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What is a Slam Dunk?

Because I thought this was readily defined but following the Tennessee-Army game in the Women's NCAA Tournament the standard has been adjusted somewhat. Volunteer Candace Parker is being hailed as the first woman to "dunk" twice in a tournament game. This is obviously big news for women's basketball fans who want to see the game moved above the rim a little more to ratchet up better support. ESPN, by and far the largest advocate of women's basketball, has been effusive about this feat. Now, let me be clear, I am not a sexist. I like women's basketball, I do not find it to be nearly as compelling as the men's game. I like watching the current UNC women's team because they play a very fast style much like that found in the men's game. Having placed that disclaimer squarely out there I can honestly tell you that what Candace Parker did yesterday, from what I saw, was not a slam dunk, it was a layup on which she grabbed the rim. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a "dunk shot" as:

a shot in basketball made by jumping high into the air and throwing the ball down through the basket

Now look at this photo of one of Parker's "dunks"

As seen in the photo the ball is above the rim. In fact one photo at shows the ball to be even higher than it shows here. According to the dictionary definition of a dunk, the ball is literally thrown down through the hoop. If you watch a men's game and a player dunks the ball he goes up and throws the ball down through the basket and then grabs the rim. Parker did not do that here. It is clear she put the ball above the rim and then grabbed it. The ball subsequently fell through the hoop. She did not, as indicated in the definition, throw the ball "down through the basket" but rather pushed it over the top of the rim and it simply fell through.

Now, I have seen footage of Parker dunking in the McDonald's High School All American slam dunk contest, so I am not saying she cannot dunk. However, this is not a slam dunk, not by the definition in the dictionary and not in comparison to what consitutes a slam dunk in the men's game. And to anyone who thinks it is not an important distinction or thinks that it does not have to be the same as in the men's game should probably ask yourself why everyone is pushing this dunk as a boon for women's basketball. It is because women's basketball needs to become more like the men's game in order to get people into the stands. I am just not sure labeling something that is clearly not a slam dunk as a dunk in an effort to raise interest in the game is the way to go. Of course ESPN, in particular, has never been interested in the difference between apples and oranges, just ask Dean Smith about his all time wins record.