As one Magic Johnson put during the broadcast, "John Wall just brought the dunk competition back."
Well, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. But, it's a start.
John Wall's scintillating jams during Saturday night's 2014 NBA Slam Dunk Contest won him the crown of "Dunker of the Night" in this year's marquee event, laying down a vicious winning dunk that had a legendary panel of Julius Erving (Dr. J), Magic and Dominique Wilkins at a loss for words.
The Wizards star got off to a running start, leaped over his team's mascot who was holding the ball over his head and cocked it back for a reverse over-head jam. It sent Smoothie King Center into pandemonium, and moments later, the panel unanimously crowned him the winner:
Of course, the jams that the former Kentucky star threw down weren't the only ones worth praise. Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George didn't disappoint.
George showed up with an incredible between-the-legs, 360 dunk that pushed him past Harrison Barnes in the knockout stage:
Creative props find their way into the event every year, and 2014 was no exception. Drake held the ball for Toronto's Terrance Ross to slam down, and the rapper also came out onto the floor with Ross, touting his championship trophy from 2013.
Kings youngster Ben McLemore was also among those who laid down some incredible dunks, as he leaped over, with legs splayed wide, a huge king's throne in which Shaquille O'Neal was sitting and pumped in a vicious slam:
Quite frankly, a somewhat lacking event this year in what was supposed to be a revamped format and star-studded field was saved by a number of dunks from Wall, George and McLemore.
The NBA opted to mix up the format, making the first round a do-it-yourself, collaborative effort with the three players from each team. It looked to be a disaster to the naked eye, with players struggling to find chemistry on the fly and deciding to create their own dunks, few of which were impressive.
It got better from there in the individual competition, when one-on-one matches decided who would be in the running for the title. Wall, George, McLemore and others brought their best stuff.
And it was a good thing that they did, because the odd format dictated that each contestant's night ended at the conclusion of their individual rounds. The elimination-round format of prior competitions would've seen extended action among the top three performers, and viewers were deprived of getting to watch those individual matchups.
Surely, the NBA has work to do in its quest to advance the Slam Dunk Contest and make it relevant again. 2014 was a major step forward, luring a few of the Association's top stars and unleashing them for some incredible performances.
But until the format is fixed, and until a select few reluctant star players include themselves in the field, it won't be "back."
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