Rider's dunk was completey different than anything seen before.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

By Brad Friedman


NBAguy4503: do u remember isaiah rider's east bay funk dunk?
Blazejp80: who could forget?
Blazejp80: we all tried to do it on the 8' hoops in jr high
NBAguy4503: what was your reaction when he did that dunk?
Blazejp80: I think i soiled myself

-- Recent Instant Messenger conversation with a college friend


Isaiah Rider's East Bay Funk dunk, the one that helped him seal the 1994 Dunk Contest, remains my favorite All-Star memory not just because of the sheer magnificence of the moment, but also because everything that led up to it.

Rider was a cocky kid less than a year removed from UNLV, the Running Rebels, the program that symbolized what it meant to go against the grain. When the nation's second-leading scorer was inducted into the NBA on Draft night in June 1993, you could tell just by the conviction that Rider put on his Minnesota Timberwolves cap with that he believed in himself.

After shaking David Stern's hand that night and heading for an interview with TNT's Craig Sager, Rider boldly told the national television audience, "If I get in the Slam Dunk Contest, I guarantee I'm taking it. I'm telling everybody right now."

I was immediately hooked on this unique character. How could you not be? Rider's arrogance had a certain charm to it.

With Rider's guarantee of a slam dunk victory came a guaranteed spot in the event. After all, we had to see how this story would end. And there was no better stage for that ending to take place than Minneapolis' Target Center -- Rider's new NBA home and site of 1994 NBA All-Star Weekend.

With the basketball world watching and the Timberwolves fans cheering him on, Rider was the center of attention that Saturday night. I followed the action on television from a friend's basement, feasting on takeout Chinese, as Rider upstaged some impressive competition -- Shawn Kemp, Robert Pack, Antonio Davis, James "Hollywood" Robinson -- and Allan Houston (who's off-the-head bounce dunk was one of the most comedic moments in contest history but excludes him from the aforementioned category).

But when, I wondered, would Rider pull out the East Bay Funk Dunk, the between-the-legs, fly-to-the-basket slam he made famous in the 1993 NCAA Dunk contest?

Turned out Rider was saving his best for last. In the final round, Rider walked to the corner baseline and took off toward the hoop, elevating with one foot just inside the paint and putting the ball between his legs before powerfully jamming it home.

"Oh my god, that might be the best dunk I've ever seen," said a startled Charles Barkley as my friend and I exchange high-fives like we had something to do with it. "I don't know if I've seen a dunk like that before. That was awesome."

With the victory clinched and a trophy in hand, Rider was reunited with his old buddy Sager, offering the newly crowned 1994 NBA Slam Dunk Champion a chance to brag.

"When I was drafted, I said I was going to win it and I backed up what I said," Rider told the world. "So, you know, I got to love myself for it."

We had to love you, too, Isaiah. We had to love you, too.

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