Better Now Than June
FreeDarko is where you come for the NBA news you can't get anywhere else, the opinions that threaten convention. How about this one: That Amar'e Stoudemire dunk on Tolliver really was something. Yes, I know, a play almost instantly enshrined as the best of the season (that would make him the real Dunk Champ, btw, since "In-Game Contest" is impossible to pull off). For whatever reason, it didn't really sink in with me at the time. Maybe I was traveling at the time. But as I saw it—numerous times, though mostly in slow-motion—the Tolliver dunk was mostly about force and demolishment. Great, and the kind of thing that will break the dunk news cycle wide-open (or get it going at all, if that makes more sense). I even bought the Dunk of the Year line; sure, it was dramatic and the quintessential soul-killing assault. That's what the D-League is for, I guess.
As much as I like what Amar'e has done to his game since that fateful injury—the day, you could say, that FD lost its innocence and started chipping away at its will to live—I've always wondered if that physical phenom would ever return. I've tried, extensively at times, to convince myself that it didn't matter, or that it happened but only made sense on the level of words and reason. Yet watching him dunk, I saw something admirable, booming, but just a little sad. That spark of the divine was lost forever, so I thought, left to the likes of Tyrus Thomas—who, let's face it, never knew how to control and enact it like Amar'e. Since the days of Kemp, no dunker has as infernally mixed up size, speed, strength, reflex, and yes, savagery like 2004-05 Amar'e Stoudemire. Young Shaq coming from the other side of the spectrum, and Howard, great as he is, is more like Amar'e last season than this.
(Note: Eric Freeman is responsible for designating this the official AMARE IS BACK dunk. I expanded on that theme. I do not cheat voluntarily.)
I am not merely overworked, or cynical, or intent on my own death. For whatever reason, though, it didn't occur to me that this might be a revelatory moment, that the buzz might be over something more than kickin' ass and spoilin' shorts. Then, at some point during yesterday's playoff vigil, I watched it again. At full-speed, over and over again. That's when I realized two things: Fiddling with the speed and angle of a dunk on a replay detracts from it. Show it quick and dirty like it happened, for only then can we truly gauge its magnitude. And, two, that was the Amar'e of old. Most of you probably knew this weeks ago, but he tore right through Tolliver and into the rim while barely touching the ground; generating immense power so quickly, so effortlessly, that "delicate" needs to be added in there somewhere.
So yeah, I'm suddenly really excited to watch the Suns today. Let's take one more look and listen.