CLEVELAND — Some years, the NBA Dunk Contest feels like art. It can be a celebration of what is possible with the human body.
And then there was this year.
Missed dunk after missed dunk after missed dunk — with the contestants scaling back the difficulty to make sure they got the dunk in — marred the dunk contest, sucking the energy out of the building and the event.
The dunkers went 7-25 (28%) in the first round.
Jalen Green went 1-9 (11.1%) on his first dunk. pic.twitter.com/R4VIKK1Ea7
— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 20, 2022
The Knicks Obi Toppin got the win — deservedly, he was the best of this group — and this was the dunk that won it for him.
Obi Toppin goes through the legs and taps the backboard with the ball to WIN #ATTSlamDunk! 🏆#NBAAllStar #StateFarmSaturday pic.twitter.com/nsf39DHLEk
— NBA (@NBA) February 20, 2022
Afterward, Toppin shouted out his father, Obadiah Toppin, a streetball legend nicknamed “Dunker’s Delight.”
“As you all know, my dad [points to him in the room] used to be a dunker,” Toppin said, then he referenced him coming in second in this contest last season. “For me to win this, I knew I had to come back for my revenge from last year. And I had fun doing it.”
Toppin also had this behind-the-back, jumping over “my guy, Chuck from Team Flight Brothers” (as Toppin described it) that was the best of the night (but only got a 44 out of 50 because he missed it a few times before this attempt).
Obi Toppin behind the back 😤 pic.twitter.com/IZw6MQSUOP
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 20, 2022
There were attempts at creativity.
Cole Anthony put on his dad Greg Anthony’s Knicks’ jersey, then a pair of Timberland boots — which took a while to lace up — then he had his dad stand there with the ball and grabbed it for a windmill. Except he missed it so many times he got a 40 for the dunk.
Jalen Green had a novel idea — a phone on a gold chain with an NFT of one of his dunks — but his off-the-side-of-the-backboard pass idea failed so many times (five? six? We lost count) he got a 38.
Juan Toscano-Aderson had Dr. J sign the ABA-style ball, then threw it down hard over teammate Andrew Wiggins (he got a 44). Toscano-Anderson eventually advanced to the contest finals.
JTA windmills OVER Wiggs 👏
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 20, 2022
The Rockets’ Jalen Green’s second dunk was a sweet between the legs 360, but it took him three to get there, so he got a 40.
That was IMPRESSIVE, Jalen Green 🔥#ATTSlamDunk on TNT pic.twitter.com/BtyENlhVEw
— NBA (@NBA) February 20, 2022
Some of the made dunks were impressive. The problem was all the missed dunks this year just sucked the energy out of the room, and no dunk was going to turn the tide.
As happens every year when there is a down dunk contest, there will be calls to change the event. While the NBA has revamped other events — the Rising Stars event, the Skills Challenge — it has resisted ideas such as bringing in professional dunkers for the Dunk Contest. We’ll see if that changes before the Dunk Contest is back in Salt Lake City next year.