The contestants for the Slam Dunk contest have been announced, and I don’t know the exact time but I just heard about it around 5:00 on TNT by the immortal Ernie Johnson. Those players are: Gerald Wallace, Nate Robinson, Shannon Brown, and Demar Derozan/Eric Gordon depending on who wins the Dunk-in event during the halftime of the rookie/sophomore game.
Okay, the first thing is I am semi-excited about the participants, mostly Wallace and Brown. However, I am greeted with the same doubt that has annually been associated with this contest since Carter brought the contest back to the levels mostly associated with the Jordan and ‘Nique duels back in the 80s. It just isn’t as good, and there are a variety of reasons for this perceived decline.
One such reason is that there really isn’t much to do anymore in the dunk contest. What can be done now that hasn’t already been done in contests, or in some cases during games? A 760? That would be spectacular and sure to bring down the house, but then why hasn’t it already been done? I just don’t think that the actual dunking portion of the event can reach new levels. That is why theatrics have become such an integral part of the process in recent years.
Dwight Howard’s “superman” would have been nothing without the superman t-shirt and corresponding cape. Nate Robinson probably would not have won last year if he didn’t “transform” into Krypto-Nate and come out of the locker room with his green jersey and matching sleeve.
The lack of superstar, or even star, participation has really damaged the contest in recent tries. I know that Dwight Howard has been a mainstay for the past couple of seasons, but he started before he truly blossomed and has stayed only to right some injustices or defend his title. And some people even got on his case saying that they will only believe that they are serious about winning if he stops participating in these silly dunk contests and stops swatting shots a few rows deep. How can you at once want the best players available and condemn them for participating and claiming that they “aren’t serious?”
The dunk contest has its roots firmly implanted in the history of basketball, originating back with the ABA and crossing over when the NBA higher-ups decided it would be a good idea to showcase the most exciting part of the game. Back then, dunks that are now seen as simple and rudimentary were at the time seen as miracles of human levitation and impossible. Throughout its history the contest has benefited from the best in the league trying to prove their worth by measuring up against the best dunkers in the league.
Dr. J did it. So did Michael. So did Dominique, as did Nance and Kobe. As have McGrady and Vince. So, yeah, the best in the league have boosted the contest to new heights, benefits that the contest hasn’t had in a long time. So, besides the dearth of originality left, or the quality of the actual dunks, the lack of stars participating in the contest hasn’t exactly helped.
Well, enough negativity about the dunk contest (I feel similar to this as I do about the plight of the polar bear, sure they are probably on the verge of ceasing to be, but there isn’t much that I could do about it) lets focus on the positives.
Gerald Wallace is going to be in the contest. I would say that I would like Wallace but that would be so inconsequential so it isn’t even worth it. That is like saying that I like food. It would only be noteworthy if I didn’t like Wallace. He has reserves of energy, almost too much. He is a superb athlete who at one point during the season led the league in rebounding despite the fact that he is a small forward. I believe he was already in a dunk contest, but that was before Wallace was a significant player.
Shannon Brown is finally going to get the chance to showcase his skills that inspired a website. Although the Champ remains steadfast that Shannon is a scrub from his days as the Cavaliers 12th man who was more likely to be struck by a tank than see any action during the game, he does have some skill. He can dunk, and he isn’t a big guy. That’s about all I know about Shannon, other than the fact that he has a name that isn’t gender specific.
Speaking of little guys, Nate Robinson has decided to participate once again. Is he even a draw at this point? How many times can you see this guy dunk before the astonishing accomplishment of a guy well under 6 feet dunking wears away into just an ordinary occurrence? I thought that was last year but we shall see. He has to be the favorite, right? The defending champ? The David who has already defeated Goliath? How could he not be considered the favorite to win it yet again? That being said, I don’t think he is going to win.
And we are left with either Eric Gordon or Demar Derozan. To borrow a line from the Franchise, I didn’t even know Gordon could dunk. Not that he isn’t tall enough or athletic enough to, but I don’t think I have seen him throw one down with any sense of authority. Although I don’t think that hurts him. If anything, the surprise of any thunderous dunk or superior jumping skills will probably win more initial points than a guy who is known for his tremendous hops. So I have no expectations for Gordon. However, despite the fact that I have hardly seen him play, I have a fairly high level of expectations for Derozan.
As a 6’7” forward with some echoes of athleticism, I expect Demar to come ready to put on a show. I have no way of knowing if this expectation is universal, but if it is then Demar could be harmed.
With all that said, I don’t expect the dunk contest to be that exciting. However, I probably would have said that the last couple of years and there were some memorable moments from those contests (the Superman dunk and Nate jumping “over” Dwight). Barring a perfect 30-point performance in the 3-point contest, it certainly will be better than that. And the skills contest is a novel idea, but the contestants seem to never take it seriously until the final round, and even then it isn’t that exciting. So almost by default the dunk contest is the must see event of the night.
The way that I can sum the decline of the dunk contest is the reasons why people watch it. I feel, at least, that people used to watch it in order to see what was going to happen, when almost all dunks (including tomahawks and reverse dunks) were still inspired and artistic. Now, those people who remain loyal to the contest do so just incase something unbelievable happens. Not so much because it is expected but because they would be ridiculed had they missed the highlight of the night. (For the record, I almost called this post “Dunk-in Like Donuts”, thought I would let you know)