This idea occurred to me while I was playing NBA Jam a few weeks ago (the original arcade version, at one of those new arcade game bars). And I figured it'd be a good time to bust it out now, with the NBA on a super hiatus until the Finals start. They're going to outlast the Baseketball playoffs soon enough, dammit.
As I was picking my NBA Jam team, I found my childhood instincts kicked in as I shied away from teams with a player who couldn't dunk. That included my Cleveland Cavs (with Mark Price). In NBA Jam, some of the players who could not/barely dunk in real life would scarcely dunk (maybe an uncontested, two-handed baseline dunk, but that's it) -- and that was a big disadvantage. Layups often miss in the game; dunks virtually never do.
It got me thinking about a version of the game featuring modern NBA players and how the non-dunkers essentially wouldn't exist. As the NBA players have evolved over the past two decades, it's exceedingly rare to see one who can't dunk. At this point, if you're athletic enough to play in the NBA, you probably have the ability to jump high enough to dunk a basketball.
When I got home, I tried to look up how many current NBA players there were with zero career dunks -- and I was shocked to find that information isn't readily available. Even in the analytics age, there's no good public database with that specific stat.
So I called in help. And the wonderful people at STATS came through, and hooked me up with a list of players who've had zero dunks in their careers.
A few notes before we jump in: To make the list, it requires 200 career games played, or roughly two-and-a-half seasons. I only included active players who were on an NBA roster when the 2014-15 season came to a close. And finally, the heights I listed are their "official" ones, which means a lot of these guys are probably a few inches shorter in reality.
Here are the 11 current NBA players who have never dunked in the course of a game...
Luke Ridnour, Orlando Magic, 6'2" - 6,803 field goal attempts
Beno Udrih, Memphis Grizzlies, 6'3" - 5,526 FGA
J.J. Barea, Dallas Mavericks, 6'0" - 4,349 FGA
D.J. Augustin, Oklahoma City Thunder, 6'0" - 4,160 FGA
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics, 5'9" - 3,296 FGA
Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs, 6'0" - 1,725 FGA
Steve Novak, Oklahoma City Thunder, 6'10" - 1,692 FGA
Brian Roberts, Charlotte Hornets, 6'1" - 1,544 FGA
Jimmer Fredette, New Orleans Pelicans, 6'2" - 1,248 FGA
John Lucas III, Detroit Pistons, 5'11" - 1,181 FGA
Pablo Prigioni, Houston Rockets, 6'3" - 639 FGA
And now, random notes:
Average height: 6'1.5". (Getting rid of the absurd Steve Novak 6'10" outlier only drops it down to 6'0.7".)
Racial breakdown: Four white, five black (including one of Australian Aboriginal descent), two Hispanic.
Nationality breakdown: Seven American, four international (Prigioni, Spain; Udrih, Slovenia; Barea, Puerto Rico; Mills, Australia).
Isaiah Thomas attempted two dunks his rookie year but missed both. (He's also the shortest player on the list.)
J.J. Redick was a tough case. He's never dunked in 4,402 attempts, but DID dunk in a 2011 playoff game. I ultimately decided to leave him off the list.
Two guys who came very close: Jameer Nelson, who's dunked once in 714 games; and Steve Blake, who's dunked twice in 812 games.
As the legend goes, Oscar Robertson never dunked in a single game.
Three players who played earlier this NBA season would've qualified for this list had they not been cut before the end of the year: A.J. Price, Jannero Pargo and Jason Kapono.
And finally, I fully recognize the stones/glass houses aspect of this. I myself have never dunked in an NBA game either. (Or a non-NBA game. Or on an adjustable hoop set higher than maybe eight feet.)
This post was originally published on Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Sports.