The Time: March 22, 2010
The Place: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
The Deed: Complete annihilation of Anthony Tolliver at the hands of Amar'e Stoudemire
As the Phoenix Suns made a remarkable late-season climb in the rugged Western Conference standings in 2010, they clashed with a Golden State Warriors team that, despite their 19-51 record, had enough offensive firepower to go blow-for-blow with the vaunted Suns' offense, which was saying a hell of a lot.
The Suns' offense that season was the most efficient of the Seven Seconds or Less era, putting up a bloated ORtg (points scored per 100 possessions) of 115.3. Only the inaugural SSOL team of 2004/05 came close to matching this number at 114.5.
The 2009/10 team also boasted the best 3P% of the era, incinerating the nets at 41.2%. Eight (8!!!) Suns players shot 39% or better from 3 that year, with Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Grant Hill and Steve Nash all hitting well over 40%. In NBA history, only the 1996/97 Charlotte Hornets shot a better percentage from deep, and they did it on 388 fewer attempts.
This was the veteran edition of 7SOL. They weren't as fast or athletic as the previous iterations, but they were smarter, much deeper, and with the Shaquille O'Neal-sized elephant rid from the room, didn't have any issues with fit or cohesiveness. Every player from top to bottom was on the same page, and coach Alvin Gentry had figured out a role for every rotation player on the team.
The result was sheer basketball pornography.
But on that fateful night of March 22, 2010, the Warriors came to play. Led by Monta Ellis, a still-relevant Corey Maggette, and a rookie gunslinger named Stephen Curry, they stood toe-to-toe with the scorching hot Suns and the two teams had themselves a good, old-fashioned Western shootout.
The Suns hit 13/23 from long-range and were led by 37 points from Amar'e Stoudemire and 34 points from Jason Richardson, but the Warriors kept responding. Coach Don Nelson had them playing quintessential Nellieball, forcing 22 Suns turnovers while putting up 92 shots from the field to go with 37 attempts from the freethrow line.
Both teams scored at least 30 points in all four quarters.
Reserve wing Reggie Williams scored 29 points from the bench while fringe-NBA player Anthony Tolliver scored 25 points while playing all but 45 seconds of the game. Unfortunately, his stellar performance is not what will be remembered.
Late in the 4th quarter, the Suns trailed the Warriors 122-119. The Oracle crowd was buzzing like a hornets nest. Monta Ellis attempted to save the ball on his own baseline, but it was gathered by Jason Richardson. J-Rich dribbled ahead and found Stoudemire chillin' downcourt, no Warriors near him.
Tolliver hustled back to protect the rim. Stoudemire had time to calmly gather himself and measure the path of destruction he would take. Tolliver was flying back at nearly full speed, probably hoping in those fleeting moments for the power to suddenly go out all across Oakland.
He decided to leap and challenge, but Stoudemire was far too coordinated, balanced, and viscous.
When the two collided in mid-air, Stoudemire actually seemed to absorb Tolliver for a moment before cramming the ball through and tossing the lifeless body aside.
Stoudemire then stared down the Oakland crowd behind the basket, popping the 'PHOENIX' on his jersey for all of them to see. A smattering of boos rained down as Golden State called a timeout and everyone tried to make sense out of what they just witnessed.
The Suns went on to win the game 133-131. Tolliver managed to piece himself back together and have a nice enough career, even appearing in a brief cameo as a Sun in 2014.
There are plenty of candidates for the best Amar'e dunks during the SSOL era.
The Jeff Foster dunk was unique for two reasons: 1) the way Foster went tumbling out of bounds like a drunk armadillo, and 2) the comic factor of Amar'e flopping after being pushed by little Travis Diener during the aftermath, right after dunking an NBA center into the floor.
There was the time that pre-microfacture Amar'e climbed the ladder on Stromile Swift, simply finding another level of elevation over the doomed big man. This one gets bonus points for coming in the playoffs, but the Grizzlies were so overmatched in that series it almost isn't even fair to mention.
Richard Jefferson also suffered the indignity being the deer in the Amar'e-lights, and probably thought there was no possible way Stoudemire could dunk it while jumping off of both feet well outside the restricted area. Well yeah, he could do that.
Adonal Foyle was yet another infamous victim in the Oracle. This one is unique for the way Foyle actually appears to fall dead to the floor after the cram.
I'm giving the nod to the Tolliver dunk for a few reasons.
- It came at a pivotal point in an exhilarating game, and the Oracle was alive at that moment
- The buildup made for excellent dramatic effect. As soon as Amar'e received the ball on the wing with a clear path to the rim, it was clear that something was about to go down
- The way Stoudemire and Tolliver collided right at the apex of the dunk
- The jersey pop and the boos from the crowd. Good stories have good villains, and Amar'e was never shy about donning the black hat
Vote in the poll and sound off in the comments -- what is your favorite Amar'e dunk from the SSOL era?