First, I would like to preface by stating that as a beneficiary of Lasik eye surgery, I can see with 20/10 vision. I share this not to boast, but because, thanks to a doctor’s great work, I saw what happened in person inside the arena with excellent vision—even to witness incorrectly in the moment of what I now deem to be an optical illusion of colossal proportions.
As a full disclaimer, I empathize with the officials—as does Rockets‘ head coach, Mike D’Antoni. What occurred on a made dunk attempt judged to be a missed shot was nearly impossible to observe correctly, ironically except for the very shooter whose eyes remained mere inches from the ball as it ever so briefly traveled below the rim and into the basket.
In the fourth quarter, the Spurs were down but featured a commendable grittiness. Slowly, San Antonio was beginning to creep back into the game. Against the Rockets’ iso ball strategic disorganization, the Spurs amassed multiple rebounds and methodically attacked the Rockets’ defensive configurations, chipping away against a superior Houston roster.
On a Spurs transition up the floor—around the eight-minute mark in the fourth quarter—James Harden read a potential pass near mid-court, jumped the route, intercepted the ball, and sprinted toward the basket like a Pro Bowl corner for a pick-six.
I remember how the stadium became eerily quiet on his breakaway. Even the Rockets fans in attendance were for a split-second mesmerized—wondering, what is he about to do?
Harden wasn’t sure how much separation he had. About five feet from the basket, he stopped on a dime, glanced backward with his neck, slightly opened his shoulder, and for basketball lovers, time froze.
It was as if in that split-second he was contemplating a statement dunk of epic proportions. The anticipation was palpable. One was left to wonder, was Harden about to attempt a jam only ever seen in video games?
With ferocious, Harden blasted off from the ground and threw his left wrist down like a sledgehammer. And the ball… well, that’s where things get obfuscated.