I remember the thrilling, playoff atmosphere and of the 2000 dunk contest, which featured Vince Carter and his infamous point to the rafters, after he pulled off a ridiculous through-the -leg dunk off a bounce pass from Tracy McGrady. No cupcakes, capes, cars, or choirs necessary.
Sadly, the dunk contest is dying a slow and painful death due to lack of star power. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, all-stars such as Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant and Clyde Drexler all participated in the dunk contest. In our current era, we have participants such as Jeremy Evans (Utah Jazz) and James White (New York Knicks), who saw more action on an NBA court during the dunk contest than they do on their respective teams.
This leads to nerves, and nerves lead to 15 attempts of the same dunk that bore the audience and strip the surprise of pulling it off on the first attempt. Of course there is a certain creativity that needs to be had in a competition like this, but the beauty of creativity is lost when the fans know what the dunk is going to look like 16 attempts and three minutes earlier.
The biggest line that is thrown around among slam-dunk contest critics is that “everything has been done before.” First off, that is not true and Jordan wasn’t the first person to dunk. He was one of the first players to make it look like the brushstroke on a white canvas. My point is, dunks can and should be recreated by stars like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Lebron James and Blake Griffin. Seeing James rock the cradle followed by Griffin jumping from the free throw line. No more Gerald Green blowing out cupcakes and cutting down nets, please.
One way to achieve this is to put a $1 million prize for winning the competition. We all know the NBA has no problem whoring itself out to corporate sponsors, so what’s another million?
All-Star Weekend is ultimately for the fans. The last thing on the planet that paying fans want to see is a bunch of bench players covering up their nerves by injecting every dunk with gimmicks, people, props and throwback jerseys to legends that they aren’t even close to emulating.
Star players need to take off their cool glasses and realize that the reasons their arenas are sold out all season, and their merchandise is in high demand is because of the fans, and for two hours on a Saturday night in mid-February, the least they can do is pay them back.