Five Ways to Fix the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Alex ShultzCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2010

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 13:  Nate Robinson #2 of the New York Knicks attempts a dunk during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center on February 13, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. 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 Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

There are a few annual sporting events on my must-see TV list, even if it means doing my homework at 2 AM so I can watch them:

—The AFC/NFC championship games

—The Super Bowl

—Any Redskins game

—Any Wizards playoff game

—The NBA Finals

—NBA All-Star Weekend


Why, you might be wondering, is All-Star Weekend included in a group full of legitimate games? Because it showcases the most talented athletes in the world as they try to ooh and ahh the crowd with their ball handling, three-point shots, and especially their electrifying dunks.

Well, that is, until this year, when the Dunk Contest turned into a snooze-athon that any high school team in America could replicate (with the exception of DeMar DeRozan’s dunk off the side of the backboard). 

To make it more fun to watch, I’d make some changes:


Change the cash prizes—Imagine a competition where entering earns you nothing, but winning gives you a cool million dollars. 


Players would enter for pride and money—which means they have two good reasons to try. 

Seriously, the participants didn’t even break a sweat or look interested at all this year. Both of Gerald Wallace’s dunks could’ve been done on a fastbreak, and Shannon Brown’s uninspired jam sparked memories of Michael Jordan switching the ball to his other hand in mid-air of a game, something he could’ve easily dunked if he wanted to.


Allow for amateurs—This year marked the first time amateurs competed against one another for a $10,000 prize, but why not let the winner of that prize play against the big boys?

NBA players would certainly not want to mail in a poor performance and embarrass themselves by losing to an (not so) average Joe. Plus, the fans would be excited rooting either for their favorite player or the amateur going for $1 million dollars.

The dunk contest needs some more storylines to keep things interesting, and this would be exactly what the doctor ordered.


Let the fans decide who plays—David Stern, listen up. Get a list of 10 players interested in playing, and post that list on the Internet for fans to vote on. The top four winners advance to the competition along with the champion of the amateur contest.

At least this way, we don’t have the unnecessary dunk-in, or guys that don’t deserve to be in the game, like Gerald Wallace (and apparently Shannon Brown).


Change the voting for the final round—I’m all for giving the fans a voice in the finals, but it’s basically a popularity contest to decide who wins. Why not count the judges’ vote for 50 percent and the fans' vote for 50 percent? A little balance would go a long way in adding some credibility to a contest sorely needing it.

And if the NBA wanted to try something a little more radical...

What if the Dunk Contest were to be divided into two sections?

Section One—The first is just like the opening round of today’s competition—two dunks, two-minute limit for each, and grades assessed by a panel of judges on a scale of 1-10 (although I don’t think I’ve ever seen a score lower than a six from a judge). That knocks out the bottom two guys, leaving a top three, since an amateur has been added to the group of four NBA players. 

Section Two—This is when endurance and real jumping ability become key. Remember City Slam, the show on ESPN where players had to jump over an ever-rising bar? Same principle applies here. Fans and players would get caught up in the tension that comes with making it over each increase in height. Last man standing is the champion. The judges really wouldn’t be necessary past round one.


And just for kicks, here, in my opinion of course, are the “ideal” dunk contest competitors. Note that I didn’t include guys who are losing their hops (Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant) or guys who already had their shot at winning (Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala).


LeBron James—Apparently is too afraid to tarnish his legacy by losing the dunk contest. That’s the difference between King James and the greatest players ever, mainly Michael Jordan, who was more afraid of losing and disappointing himself than tarnishing his resume. Still, James would be the fans’ No. 1 choice to participate in All-Star Weekend.


Derrick Rose—Who wouldn’t want to see the new All-Star throwing down monster jams? Dude can flat out jump.


Ronnie Brewer—Brewer is quietly one of the best dunkers in the NBA, but Utah fans know just how explosive Brewer is.


Terrence Williams—Nate Robinson claims the Nets rookie would have won the dunk contest this year if he had participated.


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