What We Talk About When We Talk About Dunks

What We Talk About When We Talk About Dunks

The recent Event of Deandre Jordan Brandon Knighting Brandon Knight brought to mind the French phenomenologist Eugene Minkowski, who, in his book Vers une Cosmologie, wrote, “…it is as though the sound of a hunting horn, reverberating everywhere through its echo, made the tiniest leaf, the tiniest whisp of moss shudder in a common movement and transformed the whole forest, filling it to its limits, into a vibrating sonorous world.” At the risk of insulting and/or boring the reader, I’ll briefly note that this Minkowski passage—taken out of context, probably—nicely describes the effect, or impact, of Jordan’s dunk, inasmuch as there weren’t consequences to it, as far as I’m concerned, but rather a reverberation throughout the basketball forest (and beyond, as evidenced by this New Yorker article) akin to, or represented by what results from, as philosopher Gaston Bachelard describes, the isolated poetic image, which “in its extreme simplicity…gives us mastery of our tongue”—or rather, our Twitter account.

After Jordan dunked, I wanted to go to sleep. I was afraid I’d dilute the image with all subsequent visual input. I would have to rely on dreaming to engrave it into my consciousness. It was like I had seen God (just kidding) (actually, not kidding), and now I had to kill myself. Thankfully, I live in a world of artificially sustained reverberations grâce à Youtube. I have since realistically rewatched this dunk 30 – 40 times. It’s familiar to me now, but no less terrifying to behold.

What do we talk about when we talk about dunks? In fact, not much. Usually, we ascribe some banal adjectives, gift wrap it in a cliché or two, and reserve a little pity for the dunkee (or in Brandon Kinght’s case, we should bring him hot cocoa and cookies in bed and reassure him winter is almost over and things will get better soon). Only when a dunk becomes more than a dunk do we, the collective body of those with a pathological ability to waste time, linger on it for longer than a few minutes. Or it’s the other way around—only when we linger on a dunk does it become more than a dunk. But, while I can think of many dunks in the past that were as awesome as Jordan’s, very few of them were contemporaneous with the rise of social media, and so always remained merely a dunk. When Tom Chambers dunked over Mark Jackson in 1989, maybe a couple dozen people in the world spastically reached for the phone to tell someone about it. Fewer still when Daryl Dawkins shattered the backboard. While those dunks and others that have been immortalized on VHS tapes and archived in man caves across the country have had their place in the canon of dunks secured, none of them, I would argue, achieve the same level of reverberating poetic image that Jordan’s does (and his expression afterward that looks like he just stuck his nose in the smelly fish tank of his amazingness), because previously there just wasn’t the capacity for us, the aforementioned collective body, to foster and propagate said reverberation, thereby transcending it to the capital P Phenomenal.

My parting question is will this dunk be remembered as the time Deandre Jordan turned into one of those aliens in space jam and almost cartoonishly stuffed the basket, or will it be remembered as the time Brandon Knight suffered the ultimate defeat on behalf of everyone who has ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time? TC mark

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This post originally appeared on THE PEACH BASKET.

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