For years I have watched All-Star Saturday night, anticipating the events for months. Right after the Super Bowl, it served as a pre-celebration of the All-Star game. However, in recent years, the luster and appeal of the whole weekend has disappeared.
Uneducated star-struck fans have voted undeserving players to start. Think that players who have missed the entire season have gotten more votes than players who didn't miss any games. Fans became more obsessed with the commercials than the players. The three point contest hasn't loss its appeal, while other competitions have been somewhat mediocre.
However, there isn't a single event that has plummeted in quality and interest as much as the slam dunk competition. I don't even know where to begin. We'll start with the level of competition itself. Look at the past winners, starting in the 80's. Michael Jordan, the best player of all time participated, multiple times. Dominique. Larry Nance.
Then came the later years: Kobe and Vince Carter. The year that Carter won Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady, and Jerry Stackhouse participated. All-Star caliber players. Future hall of famers. The big names generated the interest of not only the fans, but companies as well.
The big name players of today are too selfish and self-absorbed to participate. The competition used to have eight guys. Now, they have to have a "dunk-off" to get a fourth contestant. Please. How dare a player making $10-20 million a season snub his nose at attempting five or six dunks to please the fans?
If Michael Jordan could do it, why cant some of these other wannabe Mikes? It was never about the money. When Jordan and Dominique went head to head, they did it for the love of the game, being a performer, and entertaining the crowd. They pushed their creativity, they pushed each other, and they enjoyed themselves in the process. The fans as well enjoyed it, and appreciated them even more.
Kobe and Vince get somewhat of a pass, since they've done it before. In the old days, guys who won the competition defended their titles. Not anymore, I guess it's too much work.
Last night's contest was one of the weakest Ive seen in years. It actually made me angry watching it. I'm pretty sure I speak for the public when I say that Nate Robinson was the only reason most of us kept watching. Just seeing Nate dunk at all is amazing.
The guys seemed uninspired and disinterested. I watched Shannon Brown attempt a Terrance Stansbury-like "statue of liberty" dunk and miss. Then he followed it up with a weak and lazy hand-switching dunk that looked like something he'd do on a fast break. He followed that up with a weak alley-oop thrown by Kobe. Not only unimpressive, but flat out lazy.
Gerald Wallace did the same with his first dunk being a weak double clutch reverse. He didn't even bring it all the way down like Dominique or even Harold Miner. Another, in game dunk. He followed up with a weak alley oop as well that I saw him do in plenty of games.
DeMar Derozan and Nate weren't that bad. This contest is supposed to make players push their creativity. Not do lazy-ass game dunks. With the exception of Nate, all these guys are 6'5" and up. It ain't that hard to dunk for them.
Several ideas have popped into my head for ways to fix this disgrace, before they remove it from the festivities like they did a few years ago. I was so happy when they bought it back. At this rate, it'll never come back.
1. Voting: If the fans could vote for starters in the All-Star game, they should be able to vote who they want in the competition. And participation should be absolutely mandatory. They get paid more than enough. Think the last couple of dunk contests have done pretty well. Why? Not only because of Nate, but because a major star like Dwight Howard participated. Not only did he participate, but he was creative and had fun. Thats what this contest used to be about.
2. Up The Ante: Even if the league was to raise the prize money to a million dollars, it still would be chump change to most of the league. So perhaps a sneaker contract or some kind of endorsement deal. Then again, this competition as well as the game itself, shouldn't be about money.
3. Feed the Hungry: NBA superstars carry themselves like "fat cats" so to speak. They're not hungry and grateful for what they have. Bring in some streetballers or some D-leaguers and let them compete, with the winner not only getting the prize money, but an NBA contract as well. Obviously not a max contract, but at least you know these guys are hungry and will put two hundred percent into their dunks. Lack of effort wont be a problem like it was last night.
David Stern, step in change the format, as long as we don't have the spinning dunk wheel from Philly. But the dunk contest is in a state of emergency. Lets save it, before it becomes a distant memory.