This article is part of VICE Sports' 2016 NBA Playoffs coverage.
Getting dunked on is like getting caught masturbating, in that it's embarrassing and shameful and a sign of great personal weakness and incompetence. Anyone with even a third of a tactical mind is able to ascertain patterns of movement, anticipate what's going on, and prepare a contingency plan for bailing out at any second. If you get caught up in some shit and fuck up and get dunked on? That's your own fault, bud. Your parents sitting you down at the dinner table and telling you that it's natural just makes it even worse.
No one in our current NBA has fucked up more in this sense than Andrew Bogut. This guy just loves dropping back and contesting shots, even when he has absolutely no chance of getting off without getting caught. His lust for blocks is a raging storm in his body, one he is powerless to deny. It moves him, he listens, and then he pays the price:
Tragic stuff. So sad to see Bogut, who is known around the sport as such a kind and gentle man, get stabbed in the back by his supposed friend Draymond Green like that. Dray should have realized that Al-Farouq Aminu had spent his time on the Portland Trail Blazers learning to waltz with his deep inner rawness, teaching his body the score of one-two-three-dribble-dribble-dunk. Every offensive Aminu takes now, be it a drive or a spot-up three-pointer, seems like it's perpetually falling apart, but he always seems to snap back into form right as the ball goes through the hoop.
I get it, though. You can't watch all the available tape. And what is Draymond supposed to do here? It's not like Bogut is ever going to not get dunked on. He's always felt that evil pull. He seeks it out. It is impossible to watch this and see anything other than someone who likes what is happening to him:
Shameful. Cringe inducing. All that floppy hair, all that belief—gone in a second, torn apart by a dude who had to change his name to make it back to the NBA, and who is presently making his bones in the Croatian league. Look at Bogut watching Bill Walker catch the ball on the baseline. He squares his feet and stares, looking to reach for that golden block. He knows he can do it. He jumps in the air, expecting to feel the glow of victory when his feet land but is left with only the static chill of posterization.
Kevin Garnett can see the strings that yank a younger Andrew Bogut across the court. He knows about blocklust from his youth, but his painful experience in the NBA has tempered him, given him a control beyond control and an insight that probes the innermost parts of his enemies' minds. He uses this immense mental and spiritual power not only to dunk on Bogut but to give Bogut just the tiniest little nudge, to find the small patch of embarrassment and rip the cushion in half, exposing the hurt, broken fluff to the air, where it gets angry and shove-y for all to see.
Oh, the weakness the devil can see in our hearts! The temptations he makes for us!
Bogut and JaVale McGee on the edge of the paint. Bogut watches the ball; he's looking for a dribble drive, somewhere, anywhere, that he can snuff out. He doesn't see JaVale describe a lovely little arc on the court. The pass, from a future teammate, seals Bogut's fate. A dunk. A fall. A yank of the arm, the final indignity. But not really final, because...
Bogut's masochistic relationship to getting dunked on knows no bounds. After his career is over, he begins to crave the rush of shame and embarrassment in his day-to-day life. It's the only thing he misses about the NBA: the titles felt hollow and pointless, the money was ultimately only good for food and fire, the thrill of victory a little buzz compared to the gut-wrenching anguish of getting mushed in public.
And so Bogut collects his fortune, sells all his possessions. He hires scientists. Genetic engineers. Theoretical physicists. They create a Bogut clone with some moderate tweaks—even moister hair, improved face rug, marginally shorter stature, an unceasing look of existential terror and focus—and send him back in time, where he is raised by two time-traveling nannies who subject him to a brutal physical and psychological conditioning program. In time, he attracts the attention of Duke University recruiters. They call him Josh.
Then, one day, it all comes together: Andrew Bogut is finally able to see Andrew Bogut, or the essence of Andrew Bogut—nature? nurture? Let's talk about it!—roll down that dusty lane and dunk on Andrew Bogut himself. It is the only moment where he feels truly alive.
FINAL GRADE FOR WATCHING ANDREW BOGUT GET DUNKED ON OVER AND OVER: A+
LEBRON OF THE WEEK
The NBA tide has turned, and public perception of LeBron James as a golden basketball god amongst sweaty mortals is on the wane. "Steph Curry this," speaks the rabble. "Steph Curry that." Because LeBron has continued to be blazingly, crazily great in the Golden State Warriors' supernova shadow, we will explore one quality LeBron highlight a week:
We have so many bad habits: smoking, drinking, chewing our fingernails. They do not define us, and yet we can come to feel trapped by them. Here, LeBron shows us that triumphing in our self-imposed trials is merely a matter of will and strength.
You might think about these problems as if they were Tony Allens, Andre Iguodalae: impossible puzzles, scanning your every move, thinking about where to cut you off next, how to feed you into the big man. But I encourage you to close your eyes and envision your problems in the form of Kyle Korver. They try, certainly, and they are big enough to cover you when you're spotting up. But you are not a spot-up shooter; you are the primary force, a superstar, born to succeed. You have it in yourself to pick up that ball and use your mental girth and physical speed to simply displace the Kyle Korver–shaped problem and dunk your goals in the rim. Go get it.
I've expressed ambivalence about Kawhi Leonard's very dour game in the past, but I want to really go out of my way to express support for this insane, flipsy-doo dunk. It's like watching your CEO aunt, the sternest and most tightly controlled person you know, a person who has only doled out affection to you on maybe five occasions, rise up and bang on, uh, Russell Westbrook.
This play also foreshadows the end of the game. Here, Westbrook should have seen what was coming and stopped the break with an on-the-floor foul. On the final possession of Game 5, LaMarcus Aldridge made the same miscalculation and was granted secondary blame for the botched foul-game possession:
Spooky. The fluid stuff of our lives truly moves in waves. Thanks for reading!