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Slamming Dunking

February 13, 2002 Columns No Comments

Slamming Dunking

by Dan Hauptman

The second-most overrated and useless aspect of college basketball is the slam dunk. It really serves no purpose other than to show off a player’s athleticism in front of fans who hoot and holler as if their team just won the national championship.

Think about it. What is the advantage of doing a 360-double-windmill jam when a simple lay-in or even a bank layup can get the job done? Also, the two latter-mentioned shots are made at a significantly higher percentage than an acrobatic slam. The dunk just serves an individual purpose for the person doing the jamming, and can actually lessen a team’s chances of winning a basketball game.

After all, isn’t winning the most important goal when competing in any sport, much less varsity basketball on the collegiate level? Team-oriented coaches must cringe when witnessing one of their players attempt a throwdown on a wide-open fast break. There just is no need for it.

This drive to dunk the ball in situations that don’t warrant this type of action is part of the SportsCenter generation that is surely here to stay. When watching a highlights show on any given night during the basketball season, there are two main plays shown: dunks and 3-pointers. As a result, players see that if a monstrous rim-rocking dunk is made, even if it has no bearing on the plot of the game, it will almost always be shown on television for fans all over to see.

It is all about “me”. How can I get on TV? How can I get my name known around the country by fans whose only hoops knowledge is from watching these highlights shows? The answer in this 21st century lies in the ability and creativity of a hoopster to dunk an orange ball as hard as possible through the rim. After all, television coverage leads to fame, which inevitably leads to money. And that, not always winning, is the bottom line for many that play the sport of basketball.

But it should not be that way on the college level. These players are amateurs, they don’t get paid, and the only thing that should be on their mind is the school name that is written on their chests. That is what is so perplexing about the sight of a player, such as UNC reserve Orlando Melendez shortly before the start of a big home conference game, practicing his dunking by himself on one half of the court. Maybe a player such as Orlando would play more than eight minutes a game if he practiced his shooting instead of his jamming. But he has obviously made a choice to be a fan-favorite known as little more than a slam dunker, not as a legitimate contributor to his struggling 6-15 team.

With Melendez and others like him around the nation, it is not always about doing what gives your team the best chance at winning a game. The goal is sometimes the thrill of watching yourself dunk on a television show the morning after a game. This is a very disturbing way of playing James Naismith’s game of basketball.

By the way, the most overrated aspect of college basketball? The starting lineup. As any coach will tell you, a player who finishes a game is many times more important than a player who starts one.


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