I don’t know if you’ve figured this out already, but Franz Wagner is a homicidal maniac.
Despite a career that spans just 21 games to date, he legitimately has a fistful of attempted murders to his name already, with a litany of bodies and would-be victims left in his wake.
To watch Wagner take flight is to witness a man possessed. He attacks the hoop with a straight-line ferocity that threatens to catch any unlucky body that happens to find itself in the vicinity, and he does so frequently.
When handling the ball on the perimeter he’s always seemingly eyeing off the painted area, looking for a chance to drive into the lane and throw the hammer down. He also appears to be entirely unphased by the presence of defenders, who represent nought but a roadblock to be leapt over as he hunts the perfect slam.
It’s this almost monomaniacal focus that means Sweet Franz figures to be a mainstay on SportsCenter highlight reels and ‘Dunk of the Season’ lists for years to come. Let’s count down five of this killer’s best since he donned the pinstripes
5. Wagner in the open court (vs. Nets)
There’s a lot to like about this dunk. Wagner needs just three dribbles to go almost the length of the court; he rises up from about a foot outside the restricted area; and he gets one of those flushes that are so clean you kind of end up dunking it on your own head because of your body’s momentum. Blake Griffin also decides he wants none of it, dipping out of the challenge at the last moment in a small show of respect for the flying German.
However, what initially looks like one of the dunk’s best elements — the fact that he strips Kevin freakin’ Durant to kickstart the fastbreak slam! — falls apart a little on closer inspection. Wagner’s definitely playing irritable defense, with his body nice and close to KD’s and the hands active, but the ball actually bobbles loose not because Franz swipes it but because Durant simply loses the dribble. In fact, the Nets superstar was perilously close to opening up his own dunking seam by getting over Wagner’s hips.
A nice play, sure, and evidence of Franz’s nose for thunderous dunk opportunities. Still, it’s unlikely that this one maintains its place on the highlight reel by season’s end.
4. Wagner swoops in with one hand (vs. Spurs)
Another athletic effort from the flying German, this time with an elevated leap and a beautiful one hand finish as he sweeps around the screen provided by Bamba. This entry reflects the capacity of Wagner to attack the hoop off the dribble, as he shows little hesitation in driving into the space that emerges and stuffing the ball home. A sneakily under-rated element of the dunk? The effortless, one-handed transition from Wagner’s dribble to a cocked hammer. Beautiful.
Unfortunately, not all of the elements perfectly align for this dunk. Drew Eubanks never really gets into a position to get postered, while Tre Jones realizes very quickly that he does not want to be murdered by the Magic rookie and backs all the way out of the play. As such the dunk is more a threat of violence than a genuine assault, which keeps it from climbing higher in the rankings.
3. Wagner glides in for the flush (vs. Wizards)
Be still my beating heart — this one’s a doozy! Wagner runs the floor in transition after a turnover, and doesn’t actually stop moving until he has dropped an absolute hammer on the unsuspecting opposition. He takes the ball just above the break and has the better part of four Wizards players between himself and the rim, not that it matters. He takes two long strides off the dribble, picks the ball up well outside the restricted area, and then takes flight with three would-be defenders in his immediate proximity.
The most impressive part? After taking flight, he kind of just … stays up there.
Wagner gathers the left-hand dribble, transfers the ball to his preferred right, and then continues to glide across the painted area. At the moment of peak ascension he flushes the ball home, throwing the rock back down against the momentum of his body. As he grabs the hoop, that cool thing where the dunker’s legs kick out in both directions at once happens, and Deni Avdija thanks his lucky stars that he stayed home and will, as a result, enjoy at least one more day on this Earth.
2. Wagner throws down a monster two-hander (at Knicks)
Okay, it’s time to start piling up the bodies.
On the grandest basketball stage of all, Madison Square Garden, Wagner unleashes what is irrefutably an act of premeditated violence. The inbounds initially bypasses Franz but he’s having none of it, immediately calling for the ball from his veteran teammate despite being seventy feet from the ring. Ross evidently recognizes the murderous look in the rookie’s eyes and hands it over.
Wagner takes a few dribbles to size Immanuel Quickley up, moving him to the left in a bid to open up the midcourt. It works a trick, and when Derrick Rose chooses to stick with his immediate assignment the plan is in action. Wagner takes two more dribbles as he accelerates into the lane, gathers the ball at the dotted half-circle, and rises up against a pair of New York Knickervictims. A two-hand grasp ensures a little more force, and he finishes by thunderously flushing the ball on a helpless Quickley and RJ Barrett.
Franz flexes, the Garden gasps, and the New York players look away ashamedly from the casualties in their midst.
1. Wagner kills a man (at Timberwolves)
Oh my goodness, dismember the corpse and send his widow a corsage — Franz managed to murder most of the Timberwolves in one fell swoop! In just the eighth game of his professional career, Wagner threw down an absolute hammer that vacated Jarred Vanderbilt’s soul from his body and put basically the entire city of Minnesota on a poster.
As is becoming his signature, Wagner comes out of the pick-and-roll handling the ball and immediately makes a beeline for the painted area. As he speeds past Karl Anthony-Towns his eyes light up and he takes a momentum-churning gather. He then plants hard and rises up from just inside the lane, stuffing home a monster jam that snuffs the life out of Vanderbilt and that turns the recovering KAT into collateral damage. What an absolute tombstone.
Anthony-Towns gives a little flail as he stumbles from the encounter in a daze. Vanderbilt suffers the double-whammy indignity of having the ball jet through the net and straight onto his nose. Wagner sprawls to the floor as any exhausted murderer might do. The commentary team laughs in shock. Magic Twitter melts down. Death comes for all.
A pinstriped legend is born.