Thursday, April 1, 2010


Two nights ago, I was sitting in a bar on northeastern edge of Midtown. I was drinking cans of PBR at the bargain price of $2 per. I was with two friends from high school. And we were discussing the indignity of being dunked on. None of our merry (and not particularly tall) band has inflicted this minor humiliation upon another. Nor dunked anything save for Oreos, donuts and the occasional kangaroo-shaped cookie. But two out of the three of us had been dunked on - or at least dunked around. I'd most recently been dunked on last summer and one of the other two expected to have someone throw down on him in a corporate tournament that he was playing in next week.

Running the risk of failure, and even the embarrassment of getting posterized at the park, is key to sporting competition. Because by running such a risk you give yourself the opportunity to experience victory, to tower above (metaphorically if not literally) an opponent in your own moment of glory. All wins must come at the expense of a loser. Don't forget that. I know that I won't. Because my teams (Knicks, Mets, Jets) have so often been on the wrong side of this winner-loser dyad.

Last night, the Portland Trailblazers enjoyed a few special moments at the expense of Mike D'Antoni's New York Knickerbockers.

With a merciless 90-118 thrashing of their visitors, the Blazers clinched a playoff berth for the second straight season. This contest was over before the first quarter was through. Behind the aggressive play of Brandon Roy, the outside shooting touch of Nicolas Batum and the inside-out game of Lamarcus Aldrige, the Blazers were running off with this contest as fast as the restrictions of the 24-second shot clock allowed. The Blazers led by 11 points after one quarter and 27 points at the half. With 34 points in the second quarter, the Blazers were one point shy of matching the Knicks' total output for the half (they were four points shy in the first).

Some would say that the Knicks' "dunked on" moment of the game would have been the second-quarter ally-oop slams by Martell Webster or Aldridge. Others might say that it was the thunderous dunk by Roy over Lee in the second half. I would disagree. Because the most indicative play of the game may have been the alley-oops layup by Juwan Howard that came shortly before the aforementioned dunks by Webster and Aldridge.

With the Knicks trailing, 26-42, nearly halfway through the second, Blazers point guard Steve Blake send a long arcing pass to (another Blazers point guard) Rudy Fernandez in the corner. The Spaniard quickly lobbed a ball across the rim towards the 37-year-old Howard who was running out of the opposite corner towards the rim along the baseline. Howard stutter steps to get his feet set for a leap but quickly realizes he hasn't had those sort of hops since Everclear were rocking the Rose City more than a decade ago. So he gathers himself, corrals the ball and lays it in. The only thing as big as the smile on Howard's face as he lumbers back up the court is his team's ever-expanding lead. Howard shoots Fernandez a look like "son, who did you think that you were throwing that to?" And Fernandez just laughs and shakes his head. It's one thing to get dunked on by Roy or Alridge but it's another to have teams throwing ally-oops to dudes that get "Over the Hill" novelty balloons on their birthday.

All of that being said, Roy's dunk over Lee is worth a look.