Monday, February 16, 2009

Krypto-Nate

Robinson Tops Superman for 2nd Slam Dunk Crown

Like famed DC villain Lex Luther, Nate Robinson donned a green flightsuit in his attempt to vanquish Superman. Unlike Luther, Nate actually won. With a quartet of impressive dunks (or three that were very impressive and one that people were divided on), Nate the Great beat out the man who was deemed all but unbeatable in Phoenix. To his credit (seriously, he should be commended), Dwight Howard aided in his own undoing like the protagonist in a Greek tragedy. He allowed himself to be posterized and beat out by his own self-written mythology.

The Dunks.
1. The Self-Ally-Oop Windmill. The Great lobs the ball in from the right wing. It bounces, high, on the right side of the paint, a few steps above the right "corner" of the restricted area. He sprints in, looping towards the center so that he's coming at the rim straight on, and jumps from one or two steps above the top of the restricted area. Catching the ball with his arms extended above his head as he's rising, Nate pulls the ball back down, shifting it to his right hand and completes a full windmill before slamming it home.

2. The Step Ladder. For the second dunk of the first round, Nate came sprinting straight down the court, leapt just inside the the basket-side edge of the sun (it's Phoenix's home court) whose diameter is the foul line, planted a foot on the back of a kneeling Wilson Chandler who was positioned a few feet away from Nate's launching point and bounded up towards the rim for a dunk. During the live telecast on TNT, Reggie Miller was very critical of this dunk. Kenny the Jet was on board for the dunk. Miller felt like jumping off of Chandler made it easier to get to the rim. I think TNT play-by-play guy Kevin Harlan (whose "That is so filthy" call on a Dwight Howard dunk was maybe the highlight of the broadcast) compared leaping off Wilson's back to bouncing off a trampoline. Um, false. Leaping onto a person and then generating enough spring from that surface to get all the way to the rim is way harder than just jumping from a running start. A human back is not a trampoline. Jumping off a surface that has some give to it (without any spring) is much harder than jumping off solid ground. It's like jumping while on sand. It's not easier than jumping off a hardwood floor. Secondly, jumping off of one's right foot and then landing and leaping immediately off of the other foot is no simple feet. There is a reason that the triple jump is an Olympic event. Because this sort of thing is not simple. Although I realize that this dunk was perhaps the least visually impressive of Nate's dunks it may actually have been the one that best showcased his athleticism.



After finishing his second first-round dunk, Nate was caught on camera heading back towards the locker room. My first thought was that he had injured himself. Ugh. Nothing would end the resurgence of the dunk contest sooner than a competitor getting injured while participating. Few things would provide better tabloid fodder in New York than a scattershot talent injuring himself while showboating in a superfluous event. Double ugh. But it turned out that Nate was just executing his own wardrobe change. And, apparently he wasn't granted access to Dwight Howard's phone booth. When Robinson emerged he was clad head to heel in green. Even the basketball he was carrying was bright green. It was kryptonite green. Lex Luther was in the building to battle Dwight Howard's Superman.

3. The Baseline Oop-Intro Baby Jordan Redux. Beginning in the corner, Nate sends a high-arching lob into the paint. Charging after it he grabs it after a bounce. His arms are extended as he grabs the ball flying towards the rim with his back facing the backboard. He pulls the ball, still clutched between both hands, between his legs before pulling it all the way back up for a two-handed reverse stuff.

4. Leaping Tall Players in Single Bound. Yup, that just happened. There's no need to unpack this one. It was the hot pants.


With the victory over (literally) Howard in the Slam Dunk Contest, Robinson joins Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Harold Miner and Jason Richardson as the only two-time winners in the history of the event. It really allows the best of him to come out. The boundless athleticism, the unbridled joy, and the creativity and showmanship that make Nate a favorite at the Garden are all on full display during the dunk contest. The marriage of these qualities and the dunk contest is so perfect that a writer for The Arizona Republic went as far as to write that Nate "symbolizes the best of the NBA."

A more cynical view, says that the majority of the above qualities are also the ones holding Nate back as a player. But, let's leave that discussion for another day. For today, let's just remember that lil' Lex Luther topped Superman. And, the crowd cheered.