Feb. 14, 2004. Yes, Valentine's Day. A trap for NBA fans looking
to slip traditional obligations in favor of Saturday night All-Star
Of course, that was not my problem.
No fancy date, no flowers. I was hanging with a buddy: two 20-year-old
college kids sealed in Sacramento, Warriors fan transplants from the
Bay Area buried in the Kings' purple success.
This night was all we had.
The only romance for a Warriors fan in the early 2000s was the success
of back-to-back slam-dunk champion Jason Richardson—a lone source of
pride lost in Golden State’s perennial losing seasons.
This was a night for Warriors fans, and our only dates were the
beer bought with a fake ID, only to attempt returning later because we
thought the born-on date was an expiration date.
We sat with warm Coors Light, watching Richardson, again the favorite in 2004.
In 2002, he finished the Slam Dunk Contest with a lofting bounce pass from
the three-point line, followed by a high catch turned into a
180-degree finish behind his head. His legs jumped out from beneath
him, closed with a torque of his upper body to provide force in the
He followed that act in 2003 when he executed one of the greatest
dunks in contest history. He won his second consecutive dunk title
when he set himself up with a baseline bounce, ripped the ball from
its peak, circled the ball backward through the legs and threw it in
with a left-handed reverse.
So, on Valentine’s night in 2004, expectations were heightened for an
event owned by Warriors fans.
Richardson, though he ultimately finished runner-up to Fred Jones,
provided one of my greatest All-Star memories when he came with it
again. He tossed the ball high off the glass, caught mid-chest
and mid-leap before shifting the ball through his legs and throwing it
through with a right tomahawk.
Richardson’s power was matched with a quality of grace, completing a
dunk off the glass and between the legs, cementing him as one of the
greatest Slam Dunk Contest names of all time.
-Memory courtesy of Jimmy Spencer, NBA League-Wide FC (@Jimmypspencer)