There’s a popular video on the Internet today of Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors “dunking on” LeBron James. As of this writing, the official NBA clip (which was posted late last night) has about 79,000 views. It’s apparently a big deal because LeBron is LeBron, and a man dunked “on” him — as if LeBron opened up his mouth and Valanciunas put the ball down his esophagus for two points.
But let’s set the record straight: the dunk wasn’t that great, and there’s no shame in getting dunked on. It just means you’re playing defense.
Last year, the Internet blew up when DeAndre Jordan dunked on Brandon Knight, as if an incredibly large man dunking on a much smaller man was something to note. People said Knight had been “destroyed,” “killed” and other terrible things, because he was knocked down while trying to make a play on the ball.
But the truth is, if I’m an NBA coach, I’d take my guys getting dunked on 100 times out of 100 if the alternative was letting the opponent get to the hoop uncontested.
In LeBron’s case, he was doomed to be dunked on from the start. When Valaciunas, who has four inches on The King, gets the ball, he’s about a tongue’s length from the rim. Unless he’s Andrea Bargnani, he’s almost certainly putting that ball in the basket.
But LeBron made an attempt to block the shot anyway, because a) You never know what might happen and b) You don’t want your opponent to get too comfortable. Maybe the next time down, he hesitates slightly, knowing LeBron could be lurking somewhere out of his eye sight, ready to swat his shot. And that pause is the difference between another sure bucket and a missed opportunity.
Basically, getting dunked on shows a willingness to play the long game. It shows a willingness to get embarrassed, if that means you made life more difficult for the other team. It shows that you don’t care about one play, because your career is rarely defined by one guy scoring one bucket over you, unless your name is Frederic Weis. LeBron is secure enough in his basketball prowess to know that being in the frame while another person dunks means nothing in the scheme of things.
Meanwhile, why do you think Amar’e Stoudemire (not to pick on a man with no knees) has so few instances of being “dunked on”? Because he doesn’t play defense. He steps out of the way of driving defenders rather than challenging them. And that’s way, way more embarrassing than any “posterization.”