The NBA All-Star Game was a stand-alone event for years, as the top players from the league were divided by conference and got together for a mid-week All-Star Game.
There was little hoopla, and none of the sidelights that fans have gotten used to over the years.
The league was serious about its business, and things didn't change until the American Basketball Association came into existence. That legendary and colorful league featured its red, white and blue basketball and some brilliant players.
Julius Erving was perhaps the ABA's greatest all-time player, and he squared off with David Thompson in the first dunk contest during the league's 1976 All-Star festivities. The two men engaged in a brilliant duel that Dr. J ultimately won at Denver's McNichols Arena.
The NBA adopted the dunk contest in 1984, and high-jumping Larry Nance won the initial competition with his impressive array of dunks. Legendary performances by Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Dee Brown followed, and those memorable efforts established the contest as high-end and exciting entertainment.
The 2019 Slam Dunk Contest at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, does not have the star power of some of the great exhibitions in the past, but John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks, Miles Bridges of the Charlotte Hornets, Dennis Smith Jr. of the New York Knicks and Hamidou Diallo of the Oklahoma City Thunder are capable of putting on a show.
Smith finished third in last year's contest that was won by Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, while Collins, Bridges and Diallo are first-time participants.
The All-Star festivities begin at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night. The events include the Skills Competition and the Three-Point Contest, followed by the Slam Dunk Contest.
There is no specific time for the dunk competition to begin, but sometime between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. seems likely. The event will be televised by TNT, and it will be live-streamed by FuboTV.
The field (Odds via Action Network)
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks: +120 (bet $100 to win $120)
Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets: +200
Dennis Smith Jr., New York Knicks: +300
Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City Thunder: +500
Collins is a 6'10" power forward who has emerged as the favorite because he has thrown down some of the most powerful dunks seen this season. Big men generally don't fare well in the dunk contest, but Collins has the kind of explosiveness to his dunking game that will make him difficult to beat.
Bridges gets a chance to put on a show in front of his home fans in Charlotte. Bridges had a fine college career at Michigan State, and his athleticism and dunking ability often came to the forefront during his stay in East Lansing, Michigan. He has made some impressive dunks during his rookie year with the Hornets.
Smith completed a between-the-legs dunk a year ago, but he also missed on a couple of other attempts. Having one dunk contest under his belt should help him prepare for the 2019 edition.
Diallo is the long shot, and he is known for his sensational leaping ability. He is going to have to impress the judges with his 44-inch vertical leap if he is going to have a chance to win the title.