My dunk contest, my rules.
So much for having a bunch of non-household names competing for the trophy. So much for only having a few contestants in the early stages. So much for LeBron James getting to spectate rather than throw down.
This is my world now, and that's going to make the upcoming competition into the Ultimate 2014 Dunk Contest. You can thank me later.
But for now, let's think about the ridiculous number of epic dunks we're going to see.
I don't care what your favorite historical dunk contest is, because this one's going to be better. With the perfect mix of challengers and athletic superstars, you're sure to be as entertained as you've ever been while watching basketball.
There's only one rule that keeps the excitement level a little bit down: We can't bring in any injured players, only ones who will be ready to compete when it's time to travel to New Orleans. If we could magically heal injuries, what's to stop us from creating a time machine and inviting the great retired dunkers into the contest?
That's just a rabbit hole we don't want to travel down right now.
Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Eric Bledsoe would be mortal locks for the field if all of their body parts worked properly, but sadly, that's not the case. Jeff Taylor would be a strong candidate as well, but his Achilles isn't intact.
Swallow your tears, because now it's time to introduce the 12-man field, with one major twist.
Note: All information about players' height and weight comes from ESPN.
The NBA is brimming over with great dunkers, so why limit ourselves to watching the performances of only 12 players?
Instead, we're going to be treated to a play-in contest. Each player gets only one attempt to show off for the judges, and the top score advances into the real 12-man field.
Not one dunk. One attempt.
How many times have you wished that a player could just make the dunk on his first try? It gets kind of boring when you have to watch someone attempt the same thing over and over and over without throwing the ball down through the hoop.
Now they only get that one chance, so this round will speed along quite quickly, even with 12 candidates for the play-in spot.
Speaking of the candidates, here's our list. You can click on any player's name to see a video of them performing a monster slam:
- Will Barton, Portland Trail Blazers
- Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
- Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
- Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings
- Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
- Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
- James Harden, Houston Rockets
- Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers
- Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
- Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors
- Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons
- Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
With only one attempt per contestant, there's no telling who advances. My money would be on McLemore, but your guess is as good as mine.
They'd all be entertaining.
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Vitals: 6'9", 205 pounds
Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn't done much as an NBA dunker.
He's thrown down a couple times during his rookie season, primarily in transition or on one of his well-timed cuts along the baseline, but we haven't seen anything earth-shattering quite yet.
But we could.
The Greek Freak's vitals are already underestimating his true size, as he's grown since he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. And he's brimming over with athleticism.
Between his love for the game, his physical tools and his youthful exuberance, Antetokounmpo would be a great dark-horse candidate in this field.
Team: New Orleans Pelicans
Vitals: 6'10", 220 pounds
Anthony Davis' arms aren't exactly fair.
They give him such a huge advantage while imposing his will on defense, and they make it quite easy for him to grab rebounds over the top of opposing players and slam home the follow-up attempt. I suppose his leaping ability gives him that advantage as well.
Davis hasn't shown much creativity with his dunking, but he proves that he's an athletic specimen each time he throws down.
Let's see him add in the creativity now. I want to see a dunk from the three-point line from this guy.
Team: Toronto Raptors
Vitals: 6'7", 216 pounds
Counterintuitive as it may seem, DeMar DeRozan's breakout season for the Toronto Raptors has left him as an underrated dunker, even though he's risen in terms of national perception.
In the past, the uber-athletic wing player was an overrated shooting guard. His gaudy scoring totals overshadowed his lackluster percentages and inability to distribute the rock. But now that he's become a great creator and is on the verge of making the All-Star roster, we're forgetting about his dunking.
DeRozan is still just as athletic as ever, and he can violently slam the ball home whenever he's given even a little bit of space.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Vitals: 6'9", 240 pounds
Speaking of players with overshadowed dunking ability...
Kevin Durant gets credit for being an incredible basketball player who can score like no other. When he's hitting shot after shot, as he did during his 54-point outing against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 17, we all marvel at his jumpers.
But the Oklahoma City Thunder small forward is called the Durantula for a reason.
His lanky arms allow him to create quite a few posters, and it's not like he's lacking in the athleticism department. A dunk contest won't be Durant's forte, but it's a basketball event.
That means he's bound to do pretty well.
Team: Indiana Pacers
Vitals: 6'9", 220 pounds
Hopefully Paul George learned from his last foray into the Slam Dunk Contest, when he completed an in-the-dark slam that was underwhelming because no one really saw it.
The burgeoning superstar is one of the premier in-game dunkers in basketball, and he routinely shuts off his amygdala when he drives among the trees and rises with poster-creating intent. Is there anyone in the NBA who this 23-year-old swingman actually fears?
George is as athletic as ever, and some of the transition dunks he completes are just things of beauty. It's time for a shot at redemption.
Team: Phoenix Suns
Vitals: 6'8", 210 pounds
Meet the favorite.
Even though this ultimate contest is brimming over with superstars and slamming phenoms, Gerald Green is the best dunker in basketball. He has a certain knack for elevating and making it look way too easy, even when he's in traffic.
How many other shooting guards can legitimately get their eyes up to the level of the rim? How many can throw down windmills with such ease? How many have the confidence to turn a breakaway opportunity during a close game into a de facto one-man dunk contest?
Scary as it is, Green seems like he's still getting better at throwing down, even though he's already 27 years old.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Vitals: 6'10", 251 pounds
Blake Griffin's dunk over the hood of a car wasn't as impressive as it could've been, and that's a large part of the unfortunate trend that involves calling this power forward overrated.
Now the league's premier creator of posters gets another opportunity to shine. According to CBS Sports, Griffin has the fourth-most dunks in the NBA. But according to me, he has the most style points.
That's what happens when you go out of your way to make opponents' lives miserable with your dunking prowess.
Also, is anyone else looking forward to the controversy that will develop as soon as Griffin completes a ridiculous "dunk" without actually touching the rim? Here's hoping he'll do so just to troll the world.
Team: Houston Rockets
Vitals: 6'11", 265 pounds
Maybe instead of wearing a Superman outfit, Dwight Howard should dress up like Lex Luthor this time around.
Over the last few years, he's morphed from superhero to supervillain, thanks primarily to his indecisiveness during the offseasons.
But he hasn't lost his dunking skill.
Now that his back is healthy, Dwight is throwing the ball down with reckless abandon. The Houston Rockets aren't hesitating to throw him alley-oop lobs, and though he's not dunking out of the post with as much frequency, he's still a threat to make hand-to-rim contact in emphatic fashion at any given moment.
Howard is no longer the most glamorous selection, but any reputable contest must include him.
Team: Miami Heat
Vitals: 6'8", 250 pounds
LeBron James has done a lot of impressive things during his NBA career, but he's never competed in a dunk contest, much to the chagrin of basketball fans. Whether you love or hate the league's best player, you can't deny that he'd be quite entertaining in a dunking showcase.
Imagine if, rather than “preliminarily” pledging to participate in the 2010 contest, only to later back out, James just bit the bullet and participated, pushing himself into the deeper waters of scrutiny, as the ad’s characters are instructed to do.
Imagine if, rather than dancing around the subject by saying that he was “very close” to participating in the 2013 Dunk Contest, he announced at Heat media day this fall that he was going to win the 2014 contest, no excuses.
Imagine if, after ESPN commentator Magic Johnson offered to put up $1 million if James would participate next year, James issued a press release that read: “I’m taking your money.”
It may not happen in real life, but we're making it happen here.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Vitals: 6'11", 265 pounds
DeAndre Jordan's choice of prop is easy.
All he has to do is put Brandon Knight under the basket, and then he'll have the proper motivation to elevate higher than humanly possible and throw down a monstrous dunk. And, of course, he'd complete the performance with a curl of the lip.
Jordan may be a center with limited offensive skill, but he's a ridiculous dunker with boundless reserves of spring in his legs.
He's an easy choice.
Team: Orlando Magic
Vitals: 6'4", 215 pounds
Victor Oladipo has already gone on the record to say that he wants to participate in the dunk contest.
Who in their right mind is going to deny him the ability to make his dream become a reality?
Even though the Orlando Magic shooting guard is only a rookie, he's already shown off his knack for throwing down quite frequently. He's created multiple posters—like the one you can see up above—and routinely displays a lack of fear when he springs to the basket.
You know what he doesn't lack? Explosiveness and confidence.
Not many rookies have the chutzpah to pull of a 360 dunk in a game. And if he can do that, what can he do during the contest?