HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Really, this is how low we’ve sunk as sports fans, that we make ourselves feel better by further humiliating the loser rather than being satisfied by marveling at the victor?
Boston’s Jason Terry joined Detroit’s Brandon Knight in Twitter and YouTube infamy on Monday night as unfortunate victims of vicious dunks. Because each guard, both standing no taller than 6-foot-3 and barely a buck-ninety soaking weight, chose to challenge LeBron James and DeAndre Jordan as they launched their massively larger bodies toward the rim like heat-seeking missiles, rather than take the easier matador approach, Terry and Knight have become Internet punch lines.
The 6-3, 189-pound Knight found himself in a helpless position when Jordan, the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Clippers center, caught a lob from Chris Paul with his right hand, seemed to freeze in mid-air with his legs spread as if in a dead sprint and his arm cocked back ready to fire. In an instant, Jordan slammed it home with Knight caught in the middle trying to contest, practically stuck to Jordan’s chest only to be squashed like a bug on the grill of an 18-wheeler.
A dunk to behold for sure. So how come just hours later, someone tweeted that Knight, and not Jordan, was trending on Twitter? Why is it more gratifying for us to kick someone around than lift someone up?
“I give credit to Brandon Knight,” said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, asked the other day about the Jordan dunk. “DeAndre Jordan can dunk, there’s nothing special there. It takes guts to say, ‘OK, I’m playing basketball,’ and think basketball first, so I give [Knight] a lot of credit. It’s like that old Tracy McGrady and Shawn Bradley dunk. It wasn’t that Tracy McGrady dunked on him, it was that Shawn Bradley cared enough about the game to try to contest it. So DeAndre just did what DeAndre does, there was nothing spectacular or special about what he did, he does it every day, right? But a guy who’s willing to just not care what anybody says, that’s special. To me, the best player on that play was Brandon.”
James, who has shown so much maturity since losing in the 2011 Finals to Terry’s old Mavs (remember when a disappearing James and Dwyane Wade mocked an ill Dirk Nowitzki with fake coughs and sneezes?) couldn’t leave Monday’s tomahawk jam over Terry alone. Not only did James dunk on Terry, he earned a technical foul for standing over him as if ready to take his scalp along with his dignity.
James told reporters Wednesday after Miami’s shootaround that he’s had a chance to look over his massive, one-hand jam and not only did he find it to be one of his best, but he said he’s glad it happened to Terry, a personal nemesis.
Again, let’s return to the ’11 Finals. James had taken on Jet as his personal defensive assignment in the fourth quarters and had shut him down through the first three games as the Heat took a 2-1 lead. Nowitzki called out Jet for his lack of scoring punch and Jet, never one to bite his tongue stated: “Let’s see if [James] can defend me like that for seven games.”
Terry went on to average 21.7 points in Games 4, 5 and 6, busted a late-game 3 over James for the pivotal Game 5 win and a 3-2 series lead, and then dropped 27 points in the deciding Game 6 on the Heat’s home floor.
What’s been lost in Monday’s sequence during an intensely competitive game in Boston that Miami pulled out for its 23rd consecutive victory, is that Terry had just made a fine defensive play, getting a steal and then heading the other way. Only he didn’t see Wade behind him and he got stripped.
Wade got the ball got to Mario Chalmers, who found Norris Cole, who had just committed the turnover. Cole could have scored the layup, but instead set up James for the massive slam with an underhand lob. Terry, seven inches shorter and some 70 pounds lighter than James, had retreated as Boston’s only line of defense, bouncing from Chalmers to Cole to going up against the barreling James to try to at least get in the way.
Which he did. James’ 250 pounds (at least) careened into Terry in mid-air. James slammed it home as Terry crashed to the floor.
And as with Knight, it seems Terry is garnering more heat for getting dunked on while trying to make a play, than James is receiving accolades for the actual dunk.
“Guys in this league can dunk,” Cuban said before Terry’s misfortune. “So you know they’re going to try to dunk, but the guys who play the game and do what’s right for the team regardless of what it might look like, those are the guys that deserve the credit. Those are the guys I get excited about it.”
This drama surely isn’t over. The Jet will certainly let his tongue flap after hearing James tomahawk him again, only this time verbally.