The Yin and Yang of Basketball – 99% Invisible
Then, in the 1960s, slam dunks started to take off. They were a captivating shot that reinforced the role of the so-called “big man” on the courts.
There was a political dimension to all of this as well. The dunk was becoming popular at a turbulent time in the country. The Black Panthers were organizing and arming themselves in Oakland and some white Americans were worried a revolution was about to take place. The rise of dunking was seen by some racist critics as a literal manifestation of “Black Power,” embodied in masters of the dunk like Lew Alcindor, who would later change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.