Poster dunks are the most visceral part of basketball.
There aren’t many other things in the course of a game that elicit a physical response.
During the 2016 Dunk Competition, Aaron Gordon dunked the ball after putting it under BOTH of his legs in midair (#AaronGordanWasRobbed).
That dunk made me jump off my couch, throw my hands in the air, and scream.
A poster dunk is the in-game version of that.
The best part of a poster dunk is the reaction. Fans, benches, and supporters of the dunker will go berserk in jubilation.
But the best way to really gauge the devastation of a poster dunk is to look at the reaction of the opposing bench and fans (AKA the supporters of the player that just got dunked on).
They know that they must show positive body language for the support of the team. But in the moment, they can’t help but react. The mind is willing, but the body is weak.
I first became fascinated by this subject during the 2016 NBA Season when Larry Nance Jr. tried to end Brook Lopez’s career.
(Perhaps it was after this moment that Brook Lopez decided he didn’t want to be anywhere near the paint and became the 7’ Splash Brother.)
There are three groups of people to pay attention to when a poster dunk happens:
Let’s breakdown each in more detail.
1. Player Reactions
Here are some important things to consider when judging player’s reactions:
- How long did it take to regain composure and how was is played off?
- How do they play it off?
- How loyal is the player to the team?
How much time did it take to regain composure?
The bench has to regain composure as quickly as possible, lest the victim of the poster see their authentic reaction.
On that Nance/Lopez dunk, within 2 seconds the Brooklyn bench goes from this:
Actually, let’s just watch it on loop:
This isn’t bad and, to be fair, Brooklyn was a young team.
Veteran/playoff teams generally perform much better in this category. Those guys have seen some stuff and there is usually a teammate that quickly reels everyone in.
How was it played off?
- Spencer Dinwiddie, Luis Scola, and Randy Foye intelligently look away and pretend to be focusing on the other side of the court as to not make eye contact.
- Trevor Booker is trying so hard to gain composure that he can’t remember what to do with his hands.
- Caris LaVert is probably an incredible poker player. He simply shifts back in his seat and keeps a straight face.
- Bojan doesn’t need to play it off because he wasn’t paying attention to begin with. Perhaps he was daydreaming about one day being in the Western Conference.
How loyal is the player to the team?
Loyalty plays an important role in a player’s reaction. If you’ve been with a teammate for a while, you’re going to put on a brave face for them.
But journeymen players don’t have that connection.
Randy Foye played on eight teams within 12 seasons in the NBA. We can probably safely assume his loyalty to the Nets was not the highest in his lone season in Brooklyn (his last season in the NBA).
Compare his reaction to someone like Caris LaVert, who was a rising star on the Net’s until he got traded.
The faces don’t lie.
2. Fan reactions
Fans do not have to regain their composure as quickly as the bench so their reactions can really marinate. Any reaction is appropriate if it is authentic.
The two most common fan reactions are the “hands on the head/what did I just see” and the classic “hand over my mouth/OMG”.
We’re not going to explore this one in depth, but one thing you’ll find consistent in these dunks is that coaches almost never react. Especially assistant coaches. Assistant coaches never flinch.
I don’t know what kind of sensory deprivation chamber they put those guys in, but they have the emotional range of Kawhi Leonard.
Now that we have an idea of what we’re looking for, let’s examine a few more exhibits of amazing player and fan reactions.
Amazing Player Reactions
Watch the top left of the screen. In this veteran move, Jason Maxiell pretends to tie his shoe after watching Amar’e Stoudemire posterize Greg Monroe.
Loyalty to the team — Greg Monroe Sidebar
Speaking of Greg Monroe…
We need to take a second to talk about him.
Greg Monroe is probably dead last in all-time team loyalty rankings.
Exhibit A: Look at his reaction to Brandon Knight laying on the ground after the DeAndre Jordan massacre.
Exhibit B: Here’s his reaction to Joel Embiid baptizing Aron Baynes.
Exhibit C: This was him after Kelly Oubre put the ball back on Pascal Siakam’s head.
Greg Monroe is that guy playing pick-up who, mid-game, asks the next team if they have five.
Amazing Fan Reactions
Thanks to the obscure camera angles we get in college basketball, this clip of Ja Morant’s monster slam vs. Alabama is ALL fan reactions.
This is the quintessential fan reaction clip because every reaction is authentic and it includes just about every type of fan reaction.
Here are some highlights:
Putting face into hands because you can’t stand to see anymore.
Jumping back because you’re genuinely terrified.
And my personal favorite:
Taking your hat off to show reverence.
If you’re itching for more, here is a great compilation put together by HoopTube on YouTube.
Next time you’re watching a basketball game and there is a thunderous poster, you’ll know where to look to see how vicious it really was. 👀