CRAWFORD | Time out. Donovan Mitchell did what? Ranking his put-back slam
Eric Crawford takes a closer look at Donovan Mitchell's put-back slam against Florida State.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I’ve seen some dunks. If we confine the discussion to the Rick Pitino Era at the University of Louisville, no player has sent a Louisville crowd buzzing the way Donovan Mitchell did in the first half of Wednesday night’s 84-65 win over Florida State in the KFC Yum! Center.
With 6:27 left in the first half, Damion Lee launched a long three from the left wing. Mitchell, at the time, was standing outside the three-point line on the opposite wing. When the shot went up, Mitchell sprinted toward the basket. When it bounced off the rim, Florida State’s Malik Beasley went up to get it.
Mitchell went up higher. He took the ball from Beasley’s reach, and kept going up. He grabbed it, cocked it with his right hand, and slammed it back home.
Not many people in the arena paid much attention to anything else for several minutes. Paul Rogers, in a recording of his game call for Learfield Sports, made a sound I've never heard him make before. (A link to his call.)
"That was pretty special," Pitino said. "All of a sudden, it came out of nowhere. I've seen him do it before. But that was a pretty darn good one. It was explosive. When he jumps off two feet, my God, he can get up."
"I guess it was Damion who shot the three," Mitchell said. "And I was on the right wing. And (Beasley) kind of looked at me, and he like, looked away, as if he wasn't going to box me out, and basically said in my head, 'You messed up.' And I went for the dunk. . . . He had the ball in his hand. I had one like that in the beginning of the year but I missed it, with two hands. But I just tried to grab it from him, and I ended up doing it."
And that’s what I want to talk about.
Louisville regularly pulled off such aerial artistry in the old days. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a guy get a crowd into the kind of prolonged frenzy that Mitchell did — and that’s including three years of Montrezl Harrell, the most prolific dunker in school history, and owner of what I would consider the most iconic dunk of the Pitino Era.
A timeout soon followed the dunk, and half the huddle was looking up at the video board. They kept showing replays. Every time, the crowd got up more.
"It was a game-changer," Trey Lewis said.
"Did you see me?" Lee said. "My mouth was just hanging open. Don't forget, I told him I was going to miss a three short so he could come in there and do that. It doesn't happen without that."
ESPN had the dunk posted within about 5 minutes, calling it the “nastiest putback dunk of the season with a SportsCenter Top 10 hashtag.
Alvin Sims, no stranger to dramatic dunks, went with the fire emojis, and said, “That was nice.”
Mitchell knows some of the history of the dunk at Louisville. He's actually friends with Pervis Ellison, through AAU basketball. He's seen Montrezl Harrell.
He's a student of the dunk. His favorite is the NBA's Russell Westbrook. "Because he's, like, my height, doing the craziest things I've ever seen," Mitchell said. He liked Aaron Gordon. Lebron James. Michael Jordan. He likes guys who can sky off two feet, like he does. He said he can only remember dunking off one foot in a game once. But off two -- and his feet are unusually large for his height, size 17 -- he flies.
Mitchell saved the shoes he was wearing when he scored on his first dunk, the summer of his eighth grade year, "Just to kind of remind me of my past. They're ugly, white and orange Nikes. I can't remember whose they were."
He wrote "first dunk" on the side of the shoes, and put them on a shelf in his room. Then made sure to protect them and re-shelve them after his family moved.
After the dunk, at the next dead ball, Mitchell let out a huge scream. But he didn't go beyond that.
"I tried my best not to look up (at the video screen)," Mitchell said. "I tried to stay focused on the game. I knew if I looked up I was going to get carried away. Coach was calling a play, but I couldn't hear him at all."
Later in the tunnel, Mitchell walked up alongside me and I told him, 'Heck of a play.' This time, away from the cameras, he just smiled and said, "Don't know how I did that one."
For the record, here’s how I would rank the top dunks of the Pitino era, with appropriate linkage. Though I’m sure I’m leaving some out. Has to be a Terrence Williams dunk in here somewhere, I’d think.
1. Montrezl Harrell vs. Michigan, 2013 NCAA championship game. This dunk, for its iconic value, hammering the go-ahead nail in Louisville’s first-half comeback, in a game as big as that, can’t be topped. Watch it here.
2. Donovan Mitchell vs. FSU, 2016. This one, because it came in front of a home crowd, gets added points. Watch it here.
3. Chane Behanan vs. DePaul, 2013. His knee hit the defender in the head. And one. Watch it here.
4. Kyle Kuric vs. Notre Dame, 2014. He slams on the break, then gets a technical foul for the stare down. Worth it. Watch it here.
5. Russ Smith vs. Kentucky, 2014. Little guy. Big dunk. Against a rival. Took off down the lane and went up over Julius Randle. Watch it here.
6. Earl Clark vs. Notre Dame, 2009. Another home-court dunk. Clark took off with the left hand, turned the corner and slammed it home against one of the Big East’s top big men. Watch it here.
Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved