AP Photo/Charles Krupa
I grew up watching among the biggest slam dunk artists on this planet.
Shawn Kemp was certainly one of my favorites, as a result of he was freaky athletic and dunked so powerfully. Plus, he appeared so nonchalant about every little thing. It made his dunks look easy.
Dominique Wilkins simply jumped so excessive on each dunk. His limbs are lengthy and he would windmill the ball to date round after which dunk onerous on the rim like a sledgehammer.
Kenny “Sky” Walker was my largest inspiration, as a result of I felt as if we jumped alike, and he did a whole lot of 360s. He swung and whirled the ball about, kicking his legs and dunking aggressively. That’s why I favored doing these 360s on a 6-foot-high rim again within the Nineties once I was in elementary faculty.
I additionally drew inspiration from my dad. One day my dad and I had been taking pictures baskets with a volleyball. I begged him to dunk it. Even although he was exhausted from a day of development work, he dunked it onerous, all his limbs outstretched. The affect ripped open his finger and he started to bleed. Despite the harm, I used to be simply in awe that he had dunked the ball. I assumed the entire thing was so cool.
Today, my fondness for dunking stays, however on a a lot increased airplane. I research dunks, in order that makes me a dunk scientist. Or you may say I’m a dunkologist.
So at any time when I watch the NBA’s annual slam dunk contest – just like the one which the New York Knicks’ Obi Toppin gained with a one-handed slam on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 – I dont watch simply to be entertained. As chair of the technical committee for the World Dunk Association – a gaggle shaped in 2020 to construct extra appreciation for the slam dunk – I additionally look to enhance upon a brand new system we’ve developed providing a extra scientific strategy towards how judges rating slam dunks.
Growing up, I bear in mind seeing “type, athleticism and creativity” talked about throughout NBA broadcasts as components for slam dunk judges to think about. But it wasn’t till I embarked upon my journey to develop into a researcher that I started to surprise if the slam dunk judges may be utilizing extra subtle standards. As my colleague Evan Rollins and I wrote in a peer-reviewed paper revealed in 2019 within the Journal of Sports Analytics, dunk scores – now given on a scale of 6 to 10 – aren’t at all times awarded as pretty and persistently as you may hope or count on.
How dunks get scored
I created a database to seize information from each dunk I may discover for contests going all the way in which again to 1984. As of February 2022, the database accommodates info on greater than 700 dunks.
Only about 45% of a participant’s dunk rating is predicated on what they do with their physique or the ball, our evaluation discovered. We discovered about 28% of a dunker’s rating is predicated on components that don’t have anything to do with the precise dunk, corresponding to whether or not or not the competition came about within the hometown of the dunker or the dunker’s workforce. When a dunker’s workforce or hometown hosted the competition, their dunks had been usually scored increased than they might have been if the competition had been held someplace else.
Other components included the participant’s recognition – as measured by what number of mentions they acquired within the media. But a participant’s recognition is usually based mostly on the participant’s talent, so we don’t know if participant recognition is a reason for – or just correlated with – scoring excessive on a slam dunk.
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The affect of non-dunk-related components made me need to uncover new strategies to guage and rating slam dunks. My pursuit led me to the World Dunk Association, which was began in 2020 by Kadour Ziani a retired skilled dunker, and Damian Le Nouaille-Diez, a software program engineer, writer and entrepreneur. Turns out Kadour and Damian had devised a system to categorise dunks that was very very similar to the one Evan and I revealed in 2019.
As our affiliation continues to work on new and higher methods to allow judges – and most people – to attain dunks, listed below are 5 issues to bear in mind everytime you watch a slam dunk contest.
1. Disregard issues that aren’t half of the particular dunk
Be cautious of theatrics corresponding to singing choirs, intelligent passes from a teammate, altering jerseys and different options that don’t meaningfully alter how the dunker executes ball actions and physique actions. Jumping over a celeb is not any completely different from leaping over an abnormal individual of the identical peak. All these actions are thrilling and entertaining, however they don’t mirror what the dunker really does.
2. Flight: Elevation, distance and obstacles
Flight entails how excessive the dunker jumps, how far they leap and – in the event that they leap over one thing – the dimensions of an impediment they leap over.
A easy technique to examine how excessive the dunker jumps is by searching for the very best level of their head relative to the underside of the online and basket. This is simpler than checking distance between the hips and the ground, as a result of the dunk occurs so rapidly and jerseys could make it onerous to visually find the hip.
Distance is solely how far the purpose of takeoff is from the basket.
Jumping over obstacles is spectacular, as a result of it makes all different components of the dunk harder. However, at all times examine whether or not the dunker pushes off the impediment whereas leaping over it, as a result of pushing up will increase the upward power and, when carried out correctly, will permit them to raise increased than they’re really in a position to leap.
Mike Theiler/AFP through Getty Images
3. Style: Watching what is finished within the air
Once airborne, dunkers carry out methods with the ball and gymnastics with their our bodies. Watch for whether or not their total bodily actions are easy and prolonged or jerky and abbreviated. Fully outstretching arms and prolonged, smoother actions demand higher energy and adaptability to keep up management of the ball and physique whereas airborne. If a dunker has bother sustaining management of the ball and their physique within the air, the legs and arms will probably be much less prolonged and actions will probably be abbreviated.
4. Power: Watching the end
Watch for a robust and clear end wherein the ball is dunked at a excessive velocity with out bumping the rim. On extra highly effective dunks there will even be higher motion of the online facet to facet or upward out of the basket.
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5. Innovation: Enjoy it
Dunkers can invent new ball actions and introduce never-before-seen variations. Sometimes they dream up entertaining methods to showcase their talents, corresponding to slapping a sticker excessive on the backboard, grabbing a stuffed animal hanging from the rim with their mouth or blowing out a lit birthday candle that’s on the rim as a part of the dunk.
Although the 2022 slam dunk contest has been criticized as “the weakest ever,” the rivals did introduce new dunks. Cole Anthony dunked in Timberland boots, that are considerably heavier than customary basketball footwear. Toppin, the competition winner, seems to have created a brand new mixture. While within the air, Toppin transferred the ball from one hand to the opposite below one leg, then moved the ball upwards, touching the backboard with the ball earlier than earlier than he slammed it.
My favourite dunks are those – identical to those I used to look at as a child – that encourage me go to the courtroom and create my very own.
This article has been up to date with new info and a photograph from the NBA’s 2022 slam dunk contest.
Justin Barber doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.