With the ball in his hands, Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson saw an opening toward to the basket. So he did what he always does. He drove past his defender. He attacked the basket. He moved with unwavering confidence.
But just before he leaped for a one-handed dunk, a persisting thought entered Clarkson’s mind.
“Kobe [Bryant] was telling me I’ve been going to the hole like a light skinned dude. I have to start throwing down like a dark-skinned dude,” Clarkson said following the Lakers’ 97-77 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at Staples Center. “As soon as the lane opened up, that’s all I could remember.”
And once the lane opened up, Clarkson vowed to follow Bryant’s instruction. Clarkson leaped into the air. He threw down a one-handed dunk over Phoenix center Alex Len with 31.6 seconds left in the third quarter. Clarkson then stared into the crowd and wiped sweat off his upper lip.
Did Clarkson throw down like a dark-skinned dude?
“Yeah,” Clarkson said, smiling.
Everyone then went into a tizzy. The sell-out crowd of 18,997 fans cheered endlessly. The Lakers’ bench leaped out of their seats. Lakers forward Nick Young pretended to fall on the floor unconscious before Lakers forward Julius Randle jokingly resuscitated him.
“I was more shocked that Jordan Clarkson dunked it like that,” Young said. “I had like a heart attack. Julius Randle brought me back to life. It that was nasty. I died. Now I’m back to life.”
The Lakers (8-27) are also back to life, cementing their first three-game winning streak since Feb. 22-27, 2014 as Lou Williams (30 points), Larry Nance Jr. (15), Roy Hibbert (13) and Clarkson (12) all cracked double figures.
“Swaggy P killed it with the reaction,” Clarkson said, laughing. “That was hilarious.”
Yet, Clarkson argued that he became more impressed with Lakers center Roy Hibbert throwing down a one-handed dunk over Phoenix’s Tyson Chandler earlier in the third quarter.
“He didn’t get up that high, but he went hard,” Clarkson said. “He was nasty.”
So nasty that Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. handed the nod over to Hibbert over Clarkson, telling words considering Nance Jr has carved out a niche so far in his rookie season partly with the thunderous dunks he has provided.
“As nice as JC’s dunk was, I’m going to have to go with Roy,” Nance Jr. said. “He did it like a guard. He did it pump fake, one dribble nad then dunked on him and then hit the dab of course. We’re going to have more fun with Roy.”
It looks like the Lakers already have.
After Hibbert’s dunk, Randle ran toward him full of smiles and laughs. Clarkson soon wrapped his arms around Lakers guard Lou Williams, who could not stop laughing at the rare sight of the 7’2″, 270-pound Hibbert driving into the lane and dunking.
“He’s tall enough where he should dunk all the basketballs,” Williams said. “My expectation level for Roy is unrealistic. I understand he’s a 7 footer. But he’s also playing against other seven footers. Once he actually goes up and finishes one like that, it’s exciting for us.”
It was also exciting for the Lakers to see Clarkson dunk, allowing him to live up to a blunt and politically incorrect challenge Bryant threw his way.