The Art Of Backboard Breaking: Darryl Dawkins Vs. Shaq

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 11:  Shaquille O'Neal #33 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in action during their game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on January 11, 2010 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It is the most exciting play in basketball. The dunk elicits screams, oohs, and ahhs from the crowd and makes the highlight reels. However, the rim ripping, glass shattering, backboard breaking dunk is the one that silences the crowd, stuns the analysts, and is crammed into the history books.

Seeing a backboard break in an actual NBA game is as rare as seeing a pitcher toss a perfect game, and it is something that everybody in the arena will always remember. It is the dunk that you will tell your grandkids about if you ever do get to see one live.

When a basketball fan sees the occasional broken backboard, they will generally think of one of two players: Darryl Dawkins or Shaquille O'Neal.

The question then arises: Which one of these doctors of dunk was the better rim rocker? That is, who was better at bringing down the backboard?

Darryl Dawkins

Possibly one of the most interesting characters in NBA history, Chocolate Thunder was the original rim ripper. The first time he broke the backboard, in 1979, Dawkins hardly seemed surprised. He later named the dunk, "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam".

Three weeks later, he did it again, but this time the league took notice. Because of Dr. Dunkenstein's actions, Commissioner Larry O'Brien declared that if he were to break another rim, he would incur a $5,000 fine and a suspension.

Dawkins was an extremely eccentric player in his time. He once even claimed that he was a basketball playing alien from the planet Lovetron where he shared a condo with his girlfriend Juicy Lucy and during the off-season he practiced "Interplanetary Funkmanship".  The planet, he claimed, was so far away that you couldn't go there unless he took you. It is a shame he had an injury-plagued career.

Dawkins' dunks were so dynamic that it forced the NBA to change the type of hoops they used. At the end of the '79 season the NBA decided to switch to the newly created breakaway rims that allowed the rim to bend a bit when too much pressure is applied.

Dawkins is no doubt impressive. But he is even more so in that the rules were changed because of him. Very few players ever illicit a rule change in the game in which they play; this turns them from regular players into legendary ones.

Shaquille O'Neal

If anybody could improve upon the destruction that Dawkins created, it is Shaq. Shaq, in all of his movie-making and rapping glory, is the only man since Dawkins who could match his thundering dunks.

The Big Aristotle's dunks have been so thunderous over the years that the reaction from the crowd seems to be closer to shock than awe. Every time the big man throws down a dunk the crowd lets out a noise that makes it seem as if they feel sorry for the rim.

When Shaq was playing for Orlando at the beginning of his illustrious career, the backboard took its fair share of abuse day in and day out. During his rookie season, Shaq did the ultimate damage to the backboard by completely bringing it down.

Shaq threw down a dunk with such ferocity that the whole backboard came down with him. It bent over like clay and the shot-clock walloped O'Neal in the back as he tried to avoid being crushed by the backboard he had just broken.

Shaq, as far as I know, is the only person to ever completely snap the backboard off at the neck and bring it to the ground. The only thing that his dunk is missing is a nickname comparable to that of Dawkins' dunk.

Now up for debate is whether Shaq had a better dunk than Dawkins. Both dunks had power, both had a surprise factor, and both were original. Dawkins was the original backboard shatterer, and Shaq was the original backboard breaker.

The dunks are both so amazing that it is hard to pick the better dunk. So, with the evidence presented, please weigh them on your own scales and make a decision.

Which dunk is better?


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