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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled Can Steph Curry Dunk?

According to the invaluable Basketball-Reference, Steph Curry has scored via dunk 15 times in his NBA career. And so one might say that the answer to the question up in the headline of this blog is, “Yes, of course he can dunk, you fool. He has dunked, he is capable of dunking, he can dunk.” In fact, one might even say, “Why is this even a blog post at all? This is dumb.”

But ah-HA!, another one might reply. What do we mean when we say a person “can dunk”? Is this not a question of the meaning of dunking? Of sports? Of human potential? Is it not in fact your takes that are dumb?


“Ah Christ,” that first one might reply.

But hang on, dammit! Let us not blindly accept the “stats.” Let us engage our human critical thinking faculties! Let us examine the hard evidence for ourselves, and draw our own conclusions, and bicker about them, like free-thinking individualists!

Basketball-Reference credits Curry with one dunk this season; according to the possibly even more useful NBA stats site, it came against the shitty Brooklyn Nets, on November 14th, in Oakland. Here is a crappy .gif I made of it:



How sure are you that this truly is a dunk? I mean, the ball goes through the rim, and Steph Curry then briefly touches the rim with his fingers, but does he fuckin’ stuff it? I submit to you that he does not, wiseass!


Here one may say, “Hey, asshole, who are you to tell Basketball-Reference and the NBA itself that they are full of shit? If they say it is a dunk, by crumb that is good enough for America.” Ah, but is this not a smarmy appeal to authority? Does this not flag one as a sniveling crypto-fascist? Has one not identified oneself as all that is wrong with the kids today? Are those two websites not, in fact, full of shit?

Consider this basket from last night’s game between Curry’s Warriors and the lousy Phoenix Suns, which I helpfully have rendered into a .gif no less trash than the other one up there:


Is this a dunk? The NBA’s stats site doesn’t think so: the play-by-play record of last night’s game lists it as “Curry 3’ Cutting Layup Shot.” Layup shot. Not dunk.

“So the damn hell what?” one might say. “It’s not the same as the one against the Nets. He doesn’t get rim this time.”


Ah-HA! Or does he????????????????????

(Skip to 0:30 if video doesn’t automatically start there, and blow it up to HD so that you can see. Via YouTube.)


“Eh, I mean, it still kinda looks like maybe he doesn’t touch the rim,” one might say. One is being kind of a jackass at this point, to be honest.


But actually, whether he gets his fingers on the rim is irrelevant, both to the question of whether these buckets differ meaningfully from each other, and to the question of whether either of these buckets is a dunk. Touching the rim doesn’t matter! It’s bullshit! This was a trap all along! Fuck you!

I’ll prove it. I will prove “Fuck you” beyond a reasonable doubt. Here is a real friggin’ dunk, also from last night:

Video via NBA.

How sure are you that this rando Philadelphia basketball man touches the rim with his fingers? I am not sure at all. And yet no one, anywhere, who is not a paste-munching shit-for-brains, would dispute that this is a dunk, and a glorious one, a veritable posterization. Why?


Because touching the rim with some part of the hand that held the basketball at some point during the motion of scoring a basket is not what makes a dunk a dunk. Throwing the ball down through the rim from above is what makes a dunk a dunk.

Can Steph Curry do that? From one point of view, sure:

Video via YouTube.

But from another point of view: Hmmmmmmmmmm. That is an interesting question! What does it really mean? When you ask whether an NBA player can dunk, what are you, in fact, asking? Is saying an athlete has done something the same as saying he can?


In a 2001 game against the Buffalo Bills, Peyton Manning, then with the Indianapolis Colts, faked a handoff, rolled to his left, and sprinted untouched for a 33-yard touchdown. Do you think it would have been reasonable for an observer to say, at the time, that the famously lead-footed quarterback “can rip off a 33-yard rushing touchdown”? Any observer who said so would have been exposed as a fool, no matter how many videos might exist of Peyton Manning running for 33 yards on a football field during practice or warmups or for fun or to show off. That run is the longest rushing touchdown of Manning’s actual playing career ... by 21 yards! Set it aside, and the average distance he’s traveled on the 17 other rushing touchdowns he’s scored in his 18 years in the NFL is 3.94 yards. Peyton Manning cannot rush for long touchdowns. He never really could. But he has.

This gets right to the real and best reason to watch world-class sports in the first place: To see people exceed themselves! To see the rules of the sport and the brilliance of the competitors produce outcomes that cannot be explained by either! To exalt in the wonder and irrepressible anarchic capacities of humankind!


Of course Peyton Manning couldn’t rush for 33-yard touchdowns! Of course David Tyree couldn’t catch high arcing passes by pinning them with one hand to the side of his helmet while multiple large aggressive persons manhandle him! Of course Ken Griffey Jr. couldn’t catch scorching fly balls by backhanding them at a dead sprint while crashing into hard outfield walls! Of course Sleepy Floyd couldn’t put up 29-point quarters and pretty much singlehandedly defeat world-historically great NBA teams in the playoffs. They just did. This is what makes those feats memorable; it is what makes the athletes who performed them great athletes. Of course they couldn’t do those things. But they did.

And so, yes: Steph Curry has dunked. That doesn’t mean he can. He can’t. Dude’s hops are fucking trash.


Top photo via AP

Contact the author at or on Twitter @albertburneko.

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