LeBron James on Damon Jones vs LeBron James on James Johnson
Yes, yes. These are both LeBron dunks. And they're both on players who are totally unprepared to experience LeBron James' athletic shock and awe. LeBron, whether you like him or not, is the most athletically perfect player to ever play the game. He has produced many highlights, but these two capture different moments of his career and capture an otherwise unspectacular player into legendary "dunked on" status.
The first LeBron dunk came early in his career. He was drafted in 2003, so he was still a new player in the League when he dunked on Damon Jones February 2, 2005. I'm throwing all these dates out here like tombstones, but trust me they're essential for building the mental timeline. At the time, Damon Jones was an ex-teammate of James. You can also see Shaq on the bench, not yet an ex-teammate of LeBron James. Shaq narrates this video and he describes what is a career moment for LeBron. In this dunk he is raw, talented, effortless, and graceful and Damon Jones just happened to photobomb.
LeBron was young in that dunk. His career was on the rocks by the time the second dunk happened. Facing Chicago in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, it's LeBron's last stand with Cleveland, April 19, 2010. Shaq is in town to win a ring for the King. LeBron has to step up, and as far as statement dunks go, it doesn't get much bigger than this. Damnit, when I rewatch this I remember how unsure everybody was with the Cavs relationship with LeBron and there were already Free Agency rumblings. LeBron needed a championship, or he was leaving.
Both of the dunks are spectacular because they show the almost-divine power of James at his finest, bearing down on a lesser opponent. And they could be anybody, there are many nameless, could-be and have-been victims of LeBron James in the NBA. Damon Jones and James Johnson are lucky enough to make history with him.
The first dunk shows LeBron in full stride, wearing a mask for caution, and sprinting with the power of a train. He had come back quickly from a facial injury and the protective mask only made for more show, when Bron removed it to smile at the crowd. And to high-five Robert "Tractor" Traylor, (a more pear-shaped, and less eager Reggie Evans) (RIP "Tractor" who has since passed away). LeBron kind of stares at Damon, and Damon kind of holds his face either in shame or possibly real physical pain inflicted by LeBron James.
The second dunk is LeBron at his unguardable, half-court iso self. Nobody could have guarded LeBron on that drive. He stared down James Johnson too and I remember this moment as I leaned forward off the couch and yelled "he's gonna do it! he's gonna do it! Ahhh!" Then he explodes to the rim after the slight stutter-step fake from the triple-threat position. Wow, that was with force and the roar became the inspiration for an article I wrote.
The Cavs won the game against the Bulls at home, but when LeBron was younger, they lost 100-88. You can debate me on this, but I like LeBron's dunk against the Bulls better. It's the quick reflexes and the explosive athleticism of the 1 on 1 matchup that make it a better dunk. Plenty of players have caught other players in the open court, none maybe as big though as LeBron on Damon Jones, but the half-court play is something more rare. I think it's a harder dunk to pull off. And the announcer's call, and LeBron's reaction are better in the James Johnson video. James Johnson almost got there, but Jones could only cower in fear. LeBron wins either way, whether you make it easy for him or not.
Winner: LeBron on James Johnson