Nate Robinson is as much an authority on the dunk contest as anyone. He’s the only three-time winner of the thing, even if, well, he’s not really mentioned among the great dunk legends of our time. Part of that is he always seems to win when the competition is weak or someone better slips up. But maybe it’s just height-ism. Regardless, he’s decided to speak out about this dunk contest.
From NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner:
“Of course. They set it up like that. They set it up for Blake to win it like that,” Robinson said before the Boston Celtics faced the Chicago Bulls Saturday night at United Center.
B-b-but why would the almighty “they” do that? Because it’s in L.A.? Because Griffin is the likely Rookie of the Year? Because he finally has given the Clippers a budding star with national and global marketing appeal?
“Everything. It’s all set up,” said the Celtics’ guard, who “retired” from the dunk contest after winning in Dallas last February. “But we’ll see. I’m not saying he can’t dunk, because he can. Though we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully the guys that are in there with him will give him some competition and put on a show. Because that’s all it’s for — it’s a show. That’s the whole meaning of the dunk contest.
Nate’s kind of got a point. It is a show, and there’s been some instances of ridiculous obviousness in years past. Like Dwight Howard and the whole original Superman thing. And then the Nate Robinson “Krypto-Nate” sequence. Last year was just a disaster as LeBron James turned it down and the remaining contestants all… well… sucked. But it’s obvious that narratives are built into the contest.
It doesn’t really matter, but Robinson seems kind of right, here. Blake Griffin is a media darling, playing in a huge market, with gigantic media highlights, against a field of no real compelling challengers, in his home building (or at least the Lakers’). He’s got an advantage in athleticism, name recognition, home court, and marketing advantage. When we consider that the judges have rarely accurately judged some of the best dunks, it does appear that Griffin has an edge.
But the league needs him to win. The contest otherwise features Serge Ibaka, JaVale McGee, and Brandon Jennings. Jennings is the biggest star of those, and he’s faded in his second year. Ibaka and McGee are both more traditional bigs. The only reason you want great competition in this event is if you have multiple stars. And since LeBron James punked out… again, it’s got to be Griffin. The dunk contest needs to be a signature event, and Griffin is their signature player for the event.
That said, we’ll continue to lobby for fair judging, and if McGee does something ridiculous (and actually lands it), he, or any of the other participants, deserve the trophy. There’s a difference between setting Griffin up to win, and granting Griffin the win.