NBA History

Lebron James and the Slam Dunk Contest: What Has Happened To the NBA?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Caveliers dunks the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first quarter of the NBA basketball game at Staples Center on January 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Steve SherianCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2010

Can we please stop the Lebron James bashing because he backed out of the slam dunk contest?

The NBA needed this contest back in the days of Dr. J. It was fighting the NFL and MLB for a fanbase.

Nowadays, this is not necessary. The league has a huge fanbase, more so than MLB (which I will never understand), and uses this "contest" as a forum to give it's young players a chance to show their skills.

Lebron James is concerned about winning basketball games/championships. When did this become a bad thing?

Being an old school fan, I'm probably in the minority with what I'm about to say, but so be it.

The slam dunk contest, three-point shootout, etc. were things the NBA added years ago when the league as a whole was struggling. Fan interest was not there like it is today.

That being said, these things have had a detrimental effect on the sport in the long run. And the folks on the major sports networks are further compounding the problem. All you see on so-called highlights anymore are slam dunks, three-pointers, and non-fundamental basketball. It has taken about 20 years, but it has finally happened. Almost every NBA game is a slam dunk contest and three-point competition.

There are a few exceptions, like any team coached by Larry Brown, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, and maybe a few others.

What percentage of players now actually work on other parts of their game? Defense, ball handling, free throw shooting, the lost art of the mid-range jump shot? Not many. This league is loaded with guys who can hit a three-pointer blindfolded, but can't hit a foul shot or a 14-foot pull up jumper.

This is due to what is being "advertised" by the NBA. Fundamentals? Who cares? As long as I can dunk, and/or hit a three-ball, I can make it to the NBA. How many kids do you see in pickup games, most high school games, or even in their own backyard, practicing a fall away baseline jumper? Very few.

The longer it goes on, the harder this sport will be to watch for people who appreciate the game of basketball.

Most current basketball fans may hate baseball at this point, but to make it to the majors, you cant just be able to hit the long ball. A few DH's aside, if you cant play defense, and do the intangibles, you wont succeed. Same cant be said in the NBA.

While I kind of enjoy watching these competitions during all-star weekend, much like the home run derby in MLB, I don't put much stock in it. Especially when using these events to determine who the best players in the game are.

I don't expect these events to go away, nor do I want them to. But come on, lets not judge a player like Lebron's integrity by whether he competes in what amounts to a sideshow.

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