Aubserver Mailbag 157: What are the top five dunks of the Bruce Pearl Era?
This week: The biggest remaining games, Johni Broome, Jaylin Williams, foreign-born players, Vontrell-King Williams and MLB The Show
PF Jaylin Williams (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Have you ever been asked the old icebreaker question of “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
Over time, I’ve developed my answer to be “the dunking ability of prime Vince Carter.”
I’ve been around basketball my entire life. My mom was a basketball coach. Basketball was the only sport I played in school, outside of an easy-going spring semester of playing golf during my senior year. I love this sport, and I hope it comes across in the coverage we provide here at The Observer.
I’m kinda tall compared to most people, but I was not blessed with any sort of athleticism. I’ve never been able to dunk. I will never be able to dunk. I wish I could, because that would be all I would do during any downtime — just go to the backyard and hang on the rim.
(I’ve definitely mentioned this during a mailbag before, so forgive me: I can’t believe I’ve written more than 150 of these at the Observer alone. Absolutely crazy.)
I’m writing about dunks because that’s where we’re going to start this mailbag. In the aftermath of Auburn basketball’s latest slam fest, let’s take a look back at the best dunks in the Bruce Pearl era.
We’ll also get to a ton of basketball questions, along with a couple of football ones, in another loaded edition of the ‘Bag. Let’s go.
Top 5 dunks in the BP era
Cutting all the best dunks of the Pearl era down to just five is quite difficult. I bet you could come up with a fantastic five of dunks not on here. For example, I had a hard time leaving off Jaylin Williams’ self alley-oop against Tennessee and the famous “boom boom room” slam from Allen Flanigan. There are many more that deserve recognition, including all of Chuma Okeke and Malik Dunbar’s dunk catalogs and Jabari Smith’s title-clincher in overtime at Mississippi State.
But this is my top five, and I made sure to not repeat with any individual dunkers. These are the ones that stand out in my mind the most. Your results may vary. Please share your favorites in the comments.
5 - Isaac Okoro vs. Vanderbilt in 2020: You might not remember this dunk. You might remember other thunderbolts that Okoro threw down during his phenomenal freshman season at Auburn. But this was a full-on posterization of a Vanderbilt big man, plus the foul, in a home game that kept the Tigers undefeated. While Okoro was known mostly for his lottery-level defense at Auburn, he is an all-time great dunker.
4 - Devan Cambridge vs. Georgia in 2022: Auburn has gone back to the backboard alley-oop a few more times since this one, but the WGJ-to-Bounceman special in Athens is the one that will stick out in my mind forever. And it wasn’t like it was a complete breakaway, either — there are multiple Georgia defenders around the rim when the lob is made. This is an NBA All-Star Game level dunk in a rivalry road matchup. That takes some onions, as Bill Raftery would say.
3 - Jared Harper vs. Xavier in 2018: Did anyone on the planet, outside of Harper, think he was capable of this? Auburn was in a tight overtime battle at the prestigious Maui Invitational, and all Harper needed was a simple high ball screen to pull off one of the most famous dunks in program history. That is a small fella getting some major hangtime and absolutely punching the ball through the rim.
2 - Jaylin Williams vs. Alabama in 2024: Call me a prisoner of the moment. Say I’ve got recency bias. That’s fine. All I’m going to say is that it’s insane to pull off a windmill dunk in a game — much less to do it against your biggest rival, on your home floor, in a must-win matchup to keep your SEC title hopes alive, to cap an insane end-of-half run that the opponent was unable to answer. The dunk was vicious and clean. And Charles Barkley looking like he was about to ascend into heaven is just perfect.
1 - Jabari Smith vs. Jacksonville State in 2022: I will never, ever, ever forget sitting courtside in Greenville and witnessing Smith pull off the single-best posterization I’ve ever seen live. Yes, the game was already over. Yes, the rim protector was from Jacksonville State. But this is a chest-to-chest exclamation point that caused everybody in the building and everybody watching on TV to lose their minds. I still say “WITH ALACRITY!” at random times during my everyday life because of this dunk.
8 games to go in the regular season with some very tough opponents left. How many does Auburn need to win to stay in the race? Which one is most important?