This is Von Wafer. An off the bench rotational player who averaged 12 minutes per-game in his 6 year NBA career and only completed at least half of a season twice. He also played for 7 different teams during this time. Luckily for Von, the first trade took him from the Lakers to the Clippers so he didn’t have to move far.
A top high-school recruit, he finished second to LeBron James in the 2003 McDonalds All-American dunk contest. Without doubt this is an accomplishment he casually brings up in the barbershop and will remind his children and future grandchildren for years to come. Von may even be walking around with that trophy right now.
Von’s government name is Vakeaton Quamar Wafer. I don’t know what it means or how to pronounce it but I’m sure the person who gave it to him meant well. However, to grow up with a name like that you’re forced to develop an unshakable confidence during your adolescent years. Unfortunately for Vakeaton, that unshakable confidence came back to haunt him during an April 11th, 2011 game against the Washington Wizards. Here is the play:
Commentator 1: “A missed slam! And O’Neil called for double dribble.” Commentator 2: “Well he ran into his own teammate, or actually I should say Von Wafer ran into him. So back to back mistakes, mental errors for Wafer. Missing the dunk then coming in and distracting his teammate.”
The Von Wafer missed dunk is the, “Nick Young shoot a 3, turn around and prematurely celebrate” before it even existed. Fun fact, Nick Young was playing for the Washington Wizards in this very game. Coincidence? I think not. The universe was forewarning us.
Watching this play in my college dorm room was the first time I truly experienced secondhand embarrassment. 7 long years have passed and I think about the miss everyday. Let’s breakdown the debacle of a dunk into 5 separate acts.
Act 1: “The Takeoff”
Von is full steam ahead, setting us up for what looks like a SportsCenter Top Ten Shawn Kemp-esque slam. Cocking your arm all the way back is a risky move because if you don’t control the ball tightly then you may, well you saw what happened…
Act 2: “The Emphatic Jam”
Von’s thoughts as he lays the hammer down: “LeBron, you’re not the only one who can destroy a rim. I should’ve won that high-school dunk contest. Watch this.” The best part is the landing. Von believes he nailed the dunk as evidenced by his swaggerfied body language; shoulders and arms swinging back and forth.
Act 3: “Fan stare down and bumping into your teammate”
Glaring at the fans, mean-mugging the crowd, Von is basking in all the glory while his teammates are trying to salvage the possession. Basically playing 4 on 5 without Wafer, the situation can’t get any worse for Boston, right? Yes, yes it can. As Von returns to his job, he’s clueless to the live action that’s happening and slams right into his teammate Jermaine O’Neil causing a turnover. It would be a great defensive play if only Von played for the opposing team.
Act 4: “Pretend to be disappointed with exaggerated facial expressions”
This is my favorite part of the whole fiasco. You know when you’ve messed up so bad, and it’s completely your fault that in order to ease the deserved tongue-lashing you’re prepared to receive you make yourself look overtly disappointed and upset by contorting your face and taking deep exasperated breaths? That’s exactly what Von is doing here. He hadn't yet seen the replay and doesn’t actually know what went wrong. But he sees his coach’s face which is a combination of bewilderment and pure frustration and hears his teammates asking variations of “what the [expletive] are you doing?”. All he knows is the best thing to do is to look remorseful.
Act 5: “The Awkward Run-off”
My second favorite thing to happen in this missed dunk tragedy. There was a dead ball before this and every other other player is sauntering to their position. Meanwhile, Von begins to do the basketball equivalent of office busy work running to a random part of the court to mask the confusion he’s experiencing. In another video, the Southwest Airlines “Wanna get away?” voice starts to play because that’s exactly what he’s trying to do by running off like that.
Vakeaton, you accomplished what 99.99% of the world will never do, which is get drafted and play in the NBA. There is absolutely no shame in your light-hearted flub. Thank you for the unintentional comedy and relatable moment. I commit unforced errors at such an astronomic rate that I’ve become a professional apologizer.
Next time you have an opportunity to either play it safe or go up with the same confidence as the person who named Von “Vakeaton Quamer”, you do the latter every single time.