Sunday, August 23, 2009

What I Would do If I Could Dunk, Hard

If I could dunk, and I don't mean dunk like a player in warmups who purposely doesn't touch the rim, or dunk like a player who slips the ball into the rim on a breakaway, I mean dunk like the explosive Vince Carter, or the punishingly powerful Shaq or Dwight Howard, I would celebrate so much they'd have to pull me off the court before I get thrown out of the game for taunting.
I remember the first game of my junior varsity year, in which I was the sixth man for the team. We were playing in our opponent's opening home game, and the air was rife with schoolboy bravado and adrenaline that seemed to be more plentiful than oxygen in the cramped old-school gym.
With the opposing fans shouting out idle epithets, the rap music on the gym's P.A. bumpin with its bass, and both teams trying to outshout each other as they warmed up, I felt like I could touch the top of the backboard each time I jumped for a layup or a rebound. Anyone who played ball as a kid remembers that the dunk had as its training wheels the vaunted "tap." To tap the backboard as you shot a layup was to join the ranks of the apprentice ballers hoping to move up to the dunk in the near future.
The game itself was probably the most exciting one in which I participated as a player, as three of our starters fouled out, I played some 35 minutes, and it went to three overtimes before we finally lost by one point.
In the last period and the three overtimes, there were multiple lead changes, and the momentum stayed suspended between the two teams in this tug-of-war. There was an intensity on each possession, on each free throw, on each shot that cannot be explained but only experienced.
I remember after the game talking to a teammate who played all 47 minutes of the game, and asking him if were tired. After hesitating a minute, scanning his previously numb body, he remarked, "Yeah, but I didn't realize it until now."
This adrenaline provided by the gym, the fans, the floor, the competition is something that all formerly competitive athletes miss like it were a human being. It felt that night like we could have played all night--and who's to say we couldn't have?
I imagine that if one were to take the sum total of that adrenaline-filled 47 minute game, it would be about equal to that felt in the split second after a dunk of Vince Carter's magnitude or Shaq's (in a furious rally that turned around a losing series against the Portland Trailblazers) giddy dunk off a precise pass from Kobe Bryant:
This is why I think that if I were in Vince Carter's shoes after his dunk on Frederic Weis, I would have done the exact same barking, scowling, screaming, pounding, posing, and punching that he did. I also would have talked about Weis' mama, marched in place like a soldier, wagged my index finger, a la Dikembe Mutumbo, done the "Ickey Shuffle," and maybe even have held a ceremony featuring various luminaries to plant a Jaime Flaco flag (sure, it'd have to be manufactured ahead of time, just in case) on Weis' body, thereby completing the metaphor.
Ah, a man can dream, can't he?

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