There once was a time when the NBA dunk contest actually had dunkers who wanted to win. Genuine contestants who participated because they had the ability to not only dunk the ball in a stylish and rim rattling way, but also because they wanted to win. The dunk contest was not just a fashion statement, it actually revolved around the art of dunking the basketball. Can the same be said in this day and age?
The days of Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, Julius Erving, Shawn Kemp, Darryl Dawkins, Larry Nance, David Thompson, and many more are long gone.
Sure Vince Carter brought immense attention to the contest in 2000 when he essentially ended the contest on his first dunk. As Kenny Smith put it “LET’S GO HOME” was certainly the phrase of the night each time we saw Vince Carter lift off into space. His opponents were not so shabby either. Steve Francis put up a valiant fight, and Vince’s cousin Tracy McGrady was impressive.
Then in 2002 the league thought they would get fancy and changed the format to a tournament style dual. Jason Richardson started to make a name for himself that year, and he was a pretty good dunker. Not incredible but at least creative enough for fans to appreciate.
As the years passed the NBA lost more and more fans of the dunk contest. Even the TNT crew would laugh and joke around about how lousy the creativity and competition was compared to the past. Then another jolt in 2008 from Superman had a new generation impressed by a dunk that was thrown in, instead of actually traditionally dunked. Had Dwight Howard saved the dunk contest for the time being? Was this a turn in the right direction for the slam dunk contest?
Well thanks to being really short and Spud Webbish, little Nate Robinson stole the trophy away from Dwight Howard through fan text messaging in 2009. Exactly what the NBA needed…. more fan voting! (I say this with the utmost sarcasm.)
Sure Nate was small, and what he could do with the basketball was amazing. Was it Spud Webb amazing…. not in my opinion. Many of Nate’s dunks took what felt like days. Time after time he would miss and regroup. Now I give the man credit for being so in shape, but I think the cardinal rule in the dunk contest is if you miss it the first time, the second go around just doesn’t look as cool. The surprise factor is gone, the crowd knows what’s coming, and the player loses that oh so important “swag” factor.
Well 2011 rolls around after a dud in 2010, and the all mighty Blake “Poster Child” Griffin enters the fray. Now look the man can flat out dunk, and if the slam dunk contest has any shot at survival Blake is the main man that can help. 2011 was better, more creative and far more entertaining than years past. A genuine effort was visible, and Blake did end up winning the trophy after he jumped over the HOOD of a car. Let me emphasize HOOD considering many say he jumped over a car. Wrong, he jumped over the hood of a car.
Well I have come full circle and I don’t bring good news with me. In a recent ESPN article Blake Griffin conveyed his message loud and clear.
“As of right now I don’t plan on being in it,” Griffin said Thursday night. “Those dunk contests aren’t my thing, I said that last year. There’s a lot of guys that can put on a great show and do some good stuff.”
As a fan this type of attitude really disappoints me. Blake who relishes as many dunks as he can possibly get in a game, says “dunk contests aren’t my thing.” Oh really? Is defending a trophy also not your thing? Is being competitive and entertaining fans with the one thing god has blessed you with also not your thing? The slam dunk contest has no shot, if contestants don’t show up to compete and defend titles. Blake Griffin should feel like he has an obligation to defend his title, and to give the fans what they really want.
Blake is not the only guy I will pick on today. Are you guys familiar with a player who goes by “King James.” Ya that one guy who is super talented but can’t seem to win a ring. The same guy that’s been teasing us for years now about entering the dunk contest? Well here’s what LeBron James had to say.
“If I decided to do it then I would have to win,” James said Thursday after the Miami Heat’s practice. “Otherwise it would be a waste of my Saturday night.”
Once again, new age players showing us different ways to disrespect a contest that used to have rich history. LeBron James gets knocked on about not being a leader when it counts. That quote solidifies why people love knocking on his noggin. It yells “I am scared to lose!” Come on LeBron, teasing is no fun don’t you know that by now?
LeBron is a power dunker, and even though I don’t think he would succeed at a high level in a dunk contest, I think he owes the fans the benefit of the doubt. As players if the commitment doesn’t exist, the the slam dunk contest won’t either.
Here is a list with the most dunks by each individual player so far this season. Who would you like to see in the 2012 dunk contest?