Let’s take a look back at the top wham, bam slams of the 2018-19 NBA season.
Ah, the dunk. The purest form of basketball entertainment. Some are surprising because of who is giving, others for the recipient and others because they are the type of thing that you didn’t know could physically happen before someone did it — solely for the purpose of putting a ball into a nylon net. Weird, right?
LeBron vs the Bulls
We can’t let a season go by without appreciating LeBron James. If the Lakers somehow get back on track, this will feel like a weird blip of a season where James was bad. Except the King was 100 percent not bad.
Sure, it feels icky to think of him as a mortal human being after years of superhuman performances, but once James got into shape around the holidays, he was as freakish as ever. The Lakers had better transition players than any of James’ Cavs teams, leading to some awesome fast break slams like the two in the clip above.
It seems so long ago that James was actually having fun with his young teammates.
Capela vs Giannis
We’ve now entered the Giannis Antetokounmpo portion of our discussions. While the MVP debate has captivated the world (sort of?) over the past couple months, Antetokounmpo is taking this thing home. We all want it so badly, voters are tired of the other guy and no one more routinely made us jump around like rabbits in front of our TVs alone in the evening than this dude.
But before we celebrate the man’s athleticism, let’s remind ourselves he is fallible. When two objects collide with equal and opposite momentum … yada, yada, something. Crazy stuff happens.
Clint Capela is another large human who got the best of Antetokounmpo this time, but in some ways the fact the Greek Freak is on the wrong side of so many of these plays is a credit for him for actually getting involved on defense.
Giannis vs Koufos
Koufos might retire this summer, especially if he looks back at this clip even one time.
Kevin Knox on Ben Simmons
Somehow Knox became the third best rookie in New York this year after a meteoric rise to the top 10 in the draft last summer. If you’re a worried Knicks fan or someone who just saw this and thought, “I really liked watching that guy at Kentucky,” then you’re in luck. Plays like this are why there’s no need to worry about Knox — he reads the game well and is electric in transition. The other stuff is on its way.
It doesn’t hurt that the dunk came against Ben Simmons, whose defense we can debate about all day but who generally seems like the sort of guy who just needs to be dunked on from time to time. Thank you, Kevin, for getting the job done for all of us ground-bound folks just trying to get a leg up in life.
Derrick Jones Jr. oop vs Hornets
If I could have made every single dunk on this list a different installment of the Jones Jr. comeback season, you best bet I would have. But we want to celebrate dunks in all forms here at The Step Back and, in fairness, Jones is not the type of All-Star who gets all of you jumping up and down and calling your friends and sharing this stuff on social media.
His dunks, however, are gross. They’re sickening. His arm just did what? Is he about to break something when he descends from a 30,000-foot cruising altitude back down to the tarmac that is the restricted area on that NBA court he just vaulted? Yes, yeah, yep.
Long live Airplane Mode.
Bonus: John Collins on the whole Cleveland roster
We could go all day with these. As pace picks up and the game spreads out, dunking is not going away. You might be worried about the grumpy color analysts who literally come off as if they hate basketball, but while isolation, “my junk is bigger than yours” dunks are less frequent, these huge, where did that guy come from? dunks only figure to become a bigger part of the game.
Enjoy John Collins if you haven’t watched him since the Dunk Contest in February.