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Google Welcomes March Madness With Slam Dunk Yoodle

Banned by the NCAA for a while, the slam dunk keeps growing in popularity, especially on YouTube.

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Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
3 min read
Google

It's the beginning of March, and that can only mean one thing: March Madness is around the corner.

It's that time of the year when we buckle down for some serious basketball season research and begin filling out our brackets with the foolish hope that our No. 1 pick isn't going to get knocked out in the first round by a Cinderella team. We put so much attention on the NCAA Basketball Tournament that a 2022 study by WalletHub found that distracted employees cost employers nearly $14 billion each year.

Yeah, it's a pretty big deal, which is why Google is welcoming the tournament and all the associated madness with a Yoodle marking the very first slam dunk in basketball's history. (A Yoodle is kind of like Google's famous Doodle, only it's animated and appears on YouTube instead.)

The Yoodle, which features a pair of players squaring off in a one-on-one game, commemorates the 87th anniversary later this month of the first slam dunk in the sport's history. It occurred at the West Side YMCA in New York on March 9, 1936, when two American teams were competing to decide which would be sailing to Berlin for the Olympic debut of the sport invented just 45 years earlier by James Naismith.

The shot by Joe Fortenberry, a 6-foot-8 center for the Oilers of McPherson, Kansas, left observers "simply flabbergasted," wrote Arthur J. Daley, a reporter for The New York Times, who was covering the game that night. Fortenberry "left the floor, reached up and pitched the ball downward into the hoop, much like a cafeteria customer dunking a roll in coffee," Daley wrote, unwittingly giving the iconic move its name. The Oilers would go on to win the game, as well as the gold medal in Berlin.

But not everyone was impressed, and the NCAA actually banned the dunk in 1967, reasoning that it "was not a skillful shot," and one that could result in injuries. Others speculated the ban was enacted because UCLA's Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) regularly dunked over his opponents during his freshman year in college, leading many to refer to the ban as the "Lew Alcindor Rule."

Alcindor rejected the NCAA's explanation, suggesting the ban was more rooted in racism.

"To me the new 'no-dunk' rule smacks a little of discrimination," he told the Chicago Defender at the time. "When you look at it ... most of the people who dunk are Black athletes."

The ban, which never reached the NBA, lasted a decade before it was repealed, apparently due in no small way to its popularity among fans. And its popularity continues to grow. In 2022, YouTube videos featuring slam dunks scored 9 billion views, a 25% increase over the previous year, according to Google.

The most-viewed video related to slam dunks features basketball great Michael Jordan. The video, Michael Jordan Top 50 All Time Plays, has wracked up more than 91 million views in the past 10 years. Filling out the list of players players with the most all-time viewership related to slam dunks are LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and Shaquille O'Neal.

But as popular as the slam dunk is on YouTube, one-on-one (or 1v1) is still pretty popular. Google reports that basketball videos with "1v1" in the title brought in more than 195 million views in 2022. Some of YouTube's most popular channels with "1v1" in the title include Professor Live, Jesser, Ballislife, Jeffrey Bui and CashNasty, among others.