Exactly one year ago today, we ran Part 1 of a column called The Disrespectful Dunk Index, which measured the disrespectfulness of several big dunks that had happened through the first quarter of the 2016–17 NBA season. We’ve all now made it through the first quarter of the 2017–18 NBA season, and so it’s time for Part 1 of this season’s version. As a refresher, here is a truncated version of the categories used to score each dunk:
- Category 1 — How difficult and/or impressive was the dunk? This one is scored on a scale from zero to 20. The harder a dunk is that a dunker tries to pull off, the more disrespectful it is.
- Category 2 — What did the dunker do immediately after the dunk? This one is scored on a scale from zero to 20. The bigger a dunker’s post-dunk celebration is, the more disrespectful it is. (Note that sometimes, there’s an anti-reaction: After a player has just made some miraculous or incredible play, he purposely stays blank-faced. That scores highly here too. It’s disrespectful because the implication of an anti-reaction is, “Of course I just did that. I’m fucking incredible. How dare you all celebrate what you should’ve already known.”) (Probably the best anti-reaction was the one Derrick Rose gave after he hit the game winner over Tristan Thompson in the 2014–15 playoffs.)
- Category 3 — How hard did the defender try to stop it? This one is scored on a scale from zero to 20. If a player tries with all of his might to stop a dunk and still gets yammed on, then it’s a high score. If he ducks out of the way right before the dunk, then it’s a low score.
- Category 4 — Is there a backstory between the dunker and the dunkee? This one is scored on a scale from zero to 15. Backstories always make everything better, so the more intricate and involved the backstory is, the higher the score here. It’s the whole entire reason why when Russell Westbrook finally dunks on Kevin Durant, the entire Basketball Internet is going to collapse into a fit of memes.
- Category 5 — Did the ball go straight through the rim or did it rattle around a little? This one is scored on a scale from zero to 5. If the ball swishes straight through the rim, it’s a perfect score. If it doesn’t, then it’s not. Art is important.
- Category 6 — How did everyone who was not directly involved in the dunk react? This one is scored on a scale from zero to 20. Similar to Category 2, the bigger and wilder the response from everyone else — the other players, the crowd, the announcers, etc. — the higher the score. (Unlike Category 2, however, an anti-reaction from the other players, crowd, announcers, etc. does not lead to a higher score.)
Let’s score some dunks.
That’s James Johnson earning himself an unfollow* from Victor Oladipo.
(*Oladipo is a very good singer. And “Unfollow” is a surprisingly fun song. And I, for one, find it very unfair that he’s so talented at two very different things.)
Category 1 — Difficulty/impressiveness: Scoring this category is always at least a little bit tricky when you have a dunker of James Johnson’s caliber because, I mean, are we supposed to be like, “Well, it’s James Johnson, and James Johnson could probably dunk it from the free throw line if he really wanted to, so this one, while incredible, maybe isn’t as mammoth as it seems”? If that’s the case, then this is 10/20. Or are we supposed to be like, “It doesn’t matter who it is that’s dunking it, this dunk — where the dunker jumps off two feet from one step inside the lane, absorbs a defender crashing into him, moves the ball from the side of the rim over to the front, then thunders it home with enough force that it vibrates the entire arena like a giant tuning fork — is monstrous”? If that’s the case, then we’re looking at, probably, a 16/20. I think the move here is to split the difference, putting this category’s final tally at a 13/20.
Category 2 — Dunker’s reaction: Johnson opts here to go for the sturdy, very respectable TALKING SHIT + AGGRESSIVELY POSTURE move. It’s not especially innovative, and he’s not especially animated, but it’s serviceable enough. Score it at 13/20.
Category 3 — Defense: The play started like this:
And ended like this:
And I’m pointing these screenshots out for two reasons: (1) A good rule of thumb is: If, at any point while trying to block someone’s dunk, one (or more) of your feet ends up higher in the air than your head, then things have gone horribly wrong for you. More importantly, though — or at least more relevant here: (2) If, at any point while trying to block someone’s dunk, one (or more) of your feet ends up higher in the air than your head, then you tried very, very hard to stop the dunk from happening. High score here for Johnson: 17/20.
Category 4 — Backstory: This isn’t really a backstory, but it’s kind of a backstory: Victor Oladipo went to Indiana University. James Johnson, who went to college at Wake Forest, one time dunked the vertebrae out of a small white kid’s back during a Wake Forest vs. Indiana game. Oladipo wasn’t playing that day — in fact, he didn’t even arrive in Indiana until after Johnson was already in the NBA — but I just didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to link to that particular dunk. Low score here for Johnson: 2/15.
Category 5 — Cleanliness of the dunk: It went straight through without touching the rim. 5/5.
Category 6 — Reaction of those not directly involved with the dunk: You’ve got a bunch of really great parts here. You’ve got Dion Waiters, patron saint of reactions, being so moved by the dunk that he can think of nothing else to do but shove Johnson in celebration. You’ve got the dunk happening in front of the Heat bench, so we get to see all of them lose their shit immediately. (What’s great about the bench is that they absolutely know Johnson is going head-hunting on the dunk. Half of them have already begun standing up before the dunk even happens.) You’ve got the game happening in Miami, so the crowd of course loves all of it, because home crowds are always bloodthirsty. (Probably my favorite part about the play: If you watch it again, pay attention right around the 18-second mark. You can hear the crowd ooooooohing in the background as they respond to the replay being shown on the Jumbotron. Watching the replay of a big dunk or crossover on the Jumbotron at a game with 18,000 other people is legit one of the purest and most fun basketball moments of all.) And you’ve got the announcers who, admittedly, are probably the weakest part of the reaction. But at least one of them invokes a nursery rhyme reference, which has to count for something. Great score here: 18/20.
Total: The James Johnson dunk on Victor Oladipo was 68 percent disrespectful to Oladipo.
That’s Giannis Antetokounmpo letting Aron Baynes know that Greece does not fuck with Australia.
Category 1 — Difficulty/impressiveness: I think it owes to the fact that Giannis’s body is made up of, like, 90 percent arms and legs, but every Giannis dunk looks incredibly impressive. Add in that this one was an alley-oop, and also add in that there absolutely should’ve been a foul called on the play, and also add in that Giannis dunked it as he was being forced away from the rim by Baynes’s mega-dense body, and that means you’re looking at a fairly solid score here. Let’s call it 12/20.
Category 2 — Dunker’s reaction: I was honestly a little surprised here at how small of a reaction we got from Giannis. He’s usually very animated, very snarly. He likely didn’t have that big of a reaction because when the dunk happened it was the fourth quarter and the Bucks were down by four, but still. It’s tough to give this category a score of anything higher than, say, 3/20, so let’s go with that: 3/20.
Category 3 — Defense: Baynes tried to knock the alley-oop attempt out of the air more than he actually tried to block it, so the score here should be pretty low. HOWEVER, you can never discount that Baynes is Australian, and Australia is, I would argue, the toughest and most rugged of all the continents. And as far as toughness conversion rates go, it’s a 3–1 ratio when tabulating a comparison of Australian Toughness with American Toughness. So what looks like it should be a score here of 2/20 ends up being a score of 6/20.
Category 4 — Backstory: I’ve got two things for you here. First: Earlier in this same game, Giannis dunked on Baynes so emphatically that Baynes tried to shove Giannis away as Giannis hung on the rim. That means that, for the first time in this column, we have a real and actual backstory. Because I’ll tell you what: Do you know what’s worse than getting dunked on once by someone? Getting dunked on twice by someone. Second: In a Bucks-Celtics game played a little more than a week later, Giannis again tried to dunk on Baynes. Giannis missed the dunk, but he tried to dunk it so violently that, if we scored it on the DDI, it would absolutely rate higher than Giannis’s made dunk. It was like watching two trains collide head on. (You can watch it here.) At any rate, the score here: 10/15.
Category 5 — Cleanliness of the dunk: That’s a 5/5.
Category 6 — Reaction of those not directly involved with the dunk: The very best reaction to the dunk came from Aron Baynes, who was so flustered and flummoxed by what had just happened that he didn’t even realize that Giannis had managed to pull off the dunk. He grabbed what he thought was a loose ball and then tried to throw an outlet pass, which is the funniest thing of all. Beyond that, there’s a small reaction from the Boston crowd, and that’s about it. Low score here. 2/20.
Total: The Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk on Aron Baynes was 38 percent disrespectful to Baynes.
That’s Blake Griffin turning Rudy Gobert into … wait for it … hold on … it’s gonna be worth it … almost there … waaaaait … Rudy Nowhere.
Category 1 — Difficulty/impressiveness: This dunk is standard fare, really. But whenever you’re measuring something you need a baseline. That’s what this is. It’s going to be the lowest-scored dunk mentioned here today. 6/20.
Category 2 — Dunker’s reaction: Blake’s reaction here is pretty great. It’s that anti-reaction I was mentioning in the opening of the article. You can argue this any number of ways. You could say (a) Blake is very clearly using a non-face to say some form of “fuck you.” The thing of it is, though, is that it’s likely aimed less at Gobert and more at people who’ve been arguing that Blake has lost that otherworldly athleticism that made him seem so special earlier in his career. You could say (b) Blake is very clearly using a non-face as a reference to the famous Dave Chappelle skit where he reenacted Prince playing basketball. (This one might seem unlikely, but it’s exactly the kind of thing Blake Griffin, who appears to sincerely love the television and movie world, would do.) You could say © Blake is very clearly using a non-face to say some form of “LOL” as a response to Gobert claiming last season that he’s now the best center in the league. (This one seems the least likely.) Any one you choose to land on, though, you’re getting the same score: 12/20.
Category 3 — Defense: Gobert, who is usually a fierce shot blocker, treated the prospect of this particular attempt as one of those “discretion is the better part of valor” situations. The only thing he tried to block the dunk with was his reputation, which usually works only against players who do not have a warehouse stuffed with caskets of players they’ve dunked into the afterlife. Low score. 1/20.
Category 4 — Backstory: Blake Griffin has a B and an R and an E and a G in his name. So does Rudy Gobert. That’s about it. 1/15.
Category 5 — Cleanliness of the dunk: It hits the back of the rim before going in. 2/5.
Category 6 — Reaction of those not directly involved with the dunk: You get a small reaction from the bench, and a small murmur from the crowd, and a decent amount of excitement from the commentators. Nothing else, though. That buzz and magic that used to insta-fill the arena during Clippers home games when Blake would do something like this is gone. :( 4/20.
Total: The Blake Griffin dunk on Rudy Gobert was 26 percent disrespectful to Gobert.
(I’m cheating some here because this dunk happened in the preseason, but …) That’s Jeff Green letting Ian Mahinmi know that it’s going to be a long night for him on Twitter.
Category 1 — Difficulty/impressiveness: It’s a big jump over a big defender, so that’s good. But also it’s Jeff Green, who is just a handful of years removed from nearly dying, so that’s great. 16/20.
Category 2 — Dunker’s reaction: Somehow, Green didn’t do anything. He jogged backward down the court for a few steps so he could watch the Cavs bench celebrate the dunk, but that’s it. There was no yelling or finger-pointing or chest-pounding or anything. 4/20.
Category 3 — Defense: Mahinmi’s verticality here might be the most vertical verticality that any verticality has ever been verticaled. He looks as if somebody put a Wizards uniform on the long, straight piece from Tetris. Good score here. 16/20. The only way it’d get any higher is if it were one of those plays where the defender decides to just try to foul the dunker as hard as he can to prevent the dunk, and the dunker still manages to get the dunk off.
Category 4 — Backstory: In late 2011, a physical revealed that Green had an aortic aneurysm. He had heart surgery, missed the rest of the season, and was in a state of limbo. He used the down time (FROM HEART SURGERY) to go back to school and get his degree while rehabbing, then signed a four-year deal with the Celtics for $36 million. He’s bounced around the league since then (Grizzlies, Clippers, Magic), and is with the Cavs this season. Rather than counting his backstory here as a thing against Mahinmi, I’m counting it as a thing against death. Fuck death for trying to steal him away. 20/20.
Category 5 — Cleanliness of the dunk: Easy work. 5/5.
Category 6 — Reaction of those not directly involved with the dunk: Of all of the bench reactions that have happened this season, none top the Cavs bench’s reaction to Green’s dunk on Mahinmi. It’s so raucous and joyous and love-filled that I can’t watch it without smiling. Look:
Look at LeBron. Look at Shump. Look at Kevin Love. Look at Isaiah. FOR GOD’S SAKE, LOOK AT ISAIAH. It’s all so beautiful. Doing a thing on a basketball court and then having all your friends react like that, it’s just very fantastic. And that’s nothing to say of the way the Washington crowd reacts (they go yo-yo), or the announcers (they go even more yo-yo: “Ball swing … here comes Green … sees a la–AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! HE THREW IT DOWN! HE SHOCKED THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT!”), or Richard Jefferson (he’s the guy standing in a squatted position in the lane after the dunk screaming at Mahinmi, going the most yo-yo of all). It’s all so great and exactly wonderful, equaling up to a nearly perfect score. 19/20.
(Maybe secretly the best of all the reactions is Kyle Korver, who’s standing in the corner calling for a pass so he can shoot a 3. After the dunk goes in, he does a tiny little fist pump, celebrating only the two points his team has just earned and not the magnificence of the dunk he’s just witnessed.)
Total: The Jeff Green dunk on Ian Mahinmi (but really on death) was 80 percent disrespectful to Mahinmi (but really to death).
That’s Andrew Wiggins deciding that Josh Richardson needs to be dunked into a neighboring galaxy.
Category 1 — Difficulty/impressiveness: I hate to be reduced to profanity, but the only actual good way to describe this dunk is to say that “it is super fucking nuts.” I mean, there were no tricks or jukes or sneak moves or anything. Wiggins just got the ball out past the 3-point line, looked at Josh Richardson, and was like, “OK, time for your life to be over.” He dribbled straight at him, then got just far enough past him to get an angle on the rim, then jumped OFF TWO FEET FROM 8 FEET OUT FROM THE RIM. I’ve watched the play 40 times, and every time it’s incredible, and unbelievable, and preposterous. There’s a TOP-TIER level of dunking that only a handful of humans on the planet are able to reach. Wiggins, who I’m beginning to suspect might secretly be part of the X-Men, is in that group. 18/20.
Category 2 — Dunker’s reaction: Wiggins has never really been a big celebrator. He gives you here what he usually gives after a big dunk: a tiny bit of snarling, a medium bit of posing, and a large bit of nothing else. (If I dunked it like this on someone during a game, my celebration would look like the fucking closing number at the MTV VMAs. There’d be fireworks and dancers and props. I’d have a dance break with Usher. Pink would come swinging down from the ceiling with those suspension wires like she always does. I’d have that little white girl who used to be in the Missy Elliott videos make an appearance. Jagged Edge would be there singing in the background, and Sting would be there next to them playing the guitar. They’d probably have to end the game right there to clean up all the horse poop because I’d also have Will Smith there on a horse. It’d really be something.) 11/20.
Category 3 — Defense: Josh Richardson tried. He really did. But this dunk was an inevitability. The only way Richardson could’ve stopped it was if, right when Wiggins jumped, Richardson had manifested some sort of energy weapon like Doctor Strange and then hit Wiggins in the side of the head with it. 16/20.
Category 4 — Backstory: You could maaaaaaaaaybe argue that Wiggins was still mad at the Heat for that rumor about them possibly trading for him in 2016, though that seems like it’d be wayward. Outside of that, you could maaaaaaaaaybe argue that there’s a situational backstory in here, given that there was less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter and the Wolves were up by two and so Wiggins dunking it there was (supposed to be) a death blow. I don’t know. Either way, both feel flimsy. 4/15.
Category 5 — Cleanliness of the dunk: A swish. 5/5.
Category 6 — Reaction of those not directly involved with the dunk: It was a devastating enough dunk that it made the Miami fans react, which is always great. Beyond that, you’ve got Erik Spoelstra walking all the way out onto the court to check the wreckage for survivors (and call a timeout). But best of all, you’ve got the announcers responding the second-best ways announcers can respond to a dunk, which is to say they go bonkers. You’ve got one guy screaming about Andrew Wiggins while the other guy just laughs and laughs. Then one of them makes a remark about checking for dead bodies, then calls the dunk “inhumane,” then lies about women and children courtside crying from having witnessed such terror. Then they play the replay and one of them starts laughing again. It’s great. Good score here. 16/20.
Note: The first way is the announcer says something iconic and brilliant that instantly crystallizes the dunk in NBA history. This one is usually reserved for only the very best, Hall of Fame–level commentators. Kevin Harlan is probably the best at calling dunks during a game. Among others, he’s got the “He just sucked the gravity right out of the building!” call from the Tracy McGrady dunk on Shawn Bradley, the “LeBron James with no regard for human life!” call from LeBron’s dunk on James Posey and Kevin Garnett, and the “We just saw man fly!” call from when J.R. Smith dunked on Gary Neal.
Total: The Andrew Wiggins dunk on Josh Richardson was 70 percent disrespectful to Richardson.