Talk to me young world. It’s been a minute since we last rapped. I wanted to touch basis with my people for a few ticks and see where y’all are at with it.
I just happened to stumble up on the NBA slam dunk contest last night as I strolled into my favorite watering hole to enjoy a nice cold IPA. Yes I’m a beer snob, but that’s not what’s in question right now. The actual question is has the NBA slam dunk contest gone to a sunken place?
The above picture describes my feelings about the dunk contest perfectly without saying a word. It’s not that the contest didn’t exhibit some entertaining feats of athleticism that the majority of the human family couldn’t come remotely close to doing, because the contestants did have hops. The problem was that the star power was nowhere to be found and hasn’t been for a while.
Now I admit that I haven’t been keeping up with the NBA these days like I used to because honestly I’m not a fan of the way the game is played in contemporary times. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the raw athleticism that these boyz bring to the table, but the way that professional basketball was played when I grew up is pretty much extinct. So naturally my interest in watching basketball has waned at about the same pace as the game has morphed into what it is today. I wouldn’t say that it’s a worse brand of ball, just not my personal flavor.
Saying all of that, I’m not very familiar with the current players if they don’t play for my hometown Houston Rockets or are not big name players that get talked about regularly on sports talk media outlets. Out of the four poster makers that participated in the contest I only knew who 2 of them were. I’ve never heard of the Maverick’s Dennis Smith Jr or the eventual winner Utah’s Donovan Mitchell. I knew who Indiana’s Victor Oladipo was because he not only mashed in previous slam dunk contests, he was a part of the trade that brought one of my favorite players in Paul George to OKC.
If Larry Nance Sr hadn’t won the inaugural NBA slam dunk contest in 1984 against the likes of an aging , yet iconic, Julius “Dr. J” Irving and an up and coming Dominique Wilkins I wouldn’t have had a clue who Nance Jr was either.
While the four high flyers brought the crowd to their feet several times throughout the duration of the contest I found myself underwhelmed. Not only due to Oladipo’s 150 failed attempts at making the same dunk(even though he did wear The Black Panter’s mask for one of ’em), but I had none of my favorite players to cheer for like I did when I was a youngster.
Ok let me clear the old school dust out of my throat as I take a trip down “back in my day” lane. I remember when the NBA dunk contest was must see TV for me. I didn’t give a damn about the All-Star game itself or the rest of the season for that matter as much as I did for the post 3 point contest mash off.
In those days the NBA’s best players/brightest stars competed against each other for the title of Lord of Dunk. There was nothing like seeing the Human Highlight Film aka ‘Nique powering his way to a 50 point perfect score using his explosive two-feet take off style verses the Michael “Air” Jordan one foot artistic gliding style that was full of flare and finesse. It just so happened that those two brothas were also battling for NBA scoring titles throughout their primes.
Everybody, and I mean EV-ER-Y damn BODY wanted to see those two go at it on All-Star Saturday night. Add in the 5’7 Anthony Spud Webb, Clyde “The Glyde” Drexler, Shawn “Rain Man” Kemp, The Mamba, Vince Carter, T Mac, Stevie “Franchise” Francis etc, and you could get even the most fringest of the fringe fan to tune in.
I mean even without the names, you still have solid dunkers like Zach LaVine who won the 2015 and 2016 dunk contests. He out-dueled fellow sky walker Aaron Gordon in 2016 to bring home the trophy in consecutive years, even though I thought Gordon should’ve won. You judge for yourself ‘cuz this was a classic baby.
Last night I saw some cool dunks, but none of them were as memorable as Jordan from the free throw line, ‘Nique’s two hand wind mill, Carter’s reverse 360 windmill, or even Gerald Green’s cupcake dunk in my opinion. Congrats to Mitchell for his well deserved victory though. He laid down some nice dunks, including a tribute to Vince Cater, when he imitated Carter by wearing his Raptors’ jersey and performing one of VC’s dunks from the 2000 mash fest. He didn’t get off of the ground like Vince though. Well very few people in history could have.
It seems that today’s top players aren’t the explosive dunkers of yesteryear. Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard aren’t known as phenomenal “dunkers” even though they all can technically dunk. Lebron James and Russell Westbrook are both devastating in game dunkers, but have their own reasons for not being a part of it. Here’s an article explaining Westbrook’s position on taking part.
My suggestion to the NBA is to go outside of the NBA confines and host a world wide street ball dunk contest competition where the world’s best square off against each other and the winner enters the NBA competition on All-Star weekend. I think that would get the fans into it. Maybe that’s just a pipe dream though, because the NBA probably wouldn’t want to risk it’s reputation as sitting atop of the basketball hierarchy by letting a non member member show up it’s stars.
Either way I’d love to see the dunk contest make a strong consistent comeback by any means necessary.