The 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest came to a rather undramatic conclusion on Saturday night. With a new format in place, the NBA hoped to revamp the event by adding a team element to the competition.
Instead of individual All-Stars taking the stage with a high amount of showmanship and intensity, the group format took over and turned the spectacle into a monotonous, uninspired display—especially during the opening team Freestyle Round.
Let's run down how the event panned out this year and go over some options that could improve the contest in a big way in years to come.
Let's make next year's dunk contest a competition between people describing how fun the old dunk contests were— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 16, 2014
First off, the team element of the competition was probably the worst thing that could have happened. The Slam Dunk Contest has always been about each individual's ability to show his ups and deliver monster jams.
The team dunk contest completely took that aspect out of the competition.
During the freestyle segment, all three athletes from the East team and West team took the stage at the same time for a total of 90 seconds. Even though Team East was able to pull off a nice triple alley-oop, these dunk-masters were forced to assist rather than jam.
Next, we had the three Battle Rounds. In this part of the event, one player from each team faced off in a man-versus-man approach to the contest. This wasn't a bad idea; however, their attempts were limited. Only one type of dunk was delivered by each competitor.
Once each athlete completed his dunks, the judges voted on which was better, and that team would get a point. The first team to three points won the competition.
This was yet another bad idea, as the East won the first two Battle Rounds, leaving the third round of John Wall versus Ben McLemore virtually pointless in terms of the team competition.
That new dunk contest format was whack!— Desmond Howard (@DesmondHoward) February 16, 2014
Luckily for everyone watching, Wall made that third round worthwhile, as he put down the best dunk of the entire contest. However, that's where things continued to get worse.
Wall was voted Sprite Dunker of the Night by fans through social media sites. That's all well and good, as fans should absolutely participate—after all, that's what these events are all about.
However, there was never any actual conclusion to the contest. Wall was voted top dunker, and that was it—the contest ended.
Not sure how I feel about the new format of the dunk contest. But John Wall was tremendous.— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) February 16, 2014
During the competition, two legends stated that the dunk contest was back, according to Michael Lee of The Washington Post.
Magic Johnson said, "John Wall just brought the dunk contest back."
Julius Erving added, "[The dunk contest] has returned."
Not so fast, fellas. Wall was very good; however, the format was still awful.
So, what can be done to improve the event?
First off, the team element has simply got to go. The Slam Dunk Contest is not a team spectacle—it is an individual showdown. It should absolutely remain as such.
The Battle Rounds weren't all that bad; however, a time limit and aggregate scoring of dunks would be far more enticing than simply attempting a single dunk three times. If the NBA wants to keep the one-on-one concept here, that's completely fine.
Now, if it does keep that concept, there has to be more of a tournament-style approach. One of the event's biggest disappointments was how it ended. Even though Wall apparently had the best dunk, he did not compete against everyone—there was really no clear winner.
Going forward, the three players who advance through the battle rounds should compete against each other in a semifinal round with the highest-scoring player from the battle rounds getting a bye.
Then, one last round as a final match between the competitor who won the semifinal matchup against the player who earned the bye should take place. That is the one clear way to determine a winner in this competition.
Twitter is already full of other ideas as well. Here's Bill Barnwell's idea of how to improve the event:
Here's how you fix the Dunk Contest. 1) Three D-League guys get two dunks each. Winner gets the equivalent of a guaranteed deal for the year— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 16, 2014
2) You have an NBA dunk contest. Same deal, two dunks each. Winner gets $500k.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 16, 2014
3) NBA winner then decides - on camera - whether he wants to have a one-dunk contest vs the D League guy, double or nothing, for his stake.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 16, 2014
So if NBA guy passes, he takes 500k but gets that rep. If he goes for it and wins, he wins 1m. If he loses, D-League guy gets 1m.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 16, 2014
These are only a few examples of what the NBA could do to improve the current format. After all, Wall and others showed that there is plenty of talent available to make the Slam Dunk Contest successful once again.
The ball is in your court, NBA.