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Was Blake Griffin’s Dunk A Dunk?

by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 31, 2012

Let’s take another look at Blake Griffin’s monster dunk from Monday night.

The question many have began asking is whether it was an actual dunk.

Yes! Hands down, without a doubt, absolutely, positively, it was a dunk. A big ol’ filthy, nasty, embarrassing, I can’t-believe-he-just-did that dunk.

Some people want to call it a throw-in. But that wasn’t a throw-in. This was a throw-in.

Pause both videos at the 21 second mark and look for the difference. It’s clear. In the first video, Griffin touches the rim. In the second, his hand comes nowhere near the rim. That’s the criteria. If you touch the rim, it’s a dunk. If you don’t, it’s not. It’s that simple.

If you want to label throw-ins dunks, then Dwight Howard’s ‘Superman’ attempt in the 2008 dunk contest would be considered a dunk. And there is no way in the world anybody can legitimately claim that Howard’s attempt was an actual dunk.

Many times, players opt to go up for a dunk but gently put the ball in the basket without touching the rim. Also not a dunk. If you remove your hands at the last second, that’s called a layup, although Merriam-Webster defines a dunk simply as “throwing the ball into the basket from above the rim.” Not so. Those gentle put-ins easily could be dunks if the player just grabs the rim. But, for whatever reason, they choose not to.

Those who remember David Thompson can attest to how not touching the rim doesn’t count as a dunk. For those who don’t know, Thompson was a 6-foot-4 swingman who starred at N.C. State and went on to become an NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer. Thompson, affectionately referred to as “Skywalker” because of his jaw-dropping leaping ability, played his entire college career during the days in which the slam dunk was outlawed because of the “Lew Alcindor” rule. Despite having a 48-inch vertical, Thompson only dunked one time in college. It came during a game in his final season, and the basket was immediately disallowed and ruled a technical foul.

To get around the rule, Thompson and Wolfpack teammate Monte Towe would hook up on alley-oop passes in which Towe would toss high above the defense and Thompson would deposit into the rim. The play was legal, and it popularized the alley-oop, which players these days more commonly finish with dunks.

Again, touch the rim while flushing the ball through the basket and it’s a dunk. Touch no part of the rim, and it’s a layup. It’s really simple.


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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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