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Bring Back The Dunk Contest

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the fall of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and what can be done to fix it.

On February 13, 2000, NBA history would be changed forever. A 23-year old Vince Carter would take center stage under the bright lights at Oakland Arena and shock the basketball world. The setting was the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and the victor was Vince.

Over the course of two rounds, Carter amassed a score of 198 out of a possible 200. It was two particular dunks, though, that will be forever engrained in dunk contest history. The first was a 360-windmill dunk to show the judges what he could do.

The second was a dunk to shock the crowd. Carter got up so high he was able to put his arm in the basket. So impressive that even his fellow all-stars were left speechless.

Only 23 years young, Carter was already a legend. He has since gone on to be considered one of, if not the best dunker of all time. This is the type of platform the Dunk Contest can provide, but, unfortunately, it has not been “old school” good for a while.

In recent years, the most exciting part of the Dunk Contest has been discussing whether or not the NBA rigged Blake Griffin’s 2011 win versus JaVale McGee.

The reason for the decline of the Dunk Contest is twofold. One, high profile players are mostly barren from the contest’s roster (unlike earlier years) and two, because so many dunk contests have been held, innovation can dwindle and the dunks, which were once shocking, are now old.

The basketball world got momentarily excited when LeBron James announced he would participate in the 2010 dunk contest. He was the hero basketball needed to bring the contest back to its former glory when it was being won by the likes of Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and Kobe Bryant. But he pulled out, and the dunk contest has been largely populated by up-and-comers since then. 

Last year’s dunk contest was comprised of Victor Oladipo, Mason Plumlee, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and, eventual winner, Zach LaVine; two players from the 2013 draft class, and two from 2014. Between the four of them they combined for a total of zero all-star seasons. Good for them? Yes. But not for the history of the competition, not to get the contest back on track.

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Credit must be given to LaVine for his performance, and his appearance in 2016 will surely be a nice encore. He will be joined by Aaron Gordon, Will Barton, and Andre Drummond. I am sure they will put on a nice show, but they are by no means superstars.

Gordon is mostly known in the NBA as being the fourth overall pick back in 2014, but he has not done much since. Will Barton is having a good season, but was mostly useless for the three seasons prior. Andre Drummond is a rising star and a rebound king, but is not too known for his dunks. Big men have historically performed worse than their peers in dunk contests too.

The second problem with todays dunk contest ties directly back into the absence of stars. Any dunk, even the flashy ones, will eventually get old. There are only so many ways to windmill the ball and so many variations of putting it between your legs. A talented athlete can impress the crowd, but it is the anticipation of what these missing superstars can do that really takes away from current competitions.

All is not lost for the Slam Dunk Contest, though, as a few tweaks and changes could trend it back to what it once was. The NBA must do what it can to attract high profile players back to the contest. What was once prestigious is now an amateur’s game geared towards players who are athletes, and athletes alone. Whatever incentives there are, offer them.Image title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Another problem that could use fixing is the scoring system for the contest. The perfect score for a dunk of 50 is used far too often for dunks that do not deserve it. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing one dunk receive a 50 only to have a superior dunk follow it. If perfect scores are being handed out it takes away from the true competition and takes away from the performances that truly deserve to be recognized. Rule of thumb: only a mind-blowing dunk should be judged as a perfect 50, otherwise it makes no sense.

Overall, these changes have the potential to turn back the clock on the dunk contest. At the very least the NBA needs to lure some big names back to the competition, or see its reputation suffer even more.

Some legendary players proved themselves in games. Then there are those who went even further and battled it out in the dunk contest, solidifying their legacy as a great high flier. Here’s to the return of the prestige, the final test of NBA greatness, and the true main event of All Star Weekend. 

Edited by Justin Peroff, Brian Kang.

Who is the youngest player to win a dunk contest?
Created 2/9/16
  1. Zach LaVine
  2. Michael Jordan
  3. Vince Carter
  4. Kobe Bryant
Who is the only player not to win back-to-back Slam Dunk Contests?
Created 2/9/16
  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Dominique Wilkins
  3. Jason Richardson
  4. Nate Robinson

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