Two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion Jason Richardson knows well the adrenaline rush that comes from a fast-break dunk. “You go up to dunk and you feel like you want to break that backboard, break that rim,” Richardson once said. A high-flying slam dunk gets the crowd on its feet and puts the player on highlight reels for an eternity. The allure of the dunk is irresistible.
Yet Richardson also knows the danger of these dunks. He followed his description of the feeling coursing through a player’s veins with the harsh truth of dunking.
“But 10 times out of 10 you’re not,” he said. “What you’re really breaking is yourself.”
A fast-break dunk can lead to serious, career threatening injuries. Instead of making highlight reels, players shatter their future hopes or must sit for large chunks of time.
The speed at which these players run the floor creates danger in this particular play. If you dunk and hang onto the rim for too long, your body’s momentum will start to carry you past the rim—which you’re still holding on to. All three of the above clips feature players who didn’t let go of the rim in time, causing them to land directly on their back or arm after a 10-foot fall.
The other danger in fast-break dunks occurs when a player jumps to dunk slightly late. Normally, after dunking, a player has time to drop below the level of the backboard before he reaches it. Those who jump too late are still on the level of the backboard, which leaves their heads or arms vulnerable to slamming into it.
Tuesday night against Florida State, Boston College guard Jerome Robinson fell victim to this pitfall when he attempted a fast-break dunk late in the second half.
Robinson will be sidelined for up to six weeks with a broken right wrist sustained in the collision with the backboard. But really, BC is lucky that didn’t sustain a serious injury to his left side in the subsequent fall to the floor.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Eagles. Having lost seven straight games to open its ACC schedule, the team now starts a road trip against North Carolina, Virginia, and Louisville without its second-best player.
Robinson’s per game averages—11.6 points, 4 rebounds and 2.8 assists—weren’t spectacular, but he filled a key role for Jim Christian’s squad. Even as a freshman, adjusting to the toughest conference in college basketball, Robinson’s athleticism and versatility were on display each night.
He showed an impressive ability to play both backcourt positions, playing off the ball with Eli Carter in the game and taking over point guard duties when the graduate transfer hit the bench. Against FSU, Robinson had perhaps his best game in terms of making plays off the ball. He drilled three spot up 3-pointers on the weak side of Carter’s pick and rolls, and showed an ability to drive past closeouts to the rim.
Overall, Robinson’s finishing around the rim and athleticism in transition were key components of the Eagles’ offense. A large portion of his shots came in the midrange, where he demonstrated a knack for separating from his defender and getting off a clean shot attempt. He even shot well in limited post-up chances, a look that Christian featured a bit more as the season progressed, with his length allowing him to finish away from the defense.
Replacing Robinson will be nearly impossible. Aside from Carter, he was the only player on the team capable of consistently creating both for himself and others. The Eagles also lose their backup point guard with this injury.
In his absence, Carter will have to shoulder an even heavier offensive burden than usual. Even on plays in which Carter is running off of screens, without Robinson, the defense knows he has to come back for the ball eventually. Carter must focus more on penetration, spurning a few isolation threes for swing passes or forays into the paint, through which he can manufacture open shots for BC’s perimeter shooters.
With nearly 35 minutes of playing time to redistribute, look for Christian to give more time to Sammy Barnes-Thompkins. He’s a player with a solid outside shot and the ability to get to the basket with some crafty drives. Matt Milon may also see some extended playing time in Robinson’s stead, with his deadly-accurate, long-range shooting holding defenders’ attention long enough for Carter to make plays elsewhere.
Though currently recuperating from a concussion—also sustained in the FSU game—expect Darryl Hicks to continue seeing 15-20 minutes per game once he returns. Hicks lacks Robinson’s playmaking abilities, but he comes the closest to replicating Robinson’s defensive abilities. His physical style and constant hustle allow him to stay with opposing guards.
Offensively, Hicks will need to continue working on expanding his range out to the 3-point line to become threatening to opponents. That should be doable, as some of his most recent spot up shots have come just a few steps inside the arc.
Having lost Robinson for what may amount to the rest of the season, Christian will need to quickly revamp his rotation. While Hicks, Barnes-Thompkins, and Milon collectively could replace Robinson, they all lack his well-roundedness on both sides of the ball.
Additionally, outside of the shooting guard position, BC must get more aggressive play from A.J. Turner. The team’s most touted recruit is shooting just 33.6 percent from the floor and has shown a reluctance to drive to the basket. With six weeks left in the season, Turner must step up and show the talent that everyone knows he possesses. If he can help provide some secondary playmaking, breaking down the defense from time to time, Carter will have a legitimate release valve that he can pass the ball to when opponents surround him, a role Robinson had filled.
Throughout a dismal season for BC, a school mired in a long rebuilding process, Robinson was perhaps the brightest spot on the roster. His emergence from unknown prospect to team cornerstone has provided Christian with some hope for the future.
But that hope has been derailed for the moment, fractured by the cruel allure of the dunk.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor