There is an oft-cited 1964 Supreme Court case called Jacobellis v. Ohio in which Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined pornography by saying he wouldn’t attempt to define it, “But I know it when I see it.”
The same has often been said of art. Until now I’m not aware of anybody applying this thinking to dunks. But it just so happens that I think about dunks a lot, and I can think of no better way to analyze this play made by Baylor’s Nuni Omot.
Now, any attempt to define a dunk is likely to include the dunking player’s hand touching the rim, so as to distinguish a dunk from a layup, and every other kind of shot there is in basketball. That does not happen on this play, and many, myself included, were quick to point this out on Twitter.
On a hair-splitting, technical level, it’s tough to argue otherwise. But then … did that not feel like a dunk as you watched it? Did it not cause all the same emotional and physiological reactions inside you as a dunk would?
Are you saying this is not a dunk?
You’re really going to sit here and tell me you’re not titillated? That’s not basketball porn? Listen to the sound the crowd makes. Look at the reaction of the other players. An arena has never, ever sounded like that after a layup.
So yeah, Omot’s dunk was a dunk, and we know that because we just know that.