Former French basketball player Frédéric Weis is officially alive, and at 38 he’s a relatively young man. Unofficially though, Weis was murdered 15 years ago today when Vince Carter jumped over his head during the 2000 Summer Olympics and pulled off the greatest dunk in basketball history. RIP Frédéric Weis.
As with all moments with carrying amount of historical import, "le dunk de la morte," as it's known in France, has taken on a life of its own. For example, Carter once said it was his posterizing of Weis that caused the Knicks, who took the French center in the first round of the 199 draft, to tell him to stay in Europe. The truth, of course, is more complicated than that.
The Knicks front office turned over not long after picking Weis, and the new guys were much less enamored with the giant Frenchmen than the old guys. Part of that was because the new brass thought Weis lacked desire. And maybe he did. And maybe "le dunk de la mort," was to blame. He reportedly avoided replays of the dunk for a decade and years later said , “I will never forget what I have experienced in 2000," and, “The more we talked about it, the harder it was, emotionally, for me.” Sounds scarred.
But enough about the victim. This dunk was about the perpetrator. At the time Carter was 23 but already an NBA sensation. Half-man, half-amazing, they called him. He won the slam dunk contest in 2000 and he was coming into the Olympics as an injury replacement. That made him angry and he needed to take it out on someone, Weis just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When people talk about Carter's dunk, they often recite the facts. Carter is 6'6", Weis is 7'2". The little guy went right over the big guy's head. That alone makes it impressive. But like all great dunks, this one's memorable because of things that are much harder to measure: the power, the force, the emotion. It's not just that Carter got over Weis, it's the ease with which he did it. It's the ferocity of dunk. It's the reaction once he was back on his feet. It's KG exploding into him.
In everything, greatness is hard to define. But that's particularly true for something as varied and nuanced as a dunk. That said, there's no argument here. This is the greatest dunk ever.
Photos by Darren McNamara / Allsport