How would you fare against a Michigan student-athlete on the field of play U-M assistant media relations director Richard Retyi decided to find out for himself, tackling potentially (um, almost assuredly) embarrassing moments with a humorous approach and without fear. The challenge began with three sports (volleyball, swimming and gymnastics) for an article in the spring 2007 issue of M Magazine, and the series will continue until he runs out of ideas (or injures himself).
MEN'S BASKETBALL (Page 2)
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Brent and I agreed to perform three dunks that would serve as the appetizer and main course of this jam feast, and then finish with a final dunk that would be the showstopper (or dessert, if you want to follow the metaphor to its logical conclusion). I had printed out five sets of judge's scorecards for the event and handed them out to five randomly selected judges who happened to be in attendance for the challenge.
The judges included U-M Athletic Media Relations interns Tim Trunzo, Joseph Conrad and Matt Baumer, women's basketball SID Marc Ressler, and Marc's brother, basketball aficionado Ted Ressler, owner of Toroz Mexican Grill in Brighton.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Petway, I slipped assorted coupons into each envelope with the scorecards, just to tilt the judging a bit my way. Some judges received deals at local tanning salons, others Coney-related food discounts. Ted ended up getting a free chips and salsa coupon for Salsarita's, which in hindsight probably backfired on me. Each judge, armed with scorecards from one to 10, would judge each dunk, giving me and Brent and a maximum score of 50 on each attempt. We decided to allow unlimited misses and work with no time limit because we are both gentlemen. Brent was also kind enough to allow me to go first, thereby putting all the pressure on himself to match what would surely be a rim-rocking effort to open the challenge. I didn't disappoint (if by disappoint I mean tear any ligament ending in "CL".)
Men's basketball SID Tom Wywrot didn't think I looked the part in my present attire, so he fetched me a genuine Michigan basketball practice jersey from the locker room -- Dion Harris' to be precise. I slipped on No. 5 and it fell to mid-thigh. I immediately felt more athletic and lighter on my feet. "This will increase my vertical by at least a few inches," I said to Tom and Brent. "Not if it's Dion's jersey," joked Petway.
Retyi Dunk #1 - 180-Degree Underoo
I consulted my haphazardly written list of dunks and decided to choose a nice warmup jam that had a moderate degree of difficulty but would likely result in a make and some decent air time. I went with the under-the-rim, 180-degree dunk which MGoBlue guru Jon Ripperger suggested. I jogged parallel to the backboard along the baseline and jumped in the air just as my melon cleared the rim. Rotating 180 degrees in the air, I brought down the thunder of Zeus with the first dunk of the afternoon, rocking the rim and receiving a smattering of applause from the judges and a score of 37 (I recall Matt Baumer being particularly stingy with a six on my opening jam).
Petway Dunk #1
Brent explained to the judges that his first dunk was going to include some rocking of the cradle, which is where you cradle the ball between your hand and forearm and rock it to and fro before the slam. He lined up on the right side of the hoop, swooped in and rocked the ball below his waist before hammering it home with his left hand. The judges seemed a little more excited with Brent's efforts than my first jam and rewarded him with a 48. I believe Baumer gave him a 10. I guess Coney Island coupons don't go as far as they used to.
Retyi Dunk #2 - The Dee Brown
Knowing that Brent grew up in Georgia, I asked him if he was familiar with Jacksonville University in Florida, which is where I got my first full-time media relations job. Jacksonville University has a handful of famous basketball alumni (including Artis Glimore, Otis Smith, James Ray and Rex Morgan), but it was Dee Brown who I was going to imitate with my second dunk. Brown was a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics in 1990 and won the 1991 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest, which I must have watched 50 times when I was a 13-year-old with a well-used VHS tape. The signature dunk of his victory was the "No See Dee" in which he covered his eyes with his left forearm, rose above the rim and hammered down a ferocious dunk to beat Shawn Kemp in the final (footnote 3). I squared up to the basket and took off on a full run. I left the hardwood somewhere near the free throw line (give or take a few yards), covered my eyes with my left arm and jammed it home with the right. The judges genuinely cheered and raised their scores skyward. A 45! Three points shy of Petway's rock the cradle dunk. I thought I might win this thing.
Petway Dunk #2
Brent must have been feeling the heat because he decided to unleash a modified Dominique Wilkins on us all. I don't remember exactly where he took off from, but somewhere in the air he did a huge windmill with the ball and jammed it. Hard. And the judges tore out their hair in tufts and shredded my coupons with their teeth and screamed themselves hoarse fighting over who could hold their "10" card higher. A perfect 50. On his second dunk. I was sunk.
Retyi Dunk #3 - The Joey Harrington
Joey Harrington and I go way back. We met just after the holidays in January this year and hit it off marvelously. He's a very humble guy and is pretty quiet, but he makes for a good friend. Wait, did I say Joey Harrington I meant Joey Harrington bobblehead. Yes, I purchased a Joey Harrington bobblehead action figure (Joey hates being called a bobblehead doll) for intern Tim Trunzo for our office holiday gift exchange, and it has graced his basement cubicle ever since. Tim was kind enough to lend Joey to me for my death-defying third dunk.
It's been a chic thing lately in dunk contests to jump over people. The results are usually quite impressive, but the consequences of a missed dunk (or sometimes even a slightly off-center dunk) can range from catastrophic to awkward. I decided to use someone who I could not injure or make feel uncomfortable and Joey fit the bill. Even if my inner thigh did brush his head, he would still look at me the same way the next day, unlike, say, Tim Trunzo.
I placed Joey a good ways away from the basket and walked to midcourt to build tension in the arena. I saw the look of consternation on Tim's face (Joey's too, actually) but I knew I had the ups to pull it off. I took off on a dead run once again and when I was within stomping distance of Joey's well-coifed bobbling head, I took off. I skied over his seven-and-three-quarters-inch form (yes, I measured) and jammed the ball with one hand. I believe the technical term for such a dunk is "boomshackalacka." The judges seemed to respond (I even heard hushed whispers involving the words "creative," "impressive" and "Retyi is quite the dunk scientist") but the score was not what I would have hoped. Tom Wywrot tallied up 42, bringing assorted catcalls from the fans in attendance. "You should have dribbled the ball more" said Matt Baumer, who, for the record, is more of an Ultimate Fighting Championship-ologist than dunkologist. Just ask him about Chuck Liddell or Georges St. Pierre. Seriously. He'll talk to you about it for hours. He's an authority.
The pressure was off for Petway. The contest was in his grasp.
Petway Dunk #3
Brent attributed his third dunk to the dunk muse, Harold Miner, who performed Petway's next attempt at the 1993 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest. Miner took off from the left side of the basket, angled near parallel to the rim, turned his body for a reverse jam and then added the flavor -- he pulled his knees up to his chest, put the ball between his legs while in the air and then jammed it home. Brent did pretty much the same thing, but from the right side. Boom. He nailed it. A 49 from the judges and now Petway had the contest sewed up. That was, unless I could hit my Brownie Sundae Avalanche Explosion dunk (sticking with that whole dessert metaphor from earlier, remember).
Retyi Dunk #4 - The Canadian 360
When I was young there were these brothers who lived at the end of the block (Nick and Peter) who had a basketball net that you could lower to adolescent dunking heights with the use of a special crank which they kept hidden in case we decided to try and lower the net when they were at church or something. Every once in a while we would convince them that lowering the net was in everybody's best interests, so they would do so and out would come the mini NBA basketballs for a dunk clinic. We'd perform as many dunks as fast as we could before they changed their minds -- which the always did about 10 minutes into the exercise -- for fear of permanent rim damage. My last dunk was always a 360 slam (which would usually put quite a strain on the rim and, in one case, bent it about five degrees south, drawing the ire of the brothers). I decided to carry over the 360, but because I am not in Canada, in order to complete a Canadian 360, I actually had to rotate 394 degrees to factor in the U.S. exchange rate.
I remembered to dribble on my approach to appease judge Baumer and I reached deep into myself, where the most dormant of my muscles are located, for one last dunk. I approached, sprung into the air and clanged the ball off the rim. A groan poured from the judges' corral as I retrieved the ball and set up once again. I still tried the dribble approach, leapt and clanged it off the back of the rim, sprawling to the hardwood this time. Fatigue was becoming a factor. I didn't have a back-up dunk so I had to complete the Canadian 360 or take a "DNF" (did not finish) as my result. I caught my breath for a moment, readied myself once more and skipped the dribbling this time. Approach, leap, and finally -- the monster jam! The judges stirred, but I knew that the two previous misses would weigh on their scorecards. I earned a 40. I think they just hate Canadians.
Petway Dunk #4
Brent told us that his final dunk was a Petway original. He approached the hoop straight on, jumped, put the ball between his legs and tried to tomahawk it home, but it slammed off the rim. Brent tried the same impossible dunk two more times, but each time the force of his dunk sent the ball caroming off the iron. He composed himself and decided on a back-up showstopper (Brent has a slightly larger arsenal of dunks than I do). He lined up near the three-point line, tossed the ball of the top of the shot clock that rests on top of the backboard, caught the ball one-handed in midair right behind his ear and hammered it home. The judges were apoplectic. Brent ended the fest with his second 50.
When the scores were tallied up, Brent won the dunk contest in a landslide, 197-164. We shook hands and he was very kind to me regarding my lack of vertical. Brent went and did his interview with "Wolverine Sports Magazine" and I tried to stretch out my hamstrings and quads. When it was my turn in front of the camera, I wiped the sweat from my face and tried to remember all the on-camera cues I give my athletes before they appear on TV.
Rule number one: Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. I handled his well, rarely letting my gaze slip to the floor or to the camera to my left with its harsh red light peering into my soul. And that was about all I did correctly. I kept fidgeting and I spoke too quickly. I answered questions in very long sentences that will be a nightmare for Patrick and Collin to edit. I am also nearly 100 percent certain that I said something inappropriate and there is a small chance that I swore. I don't remember much. Being in front of the camera can be pretty overwhelming, even if you know the parties involved.
I wrapped up the interviews by thanking my sponsors once again and headed back to my Diet Pepsi for solace as Brent finished off a few more acrobatic dunks for the Ann Arbor News photographer, who surprisingly never asked for a photograph of me. They must have images of me on file or something.
(3) Is there anything more useful than the Internet I mean, I have the ability to delve into the minutiae of dunking and relive old dunking moments with some well-worded queries in Google. Those old VHS tapes of All-Star games and Super Bowls are long gone, but I was able to watch an edited clip of all of Dee and Shawn's dunks on You Tube in 10 seconds. Then I watched a second time so I could try and discern who the judges for the contest were. It looked like Isaac Hayes and Doug Flutie were courtside this time around.
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