NBA All-Star Weekend wrapped up with a game worth remembering as Kobe Bryant officially became the greatest All-Star game scorer of all-time, after passing Michael Jordan’s 262-point mark.
Fans needed to witness a milestone like that on Sunday night as Saturday night will surely be remembered for another, less prestigious one—the worst Dunk Contest of all-time.
A motorcycle, a slam net force meter, a tiny comedian in a mailman suit; the NBA has grown so desperate to make the dunk contest relevant since the league’s most exciting players refuse to compete, that every dunk is now overloaded with gimmicks in attempt to keep people interested.
The result, however, is a contest so weighed down, so dull for everyone involved, on Saturday night Charles Barkley began thinking out loud about how easy it would be for him to steal P. Diddy’s jewelry in a dark alley.
He was joking of course, speaking for his own amusement if anything, but it was the most entertaining part of the night.
“But what else are they supposed to do?” some may be thinking by this point, “all the best dunks that are humanly possible have already been done.”
Well, that may be true. But that ignores the real appeal of the dunk; that it is the best example of the innate gracefulness of the human body seen in any American sport. In fact, in any aspect of American culture.
Look again at the videos and pictures of some of the past dunk contest winners. Do it now. Google “Michael Jordan dunk contest,” then click on images. Scan them a bit. Do you see it? The artistry in the way his body suspends in air, in the way he twists, the way he holds the ball?
And you can see it in other too. Do the same for Dr. J, Clyde Drexler, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter.
Those pictures are a reminder that the enchantment of the dunk contest came from watching the art a man could create with a ball, his body and his imagination. Not in the props driven onto the court. The NBA should take note.
Jordan himself hinted at the captivating wonder of the slam dunk in his book For the Love of the Game: My Story, when he asked, “When does jumping become flying?”
The answer, the NBA should know, is not when he can jump over the hood of a Kia.