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The 2017-18 Disrespectful Dunk Index Returns

With the NBA All-Star break upon us, it’s time to analyze more poster-worthy jams, including the first DDI candidate by proxy

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

A horse—strong and stunning and fierce and a beautiful, rich, bold brown—gallops across a field, and the sun is at just the right angle so that you can see the musculature of the horse’s thighs as he runs, and it’s oddly attractive to you but you know you’ll never say that out loud to anyone. “It must have a name,” you whisper to yourself, because the horse is so overwhelmingly grand that suddenly your body has only enough strength to whisper. “Something perfect, I’m sure, like ‘Thunder’ or ‘Apollo.’”

You watch and you watch and you watch, and it’s several full seconds before you even realize that a man is riding the horse, but when you do you see that the man is equally mesmerizing, if not more so. He has a perfect build (like Charlie Hunnam in King Arthur) and he has a perfect face (like Charlie Hunnam in King Arthur). He’s wearing a cloak and a tunic and leggings and there is a sheathed sword on his hip. He’s not tidy but he’s also not messy; his hair is just long enough and his eyes are just fiery enough; he’s lived a life—a real life; he’s seen the spoils of war and also the heartbreak of war, is what he looks like.

He rides and he rides and he rides, and you’re not sure you’ve ever seen anything better.

Finally, but somehow also quickly, the horse and the man arrive to you.

Nobody says a word; not you and not the man and not even the horse, which makes sense (since he’s a horse).

And then, without warning or provocation, the man speaks, but “speaks” is a bad word to use because really he’s yelling, except “yelling” still isn’t all the way correct because really he’s booming.

The man booms, and as he does you can feel all the blood in your body rush to your most delicate parts.

“HERE YE, HERE YE!” he declares. “BY DECREE OF THE KING, AND TO THE GREAT BENEFIT OF VIOLATORS AND VIRGINS AND ALL THOSE IN BETWEEN, PART 2 OF THIS SEASON’S DISRESPECTFUL DUNK INDEX IS UPON US! LET US FEAST!”

“Oh my God,” you say, realizing that the All-Star break is here, meaning it is, in fact, time for Part 2 of this season’s Disrespectful Dunk Index.

The man looks you in your eyes, and when he does you nod your head, and then he nods his head in return, and then the horse nods his head too, which is impressive (since he’s a horse who understands social cues).

Same as we’ve done before, here’s the recap of the categories we use when scoring how disrespectful a dunk is or is not:

  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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 Alex Caruso setting off a stick of dynamite in P.J. Tucker’s mouth.

This dunk is a very interesting case study for the Disrespectful Dunk Index. It is, to this point, the only dunk that has existed as disrespectful by proxy. I mean, consider this:

  • The dunk isn’t particularly difficult (it’s just an ordinary fast-break dunk), which means it scores low in Category 1 (8/20).
  • And Caruso’s reaction after he dunks is a big bag of nothing (he’s not excited, but also not anti-excited; he’s just sort of standing there), which means it scores low in Category 2, too (3/20).
  • And while P.J. Tucker does make a good faith effort to block the dunk, Tucker is more of a polite banger than a shot blocker (he’s averaging 0.2 blocks and 2.7 personal fouls per game), so mostly it’s just him bumping his barrel chest into Caruso, which means the dunk scores low for Category 3 as well. (Let’s be generous and call it an 11/20.)
  • And when Caruso dunks it, the ball rattles around some before going in, which means he doesn’t even get a perfect score in Category 5 (Dunk Cleanliness), and that’s the easiest category to score high in. (He gets a 2/5.)

So if you’re just looking at those things, it seems a lot like this dunk is destined to be a very basic, very regular thing—and honestly, if it were up to Caruso I’m sure that’s exactly what it would be. BUT THEN HERE COMES COREY BREWER.

Brewer is important here for two reasons: First, he was a key player on the Rockets when they were really starting to get good and dangerous again. They traded him to the Lakers last February, and so even though there’s no real backstory between Caruso and Tucker for this dunk, there definitely is a backstory between Brewer and the Rockets for this dunk.

Second, after Caruso dunks it on Tucker, Brewer, who was the one who threw the pass to Caruso that led to the dunk, immediately begins shouting in Tucker’s face. And what makes it so great is that he was standing close enough to the microphones near (or on) the backboard when he was yelling. If you turn the volume up, you can hear exactly what he’s saying.

The dunk happens, the foul gets called, Caruso and Tucker are both very indifferent about the situation, but then there’s Brewer, a wild man, screaming, “OHHHH! GET YOUR ASS DUNKED ON!” Then there’s a pause for a quarter of a second, and during that quarter of a second Brewer calculates all of the pieces of everything, and then he tweaks his insult just enough to make it 100 times better. “... GET YOUR ASS DUNKED ON BY A WHITE BOY!”

Listen:

I love that it was not Corey Brewer who dunked it but it was Corey Brewer who celebrated the most. I love that Corey Brewer pointed out that Alex Caruso was white. I love the implication that getting dunked on by a white player is so much more embarrassing than getting dunked on by a black player (this is absolutely true, by the way). I love that Alex Caruso is already balding but refuses to shave his head, which makes everything he does on a basketball court look even more incredible because it looks like it’s a middle-aged social studies teacher who just did it.

Caruso scored a total of 24 of the possible 65 points from the categories mentioned earlier. He gets a nearly perfect Category 4 (Backstory) score because it was Corey Brewer who assisted on the dunk (13/15), which brings his score to 37/80, and then he gets the first Improper Fraction Score in the Disrespectful Dunk Index’s history for Category 6 (Reaction of Others) on account of Corey Brewer making fun of Tucker for getting dunked on by a white guy (32/20).

Total: The Alex Caruso Race Card dunk on P.J. Tucker was 69 percent disrespectful to Tucker.

That’s Tyson Chandler’s petition for Brandan Wright to change his name to Brandan Wrong.

Category 1—Difficulty/Impressiveness: The literal and actual dunk isn’t difficult (Chandler is just jumping up and dunking it down), but all of the extra pieces involved definitely help beef up the score: (1) It came off an inbounds play; (2) it came off an inbounds play to win the game at the buzzer; and (3) it was being defended by Brandan Wright, and Wright might not be a great defender but he is tall (6-foot-10), which means all he really had to do was jump up and touch the ball with even one finger and the play would’ve been over. Let’s go with 14/20.

Category 2—Dunker’s Reaction: Chandler starts celebrating the instant the ball goes in, which is unfortunate for Wright because that means Chandler is celebrating while they’re still attached. Here’s what that looks like:

Two things:

First, a good way to tell if you’ve had a bad night playing basketball is to ask yourself, “Was there, at any point tonight, a moment when someone’s genitals were on my neck or on my shoulders?” If the answer is yes, then it was bad. (A good rule of thumb: The higher up a person’s genitals land on your body, the worse it is. That’s why Tim Hardaway Jr. had such a rough go of it the other night when Giannis put his literally on the top of Hardaway’s head.)

Second, this was only the beginning of Chandler’s celebration. He stayed for a few seconds on the rim, shaking it and yanking it and trying to rip it off the backboard. When he let go, he pumped his fist, pounded his chest, screamed in exultation, slapped fives with some of the fans (any time a person not playing in the game gets included in the celebration is how you know you’re watching a strong celebration), celebrated with some teammates, posed, celebrated with more fans on a different part of the court, then celebrated with more teammates. In total, it lasted nearly 30 seconds. Big score. 18/20.

Category 3—Defense: I mean, Wright tried, lol. 10/20. (A neat thing about this play is literally one second before Dragan Bender lobbed the ball to Tyson Chandler, Eddie Johnson, one of the commentators calling the game, said, “Don’t discount the lob to Tyson Chandler.” If Johnson knew it was going to happen, it feels a lot like the Grizzlies should’ve known, too.)

Category 4—Backstory: I’m less concerned with the backstory between Tyson and the Grizzlies (there really isn’t one), and more concerned with the backstory of the actual play itself. It’s called “Rim,” and, per AZ Central, Jay Triano, interim coach for the Suns, had been holding onto it in secret for about 15 years. (It takes advantage of some loophole in the rules that says there’s no goaltending when the ball is being inbounded. Triano told Bender to just try to make the shot from out of bounds and then also told Chandler that all he had to do was touch the ball and the basket would be good.) That feels like a good enough backstory to score well here. 10/15.

Category 5—Cleanliness of the Dunk: It touched maaaaaaaybe a tiny piece of the rim. 4/5.

Category 6—Reaction of Those Not Directly Involved With the Dunk: This one’s kind of a cheat because everyone went crazy for the dunk, but really everyone was going crazy because the Suns had just won a basketball game, and the Suns winning a basketball game is an extremely rare thing to see in person. I’m not sure how to call it. (This is exactly the reason you’re only supposed to have one independent variable in a science experiment. Once you introduce two of them, you don’t know which one caused the change.) Let’s go with 5/20 just to be safe.

Total: The Tyson Chandler Buzzer-Beater Dunk on Brandan Wright was 61 percent disrespectful to Wright.

That’s Julius Randle dunking the extra Twitter accounts out of Kevin Durant’s phone.

Category 1—Difficulty/Impressiveness: I’m not sure what it is about this dunk, but I really like it. Part of me suspects that it’s that slight pause in the middle where Randle holds the ball up as high as he can and just stops moving or even breathing as he tries to stretch to get the ball in the rim, because I love when dunks have that The World Has Stopped Spinning moment baked into them. Another part of me suspects that it’s about something more poetic and symbolic, like how you’ve got Randle, who seems like he’s always fighting to stay in the NBA, express train-ing his way through global superstar Kevin Durant’s chest. A different part of me suspects that it’s the malevolence of the play. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all three. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Regardless, solid score here. 13/20.

Category 2—Dunker’s Reaction: Perhaps Randle didn’t realize that he’d just dunked the stadium into a frenzy? 1/20.

Category 3—Defense: Durant, who has been a wonderful defender this season, really tried to block the dunk. (If you watch the video above, they do a great angle from behind the glass of the backboard in slow motion and it for real looks like Durant’s arm is growing as he stretches to reach for the ball.) 15/20.

Category 4—Backstory: Do you know those flaky breakfast biscuits? The ones which, when you open them up, can be separated into layers? Kevin Durant is one of my favorite NBA players to write about and think about and talk about because it always feels like everything that he’s involved in is like that; like there are easy-to-peel layers you can pull apart; like there’s an easy-to-find meaning if you spend even a few seconds looking. I’m not sure how that applies to this section, but it does. 4/15.

Category 5—Cleanliness of the Dunk: The ball rattles around, yes, but this is one of those instances where it somehow makes the dunk feel even more kinetic, more rambunctious, more violent, like in the movies when they do that trick where someone gets hit and the camera shakes. 5/5.

Category 6—Reaction of Those Not Directly Involved With the Dunk: We get a big roar from the crowd. And there’s a pretty good call from the color commentator (“RAANNNNNNNNDLE!”). And nearly everyone on the bench gets up to celebrate. And those are for sure three good checkmarks to have. But here’s a weird thing: No Laker player on the court celebrates even a single percent for Randle. There’s no high-fiving, no jumping, no yelling, no nothing. 9/20.

Total: Julius Randle’s Flaky Biscuit Dunk on Kevin Durant was 47 percent disrespectful to Durant.

That’s Joel Embiid Westbrooking Russell Westbrook.

I’m going to bypass all of the categories here to ask you a question that I have been thinking about since this dunk happened.

Russell has already had sooooooooooo many great dunks this season. Even if we only rewind things back to December, you’ve got his dunk on the Wizards, his other dunk on the Wizards, his dunk on the Hornets, his dunk on the Knicks, his dunk on the Sixers, his other dunk on the Sixers, his putback dunk on the Raptors, and his dunk on Thon Maker. He’s an incredible dunker. There’s a fury to his dunks. A disdain to them. A very real Fuck You nastiness to them.

Let’s say that, through some sort of mysticism or magic, you were granted that same ultra-ability to mega-dunk. You’d still live in your normal body, but all of a sudden you’d have Russy’s strength, athleticism, courage, talent, and fire whenever you dunked (and only when you dunked). Dunking became a thing you could do and a thing you were known for. What’s more: Every time you dunked it, everyone would go, “Wow, that’s exactly how Russell Westbrook dunks!” It would be great. You would be a basketball lord in that respect.

But here’s the catch: Also every time you dunk, you would break one of your legs. You would bring the ball up in transition, jump, mash it home over three, four, five defenders, and everyone watching the game would go bonkers, but then you would land wrong and break one of your legs. Every single time. No matter what. You’d always heal, definitely. And you’d always come back 100 percent, definitely. But there’d be no way around breaking your leg on every dunk. Would you accept that deal? I can’t convince myself to say yes but I also can’t convince myself to say no.

As far as scoring the Embiid dunk, he gets a 12/20 for Difficulty (he dribbled in from the 3-point line, and that earns him bigger points since he’s a 7-footer), a 16/20 for Dunker’s Reaction (the staredown is great), a 6/20 for Defense, a 10/15 for Backstory (Russy had already dunked on the Sixers a couple of times), a 5/5 for Dunk Cleanliness, and a 10/20 for Reaction of Others.

Total: Joel Embiid’s Karmic Payback dunk on Russell Westbrook was 59 percent disrespectful to Westbrook.

That’s Steven Adams letting Jonas Valanciunas know that New Zealand super does not fuck with Lithuania.

Before I score the dunk, can I point out that the stretch from December through the first half of February was a great WHITE (AND WHITE-ADJACENT) PLAYERS DUNKING ON PEOPLE period? In addition to the Caruso dunk on Tucker and the Adams dunk on Valanciunas, there was the Enes Kanter dunk on DeMarcus Cousins (I didn’t want to feature it in the DDI because DeMarcus is hurt and so it seemed like it’d be in bad taste), all of the times Kristaps dunked it (also not featured here because of his season-ending injury), the Ryan Anderson dunk on Alex Len (this one was like the White People version of when Vin Diesel and the Rock finally fought each other in Fast Five), the Tomas Satoransky dunk on Zhou Qi (I like Satoransky a lot because his name sounds like a type of seasoning), the Lauri Markkanen dunk on Enes Kanter (every dunk is automatically 10 percent better if Enes Kanter is involved), the Mario Hezonja dunk on Myles Turner, the Domantas Sabonis dunk on Eric Moreland (LONG LIVE THE SABONIS FAMILY), and the Davis Bertans dunk on Roy Hibbert (great because it was like Jesse Plemons from Breaking Bad was dunking on Roy Hibbert from Parks & Rec).

Regarding the score of the Adams dunk, let’s go with 14/20 for Difficulty (he jumped from outside of the restricted zone and also he secretly dunked on DeMar DeRozan too), 19/20 for Dunker’s Reaction (he actually celebrated while headed up court, which is a thing that I didn’t even know Steven Adams knew how to do; it was like watching a buffalo play the harmonica), 10/20 for Defense (is anyone really afraid of Jonas Valanciunas?), 3/15 for Backstory (Steven Adams has no backstory with anyone or any place; he is a ghost of the wind), 5/5 for Dunk Cleanliness, and 15/20 for Reaction of Others.

Look at Russy:

And Andre:

And basically everyone:

Total: The Steven Adams United Nations Dunk on Jonas Valanciunas was 66 percent disrespectful to Valanciunas.