Originally published in SLAM 60

Honestly, you didn’t even need the dunk. You didn’t need to hear the stunned silence that filled the First Union Center. You didn’t need to listen in on Jermaine O’Neal’s postgame comments, where he called Tracy McGrady’s bounce off the glass (did he get an assist, too?) “one of the best dunks I’ve ever seen in a game.” You didn’t even need to look at this spread. Nope. All you needed to see was Dikembe Mutombo’s face.

The whole Eastern bench stood up after it happened—and stayed standing for almost a full minute, in fact—but it was Mount Mutombo who personified things. His expression was priceless. Slack-jawed, a dazed happy smile spread dopily across his face. A Dunk Contest look. A Vince Carter 2000 look.

Hell, just look at Paul Pierce. Right there, behind Tracy. Look at the expression. Joy. Disbelief. Surprise. The look of a little kid on Christmas morning. And this from a guy with plenty of hops himself.

The specifics: There was 7:55 left in the second. TMac tossed it, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki just watched him go by, wondering what in the name of Don Nelson was going on. Immediately beforehand, Jermaine had rebounded a miss and dropped a dime. “I gave him the ball, and he said, ‘Move over,’” Jermaine said. “I was lookin’ at what he was talkin’ about, and he threw it.”

And everybody stood.

Russ Bengtson