LAS VEGAS – New Orleans forward Kenrich Williams put both hands on the back of his head, then stared at teammate Jaxson Hayes, like a stunned sibling who’d just watched his younger brother break a window or something valuable in their home.
Williams’ what-did-you-just-do disbelief personified many observers’ reaction to Hayes’ soaring dunk Monday over Chicago defender Mychal Mulder, a second-quarter slam featured Tuesday on countless websites – and an easy choice for SportsCenter’s No. 1 top play.
“I was just, ‘Woah! What was that?!’ ” Williams said, smiling. “He took the gravity out of the gym. Everybody was turned up after that dunk, and it really got us going from a team standpoint.”
The Pelicans went on to register a 109-72 thumping of the Bulls, partly behind Hayes’ game-best 28 points, but the talk of the night was the No. 8 overall draft pick’s jaw-dropping slam in Thomas & Mack Center. The 6-foot-11 Hayes called it the best dunk of his basketball career “by far,” having trouble naming a runner-up. In the hours after the highlight made the rounds everywhere on TV and the Internet, the University of Texas product’s phone was inundated with text messages. On social media, it was impossible for him to view every clip sent to him.
“I’ve seen the video close to a thousand times now,” the Cincinnati native said. “I’ve been tagged in it so many times. If you look at my tags, it’s at least 100. All my friends sent it to me, all of my family sent it. I’ve seen it over and over.”
Pelicans reserve Zylan Cheatham was getting a breather on the team’s bench at the time of Hayes’ dunk, but that gave him an ideal vantage point to witness the vicious jam.
“I had a perfect view of it,” Cheatham said, before providing a fitting description of Hayes’ elevation: “He went up, and then he went up again. It was like he jumped twice. His neck was at the rim. It was unbelievable to see a guy that tall and that long get that high in the air. Unbelievable.”
Although the highlight stunned Williams and many fans watching either in-arena or on TV, Cheatham was familiar enough with Hayes’ repertoire to expect something spectacular – just maybe not exactly that unusual.
“I knew he was very capable of something like that,” the Arizona State product said. “He’ll be walking around in Crocs and do a windmill dunk. He showed me videos of him doing a windmill from the free throw line. So I knew he could do it, but it was just crazy to see him do it in live action, especially in his first (summer league) game.”