People Are Really Happy That James White Will Be In The Dunk Contest

  • Dylan Murphy

First, there was this.

Then, uproar. A chorus of Twitter cheers, if you will. Though James White rarely sees the floor in meaningful action for the New York Knicks, his dunking legend precedes him. Just take the ease of flight in this free throw line dunk, or that he follows that up with a windmill thrown in. And a between-the-legs dunk to finish it off. All from the free throw line, of course.

There’s a reason why this video has over 1.3 million views: people like dunks. We like dunks. Dunks over people. Powerful dunks. Dunks of extreme difficulty. In 2001, James White competed in the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest (so did David Lee, by the way). He was, by all accounts, the most explosive leaper in, well, ever. But his basketball skills never carried him through: after playing one season at the University of Florida, he transferred to Cincinnati. He was later taken in the 2nd round of the 2006 NBA Draft, bouncing from the Trail Blazers to the Pacers to the Spurs to the D-League and back to the Spurs. Then in 2007, he signed a four-year contract with the Turkish club Fenerbahçe. In 2012, he made his ceremonious return to the NBA, only dunking legend in hand.

Even DraftExpress led off/a> his advanced scouting writeup with this:

“A world class athlete, White could have been a track and field star had he chosen not to play basketball. He is one of the best leapers in this draft, with an incredible vertical leap that will surely secure him a spot in next year’s dunk contest. He elevates off the floor as quickly as anyone in this draft, and has great hangtime to help him finish at the rim emphatically in crowd pleasing fashion.”

This was James White, inseparably linked to his athleticism and dunking. He wasn’t a basketball player so much as a dunker who happened to play basketball. And so we quarantined the limits of his powers, for better or for worse. That’s what’s so difficult about seeing White in this dunk contest – while it’s a completion of destiny, it’s finality approached, too. Once James White competes in the NBA Dunk contest, he’ll cease to warrant attention as a basketball player. It feels very Belichick-ian in that way, “Do your job.” Well the job will be done, and then what? Go back to the bench, slink back into the shadows. Not that that’s every mattered – players are routinely discarded because team first – but it’s just a tad depressing. It’s difficult to comprehend players as sideshows, even if their profession is really nothing more than a parallel escape. But for now James White is a star, the center of the limelight. He’s even a beacon of hope, a sign that the Dunk Contest is in for better things and bigger names in the coming years. And people (White himself included) are more than willing to drink that Kool-Aid.