This article originally appeared on VICE Sports USA.
Here's a dunk that Aaron Gordon did during the Slam Dunk Contest during the NBA's All-Star Weekend. He did not win the Slam Dunk Contest, by the way.
What would it take for something to dethrone this as the NBA's Aesthetic Moment of the Year? Someone dunks on two guys at the same time and knocks them both over? A series of strategically placed hologram machines and some extraordinary athleticism enable a point guard to appear in two places on the court at the same time, like a mirage? A big man receives a pass out of a pick and roll, rises up, flushes a two-handed dunk, does a little pull-up to avoid a defender below, drops OFF the rim in a crouching position, lands in a squat with the sheer POWER from his dunk turns the wood floor beneath him in SPLINTERS, and then he reaches down to the ice rink under the court—it's one of those types of set-ups—and merges with the ice in a brief but VERY dramatic spiritual/physical type ceremony, this man-made ice invading his brain as he takes on a robotic affect and he spends the rest of the game with vapor pouring out of his body, performing all his tasks with unnervingly crisp precision. Is that what it would take?
Which is to say: it's hard to imagine it being done. Much like Trevor Booker's tapped-18-footer from last year, there's just something indomitable about a fella jumping into the air, grabbing a basketball, passing the basketball to himself underneath his ass, and dunking it with authority. I would not have guessed that Aaron Gordon had it in him to TAKE IT to Zach Lavine like that.
I've seen Zach do show dunks in person before. It's unreal. He's such a tiny, skinny man and then he goes all flying in the air and you never see the strings or the springs. It's as if he's lifted by magic. But then there's Gordon, this GIANT DUDE, powered right through all that magic with PURE FORCE OF WILL and bravery. What if he undershot that jump? He would have hit the side of the mascot's head, tumbled over on the wood, ribs all broken and akimbo, children everywhere SCREAMING, TNT broadcasting a rotating top down shot of Aaron collapsed on the hardwood, the life draining out of his eyes.
This is not the Chinese Dunk Contest competitor haplessly slamming his dick into the back of someone's head because he's delusional. Aaron Gordon could have died!
It would be justifiable to stop the column here, both because Aaron Gordon deserves no less and because there were very few NBA games on this week and last week. Instead, we will be devoting column space to COLLEGE PLAYERS. Are they worse at basketball? Yes, absolutely. Is the political structure in which they play absurd and not-so-faintly immoral? I suppose. Are their rules eccentric bordering on insane, like the kind of eccentric that gets rulemakers into a place where the term "Double Bonus" is supposed to just make sense? Oh, absolutely.
But the damned fires of NBA athleticism and preparations strip so much eccentricity from the game—everyone is just so good—that lower level situations manage to preserve, and gleaning those fields can reveal some golden nourishment.
Also, the All-Star game was surreally horrible. It was like they were playing with a third team of ghosts who kept them from touching each other and made sure they hoisted a three-pointer on every possession. To the task!
On the 7th of February, Minnesota guard Rachel Banham scored 60 points in a game against Northwestern. She broke the Big 10 record for scoring in a game and tied the all-time NCAA record. Kobe Bryant, a washed-up NBA player, congratulated her on the internet.
Blessedly, Minnesota shared a video of the performance with a little timer that counted the points at the bottom of the screen. It is amazing. Banham's lightning-fast pull-up shooting and creative body control reads, on screen, like a shrunk down dub remix of Steph Curry. I mean, look at this fucking nonsense:
SO QUICK! LIKE FIRE, consuming your cabin! Engaging your entire elbow and firing off a shot while someone WAY taller than you is trying to wave their hand in your face? Poetry! Then, this nonsense happens:
Truly, there is no finer manifestation of basketball's darkest art, the foul draw, than this. Driving to the basket, catching the center's attention, performing your layup with your outside hand, subtly moving into the help defender, taking the hit, falling to the ground as everyone on the court tries to figure out what just happened while your ball, acting as an extension of yourself, slides into the hoop.
You made them think they could stop you with force, but they can't. You are too subtle for force, too slippery. You are like water, you cannot be imprisoned by the hands of man, dribbling out of human fingercups.
And all of this happens in a half-full secondary gym. I know Chicago is a miserable frozen hellscape and everything, but you animals can't get out of the house to see a master craftsperson working at her wheel, every touch of her fingers creating a delicate canyon in the vase's countenance? You should all be ashamed of yourselves. You missed actual history.
I don't know how I feel about that pervy gopher, though:
Settle down, bud.
I've never gotten around to reviewing a DX video, so I will take this opportunity to file a note that applies to all of this fine organization's videos: these backing tracks are fucking terrible, fam. Pre-Garage Band string synths on top of fake drums that sound like canned noises someone made to punish dogs.
It doesn't work as Pump-Up Music, which I suspect was the intention. But why does this thing even need to get pumped up? When I go to DX, I'm not looking to feel pumped. I'm looking to read a website that will give me the deepest of deep-ass dirt. I want to feel like I'm not only already a smart dude who knows more about sports than everyone I know, but also that my thirst for a drink from the golden chalice of KNOWLEDGE is so profound, so great, that I will sit in a dark room and watch prepackaged scouting tape of my own free will. "I need to know this stuff," I'd say. "Get a leg up on the other dudes I talk about sports with."
Instead of trying to get me pumped, DraftExpress should pick music that will flatter my intellectual vanity, really square the circle of my glorious pursuit of fake knowledge. Maybe some light, tasteful baroque music, or a transporting New Age track, something that really says "Hey, this is serious stuff. You're here to get some scouting done, friend, and we're gonna help you."
I digress. Kay Felder is an undersized ball handling guard who attends the University of Oakland. His team plays on a court that was lightly dusted with microbes that burrowed deep into the wood and turned it a kind of living/dead green/grey color before the final layer of lacquer was applied to the hardwood. The resulting color evokes a kind of spiritual sickness.
A dirty tactic geared towards making their opponents feel like their bones are crawling out of their skins before tip-off, you have to think.
The video is standard DraftExpress in form. Here's Kay Felder driving to the rim. Here's Kay Felder spotting up after initiating the play. Here's Kay Felder pulling up. Here's Kay Felder fuckin' plowing into a dude on a drive, dribbling through the pain and the struggle.
The video loves Kay Felder. I mean, it's a "Strengths" video, so of course it's regarding him positively. But it goes beyond that. You see clips of Felder placed beside clips of All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, doing similar shit in a similar self-made bubble of untouchability. You read Felder's extremely impressive rate stats, his respectable steal rate. You see him play on the Pistons' floor, and seeing him there, even in that weird half-price college basketball lighting, you FEEL like this guy has NBA shit in his heart.
But, the title card:
"Wingspan: N/A" is maybe the cruelest thing I've ever seen written about someone, and not just basketball players. "Oh, I'm sure this man HAS a wingspan, but it's so small that we can't bring ourselves to DISCUSS IT. We don't own rulers that small." Here's this wonderful guard, playing his heart out for the viewer and the scout who made this video, but the audience is forced to regard him as an NBA Prospect, and NBA Prospects aren't generally 5'9, and there are mountains to climb, physical and social alike, for this guy. You hear a little voice in the back of your head whispering to you; "too shoooooooort...all the hustle in the world won't make him taaaaaaaallleeeer."
Felder dispatches his opponents so thoroughly and completely that they may as well not even be there. He's clearly a startling talent. Your judgements and biases fill the vacuum they leave behind. Felder appears to play against history. You want him to win so bad.
ONE MORE THING: there is a video error at 3:35.
When I went trolling for suggestions for this column, David Roth brought the name "Buddy Hield" to my attention. I have watched him. I am befuddled by him. He is simply too profound to be understood in such a narrow context. The feelings he makes are widespread and complicated. Slow moving but expansive. He is Solaris, maybe, or he is Russian Winnie-the-Pooh?
Loveable but philosophical? Slow-moving but somehow still jaunty? Sassy, but not totally self-possessed? He's aesthetically Russian, whatever he is.
Is Dick Vitale fundamentally a kitch figure? Is he campy? Would you buy a shirt from his basketball camp ironically?
Anyway, lot of questions.
POSTSCRIPT: I've been trying to find a decent Breanne Stewart mix for months, and it's just not there. If you make highlights on the internet, you should be at least a little embarrassed by how few decent mixes of women's players there are. If you made a cool Stewart mix, or know about a cool Stewart mix, please contact me and I will write about it.