When you think of dunk contests, there are several years which come to mind. 1985, when MJ and ‘Nique battled it out. Or 2000, when Vince Carter turned it into a one-man show. Or 1998, when things got crazy in St. Louis.
What’s that? You don’t know about 1998? Aw, son. Let me tell you what went down in St. Lizzy.
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In 1998, I was playing for a school with a funny name. It was Christian High School, located in the suburbs of St. Louis. It was a new high school, one that had apparently been named during a fit of minimalist zeal. 1998 was a banner year, for CHS was churning out its first graduating class, sending a brigade of precisely four seniors out to meet the world.
In a school so small, it was difficult to field many sports teams. Basketball was more or less the school’s calling card. CHS had not yet built its gym, so all of the home games had to be played at the local public school, or Public High School, if you will. Our boys team that year was remarkably average, in that I can’t even recall what our record was. I was the team’s center, a 6-7 tornado of elbows and knees that tipped the scales at a hearty 170 pounds. I fancied myself the gravest of defensive threats. This was not completely without merit: In our small classification, it was common to play against schools that had no tall players. I thus collected a great deal of blocked shots when 5-11 post players would pivot and fling the ball directly into my armpit.
The one area where I was genetically gifted was jumping. I had springy, effortless hops that allowed me to dunk the ball easily with either hand. During practice I would wow my earthbound teammates with reverse jams, and my patented “360,” which was actually a 270 with the final 90 being spastic flailing. Of course, at no point did I ever replicate these feats during games. I almost never dunked during games, for I was a teenage ninny who seized with fear whenever the ball landed in my hands.
At the end of the season we had a faculty game, where our team scrimmaged against a squad comprised of fathers and teachers. It was a lighthearted affair, an end of year celebration. This year, however, someone had decided that it would be a good idea to hold a dunk contest…the first such competition in school history.
Lost in the planning was the small issue of who
would could compete. There were only one and a half people in the entire school who could dunk a basketball. I had been quickly informed by the athletic director that I would be participating, whether I wanted to or not. The other “half” was a boy named John who could throw down about half the dunks he attempted. John was a large blond-haired preacher’s kid whose high school career consisted of lumbering from one pile of trouble to the next. He was also occasionally on the basketball team, whenever his various suspensions would permit.
To make up for this utter lack of talent, the school hatched a plan to bring in a mystery competitor. Almost immediately the secret was leaked: The plan was that the cheerleaders would form a human tower under the goal and then the girl on top would “dunk” a basketball. Pretty exciting, huh?