Several months ago, in the middle of the NBA regular season, I was talking with a former NBA front office executive who had scouted Davis Bertans back when he was a teenager making a name for himself as a prospect in the European ranks. The former exec went to see Bertans play when he was 17 or 18 years old, so roughly 10 years ago, and still remembers a key part of the scouting report.
"You know, he used to be a dunker," they said.
A dunker. Bertans, who has enjoyed a breakout season for the Wizards by establishing himself as one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, was once known for much more than his perimeter game. He had real hops and apparently also a penchant for throwing down poster slams on his opponents.
This revelation prompted a follow-up conversation with Bertans one day after practice, but I never got around to writing off his quotes. Part of the reason was that there was no real evidence out there of him doing anything spectacular around the rim.
I asked Bertans where to find video of his dunking exploits, and he said the best place to look was YouTube. His agent said the same thing. But I checked YouTube and basically found nothing out of the ordinary.
A dunking Bertans was basically a basketball Big Foot. People swear they saw it, but no one could produce video proof.
Bertans, though, helped me out indirectly months later by surfacing old highlights of his on Instagram. One of the captions read: "back when I was able to do this."
So there you have it, video evidence that Bertans was indeed a high flying dunker at one point. So, what happened? Where did that version of Bertans go?
"I can still jump, I just don't do it so much," he told NBC Sports Washington.
Indeed, he does not. Bertans has dunked 14 times this season, which ranks seventh on the Wizards. Given he's 6-foot-10, that's a relatively low number.
And of those dunks, none truly stood out as rim-rattling jams. Watching him this season, you likely wouldn't expect his history as a noted dunker.
One reason for that, he says, is his style as an NBA player. He is generally stationed about 25 feet away from the basket as a three-point specialist.
"If I'm living at the three-point line, then I'm not getting to the rim so much. I only get a chance when I'm closer in," he said.
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Bertans also has an injury history that plays a role. He tore the ACL in his right knee twice.
And there is also the fact Bertans is a good bit heavier than he was as a teenager. Bertans still has a wiry frame, but he had to gain weight once he got to the pros.
"I could dunk between the legs," he said. "But I also weighed probably only 190 pounds then. So, that was probably easier."
Bertans said he first dunked at the age of 14. And at his peak, his vertical leap was roughly 35-40 inches, he said.
What it is now, he isn't sure. But he doesn't necessarily miss dunking on people. When he was a teenager, the novelty was still new to him, so he wanted to do it all the time.
He also creates plenty of highlights in his own way, with long range lightning strikes as a three-point marksman. Bertans is shooting 42.4 percent from three this season on 8.7 attempts per game.
His three-point shooting prowess has earned him plenty of adulation, as he became a fan favorite this season among Wizards faithful. Bertans has noticed that and, if it's threes that the people want, that's what the people will get.
"I guess people are starting to like me here. That just says that I've been helping this team and I've been playing good. That's what I love about it. I've been doing a good job helping the team and that's how you earn that," he said.
Maybe when basketball returns, Bertans will go out and dunk on somebody, for old time's sake.
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