Kobe Bryant has experience in winning dunk contests. Does that mean he would still win one on his own team today?
Surprise, surprise. No Los Angeles Lakers were invited to participate in the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk.
As we have heard all year long, the Lakers are old and slow. There's no disputing that. The roster certainly does not abound with leapers and runners worthy of showcasing their athletic supremacy on the big stage in Houston this weekend.
But what if the team held their own, private dunk extravaganza? Who would come out on top?
It's an interesting question, even if the contest itself may not be a rim rocker. The Lakers do have two former slam dunk champions on the squad.
Kobe Bryant took home the crown as a rookie way back in 1997, capping off his performance with a smooth between-the-legs jam.
Interestingly enough, Bryant had the longest reign of any dunk contest winner. After his victory in '97, the dunk contest was not held again until 2000.
Then there's Dwight Howard, who participated in three consecutive competitions from 2007-2009. In '08, he took flight as Superman for an iconic throwdown (literally) to capture his sole slam dunk trophy.
Those two would certainly be the headliners coming in, but who else would compete?
First, let's rule out the point guards. The only one who can throw down is Darius Morris, but he can't get high enough to do anything too creative in the air.
Second, say goodbye to all the centers who don't wear capes. Robert Sacre will be my go-to guy for all post-dunk celebrations, but I'm afraid that's the only role Bobby Sacks will be playing in this competition.
Pau Gasol would fare much better in a layup contest than a dunk contest, but I'm sure he'd rather take the "I'm injured" excuse.
Jordan Hill is also ineligible due to injury. He would be an intriguing candidate with his blend of size and athleticism, but I suspect he doesn't have much in his repertoire besides power dunks anyways (although that might be enough to win this contest).
Finally, let's pare down everyone in between. Antawn Jamison has never been a high-flier, and at his advanced age, dunk contests are out of the question.
Before this season, I thought that Metta World Peace might have actually lost the ability to dunk. He's had a nice bounce-back year and can still reach those long arms up over the rim every now and then, but he's also not slam dunk worthy.
Jodie Meeks can get up a little bit and you see him convert a jam on the fast break every now and then, but his athleticism doesn't quite make up for his lack of size, limiting his midair creativity as well.
That leaves us with the final field of four: Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Earl Clark and Devin Ebanks (Admit it, you forgot he existed didn't you?).
We've got two dunk contest veterans and two young guys who still have the springs to get up and slam. So how does it play out?
Clark and Ebanks are both long and lean, and you'd think they profile well for a competition like a dunk contest. Neither one jumps out of the gym though.
According to nbadraft.net, at the NBA Draft Combine Clark's maximum vertical leap topped out at 33 inches, while Ebanks' best hop was 32 inches. As similar as their body types may be, they're not exactly Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay.
No, this contest would come down to a battle between the two former dunk champions.
Given their respective ages, Howard would appear to have a distinct advantage over Bryant in the final dunk-off, but remember he's got an ailing shoulder and balky back. Besides, what has he ever really done besides cosplay as a superhero or use his height to reach higher than his competitors?
In a forum such as this hypothetical team dunk competition, Bryant's pride and competitiveness would kick in. Dwight came in as Kobe's presumed successor, but Bryant has made it clear from day one that this team is still firmly under his sway.
Also, I never underestimate the power of German engineering, whether it comes to building automobiles or rejuvenating worn-down knees.
In a showdown for Lakers dunk supremacy, the old guy would remind us that he's still top dog.