I threw down my first alley-oop dunk in 1995 (video evidence). It’s a feeling of exhilaration I’ll never forget. Toss in the mandatory taunting victory lap around the basement (er...court) as my hapless brother looked on and it’s fair to say NOTHING in sports beats a good lob and jam.
Which is why, as a Trail Blazers follower, I’m deeply disappointed in the current incarnation of the team. Damian Lillard and company completed only 13 lob jams all season — 26(!) players had more alley-oops than the entire Portland roster!
With Jusuf Nurkic, who jumps about as high as Arvydas Sabonis circa 1997, and Ed Davis occupying the center spot, the Blazers just don’t have the personnel to consistently convert lobs. Pat Connaughton led the team with only SIX ‘oops all season!
Making Kevin Calabro do play-by-play for this roster is like forcing the Schonz to only call Steph Curry free throws. The world needs more magic carpet rides.
Alley-oops and the Blazers?! A more likely pair than you might suspect.
It’s no secret that I’m not exactly excited about next season for the Blazers, and there aren’t a lot of ways to “fix” the roster this summer. So I’m setting a simpler expectation: Get an alley-ooper onto the roster and make the Blazers fun again.
Spectacular dunks may not be worth much from a purely basketball standpoint but, damnit, they’re enough to get most of us to stand up and cheer. If the Blazers aren’t going to contend for the title in the immediate future they might as well generate some moments of euphoria that turn guys like Will Barton into fandom touchstones.
Team history is littered with alley-oops that transcend win totals and preseason expectations. Examples:
- The Spanish AIRmada of Sergio and Rudy took backdoor cuts to the next level.
- Rasheed Wallace’s go-go gadget arms made the impossible look probable.
- Clyde Drexler used to glide out of the gym.
- Billy Ray Bates, Nicolas Batum, and Lillard all converted alley-oops to win games.
- Of all players, Thomas Robinson and Will the Thrill etched themselves into Blazers lore on a single play.
- Heck, in 1977 Bill Walton crushed back-to-back alley-oops on a broken foot in the final minute of game 7 of the Finals to give the franchise its only championship.
(That’s a playlist because I know nobody’s going to click on eight video embeds in a row.)
To make matters even worse, Lillard is a capable and willing alley-oop passer (if anything, he’s underrated!) but he hasn’t had a chance to show off that skill since Mason Plumlee left the team. It’s gotten to the point that casual followers were doubting Lillard’s alley-oop ability when DeAndre Jordan-to-Portland rumors were floated in February.
Give Dame a rangey-teammate and imagine what kind of passes he’ll throw now knowing that people doubted his lob-ility!
Please, Neil, we’re begging.
So, Neil Olshey, if you’re reading this, throw the loyal BlazersManiacs a bone and figure out a way to get a highlight-worthy lob dunker into the Red and Black this offseason.
We know that the offense will still look more like the Rockets than the Warriors as long as Dame and CJ are the only viable threats. We know that more lob passes won’t magically push the Blazers into 50+ wins territory. We know that highlights can’t fix the cap issues. And we know that dunks won’t transform CJ into an all-star or make Nurk an efficient scorer (wait, actually...).
But it would be exhilirating and exciting and we might even see a victory lap or two around some basements. Bring back the alley-oop and make the Blazers fun again.