The NBA Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Weekend was once like a holiday. We couldn’t wait to see some of the greatest athletes in the world attacking the rim with style and grace.
But Michael Jordan walked away from it when he was still spry, Kobe outgrew it, Vince Carter made it seem like nothing could top brilliance, and LeBron never competed in it at all.
We were forced to watch hoopers of lesser repute do their best to move the crowd. Once dominated by some of the biggest names in the game, the dunk contest became something of a snoozer that required multiple rule changes to add to the waning cool factor. Some commentators even wanted to do away with it altogether.
From 1989 through 1998, many of the competitors won by brandishing dunks that were basically copies or slight variations of dunks performed by previous winners.
This past Saturday night in Toronto, all that changed as we witnessed what some might call the greatest dunk contest in NBA history. Now, that’s saying quite a bit considering Michael Jordan’s “Kiss the Rim” dunk, Dominique Wilkin’s power dunking off two feet and Vince’s elbow in the rim dunk. But fans have had to weather through some rather unimaginative and poorly executed offerings since the event's glory days.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Older fans always like to talk about how things were better back in the Good Ol’ Days, but there was a lot of bad going on back then too. No offense to Nate Robinson, but as great an athlete as he is there’s no way he would have won three Slam Dunk Contests had he been competing against the best the game had to offer.
Remember that goofy cartwheel dunk Michael Finley tried in the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest? Or that god-awful “Wheel-O-Dunk” they pulled out in 2002? We were long past due for something of this magnitude. Perhaps decades.
Blake Griffin’s dunk over a car in 2011? It was a’ight. Jeremy Evan’s dunk over the diminutive comedian Kevin Hart in 2012? Meh. Terrence Ross and John Wall’s dunks in 2012 and 2013 respectively were feats of aerial brilliance, yet they weren’t awe-inspiring. I know multiple street ballers that could have pulled those off. These are the best basketball players in the world, so it’s not a bad thing to expect them to present us with some of the best dunks in the world as well.
Real quick, without using Youtube, what dunk did John Wall do to win the dunk contest in 2013?
(Photo Credit: Associated Press)
After years of relative sub-par dunk contests, the 2016 NBA Slam Dunk Contest brought this competition back to its heyday and to places unknown. Though there was a squadron of capable contestants, everybody knew it was all going to come down to last year’s winner Zach LaVine and second year high-rising forward Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic.
LaVine became only the fourth player ever to win back-to-back, but many think this was a robbery like Wilkins versus Jordan in '88 all over again. Zach's windmill dunk from the free throw line pretty much sealed the deal for him. The duo battled through two tie-breakers in the final round before LaVine won.
The dunk where Gordon grabbed the ball from the hand of a rotating mascot and did a 360, with one hand behind his head for added flavor, and his above the mascot and under the legs dunks that brought the house down were abnormal and otherworldly.
Yet, LaVine won. Was it rigged? That’s going to be a hot topic of debate until next year. Do I care if it was? No.
It still was the best Slam Dunk Contest ever. These young boys brought it.