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December 15. 2012 8:05PM

NBA Life: Rim-hanging dunk is Bonner's signature season moment


San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner (15) dunks during the second half against the Houston Rockets at the AT&T Center on Dec. 7. The Spurs won 114-92. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY)

The signature moment for Spurs forward Matt Bonner hasn't been a buzzer-beater or downtown 3-pointer this season. It's a dunk. One glorious dunk.

The Red Rocket had liftoff against Houston last weekend, soaring for a two-handed, rim-hanging slam in the final minutes of a 114-92 victory. Tim Duncan said the monster dunk is among the greatest in NBA history. For the 6-foot-10 Bonner, who won a dunk contest during a high school tournament at Florida, it was his first his slam of the season.

Sunday News: It wasn't so much the dunk that made it great. It was the finish. How did you manage to avoid getting a technical after hanging on the rim?

Matt Bonner: I think I caught everyone off guard, including the referees. It probably didn't sink in until a few trips later down the court. They were probably like, "Wait a minute. Did he hang on the rim?" By then, it was too late for a technical.

SN: How about that reaction from your teammates? They were really going wild on the bench.

MB: There's a little back story on this dunk that nobody knows about. There was a gentlemen's wager between me and Boris Diaw on who was going to dunk first this season. It sparked a pretty heated debate in the locker room, and this was all going on before the game. A couple guys went with Boris. Most of the guys went with me. That very game I came up with the dunk. That's what got the extra reaction on the bench.

SN: Were you thinking of that pregame discussion when you were going up for the slam?

MB: It was definitely on my mind. The Rockets had a small lineup that night. (Coach Gregg Popovich) matched up with them by putting me at center, which meant I was going to roll to the hoop on all pick-and-rolls. Normally, I would pop to the 3-point line. So I knew that I might have a chance to go at the hoop for a dunk.

SN: That dunk could be the greatest thing ever.

MB: I was pretty fired up. I gave a fist pump. I remember there was an out-of-bounds play near the bench, and I pointed to the bench and said something like, "Told you I'd win."

SN: How long did it take you to regain consciousness? Seriously, how long did it take for you to settle down and remember there was a game going on?

MB: I was focused. I knew what was going on, but in my mind, I was reliving that dunk repeatedly.

SN: As you were hanging on the rim, were you feeling like, "I don't ever want this moment to end?"

MB: Yeah, I'm surprised I even let go at all. It happens so rarely in my career that I really had enjoy the moment and get my money's worth. I'm surprised I'm not still hanging there right now.

SN: Is this the play you will be remembered by?

MB: No, I don't think so. I've had a long career. I don't dunk very often, especially lately, but I've had many other dunks in my career. I don't see why this one is such a big deal.

SN: If we were going to make a poster, that's the picture we would use.

MB: OK, I'll give you that.

SN: On a more serious topic, as a key member of the NBA Players Association and someone who is familiar with the process of hammering out a collective bargaining agreement, what kind of advice can you give the NHL and its players?

MB: Honestly, I can't understand how it didn't happen and how it ended so badly after negotiating for those three days and both sides seemed so close. You have two major issues with collective bargaining. You have the revenue split and you have the system. For us, the revenue split was the biggest thing for most of our lockout. Once we hammered that out, things started moving a lot quicker. From the articles I read, it seemed the (NHL) got the revenue split figured out and there were only two or three things they were still fighting out coming out of the meeting. The biggest one for the players was the "make whole" provision where existing contracts are honored under the new CBA and made whole. The owners didn't want to do that, and the players were sticking to their guns. To me, there were some issues that it seems they can resolve. I'm not the NHL's accountant, but coming into this lockout, they were having a lot of revenue growth. The league was doing great.

Bonner discusses The NBA Life each week with radio broadcaster Chris Ryan and New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Kevin Gray, and the interview appears weekly in the N.H. Sunday News.

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