It's the dunk "Team LeBron" didn't want you to see.
The tale had morphed into basketball version's of Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs in Roswell, an NBA superstar being dunked on by an unknown college basketball player. Now the basketball world can finally see the footage.
On Wednesday, TMZ.com and eBaum Nation.com released different versions of the much-anticipated video of Xavier's Jordan Crawford dunking on NBA MVP LeBron James earlier this month at Nike's LeBron James Skills Academy at the University of Akron. The TMZ footage, presumably shot via cell phone and looking about as steady as the San Andreas Fault, shows Crawford dunking over James in the middle of a pickup game. The footage from eBaum Nation (above), which is higher quality and includes better audio, was shot from the side of the court where the dunk took place and shows Crawford's two-handed jam at the 35-second mark.
As previously reported, Nike officials confiscated the footage of two videographers working the camp because they claimed the videotaping of after-hours pickup games was not allowed. One of the videographers, Ryan Miller, spoke with SI.com on Wednesday and confirmed that it was indeed the dunk, but not the footage he shot.
"I am 99.9 percent sure that is the actual dunk," said Miller, a 22-year-old recent Syracuse University graduate. "I was obviously in a different position on the floor, but it was the same reaction from the crowd, same everything. The footage they had before [the dunk] was also footage from that same pickup game. So that's the dunk. Finally."
Miller said he was filming from the sideline and baseline area, as was the other cameraman who had his tape taken by Nike. The TMZ.com video shows an angle from above and behind the far backboard. Miller said there is a running track above the James A. Rhodes Arena at Akron and that appears to be the vantage point of the video. Miller believes it was taken from the front row of the stands.
"Almost all of the high school campers were on the floor to the left of the court," Miller said. "I have no idea of this for sure, but the footage could have come from a volunteer from the Nike camp. And that's crazy because Nike tried so hard to restrict this footage. But the only people in the building were the coaches involved, workers for the camp, the players, some media and the volunteers. It very well could be someone out of Nike's own camp that sold the tape to TMZ."
Miller said he appears in the eBaum Nation video, wearing a white shirt and holding a tripod and camera on the left side of the opposite basket. He was credentialed through Syracuse.com, which covers news in central New York.
"It was fun to finally watch the dunk because I had only seen it once, which was one time more than everyone else, obviously," Miller said. "I kind of had low expectations because of the high expectations everyone else had. So it was a little better than I expected. I still think it was a solid dunk, and if it was released initially, it would have been a YouTube sensation for a few days and then faded away. But people can now see it was not bad enough to warrant Nike taking tapes away."
Miller has not heard from Nike but he has hired an attorney who contacted the company Monday. Miller said his attorney sent Nike a letter "asking for my tape back."
SI.com also learned Wednesday that ESPN was contacted about buying video of the dunk.
"We were approached about purchasing footage from multiple people who had various copies," ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz said. "None were of major value to us. We made a small offer and they declined. When we use footage from other outlets going forward, we will obviously credit them."