I don't know if you could bet on this weekend's dunk contest, but, if you could, Blake Griffin should have been sitting at around 1:1.0001 odds going in.
He was everyone's favorite based on his high-flying act throughout the season thus far, and almost anyone you'd asked would have told you he was a shoe-in for the victory—even the judges. That was the problem.
By now, you have surely seen Griffin's car-leaping jam that won it for him in the competition. But was this dunk, albeit innovative, really worthy of the honor?
With fellow teammate Baron Davis assisting through a Kia sunroof, Griffin leaped over the front end of the compact vehicle, caught the ball in mid-air and slammed it home with two hands, never touching the hood in the process.
The dunk was truly impressive, and there's no doubt that it will go down as one of the most memorable moments in the history of the contest.
But what about the other guys!?
Before the contest, many couldn't have named but one or two of the other participants, and even after the event, you'd be hard-pressed to find a casual fan who could name all three other players, not to mention any of the dunks they performed.
DeMar Derozan of the Toronto Raptors caught an alley-oop off the support tossed by fellow Raptor Amir Johnson, a feat which likely would have earned him a score of 50 had it gone down the first time. Inability to do so got the talented young guard from USC snipped early.
Third place went to Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka. Ibaka also featured some ground-breaking material in his attempts, one of which included biting a stuffed animal off of the rim while dunking. Don't ask me how, but it was both exciting and impressive.
Ibaka also opted to go with the always classy take-off-from-the-free-throw-line one-handed slam that has been put down by the likes of Jordan and Dr. J in the past. The only difference was that Ibaka took off from further away than BOTH of these greats, yet only garnered an inexplicable 45 from the judges.
The lanky Wizard JaVale McGee brought his own new flair to the contest, putting down some dunks that few in the history of basketball could have pulled off. He pulled a second regulation hoop up next to the existing basket, ran from the left side with two balls, tossed one off the nearest backboard, dunked the one he still held in the left basket, caught the ball careening off the glass with his right and slammed that into the far hoop. I couldn't have even pictured it until that moment.
In another attempt, he put three balls through the hoop on one hop. Again, mind-blowing. His inability to put either of these down on the first try hurt his bid in the end, but the level of difficulty on both of these dunks was out of this world.
Griffin himself surely came to compete, showcasing a monster 360 two-handed windmill with enough force to power a small home, and the eventual contest-winning auto leap. He also brought back Vince Carter's forearm-through-the-hoop jam, referred to as the "honey dip."
He showed the same ability to elevate that he's shown often on dunks in the regular season, some of which were arguably more impressive. The difficulty level of any of these dunks didn't vastly outweigh any of the other three participants outputs, but they sure scored like they did.
Each of the four contestants brought dunks to the table that had never been seen and were able to eventually put all of them down. It was an impressive spectacle as a whole, but will surely be remembered for one thing, and one thing only: the kid from LA.
So did the judges get it right?
It's hard to tell. You can't argue with the decision, but the grounds are there if you'd like to.
The one thing that's easy to conclude from this year's contest is that the level of athleticism in the NBA at this point in time is at an all-time high and only going higher. Blake Griffin appears to be at the head of that charge. At least the media folks in LA would like you to think so. Maybe, maybe not, but either way he is your 2011 Dunk Champion.
Questionable? Yes. Surprising? No.
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