Tuesday, February 20, 2007

NBA Slam Dunk Contest: 1984 - 2000

Once upon a time the NBA Slam Dunk Contest was a prestigious even that everyone looked forward to come All-Star weekend. It was often as exciting (if not more so) than the actual game. Names like Jordan, Wilkins, Bryant and Carter made it the must-see event of the NBA's mid-season break.

But then something happened. It is hard to recall the exact moment when the contest died, although Vince Carter's 2000 performance had a lot to do with it. Lack of creativity and a decreasing interest by the games biggest stars have been the two major factors in the downfall of the Slam Dunk Contest.

Don't get me wrong, this years contest was actually pretty good. Green put his name of all non-Celtics fans lips, Dwight Howard had probably the most creative dunk of the past few years when he put a sticker of himself 12 feet high before jamming the ball down and Tiny Nate Robinson continued to give hope to all people under 6' tall.

But everyone knows the dunk contest is old hat, played out and well, lame. Since guys like Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade and T-Mac refuse to do the contest anymore, we are left with tier 2 stars. Sure Howard is a great player and Green has a bright future, but Ty Thomas? People know him as the guy who got fined for saying he'd only do the contest because it's "easy money." And Robinson? Well no one knew him until he won the thing last year. Jordan and Nique these guys are not.

What can the NBA do? Here are some ways (some serious, others very serious) the NBA can make the Slam Dunk Contest king again.

Bigger purse for the winner
This is the most simplistic solution: give the winner more money. $30,000 is one night out for most of these guys. The purse needs to be somewhere in the range of $100,000 - $500,000 and the bigger, the better. I find it truly hard to believe guys like Carter and T-Mac would refuse the chance at half a mil for a couple hours work. Not to mention the crowd cheering just for you and being the only guy out on the court. You can't put a price on the ego boost. And don't tell me the NBA can't afford it. Kobe just changed jersey numbers this year, that has to bring in millions of dollars from people who have to replace their now moot number 8 jerseys.

Bigger names
Probably the biggest weakness of the contest is the lack of big names. Watching LeBron or Wade do a 360 dunk is just plain better than watching Jason Richardson or Fred Jones do it. You'll say: "Well since it's exhibition they can't force anyone to do it." That is true, unless you put a clause in player contracts giving them a huge bonus for performing in the dunk contest. Something to the effect of "do the dunk contest, get a $500,000 raise". This would work almost as good as the bigger purse idea as you don't even have to win to get the money. Plus it could serve to lessen standard contracts, at least somewhat.

More competitors
I know this sounds strange, but the dunk contest needs to be longer. Four guys just doesn't cut it. Expand the field to at least 6 to allow for more variety, more downtime between dunks/misses and more hilarious participants, like Brent Barry.

Those are my serious suggestions that I could actually see happening. Now for the good stuff.

Allow more props
I heard a rumor that Gerald Green wanted to jump over a blackjack table instead of a boring regular table for his finale. How awesome would that have been? There is no way he wouldn't have gotten a 10 from Jordan on that one. Why stop at blackjack tables? I want motorcycles, cars, cheerleaders, children, fire pits, anything really. You can only jump over a teammate so many times.

Height/Race brackets
I want to see the 6' 11" and over dunk contest. Yao, KG, Dirk, anyone who is really tall. Same goes for shorter people: Earl Boykins, Robinson and anyone under 6' tall. I remember Steve Francis in 2000 and wondering what he could do next. Extreme heights make for interesting dunks.

I also want the all white dunk contest. Racism be damned, I want to see which white guys are the best dunkers. It doesn't have to stop at white guys either, do best non-US born dunker to incorporate the foreign flavor the NBA has. The possibilities are almost endless with this.

Let the mascots in
Mascots don't get enough love anymore. I remember when there was a gorilla for the Phoenix Suns who would do all sorts of crazy flips off trampolines during halftime and whatnot. Hell, for all I know he still is the mascot there. Point is, bring in some trampolines and see what mascot has the best aerial skills. This takes a lot of the prestige out of the contest but would be hilarious to watch.

Call the "And-1 Mixtape" guys
This one borders on possible, but I doubt Commish David Stern would approve of the "hip-hop" connotation. But honestly, imagine Hot Sauce, A-O, 50 and Half Man/Half Amazin in the dunk contest? There is no way these guys wouldn't try their asses off to win this, even if it was for the petty sum of $30,000. The stuff these men do with a basketball is insane and the stuff they would come up with would be mind-blowing. Alley-oop off the shot clock? Check. Jump over a car? Check. Do a flip? I wouldn't doubt it. These guys are the modern day Globe-Trotters, and I mean that in the best way. Do yourself a favor and YouTube some of their stuff if you don't know what I am talking about. Plus they could bring that announcer guy along: "Ohhhhhh baby!!!!"

I hope the NBA does something, anything to bring the Slam Dunk Contest back to what it once was.

1 comment:

Wendi said...

Interesting to know.