‘Le dunk de la mort’
Sydney Australia Olympic Games, Sept 25th 2000: Frederic Weis had no clue that he was about to be immortalized, posterized and vincecarterized. As USA’s Vince Carter stole the ball about 40 feet out, he immediately kicked in the jets and sped rapidly toward the unsuspecting 7-foot- 2 Frenchman like an F-16 rocketing down the runway. Weis heroically, yet foolishly, stood his ground and prepared to take the hard charge as he probably had done hundreds of times before in some Euro league. However this wasn’t against some ordinary Euro team and Vince Carter is, by no means, an ordinary player.
It would be a safe bet that in the annals of organized basketball no one had ever safely completed, nor lived to tell about what the French media later referred to as “le dunk de la mort” or the dreaded ‘Dunk of Death.’ Vince immediately sized up the situation, took two last steps, crouched down and shot up into the warm Australian air leaping spread eagle ala the Nike Air Jordan insignia, up, up and over a stunned and horrified Weis. Vince leaning in towards the basket with the ball cradled in his right hand and with his left giving Weis the ultimate comb-over and using his noodle like a pommel horse to complete his “now this is happening” moment. Carter finally touched down behind Weis and his royal flush stunned the French so much that they immediately surrendered to the US and to Australia. The French can keep their fries, their toast, and their unsanitary kissing but we will keep The Dunk.
If one strips down sports to its barest core elements, it is but a series of moments stitched together over time. Most moments of the games we watch and follow are of the mundane variety, pro football’s 40-second wait between plays and up the middle 2-yard gains, baseball’s endless dead time between pitches and batters, basketballs whistle-fest and slow parade to the foul line and every last second of every soccer game ever played on earth. It’s the Big Play that keeps me coming back for more. There is the game-winning last minute touchdown drive or 95-yard kickoff return, the walk-off home run and the suicide squeeze. Basketball has great rivalries and exciting finishes but most of all it has The Dunk.
To the fair-weather basketball fan, they might see a dunk as just two points, the equivalent of a pedestrian jumper, but anyone who has ever played basketball knows it is worth much more than that. A properly administered rim-rattler in your opponents grill is you serving notice to him that you are The Man and that you own him and that he is a chump and will forever be a chump. A dunk can change momentum and fire up your team and getting your bean dunked upon is a humiliation and brings disgrace to your team, your girlfriend, your family and your manhood.
In the past week, the only moment which literally brought me out of my seat was the coast-to-coast dunk of Ronnie Brewers. That’s what fans live for. Some sort of adrenaline jolt that drives us temporarily out of our naugahyde existence. It was a near life-changing moment when I first witnessed the flying glory of Julius Erving, in full-flowing afro, soaring impossibly high over the Laker’s Michael Cooper, his right-arm cuffing the ball and then in one perfectly timed clockwise windmill motion, rocking the rim and proving to the world that he was the baddest man on the planet. He was cooler than any super-hero could dream of being. He was real and he could fly.
Darryl Dawkins, gave his dunks actual names such as the ‘in-your-face disgrace’, ‘the rim-wrecker’, and the ‘Chocolate Thunder Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham, Bam, Glass-Breaker I-Am-Jam’. He also started a trend of backboard shattering dunks, which while causing quite a delay, would forever solidify the dunkers status as immortal hoops deity among legions of wannabe dunkers.
Shaq tore down entire basketball standards and Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and LeBron James have raised dunking to a new art form. Spud Webb proved the little man can dunk too. Vince’s cousin Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant have pulled off plenty of 360 dunks in games but there is also a guy who has incredibly mastered the 720 dunk!
Physicists have broken down The Dunk into a formula that calculates that velocity = v, in relation to the centripetal acceleration = c and ultimately the centripetal force = … yada yada yada… you have Vince Carter leaping over 7-foot Frenchmen. It’s really that simple. Anyone can do it, but until they do Vince Carter will be the King of The Dunk, just ask Frederic Weis.