Jordan Kilganon. Does that name ring a bell? Probably not – but he is currently known on the internet as the best dunker in the world, or the dunking king, having legends like Gary Payton, and modern ballers like say, the entire 2017 All Star squad, wondering, “who is that 6 foot 1 inch white dude who just dunked in jeans?!?”
True, dunking is the biggest selling point the NBA has (don’t believe me? just ask any businessperson who works with the WNBA). But despite Jordan Kilganon’s inherent whiteness, the bottom line is that the myth turned truism turned film title that “white man can’t jump” is generally true. Don’t get it twisted: there have been white players who can REALLY jump through the gym ceiling, but when it comes to the white dudes, they have historically had to find other crafty ways to impact the game of basketball.
We’re gonna go old school here and include non-black hispanics because let’s be real, those European dudes are pretty white looking! Get ready for a list of players who couldn’t clear the yellow pages… the fifteen players who proved that white man can’t jump!
15. Brian Scalabrine
Who could forget to include the White Mamba here? The career morale booster/role player certainly carved out his niche in the league, donning an NBA championship with the Celtics in 2008. But his vertical leap left some wondering if gingers indeed don’t have souls? B Scal is a fan favourite, and a great guy to boot, but when it comes to hops, despite his stature of six feet and nine inches, he ranks as one of the least capable leapers in the history of bigs, let alone white dudes. In his post-game career, he has found a great role as one of the most exciting characters in the NBA broadcasting world, with a particularly obvious slant towards his beloved Celtics.
14. J.J. Redick
Each year, draft-eligible players get together for the NBA Draft Combine where physical stats such as vertical leap are recorded and used to help teams make their decisions. Although there have been extremely rare mislabels of players as “unathletic” for poor performances at this event (such as Andre Iguodala), when it came to JJ Reddick, the scouts had it just right. Despite being well-known as one of the most noted white American born NBA players, JJ’s 33 inch vertical leap measurement was spot on with what he has shown throughout his NBA career. In his first nine years in the NBA, JJ literally recorded zero dunks… and it wasn’t because his teammate Blake Griffin was hogging all the touches! Nonetheless, JJ can shoot the lights out and is being heralded as the missing piece that could help bring the Sixers back into relevancy this season, after a ridiculously long tank era.
13. Steven Adams
Steve Adams is mad. Steve Adams is really mad. After getting burned in a series of recent Kevin Durant tweets, it would be hard to blame him. The New Zealand product out of OKC certainly has had his ups with the Thunder, but unfortunately none of those ups have been to describe how he gets off the ground. Adams has developed into one of the more oddball personalities in his four season tenure, and the big man certainly makes up for his lack of ups with his intuitive floor spacing from the paint and incredible ability to get out of Russell Westbrook’s way, allowing Westy to become the shortest NBA player to ever average double digit rebounds in a season.
12. Ryan Anderson
Over the past decade, Ryan Anderson has made a name for himself boasting one of the most unlikely skill sets for a near-seven footer. For his height however, his lack of athletic prowess is nearly unforgivable. Despite his impeccable three point shooting, Anderson has connected on just south of thirty dunks in the last four seasons. Now granted, that is about thirty more dunks than the casual NBA fan, but for an NBA power forward, that stat combined with his abysmal rebounding make the fundamentally flat footed forward a liability on the court to say the least. It is no wonder then, that his contract is the unmovable piece keeping Carmelo Anthony from joining Chris Paul and James Harden out in Houston this offseason.
11. Kelly Olynyk
Despite being a dude named Kelly, Olynyk’s biggest offence to the basketball world is his lack of vertical leap. The ex-Celtic big man has literally only dunked 65 times since he has entered the league in 2013, and that’s in the high octane put-back dunk friendly Boston offence. To make the stat even more definitive, Olynyk had the least impressive leap ability in his draft combine, with a measured max vertical of twenty nine inches. Brutal! Anyone hoping that the change of scenery to Miami beach this season will help his athleticism is probably going to be disappointed. Unless he is jumping for joy over receiving one of the most inflated off-season contracts, chances are he will stay nailed to the ground where he has been historically!
10. Kevin Love
Back in the 2008 NBA Draft Combine, Love put up a respectable (but by no means impressive) thirty five inch vertical leap. Despite that encouraging statistic, since then he has been the antithesis of an above the rim player. Even with his impressive positioning and elite rebounding ability, Love was not able to capitalize on the amount of opportunities for open lanes and put-back dunks that should come with coexisting with the likes of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Last season Love only dunked twelve times total… embarrassing! Considering his weight has been known to fluctuate, one can only hope that their will be an opportunity to prove his naysayers wrong this season with a retooled Cleveland roster, but realistically, that will probably not happen.
9. Marc Gasol
Since entering the league in 2008, the Spanish big man has proved himself an NBA legacy worth remembering. Despite tipping the scales with frequently ballooning weight, Gasol has been known to rack up defensive stats that are usually reserved for the other more athletically gifted centres in the league, like Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan. Nonetheless, the big man has dunked a mere 23 times in the past season, a pretty sad statistic for a guy who spends most of his time within a few feet of the cup. Still, despite his vertical challenges, Gasol will go down as one of the best centres and European players in the history of the game.
8. Kyle Korver
Kyle Korver just may be one of the most lethal three point shooters in the history of the game. But going into his fourteenth season, he has only dunked twenty times! One cannot deny that he has a consistent jump shot that requires a degree of athleticism. However, the truth is that Korver just never had to get off the ground to carve out a career for himself. The Cavaliers definitely don’t regret having him, as they have been successful with him on the team. While his celebrity doppelganger Ashton Kutcher would probably settle for Kyle’s athleticism, in the NBA it is simply below par!
7. The Plumlee Boys!
Repping 7% of all the white players in the current NBA, the Plumlee boys just can’t jump. To make matters worse, they have possibly the whitest names imaginable: Miles, Marshall and Mason. Although they, like the Hansbrough brothers, have a knack for tenacious rebounding and smart positioning, they just can’t get off the ground. Looking at the stats, their max vertical leaps were actually pretty decent for big men, but when it comes down to it, they are the opposite of an “above the rim” player. While they are very good all around players, don’t expect a “Space Jam” re-enactment anytime soon from any one of these brothers.
6. David Lee
Over the course of his tenure in the NBA, David Lee has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best rebounders, with nearly unmatched hustle and below the boards IQ. Despite his six foot nine frame however, D Lee lost his hops at some point from when he wowed the country in the McDonalds High School All American dunk contest. It appears that over the years this part of his game became less useful to him. He did manage to scoop up a championship ring with the Warriors in 2015, and despite his scrappy style of play, David Lee will be remembered as one of the best rebounding bigs of his generation.
5. Nikola Jokic
Anyone who saw even a minute of a Denver Nugget game last season asked the same question, “who is that man?!” True, the Nuggets struck gold when they drafted Serbian big man Nikola Jokic, as he proved to be one of the most enigmatic second year players this season, boasting a complete game of scoring, rebounding and uncanny passing skills. But despite playing for the high altitude Nuggets, getting high up is the one thing the “Joker” is not capable of. When it comes down to it, the fact that he can’t jump would certainly not deter any team from rostering him as he enters this at the young age of 22 years old.
4. Kristaps Porzingis
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a unicorn! It’s… Kristaps Porzingis! True, the Latvian born power forward got the usual New York warm welcome of resounding “boos” when he was drafted. But it didn’t take long for folks in and outside of New York to realize that he was the real deal, and a steal for the Knicks at the 4th overall draft position. Although he can stroke the three and put back dunks like nobody’s business, the truth is he can’t jump! The good news? With a seven foot two stature and seven foot six wingspan, he doesn’t need to! Dunking for him is how you felt dunking on a koosh-hoop in your bedroom as a kid.
3. Ricky Rubio
At six foot five, with a six foot seven wingspan, Rubio is truly a nightmare for opposing guards and wings, swiping the ball at the most efficient rate outside of guys named Chris Paul. But when the Spanish born point guard tries to get off the ground, he is simply underwhelming. While the T-Wolves recently shipped the 26 year old off to the Utah Jazz, he will likely continue to thrive in the defence-first Jazz system. Good thing his hops won’t matter – his new teammate Rudy Gobert will have enough throw downs for the two of them combined, with Rubio likely the beneficiary as he continues to rack up dimes.
2. Steve Nash
16-Season Hall of Fame Career? Check. All Stars? 8 Checks. All NBA Status? 7 Checks. MVP Honours? Two Checks. In-game Dunks? ZERO. That’s right, on his way to becoming one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game, Steve Nash actually and quite literally had zero in-game dunks. True: there are videos in the most obscure corners of the internet of Steve Nash dunking. But when it comes to in-game dunking, the answer is clear: he can’t do it. The white boy from Canada who wowed us with his unreal passing and court vision, and perhaps one of the highest basketball IQs of all time, simply can’t jump. Nonetheless, everyone knows that Nash is one of the greatest of all time and he is a Hall of Fame shoe in.
1. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk may boast the most unconventional skill set of any Hall of Fame player, and although his seven foot frame has made it easy for him to throw down an occasional dunk, the German legend out of Dallas is the definitive white man who can’t jump. And he doesn’t need to! His lethal and unmistakable step back jumper earned him two trips to the Finals, one championship banner and a whopping thirteen All Star selections. Pushing thirty nine years of age, he has stated that he thinks he can play two more seasons, which would put him retiring at the same age number as the jersey number he wore for all these years: 41.
Look: when it comes down to it, it’s widely known that grit, determination, hoops IQ and a lot of other elements make for great basketball players. However, having the ability to fly is no doubt the greatest skill that makes a player fun to watch, and separates the NBA distinctly from any other competitive event. Make no bones about it, many of these white players are some of the greatest to ever play the sport, and regardless of their skin colour, it’s great to see anyone dominate in the ways that these players have been able to.
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