The Baseline’s Eric Freeman has a theory as to shy this year’s dunk contest was so terrible. Instead of placing all the blame for the horrible contest on the dunkers, Freeman is of the belief that uncontested dunks themselves are no longer all that impressive to fans:
“Aerial artists have become so talented that what was once incredible is now commonplace. When Isaiah Rider pulled off the through-the-legs “East Bay Funk Dunk”
in 1994, the entire arena exploded, and Charles Barkley called it the best dunk he’d ever seen. On Saturday, DeMar DeRozan executed a more difficult version of the same dunk and received a score of 42. The problem isn’t that dunkers are worse — it’s that we’ve already seen most every kind of dunk that can be done. The only things left are a flip, or a windmill with each hand at the same time, or jumping through a ring of fire like the Suns’ Gorilla. We are jaded viewers.”
Freeman goes onto make other interesting points, like that Brown rose to prominence through dunking on people, and that the play that leads to the dunk is often more impressive to current NBA fans than the dunk itself.
I agree with much of Freeman’s premise, but do think it’s a little early to call the dunk contest dead two contests removed from one of the best contests in recent memory. This year’s Dunk Contest was the perfect storm of crappy dunks. Gerald Wallace openly didn’t want to be competing. Shannon Brown was powerless to stop the hype that surrounded him, and opened with dunks he was using in the high school dunk contest seven years ago. DeRozan is a great leaper, but is a little to smooth for his dunks to have that “pop” to them. (Compare the sheer force of DeMar’s between-the-legs jam to that of Vince Carter’s
, or even Gerald Green’s
.) Finally, after so many contests, Nate Robinson was clearly out of dunks. Spud Webb telling Nate that Spud didn’t want to see props used was a “be careful what you wish for” moment of the weekend, right up there with when Usher stopped lip-syncing.
Future dunk contests might not have the same magic as the ones Dr. J, Dominique, Michael, or even Vince participated in. However, that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on the dunk contest. As recently as 2008, Dwight Howard revitalized the contest through dunks of insane difficulty (the switch-handed off-glass self-oop in the finals) and creativity (the Superman dunk, a masterful combination of theatrics and sleight-of-hand.)
Taurian Fontenette, who can perform a 720 dunk, participated in the amateur dunk contest on Friday night. James White is still out there somewhere, waiting to fulfill his dunk contest destiny. There will always be a better dunk. The NBA just has to get players who want to look for it.