Before BallinEurope signs off for 2011, let’s give a late Christmas gift to the dunkaholics out there, shall we? Below runs a collection compiled through the year featuring dunks by Europeans, on Europeans or perhaps simply in Continental games.
The first 20 will listed by competition, followed the top five runners-up and the champion jam of the year. Who will be no. 1? Read (and watch) on to find out…
• The Dunking Ninja. Of course, you knew Jan Vesely was making this list, so we’ll dispense with the formalities quickly. Here’s a nice, wide-open alley oop that earned him dunk of the in February during the Euroleague’s Top 16 round. Vesely started the 2011-12 as a first-round draft pick with the Washington Wizards, thereby immediately entering into the conversation of coolest NBA nicknames – though one wonders just how many ninja there are in the Czech Republic…
• Pargo-go-go! Another must-have representative of Euroleague jammery, Jeremy Pargo turned in this YouTube-able masterpiece was only number three from an EL Top 16 round game against Virtus Roma. Like Vesely, we’ll see this guy in this list again.
• EL, meet AK-47. European basketball in 2011 will be remembered for the impact of locked-out NBA stars in the early going of the season. Andrei Kirilenko was particularly useful to CSKA Moscow’s fortunes in Euroleague round one, beginning on opening night in Lithuania. (And what’s this? He’s coming back for another tour of duty with the Red Army? Look out, Europe…)
• Sonny Weems for Žalgiris Kaunas, episode one. One NBAer who couldn’t/didn’t reemigrate to North America once the lockout was lifted was the former Toronto Raptor. As a free agent, Weems was one of the first such to sign in Europe for 2011-12, and boy are Žalgiris backers happy. Here’s Weems going to work against Unicaja Malaga…
• Sonny Weems for Žalgiris Kaunas, episode two. … against Brose Baskets Bamberg …
• Sonny Weems for Žalgiris Kaunas, episode three. … and finally in the win-or-go-home Euroleague game 10 against KK Zagreb. The man’s 17.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per EL game ain’t too shabby, either.
• Pau, when the Lakers looked invincible. Remember the days when these no-look pass from Lamar Odom to Pau Gasol was so routine? Seems like a long time ago, dunnit?
• Jolly good, Mr. DeRozan! The big league came to play in London in March, and whoo boy, did fans get bang for their pounds sterling: The Saturday night game ended up a triple-overtime thriller between the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets. Though the Nets ended up with the W, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan contributed a worth-the-admission-price dunk late.
European domestic leagues
• Bryce Taylor’s “Monsterdunk” in Bundesliga championship game five. Slamming home perhaps the jam of the season from Germany, the former University of Oregon contributed this two for Alba Berlin in the decisive championship game while utterly posterizing Predrag Suput. Nevertheless, Suput’s Brose Baskets Bamberg took the game, the title and Germany’s Euroleague spot for 2011-12.
• “Le poster absolut”. Speaking of posters, check out what Diabate Souleyman did to Cliff Hammonds back in early January for Chorale Roanne. As the man says, <
• Kerusch crushes. And one more. This time the victim was Olympiacos’ Kyle Hines, beaten badly by current rookie Sergio Kerusch of Aris Thessaloniki.
• Kevin Harley: King of the skies, pain. Playing with the Poitiers Basket junior team, Harley got YouTube junkies (ahem) sitting up and taking notice with this insane liftoff … and splashdown. The youngster was “more frightened than hurt” and was able to finish the game.
• Hendrix kisses the sky. In October, while seemingly every other European player was still finding the rhythms, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Richard Hendrix blasted off in a Chance Cup game against Barak Netanya. With the Euroleague side already well into a laugher and up 81-41 in the third quarter (final score 117-66), Hendrix goes…
• Dar Tucker takes two dunk contests in one year. Yesterday in the slam-dunk festivities in France, Tucker reportedly smoked his competition, easily notching top scores in all three rounds to take the title. This trophy will look nice on his shelf set next to the D-League slam dunk championship he bagged in January. After the contest, Tucker said, “I was very surprised at the level of the competition. There are very good dunkers in France. Max [Kouguere] was particularly good!” (BiE thinks he was just being polite.)
• Two from Poland. Yeah, yeah, the car and the choir were great, yadda yadda. But let’s see Blake Griffin try to reproduce either the visual tribute to His Airness Himself executed by Cameron Bennerman of Energa Czarni or the six-cheerleader leap by winner Łukasz Biedny.
• Europe’s unlikeliest dunk champion. In Germany’s All-Star weekend festivities earlier this year, it was an against-all-odds storyline as Salu Benjamin Tadi took the crown. Why such a longshot? Well, in the unique format of the BBL’s dunk contest, a qualifier is held among second-division amateur players prior to the main event; the winner gets to compete against the Bundesliga pros in the final. You can catch a few rough drafts of the winning jam by clicking here, but the hangtime achieved in the contest ender by the 6’0” Tadi is truly Jordanesque.
• Yi gods! While August was mostly devoted to national teams participating in friendlies leading up to Eurobasket and other continental tournaments, there wasn’t a lack of highlight clips. Here’s Yi Jianlian contributing one of Team China’s sole happy moments in the London Invitational Tournament against Croatia. That’s mostly Stanko Barac on the receiving end.
• Enes Kanter learns Bill Walton’s dictum. One of the great pleasures of Eurobasket 2011 was studying the performances of exciting up-and-comers such as Team Turkey’s Kanter going up against concentrations of the world’s best talent. While Kanter was hot-and-cold in the tournament, the sidelining of Pau Gasol for the Spain-Turkey match allowed the young Turk to do some damage against brother Marc. And his team stayed alive in the tourney with the win. Throw it down, big man!
• Boom, goes Batum. Nicolas Batum against Russia – damn, has he always been that quick?
• Hometown lad makes good. Things ended disappointingly for Team Lithuania, but the youngest player on the squad, prospective Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas was inspirational. Inspirational enough, in fact, to inspire a song.
• Beaver brazenly breaks backboard. During the summertime lull, the Oregon State University basketball time visited some teams in FYR Macedonia and thereabouts for exhibition games and general goodwill. And then Roberto “Maybe I’m Strong” Nelson took it to the hole … one wonders in OSU Athletics picked up the tab on the destruction – not to mention the 20 stitches Nelson’s face required.
• The return of the Dunking Ninja. Jan Vesely. Euroleague Top 16 round. Game four. What else do you need to know?
• Air Pocius strikes for Team Lithuania. BiE just loves Martynas. Does this guy actually have invisible wings?
• Dirk dunks a dagger. It’s tough not to give Nowitzki top honors in this “Year of Dirk,” but the big (and now beringed) guy can rest easy with the memories of blowing past Lebron James and The Evil Empire on the baseline in game five of the NBA championship; this one came in the fourth quarter, naturally.
The dunk of the year
• Jeremy Pargo in the Euroleague Final Four. Just look at the way Pargo has to work his way through Real Madrid’s half-court defense. Just look at where he takes off. Just admire the landing. This one would get a 10 from any judge – maybe even Charles Barkley. All things considered, this was the dunk of 2011.