just instinctively go, "OH FUCCCCCCCCCCK!" or you go, "YOOOOOOOOOOOO!" or you go, "HAHAHAHAHA OH MY GOD." It’s dunks like that. Dunks that go over someone, or, maybe more accurately, through someone.
Think on it like this: Most dunks just happen and that’s it. There’s the dunk and then it’s over. (As an example, picture, say, 2004 Jamaal Magloire dunking it all alone on a fast break.) 1 A disrespectful dunk, though—a disrespectful dunk has an echo, and I mean that literally and, more importantly, I also mean it figuratively. They live on.
You mentioned a thing earlier about Disrespect Scores. That means there must be some kind of scoring system for all of this, right? Something that’ll help quantify everything?
Yes. It’s easy. You just have to look at six different categories. 2 You have to look at:
- Category 1: How difficult and/or impressive was the actual dunk?
This one is scored on a scale of 0 to 20, with easier dunks scoring lower, while more impossible dunks score higher. Using the abovementioned death-by-dickening of Chris Dudley by Shaq as an example, Shaq would earn 18/20 here. Athletically, it wasn’t an especially difficult dunk to pull off like, for example, when Vince Carter hit Chris Mullin with the midair double-pump dunk in 1999, but the ferocity of it shoots its score way up.
- Category 2: What did the dunker do immediately after the dunk?
(Also scored on a scale of 0 to 20.) The more interesting or turbulent a post-dunk reaction is by the dunker, the higher the score. In Shaq’s case, again, he shoved Chris Dudley to the ground, which is about as gnarly as it gets. 18/20.
- Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop the dunk from happening?
(Also scored on a scale of 0 to 20.) For a dunk to become a truly elite disrespectful dunk, either the defender has to make a genuine and intense effort to stop the dunk (which Dudley absolutely did, God bless him), or he has to try and take a charge and then get annihilated, like what happened to Steve Nash when he tried to take a charge on Ricky Davis in 2002 (which we’ll go over in a bit), or what happened to Steve Nash when he tried to take a charge on Kobe Bryant in 2006, or what happened to Steve Nash when he tried to take a charge on Josh Smith in 2009. Dudley’s effort earns a 19/20 here.
- Category 4: Is there a backstory between the dunker and the dunkee?
(Scored on a scale of 0 to 15.) There are two ways to score high here. First, if there’s a very intense and vitriolic backstory between the two people involved in the dunk, then that’s one way to shoot the score up. The second way is if the dunk is so devastating that it forever ties the two players together, creating a sort of instant backstory in the present, if that makes any sense. What I mean is, OK, the Shaq and Chris Dudley dunk—before it happened, there wasn’t some long and drawn-out history between the two. 3 But, following that dunk, from now until forever, anytime someone brings up Chris Dudley, 4 someone else is going to bring up what Shaq did to him. That’s why Shaq gets a good score here despite there having been no serious animosity between the two beforehand. 13/15.
- Category 5: Did the ball go straight through the net or did it rattle around a little?
(Scored on a scale of 0 to 5.) Style is important. 5/5.
- Category 6: How did everyone who was not directly involved with the dunk react?
(Scored on a scale of 0 to 20.) You have to consider what the other players on the court did, what the guys on the bench of the dunker’s team did, what the guys on the bench of the dunkee’s team did, what the crowd did, what the people calling the game did, what the refs did, and on and on. The bigger and more dramatic the response from everyone else, the higher the score. In the Shaq/Dudley case, Ben Davis and Herb Williams both decided that they didn’t want to be on the Knicks anymore as soon as they saw the dunk. Next season, Ben Davis was playing somewhere else; Herb Williams retired. Shaq dunked two players off the Knicks roster, is what I’m saying. 17/20.
So we grab the score from each category, add them up, and that’s how we see that the Shaq dunk on Dudley was 90 percent disrespectful to Dudley. Any dunk that earns a Disrespect Score of 85 or higher gets inducted into the Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame, which means this dunk is in the DDHOF.
To be clear, I’m not going to go over all of the dunks in the Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame, but I do have one for every level of percent disrespectful from 85 to 100, and it definitely ends with the only dunk that’s ever been 100 percent disrespectful. First, though, some DDHOF dunks that aren’t talked about at length but should be mentioned:
Dr. J on Bill Walton when he tossed the ball at his head afterward (1977), Dominique Wilkins’s double-pump shotgun dunk on all of the Bucks (1984), Dominique Wilkins’s fury dunk on Robert Parish (1988), Tom Chambers’s flying knee dunk on Mark Jackson (1989), Kevin Johnson’s dunk on Hot Rod Williams (1992), Shawn Kemp’s Game 3 high-speed alley-oop from Gary Payton (1992), Michael Jordan over Alonzo Mourning (1993), Shaq’s "You Thought This Was a Game?!" dunk on David Robinson in the All-Star Game (1996), Allen Iverson’s putback dunk when he rode Marcus Camby like a horse (1998), Grant Hill’s revenge dunk on Alonzo Mourning (1998), Vince Carter’s Top Shelf dunk on Dikembe Mutombo (1999), the dunk where Gilbert Arenas bounced an alley-oop to Jason Richardson (2002), Kobe Bryant’s "Buckle Up" up-and-under dunk (2003), Kobe Bryant’s "Welcome to the NBA" dunk on Dwight Howard when he was a rookie (2004), Robert Horry’s extend-o arm dunk over Richard Hamilton in Game 5 of the Finals (2005), Vince Carter’s Desolation of Smaug dunk on Alonzo Mourning (2005), LeBron’s End All Life dunk on the Celtics (2008), Dwyane Wade’s "That’s How You Fucking Do It!" and-one dunk on Anderson Varejão (2009), Blake Griffin’s "Welcome to America" dunk on Timofey Mozgov (2010), Derrick Rose’s Armageddon dunk on Goran Dragic (2010), Gerald Green’s Around the World windmill alley-oop (2012), Paul George’s beheading of Chris Andersen (2013), LeBron’s LOL dunk when he literally jumped over tiny John Lucas (2012), LeBron’s Broken Nose dunk over Serge Ibaka (2014), and Manu’s FOH hammer-dunk on Chris Bosh in the Finals (2014).
85 Percent Disrespectful:
Michael Jordan on Dikembe Mutombo (May 13, 1997)
This is maybe one of my personal favorite dunks, and I say that less because it was just such a big and extraordinary dunk (it wasn’t) and more because of the pieces tucked away inside of it. To wit:
- Prior to the dunk happening, this great video came out of Jordan and Mutombo playfully arguing in a locker room about how Jordan had never dunked on Mutombo. Patrick Ewing was in there, too. He jumped in on the conversation: "He ain’t ever dunked you?" he asked. Dikembe: "No!" Ewing: "Never?"
- Mutombo is one of the most endlessly likable NBA players of my lifetime. I remember seeing him participate in this 60 Days of Summer event that the Basketball Hall of Fame held. He was there being interviewed and a fan named Jeffrey began to ask him about the Jordan dunk. As soon as Jeffrey said Jordan’s name, Mutombo smiled and rolled his head back and ultra-grumbled in his very distinct Dikembe Mutombo voice, "Ooooooh, there we go," and then turned the opposite direction and said, "Keep going, Jeffrey. I’m listening. I’m not looking at you." It was perfect and I smile every time I think about it.
- After Jordan dunked on Mutombo, he gave Mutombo the finger wag that Mutombo would do after he blocked shots, and that’s just such a deliciously petty move.
- Despite it not being a mega colossal dunk like, say, Jordan over Patrick Ewing or Jordan over Kelly Tripucka or Jordan over Alonzo Mourning, it was still pretty impressive considering that Mutombo finished first in blocks in the league from the 1994 season to the 1998 season. 5
86 Percent Disrespectful:
Kevin Johnson on Hakeem Olajuwon (May 15, 1994)
Nine things to point out here: (1) It was the playoffs. (2) Hakeem was the MVP that season. (3) Hakeem was second in the league in blocks that season (and, FYI, would go on to eventually become the all-time greatest shot blocker in the history of the NBA). (4) Hakeem was listed at 7 feet tall and Kevin Johnson was barely over 6 feet tall, and little guys dunking on big guys is the best kind of dunk. (5) Hakeem was called for a foul as KJ dunked it, which always magnifies everything. (6) They were playing in Phoenix, and so the arena went all the way berserk. (7) The Phoenix bench, otherwise subdued given that the Suns were down 11 points prior to the dunk, erupted in chaos; arms and legs were everywhere. And what’s even better is that the play happened on Phoenix’s side of the floor, so all of their reactions were captured in the shot as the play was happening. (8) KJ was so fired up that he literally celebrated all the way past half court as he jumped and flexed and yelled to himself, at Hakeem, at everyone. (9) As KJ was on his victory march, one of the guys calling the play declared, "Look at the determination and intensity in this man’s ... soul." If a player dunks it with so much gusto that another man decides he can see that player’s soul, then that player is getting into the Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame.
87 Percent Disrespectful:
DeAndre Jordan on Brandon Knight (March 10, 2013)
This one was the opposite of the KJ-on-Hakeem dunk, in that that one was a little-guy-on-a-big-guy dunk, which are (generally) the most enjoyable kinds of dunks, while this one was a big-guy-on-a-little-guy dunk, which are (generally) the most destructive.
Chris Paul dribbled the ball out near the three-point line. DeAndre rolled toward the rim. Chris Paul saw him (because he sees everything), so he tossed the ball up way too high for an alley-oop. DeAndre, who is the closest I have ever seen a human come to being a space shuttle, went after it, and as he jumped so too did Brandon Knight, a brave and foolish warrior with more courage than ability. DeAndre caught it and cocked it back and the force from his gigantic body knocked Knight’s body off balance, and so DeAndre Incredible Hulk-ed the ball through the rim as Knight fell some 8 feet straight down onto his back. There was a real and literal "thud" from Knight hitting the floor. It sounded like what I imagine it’d sound like if you dropped a slab of meat off the Empire State Building. It was gross, and the Staples Center goddamn loved it. The whole thing. As soon as it was over, everyone went, "Well, that’s definitely going to be the best dunk of the year," and it absolutely was.
88 Percent Disrespectful:
Baron Davis on Andrei Kirilenko (May 11, 2007)
Baron Davis, attacking the rim with the same ferocity of a Viking storming a beach, jumped, put his axe through Andrei Kirilenko’s chest, and then in the raucous ruckus afterward, he picked up his whole jersey to show his torso to Kirilenko. Showing your nipples to the guy you just dunked on is a very elite alpha male move.
89 Percent Disrespectful:
Shawn Kemp over Chris Gatling (April 30, 1992)
This one is a famous dunk because the dunkee, Chris Gatling, after he got obliterated for an and-one dunk by Shawn Kemp, he literally dapped Shawn Kemp up. Kemp powered it home and then as he stood there celebrating after the ref’s whistle, he reached his hand out and Gatling was like, "Yeah, you got me," and then grabbed it and celebrated with him. In a way, I guess this dunk was so disrespectful that it was respectful, which is at least a little bit confusing, probably.
Note: Gatling’s post-dunk reaction is the second-most effective way to handle getting dunked on. It’s just hard to be like, "Hahahaha, you got dunked on real bad," when the guy who got dunked on real bad is like, "Hahahaha, I got dunked on real bad," you know what I’m saying? The first most effective way to handle it is what Joakim Noah did when LeBron dunked on him in 2015.
Cleveland and Chicago were playing and LeBron had the ball on the wing. He spun on his man and got into the lane and then dunked on Noah, who’d slid over to contest the dunk. LeBron and Noah hadn’t liked each other for a long time by that point, so LeBron glared at Noah and shouted something not nice to him. The ref called a tech on LeBron, and if it had ended right there and then, LeBron would have won. But it didn’t end there.
Noah immediately charged at LeBron and shouted, "You’re still a bitch, though." The cameras tried to hurry away from Noah’s face as he said it, but it was too late. He’d lobbed that atom bomb out into the universe and everyone had seen it happen. There was nothing LeBron could do in return. Because he knew then what I’m telling you now: Shouting "You’re still a bitch, though" is the first most effective way to handle getting dunked on. It’s the first most effective way to handle anything, really. It instantly delegitimizes whatever happened right before it. Imagine the best, most noble, most unimpeachable thing you can think of, like—OK, imagine the guy who invented prosthetic limbs for children who were born without parts of their arms and their legs. Now imagine him presenting his invention very proudly and profoundly to an auditorium of afflicted children, and as he does, one of the little kids in the back shouts, "You’re still a bitch, though." Guess what, then? He’s still a bitch, though.
90 Percent Disrespectful:
Amar’e Stoudemire on Michael Olowokandi (December 20, 2002)
I watched this dunk happen on TV at my grandma’s house. I was home from school visiting her and my mom and dad in San Antonio. I’d actually moved in with my grandma when I started sixth grade. By the time ninth grade showed up, my whole family was living there, too. It was me, my mom, my dad, my sisters, and my grandma. She lived with us (or, "we lived with her" is probably more accurate) until she passed in 2008. I remember taking this class later in college and part of it was a weekly discussion about whatever it is we were supposed to have been reading. One week, the reading was some story about a family—I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember that the conversation in class that day ended up being centered around when it was OK to send your grandparents or parents to live in an assisted living home. Everyone was sitting there talking about it and I was so fucking confused. The teacher, this very nice and smart and insightful woman, called on me. She said something like, "Shea, at what age do you think sending your grandparents or parents to live in a home is acceptable?" I said, "I have no idea." She asked, "Why?" I said, "Because Mexicans don’t do that. We just move them in with us until they die." Mostly everyone laughed. I wasn’t joking, though. I don’t know. That’s the first thing I think about when I think about this dunk. You can’t control how your brain works. 6
91 Percent Disrespectful:
Tracy McGrady on Shawn Bradley (April 25, 2005)
So many excellent pieces to this one: (1) It was a playoff game. (2) It was a playoff game between the Rockets and the Mavericks, and the Rockets and Mavericks hate each other. (3) The Rockets were on the road and had already stolen Game 1 and were looking to steal Game 2. (4) To that point in his career, Tracy McGrady, for all his otherworldly talents, had never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. 7
(5) The actual dunk itself was just this devastating, crippling felony. T-Mac had the ball in the corner, and he was being guarded by Dirk (which really meant that he wasn’t being guarded by anyone), so he just dribbled right around him. When he did so, he saw that Bradley, a 7'6'' tall tree branch, had slid over to try to protect the rim, and if you watch the play in slow motion it looks like when McGrady saw it he actually got mad that Bradley had done it, because he just fucking accelerated straight at him. He jumped, and Bradley, knowing there was nothing left to do except accept his fate, turned his back and waited to get dunked to dust.
(6) McGrady was so high up that when he let go of the rim he literally slid down Shawn Bradley’s back, which, I mean, if we’re being technical here, I think that means he turned Bradley into a playground slide.
(7) Kevin Harlan, the primary announcer for the game, shouted, "OH! HE JUST SUCKED THE GRAVITY RIGHT OUT OF THE BUILDING!" (8) The crowd—and remember, the game was in Dallas—the crowd screamed in delight like it was one of their guys who’d just had that great dunk. (9) The play happened on the Rockets side of the floor, and so in the background of the play you could see one of the Rockets bench guys, Jon Barry, roll out onto the floor in shock. (10) And the refs called a foul on the dunk.
92 Percent Disrespectful:
Blake Griffin on Kendrick Perkins (January 30, 2012)
When you’re the defender in one of these dunk situations, there are five ways to handle it. You can do the thing where you just go ahead and step right on out the way on some "Live to fight another day" shit (the coward’s way out, as it were). You can try and take a charge (the dumbest way to go about it). You can stand there and put your arms straight up and just hope something good happens (shoutout Roy Hibbert). You can jump and try desperately to actually block the dunk (the bravest way to go about it). Or you can just foul the hell out of the dunker, hoping, if nothing else, to at least preserve your own integrity. 8
Kendrick Perkins chose the fouling option when Blake Griffin started his dunk, only except the bad thing for him was that Blake, who, by then had gotten the taste of dunk blood, was just too big, too strong, too forceful, too mean to be stopped. He jumped, Kendrick put both arms into Blake’s chest, clobbering him, hoping to stop him (or at least stun him enough to cause him to miss), and Blake just went through him, dropping a nuclear bomb onto Kendrick’s whole everything.
1. I have no idea why Jamaal Magloire, a 6'11'' iceberg, is running a fast break in this pretend scenario.
2. This methodology was a thing I came up with for a recurring column about Disrespectful Dunks I wrote for The Ringer during the 2017 NBA season.
3. One possible backstory: In 1994, Chris Dudley started an organization called the Chris Dudley Foundation, which aimed to help children with diabetes. Perhaps Shaq is secretly pro-diabetes? Maybe he dunked it on Dudley and shouted something like, "Bang! That’s a sugary thunder-dunk for them little diabetic ass kids of yours." It seems unlikely, but I wanted to toss the possibility out there.
4. Chris Dudley is one of only six players in NBA history with a minimum of 1,500 free throw attempts with a worse free throw percentage (45.8) than Shaq (52.7).
5. As I write this, Mutombo is still the only player in NBA history to lead the league in blocks for five straight seasons.
6. The dunk was heavy. Stephon Marbury passed the ball to Amar’e following a very soft pick and roll. Stoudemire, who dunked with exceptional speed, caught the ball in the lane, rose up, then Rose Up, then ROSE UP, and then fucking shoved Olowokandi into an ocean trench. And as good as the dunk was, the best part was Stephon Marbury, who made a face like what it would look like if someone’s face was melting off of their skull.
7. In 2003, McGrady led his Magic to a 3–1 lead in their playoff series against the Pistons. In an interview after Game 4, Tracy expressed gratitude and thankfulness for being able to get his team to the second round of the playoffs so early in his career, which he assumed they’d do since they had what looked like an impossible-to-lose lead. They lost the next three games. Pistons won the series 4–3.
8. The most famous recent example of this was Draymond Green doing it to LeBron James at the end of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals when LeBron tried to create his own personal San Andreas in Oakland.