As promised, below is an article I wrote last year about the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest 2012. This is non-conclusive, and importantly does not include this year’s dunks. However, I firmly believe all these points should stand as is, making stronger my bottom line. KEEP IT SIMPLE, NAIL THE DUNK. Everyone is sick of bench players jumping over each other to hit the basket hard. We see that in games now — perhaps overdone at this point; players would rather jump over the defense then dribble around.
So, read what’s below. I think you’ll find it rather enlightening and extremely frustrating. Especially since I wrote this last year, and we are sans change.
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to offend Jeremy Evans, winner of the Slam Dunk Contest 2012. His dunk was cool and rather impressive. I don’t blame him for attempting to wow the crowd. But he was 3 props too many in my book.
Jeremy Evans Slam Dunk - Video of the win, Slam Dunk Contest 2012
Props to the Dunk Without A Prop
Los Angeles Clippers rookie Blake Griffin cleared the front hood of a car, with the support of an on-court gospel choir, to secure the win in this year’s NBA Slam Dunk contest. To say the least, the performance was excessive and made a spectacle of Hollywood flair in the L.A. Staples Center.
This year’s All-Star extremities forces the question: what happened to the years when a spectacular Slam Dunk performance required only three essential props: a ball, the basket and the athlete.
On Saturday, Griffin took the NBA “No Rules” contest to new extremes. The incorporation of a 2011 Kia Optima into his final dunk made it nearly impossible for runner-up JaVale McGee to win the votes of fans across the country.
“You bring a car out, you’re going to win any dunk contest,” Washington’s McGee told The Washington Post. “It was smart by his part… nothing is going to beat a car unless I bring out a plane or something.” True enough, with all the excitement, Griffin won with 68 percent of fan voting in the final round.
However, McGee should not be excused from steering clear of Hollywood hype. Just because he didn’t have the car, doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have dunked it had he had the chance.
Seven-foot McGee opened the competition, receiving a perfect score of 50, after bringing out a second rim to sink two balls as part of a double-basket-dunk. The basket might have been the one to take Larry Nance’s 1984 two-for-one special to the next level, until he performed his second dunk of the evening.
McGee’s mother, former WNBA player Pam McGee, delivered JaVale a red, white and blue money-ball from the stands in a glitter-encrusted box. Pam kissed each of the judges on the cheek before JaVale juggled three basketballs for a “three-for-one” special dunk.
So, to pose the question again, what happened to good ol’ fashioned Slam Dunking? You know, the days when an NBA All-Star qualified as Superman by flying from the free throw line for the winning dunk.
This year, Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka was slighted when he did not advance to the final round after he dunked with his foot fully behind the foul line – a distance dunk that Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Michael Jordan never fully reached. Dr. J’s foot was just ahead of the foul line, and he still won the ABA Slam Dunk Contest in 1976. Jordan scored a 50 on his dunk; he leaped from the foul line, for the 1988 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest win.
There were no props, no Superman capes (Dwight Howard, 2008), no Gospel ensembles and certainly no $19,000 cars.
Ibaka, also not to be excused from the fanfare of a prop-assisted performance attempted a more “showy” dunk for the second round.
Ibaka’s second dunk this year consisted of a contrived performance: a child actor ran onto the court, or stage rather, exclaiming he had lost his toy, and petitioned for Ibaka to retrieve it for him. The stuffed animal sat on the rim of the basket.
However, Ibaka required two attempts to rescue the animal, as the trick was to grab it with his teeth upon the dunk. The clock was stopped for two minutes in between the attempted dunks, in order for the court crew to re-set the toy onto the rim.
When it comes to the Slam Dunk contest, an All-Star competition created for the purpose of seeing an All-Star performance, how much is too much? If a two-ball dunk can become a three-ball dunk, and a one-basket dunk can become a two-basket dunk, can talent be replaced by fireworks?
If in the first-ever 1984 NBA dunk contest, the winning dunk by Phoenix’s Larry Nance was a reverse one-handed windmill, what does that say about the crowd’s expectations today?
In 2008, Dunk champion Dwight Howard won the tournament after declaring himself Superman by tying a red cape around his neck – only for him to bring a telephone booth and second basket onto the court in 2009. Upon his second superman transformation, Howard dunked into a rim heightened to 12 feet, and came out as runner-up.
Nate Robinson, three-time NBA dunking champion, made Howard his own prop and dunked over him for the winning performance in 2009. Even Robinson’s skyscraper basket couldn’t make him a back-to-back dunk star.
Perhaps, in order to stabilize the spiraling All-Star dunk competition, the NBA should lower the rims to ten feet and lower the fans and judges’ expectations to that of Larry Nance, Dr. J and Michael Jordan.
Griffin’s elbow-hanging dunk was impressive, even though the move was reminiscent of All-Star Slam Dunk Champion Vince Carter in 2000. Both champions hung from the rim by their elbow after the dunk, but Griffin added an alley oop.
The fact that Ibaka could not even advance to the next round after perfecting Dr. J’s own dunk, defines the line between a props-worthy dunk, and a dunk with too many props.