Future President Shea Serrano created the disrespectful dunk index: an extremely scientific attempt to quantify how damaging a dunk was to the psyche of the dunkee. Even in a league comprised of grown men with families to feed and bills to pay, there is a need to exert alpha male dominance over your opponent. That battle of masculinity is often a sideshow to the actual game—a staredown after a dunk, or a flex of the arms after an and-1—but the purest form of this concept comes when a play does the talking for you.
Shea explored this phenomenon in the context of the dunk and, in true Blog Don’t Lie fashion, I’m going to tweak a fantastic idea from a former Grantland writer and bring it to you, the people.
Shea has already covered the offensive side, so I applied his thought process to the other end of the court. There is one event on defense that matches the mano-a-mano theater and athletic splendor of a dunk: the block. I present to you the Disrespectful Block Rankings.
My approach differs from Shea’s in one key aspect: I’m not ranking individual blocks on a numeric scale of disrespect; rather, I’ll be ranking different types of blocks (with plenty of examples) to figure out what category of rejection is the most disrespectful to the blockee.
What does “disrespectful” mean in this context? I’ll let the Archbishop of NBA Disrespect do the talking here. Here’s an excerpt from Shea’s book, Basketball (And Other Things), on the subject (just replace “dunk” with “block”):
How do you know when a dunk is disrespectful? That’s like asking me “How do you know when you’re in love?” or “How do you know when to masturbate?” You just sort of know because you feel it. It’s those big dunks; those nasty dunks; those violent dunks. Dunks where, when they happen you just instinctively go, “OH FUCCCCCCCCCCK!” or you go, “YOOOOOOOOOOOO!” or you go, “HAHAHAHAHA OH MY GOD.”
Think on it like this: Most dunks just happen and that’s it. A disrespectful dunk, though—a disrespectful dunk has an echo, and I mean that literally and, more importantly, I also mean it figuratively. They live on.
In GIF terms, does a block makes a crowd do this?
If so, that’s some serious disrespect.
But which blocks are the MOST disrespectful? Let’s get to Part 1 of the rankings (Nos. 10 – 6). Stay tuned for the second half of these rankings (Nos. 5 – 1) dropping next week.
No. 10. The Duncan
Is it a surprise to anyone that a category named for Tim Duncan ranks last on a list focused on disrespect? Don’t get me wrong, Duncan is one of the best shot-blockers in the history of the game (6th all-time behind Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Artis Gilmore and Mark Eaton), and his rejections were probably the most helpful to his team of any blocks in this ranking because he did the fundamentally sound thing: keep the ball in play so his team could transform his defense into offense.
But…we’re not talking about defensive impact here. We’re talking about how a block impacts the soul of the blockee. And while Duncan’s understated defensive excellence may have irked his opponents, it’s hard to feel disrespected when the blocker doesn’t take even a millisecond to let the moment land.
There was never a staredown, glare, fist-pump, bicep flex, celebration, or taunt. There was no emotion when Tim Duncan blocked you. That helped him on the court, but it hurts him in these rankings.
This category is called The Duncan as an homage to the master of the artform, but of course anyone can pull off a Duncan block. The only requirements are: a) you block the shot; and b) your only thought after you block the shot is “what is the next correct basketball movement I should make?”
I miss you, Timmy.
Nos. 9 & 8. The Showstoppers
I’ve lumped No. 9 and No. 8 together because they revolve around the same concept. The foundation of the showstopper’s disrespect lies in the theft of a highlight. Until the last possible second, the blockee thinks he’s about to end up on SportsCenter (in a good way). The adrenaline is pumping as he’s about to make a spectacular play, and in that moment he feels invincible.
Until it’s snatched (or swatted) away.
You go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows before you can even process what happened. The crowd’s anticipation builds as they sense the monster dunk that’s about to unfold, and the hype only intensifies when they see a magnificent slam instantaneously morph into a sensational block.
There are two subcategories within the showstopper genre that deserve their own analysis (or, more truthfully, I found a ton of awesome blocks while exploring the catalog of NBA highlights on YouTube, so I’m going to share them with you).
No. 9: The Showstopper (Alley-WhOops)
These blocks are probably the more difficult and aesthetically pleasing subcategory, but in my expert opinion, they’re SLIGHTLY less disrespectful. Why? Because the alley-oop recipient is focused on the lob and not the defense. These blocks are awesome, to be sure, but a little bit of the sting is taken out when there isn’t as much buildup to a 1-on-1 confrontation. Getting your alley-oop rejected is a tough pill to swallow, but it is not as brutal an attack on your integrity as a human as the other type of Showstopper.
(Bonus: The rare blocked self-alley-oop, courtesy of Aaron Gordon and Malik Monk)
No. 8: The Showstopper (Poster Blocks)
These plays, on the other hand, are all about 1-on-1 confrontation. There’s a ball, a rim and one obstacle between them. The tension is palpable and, unless there’s a foul, we know this moment is going to end very badly for one of the protagonists. The concept of a poster dunk is deeply embedded in NBA culture; these are the poster blocks.
The poster blocks are some of the coolest looking blocks on the list. So why are they ranked so low? Because they’re honestly not that disrespectful to the blockee. The audience can respect the courageous attempt to jam on someone’s face, so the blockee doesn’t become the butt of the joke. Instead, we just celebrate the shot-blocker. That isn’t the case for the rest of these rankings.
No. 7: The Warcry
Any block that is accompanied by the blocker yelling something to add insult to injury can fall into the “warcry” category IF the play meets two criteria.
First, the warcry must be made before or during the block to be eligible. Anything said after the fact is merely taunting/celebrating and is not considered a direct part of the play. The timing of the warcry is the foundation of the disrespect. The fact that the exclamation is timed perfectly with the block underscores the superiority of the blocker. He read the play perfectly, outsmarted you and lets you know about it.
The second criteria? In order to be eligible for the “disrespectful” label, there MUST be profanity involved. Non-negotiable.
Could you swat a shot while yelling “Give me that” or “Sorry old chap but I have to block this”? I suppose so, but it wouldn’t be nearly as emasculating. Profanity slices through the most stoic façade and cuts straight to the soul, clearly delineating the balance of power in the moment. It even conveys a tinge of disappointment from the blocker: you’re coming at me with this shit? Really? That’s the best you have?
When your shot gets blocked, and the dude who blocks it calls your attempt “shit”, there’s really nothing you can do but turn around and run back on defense with your tail between your legs. I mean, look at Joel Embiid, of all people, when Dwyane Wade warcries his shot.
Embiid’s second language is English; his first is trash-talk. Even one of the NBA’s biggest talkers knows there’s nothing he can say after Wade’s warcry. So why is such an impolite type of block so low in these rankings? Because the source of the disrespect resides in the words, not necessarily the block itself. For every block-type that’s higher in the rankings, it is the basketball play that bruises the ego.
No. 6: The Napoleon
There is something universally pleasing about watching an underdog succeed. On the court, it doesn’t matter if it’s a dunk, a crossover, a rebound or a block, it always looks cooler when a little guy does it to a big guy. That’s what makes a Napoleon block so fun (and disrespectful). The crowd can’t help but get excited about the unexpected outcome.
This category isn’t very fair to the big men who have everything to lose and nothing to gain, but there are few things more damaging to one’s ego than getting blocked by a smaller guy.
The truest form of the Napoleon is when a little fella rejects a big fella, but there is room for intrapositional Napoleonic warfare as long as there is a size disadvantage. What does this look like?
Exhibit A: The Micro Napoleon
Chris Paul is listed as 6’0”, but that might be a tiny bit generous. A diminutive player can be on the receiving end of a Napoleon if the blocker is even smaller. There is no shame for CP3 on the rare occasion he gets blocked. I’m sure he despises those moments, but the crowd is rarely going to ooo and aahhhh when such a play occurs. It’s just not that impressive to block a 6-footer. Unless you’re 5’9”, in which case everyone loses their mind.
Exhibit B: The Macro Napoleon
Alright, I’ll admit that I can’t be entirely objective about this one. I adored those mid-aughts Detroit Pistons, and I can still vividly remember watching this play live (my mom came running to check on me because I shrieked).
But Ben Wallace defending Shaquille O’Neal was very much a David vs. Goliath scenario. The man they call Big Ben was listed as 6’9” and 240 lbs. In the other corner was the 7’1” 325-lb Shaq. There is absolutely no way Wallace should have been able to block this shot given their positioning.
Wallace is near the free-throw line when Shaq catches the ball in the restricted area. Shaq tosses Rasheed Wallace (not a small man) aside and starts loading up for a thunderdunk. There is a modicum of body contact (Shaq never got those calls), but Wallace times his jump PERFECTLY, gets all-ball up top and stifles Shaq’s dunk with so much force that the Big Diesel ends up on his ass.