If you grew up on Tobacco Road, or had any affinity to Duke or UNC, or even just watched this particular college basketball game, you remember it--the night Duke’s Justise Winslow kicked a guy right in the dick on national television.
March 7, 2015. Third-ranked Duke was riding a ten-game winning streak into Chapel Hill, where they’d face a feisty and talented UNC squad. With the Blue Devils having narrowly edged out a victory over their rivals just a few weeks prior, and major ACC Championship and NCAA tournament implications hanging in the balance, the Saturday night showdown was already cooking at a fever pitch.
Editor’s Note: All quotes are—to the best of our knowledge—fake.
One of the keys to Duke’s late-season run was its small lineup, which featured the 6’8” Winslow at power forward. The lineup’s improved spacing gave Winslow more freedom, but as a result, the team was--rather forebodingly--more dependent on Winslow’s aggressiveness.
JUSTISE WINSLOW, Duke forward: I’d been playing well in the weeks leading up to the UNC game, playing with confidence. I felt damn near unstoppable. I was playing with insatiable rage and wanton disregard for safety, but I was 18, so it made sense to me.
Damn right, I just used “wanton” in a sentence. They don’t call us “student-athletes” for nothing.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI, Duke head coach: I absolutely do not agree to participate in an interview. Please leave my office.
JEFF CAPEL, Duke assistant coach: That game. Man. That was the kind of game that changes a man, you know? In these rivalry games, there’ll always be one or two plays that just defy explanation. You just hope they work in your favor, and that your guys don’t get hurt. Especially not their dicks.
QUINN COOK, Duke guard: As the senior captain, I was responsible for preparing my teammates, getting them in the right mental state. Especially the young guns--you never know how they’ll react going into Chapel Hill. Some dudes are cool; some are amped. Crazy stuff can happen there.
We knew Justise was a loose cannon, though. If something was going down, he was gonna be our guy.
BRICE JOHNSON, UNC forward: Honestly, I thought it was just gonna be another game. A rivalry game, sure, but nothing out of the ordinary.
No one wakes up in the morning assuming they’re gonna get kicked in the dick. That’s no way to go through life.
CHUCK KLOSTERMAN, person who inexplicably appears in things like this: Most people who play basketball think that the sport is about putting a ball in a hoop. But to view the game through such a reductive lens is not only insufficient--it’s completely antithetical to James Naismith’s vision. The game of basketball isn’t about one specific designated outcome, but rather a complex web of potentialities, each stemming from the choices that the individual players make. And, for a while, we knew what these choices were: pass, shoot, dribble, foul.
To kick a guy in the dick, though? That was new. That was exciting. In some ways, Winslow became the Jimi Hendrix of basketball that night.
WINSLOW: Going into the game I had no idea what would transpire. That play, it wasn’t something we practiced. Hell, I never even played soccer growing up.
You know those knee hammers that doctors use? Well, Marshall Plumlee had snuck one of those onto the bench for the game, and he kept hitting himself in the knees to stay occupied. Pretty inexcusable, yeah, but he’s like a Boo Radley kind of guy. No one really bothers to question him.
MARSHALL PLUMLEE, Duke center [laughing pretty stupidly]: Yeah, I like those hammer things. Ha ha.
WINSLOW: We were in a TV timeout right beforehand, and Marshall was sitting there, just hitting me in the knees for 60 seconds straight. When I ran back out on the court, my legs felt super springy, and I, well, I guess I just needed to stretch them out.
With Duke trailing 33-29 late in the first half, Winslow drives to the bucket past UNC’s Justin Jackson. Brice Johnson, helping off of Duke’s Amile Jefferson, slides into the frame.
JUSTIN JACKSON, UNC forward: Winslow drove by me, but I knew that we had plenty of rim protection, so I wasn’t too concerned. Does that make sense? It made sense at the time, I swear.
Of course I think about that sequence now. I mean, if you could go back in time and prevent Hitler from kicking a guy in the dick, you would, right?
AMILE JEFFERSON, Duke forward: I was wide open, and I’d been practicing that baseline jumper all year. So at first, yeah, I was pissed that he didn’t pass me the ball. But once I saw that gleam in Justise’s eye, I understood. A chance like that [to kick a guy square in the dick] only comes along once in a lifetime.
As Winslow takes off for the bucket, he extends his left leg, making what appears to be contact on Johnson’s genitals. He’s whistled for an offensive foul, nothing more.
WINSLOW [laughing]: Are we on the record or off it?
But to answer your question: yeah, I kicked him in the dick.
JOHNSON: Yeah, it hurt. Of course it f------ hurt.
BRIAN KERSEY, head official: I was stationed on the baseline, so I got shielded on the play, and I could only call it as a traditional offensive foul.
The officials got together and discussed it. We were pretty sure that Winslow had kicked Johnson in the dick, but we couldn’t think of the correct hand signal to convey this to the crowd. The charge and block signs are so elegant, you know? How do you maintain that elegance when dealing with something as brutal as a dick kick?
ROY WILLIAMS, UNC head coach: You could hear the crunch of Johnson’s dick from the sidelines.
KLOSTERMAN: As soon as Winslow kicked Johnson, the question had shifted from “Why did he do that?” to “Why hasn’t everyone else been doing that?” It was a whole new way of seeing the interplay between one man’s shoe and another man’s dick. It’s not a stretch to see Winslow’s kick as the lashing out of an entire generation, one beaten down by the Taylor Swiftian monoculture. It was a kick to, both literally and effectually, create some space.
ESPN twice shows the replay of Winslow uncorking a solid blow on Johnson’s, well, johnson.
CAPEL: We didn’t initially have a good view on the bench, but the replay? It was just savage.
JAY BILAS, ESPN color commentator: Watching the play in real time, I actually threw up in my mouth a bit. When I watched the slow-motion replays--I mean, forget it. I vomited all over press row.
CHRISTIAN LAETTNER, heralded investor: Should’ve been a no-call.
JOHN BRENKUS, Host, "ESPN Sport Science": When I saw that kick, I winced THREE SEPARATE TIMES, which is TWO MORE WINCES than when I see an AVERAGE PLAY. I called my editor and, AFTER SEVEN RINGS, he picked up. I told him that I wanted to run a segment on the kinetic force of Winslow’s foot on the guy’s dick, and my editor said “no” in 0.3 SECONDS--ABOUT AS FAST AS THE RELEASE on a STEPH CURRY JUMPER.
WILLIAMS: People asked me why Johnson stayed in the game, like they don’t know why. I mean, do they really think our training staff has a dick specialist?
It was incredible, though. Johnson staying in there was like Kirk Gibson in the World Series, except, he didn’t have a bruised knee or whatever. He had a bruised dick.
JOHNSON: I’m not going to say exactly what I did at halftime. That’d be too graphic.
He eats healthier now, but let’s just say it’s a good thing that Kennedy Meeks’ locker was stuffed with pints of ice cream last year. You figure it out.
KENNEDY MEEKS, UNC center: Wait, he did what?
After the kick, an emboldened Winslow scored nine of Duke’s next 11 points, keeping his team in the game before the Blue Devils pulled away late. Duke would only lose once more that season, going on a run that culminating in the team’s fifth National Championship in April.
JEFFERSON: We honestly had no idea that the kick would be such a huge sensation.
COOK: We’d get tweets and Facebook messages from all over, these inspired elementary- and middle-school players winding up and kicking their opponents in the dick. The hashtag #KITD started all because of Justise.
JEFFERSON: For a while, the most popular Make-A-Wish for kids at the Duke University Hospital was to kick Brice Johnson--in the dick, that is. After a while, the hospital staff had to find out-of-work mall Santas to fill in for Brice.
WINSLOW: It doesn’t make me feel good, but Coach would always talk about having that spark. Sometimes it’s slapping the floor on defense. Sometimes it’s a dunk.
That night, it was kicking a guy in the dick.
COOK: For me, there’s no question: if Justise doesn’t kick that guy in the dick, we’re not putting up another banner in Cameron Indoor Stadium at the end of the year.
KRZYZEWSKI: I’m calling the police if you don’t leave my office.
KLOSTERMAN: Today, the question shouldn’t be whether it was a great dick kick, which it--in both the absolute and relative senses of the word “great”--was. The question is whether in our temporal rush to anoint this kick as one of the best ever, we are actually doing it a disservice by disregarding the underratedness of its place in the pantheon alongside other Mt. Rushmore dick kicks, a dismissal that, in our pursuit of the defining post-Shavlik Randolph cultural zeitgeist, devolves our relationship with the dick kick into one which [..]
Ed. note: At this point we were forced to sedate Mr. Klosterman, and his commentary soon became unintelligible.
KERSEY: We actually came up with a symbol for a “dick kick” foul in the offseason. It’s pretty explicit. Sure, people rag on Pitino for being a pervert, but he’s got one hell of a creative mind.
JOHNSON: It was tough, trying to recover from that play. It basically became my identity. We used to go hang out at the mall, at the local Foot Locker during the summer. I couldn’t go in there until September--seeing all of those sneakers was too traumatic.
WINSLOW: I really hope the best for Brice. We text pretty often now.
JOHNSON: Every week he sends me two emojis: a foot and a cucumber. It’s like, c’mon man!
PLUMLEE: Ha ha ha. That is funny.
JOHNSON: I was hurting, emotionally and obviously physically, as a result of getting kicked in the dick. Unless you’re some kind of sadist, there’s no training for that kind of pain. Fortunately, some of Chris Paul’s opponents have reached out to me, and we can understand and support one another.
WINSLOW: It’s crazy, thinking back like this. It’s really been almost a year since that play.
Everyone today comes up to me and asks the same question: Would I do it again? I’m a different person now. A better person, I hope.
Winslow then reaches into his bag and pulls out a steel-toed Air Jordan. He grins.
Then again, if you aren’t kicking a dick or two, you aren’t trying.
Duke and UNC play tonight at 9 PM, in the first game between the two teams since the Winslow-Johnson encounter. Winslow now plays for the Miami Heat, while Johnson is in his senior year for the Tar Heels. Our thoughts are with Chuck Klosterman, as he gets the help he so desperately needs.