Monday, February 15, 2010

Fixing the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

(Gerald Wallace almost can't bear to watch..)

This weekend's 2010 All-Star events and activities made one glaring statement: the Slam Dunk contest needs serious revision. This year's contest was simply lackluster and the looks on the faces of other players and celebs witnessing it had to make David Stern just a bit uneasy about his product. You really have to wonder what former dunk champions Dominique Wilkins and Spudd Webb were thinking as they judged the young guys out there failing to do dunks that everyone's seen before. Even Spike Lee had trouble hiding the frown on his face as he was up close to witness a whole lot of nothing this year. TNT's Charles Barkley said it best before the winner was announced "Maybe no one will win". Spectators surely lost their time.

We all know now that the Knicks Nate Robinson was crowned the winner, via the fan vote, and wisely has announced he will retire from the competition now as its first 3-time winner. Robinson's gimmick was just like Spudd Webb's: he's a small dunker who has the crowd behind him due to his size. Nate didn't exactly bring anything groundbreaking beyond that. In year's past he used more creativity, but faltered in 2010. Now that his gimmick is over with, it's time to overhaul this annual favorite and bring back the prestige of the dunk contest.

1) Guys need to get serious - Several of the competitors looked like they just showed up to show up, but didn't bring it. Gerald Wallace did some powerhouse dunks but nothing new and seemed like he was bored to be there. DeMarcus DeRozan had the only 50 of the bunch, and even his dunk had been seen before. Shannon Brown showed up to the delight of Lakers fans, but then generated the most excitement when Kobe Bryant stood near the basket to toss the ball for an ally-oop. It seems that the use of props is the way to go, and Nate Robinson sort of did that, but it could have been better. Dunkers, bring your A game dunk material. Put a 10 scorecard over the basket, jump up pull the card off and jam. Study up on the previous legendary contest winners and put a new spin on their classic dunks. Much like Hollywood is rebooting and remaking various movie franchises, the NBA guys may need to look deep to generate interest in the contest.

2) Change format a bit- Over the years the format of the dunk contest has seen all sorts of changes, from having them spin a wheel to determine the dunk they had to do, to making them use a teammate, or making them dunk to music. The current time and rounds format aren't so bad, but adding two more dunkers could make it interesting. It's unknown why they've made it just four players, when in the past there were more dunkers to watch do their thing. Also, they had a "Dunk-in" this year to add the fourth guy, but those two guys are relatively unknown to the mainstream. It worked out this year, since DeRozen made the finals, but why not just have a list of ten prospective dunkers, and the fans vote on The six with the highest vote totals are in the contest. And having the fans vote on the finals is ok, but when it's an unknown player versus a major market former dunk winner, who has the advantage there?

3) Add in some non-NBA dunkers? It was recently suggested that they should maybe add in a guy out of the D-League who can do a 720 dunk, or even a street baller, a random fan who has some incredible dunking ability. Good ideas. Let them compete in a dunk-off, and make the prize money worthy. In relation to point #1, if a non-NBA guy is in there and showing his stuff, with prize money and pride on the line an NBA player will want to get serious to represent. Last thing the NBA dunkers want is to lose to "mere mortals" from outside their league. Maybe even add a legend who still has some hops (no not Shawn Kemp).

4) Hold an All-Star caliber dunk contest - Once again, it's time to get serious. As we all see in the All-Star game, that tends to be the real dunk contest on display as Lebron, Wade, Kobe and others woo the crowd with their skills. Over the past several years, the Skills Challenge has featured guys who have those skills and are all-star caliber players. This year's finals came down to Nash and Williams, and past winners have included Derrick Rose and D-Wade. The dunk contest should feature the game's best dunkers. Jason Richardson, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant are just five names that come to mind. Vince Carter is another, but has aged beyond the contest. I'm not sure if they need to prove it, but it would be great for the fans. These are the elite dunkers of the league and they probably feel they have nothing to prove to the rest of the league, outside of winning games and rings. However, the fans are antsy and the dunk contest needs to be re-born. NBA, dunkers, and commish Stern, let's get serious!

Feel free to leave your own ideas on how to fix the slam dunk contest, or comments on whether it even needs fixin'!

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