BY PAT FLYNN
At the exact moment DeAndre Jordan unleashed fury on Brandon Knight, I was probably watching Marnie
try to win back her ex because he’s rich now start to chase her dream in Girls.
But after seeing Twitter erupt, I pulled up the dunk and proceeded to watch it about 13 times. Once I picked up my jaw, I had a couple thoughts: 1) Props to Knight for sacrificing rep and ego (or, as J.R. Smith calls that combo, “EVERYTHING”) to make that stop. 2) This play is not going away. Anyone who saw this knew it instantly. Last time I felt this way from a highlight was when Jadeveon Clowney impaled Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Tell me both don’t give you that good old fashion feeling.
These plays are so unmistakably awesome that it doesn’t even take a sports fan to appreciate their greatness. Like many high-profile college and professional athletes, Clowney and Jordan hit the genetic lottery. Even among insanely gifted athletes, Clowney and Jordan are two that can be pointed out as being a cut-above the rest. Let’s breakdown the plays.
Jordan is a 6-foot-11, 265-pound beast who signed a $43 million contract because he is capable of what you just saw. He isn’t a big scorer; not a huge rebounder. He is a dunker. And on this particular play, Jordan had every possible thing going for him. First-off, he had a running start. Barring a bad pass, it was lights out from that point forward. Combine the running start with the fact that Knight is 6-foot-3 and 80-pounds lighter and it’s a recipe for disaster.
I think a lot of NBA players might have braced for the body-blow, played that up and went for the layup or softer dunk with the foul. But Jordan is on the Clippers. It’s Lob City. He would’ve been fined seven figures if he didn’t finish that the way he did.
Clowney, who stands 6-foot-6 and plays at 273-pounds, went untouched from his three-point stance into the chest of the 5-foot-6, 175-pound Smith. And that was that.
Clowney did everything he was supposed to do. That’s what it’s supposed to look like when the best player in college football gets a clean look at a defenseless player. He hit him hard and he hit him clean. Roger Goodell couldn’t have really even argued with it.
The fact that Smith’s headgear flew off his head like a pilot ejecting from an F-16 certainly amplified the hit. But as we learned in Tim Layden’s Sports Illustrated cover story, “The Hit,” (cannot find a link, but very enjoyable read) Smith prefers to wear his helmet loose.
And now the image of that rolling helmet and Smith’s flying dreadlocks will live forever on YouTube and in GIFs at GarnetandBlack.com.
As for the victims, Knight and Smith both had their primary superpower turned against them. As one of the small (or in Knight’s case, smaller) guys in a sport where size is so prevalent, athletes often make up for a lack of height or weight with a drive and fearlessness that the vast majority of undersized major college and professional athletes have.These guys don’t know retreat. They just do whatever they have to and it has always worked out because they were that much better than the competition.
They weren’t better than the competition on these attempts, but they didn’t have a chance to be.
Combine that with the fact that the bigger, stronger competition had a running start and a mindset to make plays and the end result is next year’s ESPY winner for Play of the Year.