In the story you least thought you’d ever read on an ESPN site, Myron Medcalf has assembled a doozy for ESPN.com headlined “Dunks provide thrills and concerns.” The emphasis here is on concerns. Medcalf puts forth his best line of argument as to why the dunk is not truly all that in the college game. A layup, it ain’t.
(Naturally, he followed this piece with one entitled “My all-time favorite college dunks,” presumably because he didn’t want to be labeled a communist or for anyone to forget that ESPN was founded as an all-dunks network.)
His case against the dunk comes down to the following airtight evidence. We’ll address each point in turn.
A guard at La Salle named Ramon Galloway got so excited after one particular dunk and the subsequent chest-bumping with teammates that he became light-headed. “I got so hype and so amped,” Galloway confesses, “that I missed a free throw.”
Damning indeed! Perhaps a mere finger-roll would also have drawn the foul, and left Mr. Galloway sufficiently calm that he could finish the and-one. But statistics clearly show that Galloway missed 17 of 79 shots last year, more than one-fifth of his attempts, so other factors — crowd noise, fatigue, the trauma of being fouled — could also hamper his form.
If I were his coach I’d be more concerned about his wilting in a big moment than I would over his having created that big moment. The answer to his yips is not to dunk less; it’s to dunk more and more and more, until the sensation of jamming home two points and drawing the foul and demoralizing the other team is as routine as centering his toe on the free-throw line. Dunk, Ramon, dunk!
“Some college basketball coaches express concerns about overuse and potential drawbacks, such as technical fouls and injuries.”
Translation: Some athletics coaches are not particularly fond of athletic displays. They don’t really care whether fans enjoy games, nor do they really mind if their universities make money or can afford to pay their salaries. Really, they just want to see young men play basketball without ever suffering a technical foul on their permanent records.
Except, dunking doesn’t draw techs. Acting like a jackass draws techs. Solution? Teach players not to act like jackasses after dunks, or at any other time.
“The NCAA banned dunking in 1967, citing concerns about injuries.”
Oh, but wait, next sentence: “Many within the game, however, thought the NCAA initiated the ban to limit the impact of former UCLA star Lew Alcindor (who would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).” In other words, banning the dunk was a way to make one of the great college players ever more ordinary. Yes, I can see why dunking has coaches today fretting, certainly.
Cincinnati coach Mike Cronin acknowledges that sports carry risks and tells his players to jump off two feet, for stability. Quoth Cronin: “Whenever there’s a guy coming at you, you cannot go off on one foot and be surprised when he takes you out of the air. When you go off on one foot you have no balance.”
By this logic, jump shots, layups, rebounds, driving passes, scrambles for loose balls and playing interior defense all should be considered as circumspect as the slam dunk. Also, this Oregon girls’ high school title game constitutes the pinnacle of responsible hooping.
“Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown was ejected after he picked up his second technical foul following a dunk against Missouri last season. Brown stared at a defender after the play.”
Missouri was a superior team to Oklahoma State last year and was ranked #2, #3 and #5 the three times they played the Cowboys. In the first of those games, though, 9-10 Oklahoma State knocked off the 18-1 Tigers. The box score shows two technical fouls in that game, both by Markel Brown. He opened the game with a dunk but was T’ed up a minute later, after turning the ball over and fouling a Missouri player. He picked up his second tech with seven minutes left in the second half following a dunk that cut Missouri’s lead to four; the subsequent free throws pushed Missouri’s lead back to six.
Also, let the record show that the dunk was spectacular and the tech was quick-whistle horseshit.
Now, let’s say you’re an oddsmaker, and you want to create a fair line on a game in which the #2 team in the country is up six with less than seven minutes to go, on the road against a sub-.500 team. What would you say? Four to one? Five to one that Missouri hangs on? OK, what would odds would you take that Oklahoma State outscores Missouri 26-14 over the final six minutes and wins going away? Because that’s exactly what happened after Markel Brown dunked, glared, got his second tech and was kicked out of the game.
Chastened, I’m sure, Brown pulled no such stunt the next two times those teams played; neither subsequent game featured any technicals. And the Tigers won both by 18 points apiece.