MikeCheck: Morant’s vicious Game 5 dunk emphatically ranks among best in NBA playoffs history
MEMPHIS – Was Ja Morant’s vicious dunk over Timberwolves’ swingman Malik Beasley in Game 5 of the playoff series one of the greatest slams in NBA postseason history?
After sleeping on it overnight, I’m convinced it’s firmly in the discussion.
Apparently, I didn’t sleep on this debate alone.
That was the question pondered nationally across multiple sports highlight shows in the aftermath of the Grizzlies’ 111-109 comeback victory Tuesday at FedExForum. The win pushed Memphis ahead 3-2 in the best-of-7 series, one victory away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
Morant’s soaring, scissors-kick, tomahawk over Beasley late in the third quarter not only sparked the Grizzlies’ rally from another double-digit deficit, but it also kicked off debates across multiple media platforms the morning after the assault in the lane.
For example, ESPN Jay Williams on Wednesday ranked Morant’s dunk as the third best in NBA postseason history during the network’s popular Keyshawn, JWill & Max Morning Show.
It’s definitely got to be in the discussion as one of the greatest of all time,” Williams vehemently asserted on the morning show. “Just the degree of difficulty alone – and the fact that (Morant) had to physically go over a defender to get to the rim – puts it right up there.
Williams revealed his top-five playoff dunk rankings on Wednesday morning’s show. Topping the list was Shawn Kemp’s dunk-and-finger-point over Alton Lister in the 1992 playoffs between Seattle and Golden State. Second on Williams’ list was Baron Davis’ ‘climb-the-ladder’ facial in the 2007 playoffs over Andrei Kirilenko in the Warriors-Jazz series.
Morant’s Game 5 dunk placed third, according to Williams. And his top-five was rounded out by Kobe Bryant’s reverse dunk over Kevin Garnett in the 2003 Lakers-Timberwolves series at No. 4 and Scottie Pippen’s jam-and-shove attack on Patrick Ewing in the 1994 Bulls-Knicks series.
One of Williams’ co-hosts on the show, former NFL All-Pro receiver Keyshawn Johnson, then questioned the credibility of Williams’ ranking because he omitted Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving’s 1983 iconic windmill dunk over Michael Cooper in the Sixers-Lakers NBA Finals.
Still, the fact that Morant’s theatrics on the court continue to make national and global headlines proves the Grizzlies’ young superstar is certainly one of the NBA’s marquee attractions. Morant, 22, finished ninth in the league in global jersey sales, and the Grizzlies were No. 10 in overall team merchandise sales this season.
A first-time NBA All-Star and winner of the league’s Most Improved Player award, Morant has assembled a vast catalogue of highlight-reel dunks and other spectacular plays this season. But there might not be one bolder than when Morant sliced down the lane, took flight, cocked the ball well behind his head and threw it down as Beasley unsuccessfully tried to draw a charge.
The dunk cut Memphis’ deficit to 85-74 at the end of the third quarter, and the Grizzlies outscored the Timberwolves 37-24 in the fourth to rally for the win. The flush altered the course of the game and sent a capacity FedExForum crowd into a frenzy.
Perhaps the person least impressed by the feat was the man who executed the play.
It definitely ignited the crowd, gave us some energy. From then on, pretty much, (I was) just being very aggressive. I’m not going to speak on what else sparked me.
“I really wasn’t excited about the dunk – it was over a guard, that’s pretty easy,” the 6-foot-3 Morant said of flushing over the 6-4 Beasley. “It definitely ignited the crowd, gave us some energy. From then on, pretty much, (I was) just being very aggressive. I’m not going to speak on what else sparked me.”
Morant finished Game 5 with 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in his best overall performance of tough series against the Timberwolves. Entering Game 6 on Friday in Minnesota, Morant is averaging 22.4 points, 10.4 assists and 8.8 rebounds as the Grizzlies look to clinch their first playoff series victory since 2015 when they beat Portland in the first round.
The Grizzlies and Timberwolves have proved that any win in this series is hardly a slam-dunk.
But with Memphis this close to advancing, trust Morant to rise to the challenge.