Slam Dunk (da Funk)

James Eric Prichard

The academic year here drags on, not dying until we are solidly into summer. One might say that Lawrence is the NBA of colleges. One could draw additional parallels between the institutions: exams are like the playoffs, Jill Beck is like David Stern, etc. Making these comparisons is ill-advised because these institutions are fundamentally disparate. School sucks and basketball is awesome.
Academic assignments require you to read books, do long division or some other activity that is in no way enjoyable. Basketball assignments are better: your homework for today is to watch a basketball game! For extra credit, you can order pizza.
Some might mistakenly play fantasy basketball, but this exercise is a little overreaching. Being a nerd in basketball is just as bad as being a nerd in school. Following teams and players throughout the years is acceptable, and this firsthand appreciation can lead to knowledge about the sport and league that does not pass into the realm of being nerdy. Once you make an imaginary team of players and refer to even second-stringers by their first names, however, you cross the line.
Fantasy basketball is derisible for two reasons. First, it’s nerdy in that it approaches a leisurely pastime with scholastic intensity. Those who play it care too much and try too hard, and caring about something is decidedly “uncool.” Second, it removes its participants from the reality by creating a world inside their heads in which they manage athletes and are friends with them off the court and sometimes go to dinner with them. Fantasy basketball belongs to the same vein of delusionary interests as “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.”
Fantasy basketball also fails in that none of the leagues give out extra points for dunks. Dunking is by far the best part of basketball, and the delusionary nerds of fantasyland do not acknowledge this self-evident truth.
Once I got into an argument with a librarian at my hometown library over which was more important, dunking or three-point shooting. I was around 12 years old. His argument was that a three-pointer is technically worth more points. My argument was that dunking is awesome. He was 35 years old, but looked like he still collected Magic cards. I think you can guess who left the disagreement the victor.
One great thing about dunking is its versatility. No one makes 360 jump-shots or tomahawk lay-ups, but these options are possible with the almighty dunk-shot. Dunking allows more freedom and is thus more American.
You can use dunking as a litmus test to judge the worth of a basketball game or league. When LeBron James, a player in the NBA, dominates another team with his dunkwork, the game is exciting and thus good. Does a particular league feature teamwork and fundamentals? If so, it probably does not contain a lot of dunking and is therefore pretty boring. This boring league could be called the Weaker National Basketball Association.
The NBA realized the power of the dunk and that is why they wisely created the Slam Dunk Contest, to showcase the greatest aspect of the game. Then they had to create the Three-Point Shootout so that white people would have something of which they could be proud.
If people really wanted to make the analogy between Lawrence and the NBA, they would have to discover a good parallel for the dunk. Even though I’ve expressed my distaste for the LU/NBA analogy, I would say that it would be proper to call weekends the dunk-shot of Lawrence, because they are the best part about school much like dunks are the best part of basketball.