The Disrespectful Block Rankings: Part II (Nos. 5 – 1)

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat - Game One

For Part 1 of this article, with an explanation of the overall concept and Nos. 10-6 on The Disrespectful Block Rankings, click here.

Before we continue with the Disrespectful Block Rankings, I want to discuss the issue of blocks that fit multiple categories. As you read through this list and watch the many clips, there will be rejections that combine aspects of multiple categories. A Chasedown swat that’s also a Napoleon, for example, or a Poster Block that’s also a Warcry. Classifying these blocks is equal parts art and science, and there isn’t always a correct answer. In these instances, I’ve chosen to classify them by what I feel is the essence of play; you may feel differently.

The point being: these rankings are based on so much more than the physical characteristics of the block. This is all about what these blocks make you feel. How would you react if you were in the stands watching the play unfold? What would you feel if you were the blocker in the scenario? How would you feel if someone rejected you like that?

(Side note: that last question made me wonder if there’s an equivalent to these rejection categories in the non-basketball world. I’m sure someone out there has shot down a love interest by yelling “Get that shit outta here!” A particularly confident gentleman once hit on my sister with a bold opening move: “Your place or mine?” She responded: “Both. You go to your place; I’ll go to mine.” In the dating world, that’s a classic Volleyball Spike.)

But I digress… On to the top five!


No. 5: The Chasedown

Chasedown blocks never fail to impress. They require a combination of athleticism, timing and effort, and they often make the blockee look foolish because he has no idea there’s even a defender hunting him down.

In Part 1 of these rankings, I talked about how poster blocks aren’t as disrespectful as you might think because there’s no shame in getting blocked trying to dunk on someone’s face. The chasedown is the flip side of that, which is what earns the category a spot in the top five. These plays are supposed to be easy buckets; instead, the blockees walk away with egg on their face.

For most of the blocks I’ve mentioned, the disrespect is an external force. The blockee’s ego is wounded by the reaction of other people. The chasedown is unique because no outside reaction will be worse than how much blockee will hate himself for the outcome. Two of the most famous chasedown blocks in history came at crucial moments in the playoffs, and you can bet that Reggie Miller (blocked by Tayshaun Prince) and Andre Iguodala (blocked by LeBron James) are still haunted by those plays.


No. 4: The Volleyball Spike

This is the antithesis to the Duncan (see Part 1 for more info on those). A Duncan block is fundamentally sound and there is no intent to show up your opponent. A volleyball spike is ALL about intimidation and disrespect.

Sometimes this intimidation is a tactical calculation. In the 1982 NCAA Championship game between the Georgetown Hoyas and North Carolina Tar Heels. Hoyas coach John Thompson apparently told his star center Patrick Ewing to spike everything early—even at the risk of goal-tending—to send a message to his opponents that he owned the paint.

The beauty of the spike block is in its transparency. It’s clear to everyone in the arena that the blocker tried to swat the shot as hard as humanly possible. There is no hiding the fact that the blocker was out to make the blockee feel tiny—the inevitable result when the timing is right.

The compilation above gives some good examples, but there is one shining example that perfectly encapsulates the concept, so I’m giving the play the specific analysis it deserves:

Why is this such an exemplary spike block? Because it demonstrates some of the key characteristics of the genre:

  1. Look at how early he jumps and how long he hangs in the air, waiting for the perfect moment to unleash his fury on that poor basketball. The wind-up is key.
  2. Marvel at the trajectory/speed of the ball after it’s redirected by McDaniels’ hand. That is a freaking laser heading straight for the stands.
    • You want proof of his velocity? You may have noticed McDaniels’ look of concern after the play. He even says “Oh shit” to himself a couple of times. That’s not because he shocked himself with the disgusting nature of the block. It’s legitimate fear because his spike block hit a fan in the stands and GAVE HER A CONCUSSION (he was nice enough to send her some flowers). McDaniels blocked a shot with enough force to literally affect someone’s brain.

No. 3: The Backboard Special

I don’t know why, but there is something incredibly emasculating about getting your shot blocked off the backboard. The image of your shot bouncing off the glass combined with the echo of a thwack makes this a viscerally displeasing play for the blockee.

There are two types of backboard specials, and I’m honestly not sure which one is worse. On the one hand, you have the ricochet variety where the blocker smacks the shot off the glass and it caroms away. On the other hand, you have the pinned block where the blocker times it perfectly so that he’s able to pin the ball against the glass. Blocking a shot against the backboard is the ultimate big brother move, which is why this category ranks so high on the disrespect scale.


No. 2: Off the Dome

These plays are often out of the shot-blocker’s control, but it’s the luck involved that adds insult to injury. In streetball, one of the most disrespectful things you can do to your opponent is bounce the ball off their noggin, for obvious reasons. Those reasons also apply to the Off the Dome block.

  1. Pain. Whether the ball clangs off the head or slaps the face, the blockee feels something after an Off the Dome block.
  2. Laughter. I don’t care if you’re 3 years old or 93 years old. The image of a ball bouncing off someone’s face/head is reflexively funny. When you see an Off-the-Domer, you can’t help but chuckle, and if other people are chuckling at you, you’re damn sure feeling disrespected.

Even a two-time MVP can be the butt of the joke when his own shot gets thrown back in his face.


No. 1: The Catch

The Catch Block is indisputably the most disrespectful block in the known universe. Do you know how difficult it is to catch someone’s shot in mid-air without goal-tending? The degree of difficulty involved emphasizes the superiority of the blocker, and the blockee feels totally helpless.

You know a play is disrespectful when it extends beyond the realm of the box score. How does one even categorize this? One block and one rebound? One block and one steal? One block and one vanquished soul? It’s hard to say.

Watching the highlight reel is revealing. Look at the athletic freaks capable of pulling off a catch block: Laphonso Ellis, JaVale McGee, Hassan Whiteside, Kenyon Martin, Kristaps Porzingis. Few humans on the planet can make this play look routine.

The compilation shows the versatility of the catch block, but in any scenario this play is devastating to the blockee. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a yoink (taking the ball directly out of your hands), a snatch (violently plucking the ball from the air a la K-Mart) or a gentler grab in mid-air, a catch block is so much worse than getting your shot sent into the 10th row.

It combines the basketball pragmatism of The Duncan (No. 10), the athletic splendor of The Showstopper (Nos. 9 & 8) and the humiliation of The Volleyball Spike (No. 4). It is, quite simply, the worst thing a defender can do to his/her opponent.

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