This would’ve been unheard of 30 years ago, back when Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins were vying for that superlative the only way they knew how: by having it out in front of millions on the art form’s biggest stage.
For LeBron, the record speaks as loud as the old saying: It’s good to be the king.
That was before this happened.
Paul George. Oh my, Paul George.
Even in a season where the rise of the Indiana Pacers’ newly-minted superstar has dominated headlines and highlight reels, this was something special.
So special, in fact, that it forces us to weigh in on a question that, just a few days ago, might’ve sounded absurd to the casual NBA fan: Who’s the better dunker, Lebron, or PG?
To help us answer this, we’ll be evaluating these two basketball behemoths based on three criteria: strength, style and utility.
Whoever captures the majority of the categories—based on my completely subjective (and probably biased) interpretations—will be declared the winner. The winner will receive a link to this article and some delicious cranberry bread I baked earlier today.
Round 1: Strength
If Darryl Dawkins invented this category, LeBron James has perfected it. He might not shatter the glass with the sheer force of a Chocolate Thunder or Shaquille O’Neal, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pound-for-pound rim-abuser than the King.
Ouch. That literally hurt to watch. Poor, poor Bill Walker.
OK, PG, what do you got for us?
Oh, wow. It certainly helps George’s cause that LeBron was intimately—or infamously—involved on this one. The rim-bend isn’t as pronounced, but the strength is definitely there, albeit more in the realm of sheer body control.
The winner: LeBron James
Round 2: Style
We’re letting George go first in this round and…yeah, we’re using that dunk from the top, because if that’s not stylish, I don’t know what is. Here it is again, in case you missed it the first time:
LeBron? Your retort?
The style points here are less for originality, weirdness or violence towards the rim as it is the sheer effortlessness with which LeBron pulls it off—like he could’ve gone around another 180-degrees if he wanted to. It’s just not fair.
The winner: Paul George
Round 3: Utility
For our purposes, we’re taking utility to mean intangibles—the ability to dunk in traffic, go over, through and around people, make the most out of an otherwise dicey situation, etc.
This is a different kind of creativity. There are no Superman outfits or cupcake candles, no 12-foot rims or SUVs. To be able to think on your feet or improvise and still pull off something incredible: That’s what makes a truly great NBA dunker.
So without further ado, I give you, Mr. LeBron (I’m not sure what his middle name is) James:
OK. Let’s quickly review the two major things that happened here:
1) LeBron James converted an incredible alley-oop.
2) LeBron James jumped over another NBA player’s head while that player was standing up. Who cares if it's John Lucas III?
Oh, and he did both of those things simultaneously.
That’s going to be tough to beat, I think. Your move, Mr. George.
I guess Paul George enjoys dunking for the Clippers. This is just pure poetry in motion, from the deft curl to the single-dribble gait to finishing a two-handed dunk over and around a guy who knows a little something about the science himself: Blake Griffin.
He dunked over Blake Griffin.
Before we get to the winner, let’s be clear: When it comes to dunkers of LeBron and George’s caliber, there are no losers, only winners—specifically, all of us.
That being said, someone has to go home angry tonight.
The winner: LeBron James
George’s internet-shattering slam helped serve some serious notice, but he has a ways to go before he compiles the caliber of catalog currently boasted by Bron Bron.
Sadly, it doesn’t look as though we’ll have a chance to officially settle the score any time soon.
While James has remained mostly mum about his intentions for this year’s Dunk Contest, George took the occasion of his latest exploit to announce that he would not be making an encore during next month’s All-Star Weekend in New York City.
Via Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:
Now certified as an in-demand NBA celebrity, George ranks second in the Eastern Conference in All-Star votes and will undoubtedly start in the game held on Feb. 17. George explained that he would rather take a respite and try to limit his schedule as much as possible.
"Exactly, I don't want to add to it by doing extra stuff," George said, responding to a comment that rest rarely happens during hectic All-Star weekends.
With LeBron squarely at his peak and George’s own Dunk Contest future now in doubt, it’s doubtful we’ll ever get to witness this generation’s version of Jordan-Wilkins.
So long as they keep doing this stuff during games, I suppose we’ll live—even if the rims and the Twitter feeds don’t.