I have watched the Slam Dunk Contest every year since I was a little kid. I have never seen anything as disappointing as what I witnessed tonight.
The NBA tried to breathe some life into the event by staging a Dunk In on Friday night between Eric Gordan and DeMar DeRozan. After a few routine dunks, DeRozan won, obviously saving his best stuff for the real contest.
Shannon Brown went into the contest as the favorite and showed absolutely nothing on his two dunks. Switching hands in one and simply using Kobe Bryant on the other, Brown made it clear that he was overhyped due to powerful in-game dunks.
Gerald Wallace tried to win with a couple of basic dunks thrown down with authority. If the judges were looking for nothing but power, Wallace would have been fine. Unfortunately for the All-Star, they also wanted some creativity.
DeMar DeRozan showed some promise after opening with the old "between the legs" slam followed by an impressive second dunk. Teammate Sonny Weems lobbed the ball off the side of the glass and DeRozan turned a nice jam, sending him to the finals.
Nate Robinson came out knowing, from his past experience, that if he could keep pace, his stature would carry him to the finals. The two-time winner was right, throwing up rehash dunks and pulling the size card.
In the finals, DeRozan jumped over Weems, grabbed the ball and threw it down. Too bad Nate Rob did this to win his two previous contests, jumping over Spud Webb and Dwight Howard.
Nate had his weakest showing on his two dunks that were highlighted by an "off the glass reverse jam." As a slight prop, Robinson brought out the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.
The problem was, he didn't use them as part of his dunks, but more for background scenery. After his final dunk, Nate grabbed some pom-poms, TO-style, and tried to energize the mildly impressed crowd.
DeRozan hinted all week at a Michael Jackson tribute, wearing a sequin glove, and pulling a "Thriller" dunk. This was his chance to take the title with ease.
Instead, DeRozan decided to go with a possible "free-throw line dunk," got nervous, and performed a forgettable dunk that was his worst of the night.
That was it, nothing special, nothing fun, nothing to talk about. The voting was left to the fans, American Idol-style (via text). Of course, the same fans that voted Allen Iverson (and almost Tracy McGrady) into an All-Star starting spot voted for the little guy, giving Nate Robinson his third Slam Dunk title.
Charles Barkley commented that he hoped no one would win, summing up the thoughts of nearly all those watching. I was more impressed with his laughable Taco Bell commercial.
Making matters worse, we were forced to hear about a D-League guy that pulled off a 720-degree jam. Why couldn't we just watch him? I'm sure there were fans in attendance who had a better dunk up their sleeves.
I was reminded of the 2004 Slam Dunk Contest, where Fred Jones defeated Jason Richardson in a final in which nobody finished a successful dunk. At least in 2004 the attempted dunks were creative, challenging, and fresh.
Where does the NBA go from here?
There is a strong sentiment for superstars to compete. Names like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are needed, or even the return of Dwight Howard and Josh Smith. I think we would even settle for washed up guys like Vince Carter or Shaquille O'Neal. At the very least, we could count on Shaq to do something funny.
Since fans already vote for All-Star starters and Dunk Contest winners, why not Slam Dunk contestants?
If the NBA doesn't make some major changes, it may me time to give the contest a break, or even lay it to rest. I know this for sure, another Slam Dunk Contest like that and interest will be gone for a long time.