What is the legacy of the dunk contest? Currently it’s a list of forgettable players that got their 15 minutes of fame during All-Star Weekend. Some may say its legacy is a collection of used props from previous contest stored in a corner somewhere in warehouse. You shouldn’t get props for using them in a dunk contest, as if it’s some staged theatrical production.
The NBA’s best in-game dunkers should highlight the annual slam-dunk contest—period. If the NBA can’t market the best in-game dunkers, LeBron James and Blake Griffin, I can’t help feeling shortchanged. I’m certainly not getting the best of the best. So with all due respect to the 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk contestants Paul George, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore, George is the only one of the group with a catalog of game dunks and rightfully deserves to compete. So excuse me for not being enthusiastic about the upcoming dunk contest.
The NBA’s annual slam dunk contest may have run its course if the best players are not on this year’s roster. This contest originated in the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1976 as a way to gain fan market share against its more established competitor, the NBA. Julius “Dr. J” Erving of the New York Nets won the first dunk contest in Denver’s McNichols Sports Arena against some of the ABA’s star athletes, George “The Iceman” Gervin, of the San Antonio Spurs, and David “Skywalker” Thompson, of the Denver Nuggets. The NBA re-introduced the slam dunk contest in 1984, after a seven-year hiatus, to garner interest back into the game by showcasing its brightest stars. The NBA in 1984 was not the global conglomerate it is today, thanks to the vision of commissioner David Stern. But it should go back to the days of promoting the stars of the league during the dunk competition.
The criteria for participation in the NBA slam dunk contest should be more than dunking in warmups before games, aerial feats after team practice, or an occasional in-game dunk. The fans are well aware of who the real dunkers in the league are, because we see the highlights every night. So why should we be satisfied watching anything less than the best?
Get up for the letdown
The slam dunk contests in years past have been the biggest attraction of All-Star Weekend, even bigger than the All-Star Game. We all remember Michael Jordan’s rematch with Dominique Wilkins in the 1988 contest. Don’t remember much about the All-Star Game, but the two best in-game dunkers battled head-to-head in a rematch of the previous year’s dunk contest. I can also recall TNT’s analyst, Kenny Smith, saying after each dunk by Vince Carter, “IT’S OVER!!!” referring to the crescendo of dunks that had never been seen before that night in the year 2000.
I have also felt the anticlimactic pain of numerous dunk contests letdowns, where players had no idea of what dunks to attempt. Player missed dunks in the first round, and dunk champions were players who had to be Googled because no one knew they were.
The NBA proudly promotes that the game is played above the rim
Who wants to see players using props in a dunk contest? Enough is enough already, no mas. Was it more impressive to see Blake Griffin dunk over the hood of a parked Kia Optima or dunking on a defending Kendrick Perkins or Kris Humphries during a game?
Coincidence or conspiracy
Blake Griffin is now the spokesman for Kia Motors, the official car of the NBA. LeBron James serves as the featured spokesman for Sprite, the main sponsor of the slam dunk competition. I don’t care about protection of anyone’s brand or the corporate sponsor’s conflict of interest. As Dennis Rodman so eloquently stated, “I don’t give a rat’s ass!” I just want to see the best of the best compete in the dunk contest. Until those two go head-to-head, like M.J. and ‘Nique did in 1987 and 1988, I’ll feel the contest is a Slum Dunk.
Featured image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.