The Dunk Contest has lived an amazing life, even though it was relatively short.
The Dunk Contest was a great friend. The kind of friend that gave you entertainment and joy during a time of dullness (nobody cares about the Celebrity Game, the Skills Challenge, or anything else for that matter).
The Dunk Contest was always something to look forward to, to get excited about, and to see what would happen next.
I remember my Dad telling me about the first Dunk Contest.
As a player (not participating in the contest), he was sitting courtside. No, his clothes were not outfitted by the latest designer of the day, unlike what you see today from players, and no he didn’t bring his kids, girlfriends, or anything else for that matter.
These players just sat and watched because it was a show. They weren’t there to be seen, but to watch. He remembers the night like it was yesterday.
There was an aura in the crowd, this was something nobody had ever really seen before, and plenty of uncertainity. A teammate of my Dad’s, Dr. J was the show that night, and when he stepped to the opposite end of the court to prepare for his launch from the free throw line, the crowd stood and gasped in anticipation.
My Dad turned and made a bet with a friend, “He doesn’t make it from the free throw line.” Dr. J drives the length of the floor, launches himself and throws it down. My Dad wins the bet.
Dr. J stepped on the line and my Dad is a stickler. Everybody else remembers the gravity-defying dunk from the free throw line.
What is it that we remember when we think of the Dunk Contest?
I remember watching my first dunk contests in the early to mid-eighties. I remember Larry Nance throwing two basketball downs in one dunk, I remember Terence Stansbury pulling off the “Statue of Liberty”, and I remember Vince Carter’s between-the-legs dunk.
Most importantly, I remember the ‘Nique and Jordan battles that were like Ali vs. Frazier to us kids. I remember ‘Nique getting screwed in Chicago, and I remember after the dunk contest my brother and I trying to pull off their dunks on a Nerf hoop into the middle of the night because we were so amped up.
By the way, my “Kiss the Rim” Jordan dunk on the nerf hoop is a sight to be seen. I wish we had video, actually I am pretty sure we did videotape it. Alright, off to my Mom’s house to find it and post to Youtube.
Later on in my life, the dunk contest was still special. The J.R. Rider contest, the Vince Carter versus Tracy McGrady contest, and of course, the Desmond Mason vs. Jason Richardson contest.
All of these are remembered as classic nights spent with the boys drinking beers and being amazed by a man’s ability to soar to the rim in death defying acrobatics.
All of these dunk contests were special. They were a spectacle, they were magical, and above all else, they were a show. Seeing the dunk contest in its current state is like taking my grandmother to bingo night in her retirement home in Florida. Both of my Grandmothers are dead.
I question whether I don’t like the dunk contest as much because I am not still a kid.
I ask if there are kids out there trying to pull of a “Nate Robinson Dunk” on their nerf hoop on Saturday night? I doubt it.
I question whether anybody will even remember last weekend’s dunk contest. I am sitting here and can’t even remember the dunks. I believe Reggie Miller was right on Saturday night that those dunks wouldn’t even be special at the Calabasas Rec Center.
So the Dunk Contest is lifeless, a vegetable, dead. What can we do to revive it?
For one, do not even have the dunk contest unless you have a couple of superstars. There used to be Jordan and Dominique, two of the best players in the game at that time. Not quite Nate Robinson vs. Demar Derozan is it?
If you don’t have two All-Stars to compete against one another, don’t have the contest. Remember, this is a show and you need stars to anchor the cast.
Next, I would change the format. Actually, I would scrap it altogether.
Giving a guy a minute and a half to get a dunk down is absurd.
There's so much time between dunks for players that they aren’t even warm anymore and there is way too much down time, which is boring.
My suggestion is to just put 30 minutes on the clock, or whatever the NBA wants to allot to it, and have the players separate into two lay-up lines.
Instead of four players in the contest, invite around 10.
Basically, you just have the players do warm-up lines and dunk one after another.
There are no rules, except that you get one dunk attempt at a time. After the allotted time, the fans vote for the best dunker; get rid of the judges because they screw up every single time there is a dunk contest. That is it.
I'm telling you it would be 10 times better than what we saw Saturday night, and the players would be warm and way more into the “show” because that is what it is.
Think about when you have been to an All-Star game or dunk contest, the warm-up lines are some of the best times. Creating an atmosphere like this will get players trying to one-up the other one in an exciting environment. Let's make it happen.
The Dunk Contest will forever be missed but I know, in the right time, I will meet the Dunk Contest again. We will all meet the Dunk Contest again and he’ll make us proud again and again.