By Wilson Chaney
Another dunk contest has passed. 2019 All-Star Weekend served as another reminder that the once unparalleled event that hosted the most creative athletes in the world that captivated millions of losing ground, and fast. It also proved: the 2010s is the most disappointing era for the NBA Dunk Contest.
Something has to change.
During the contest, the usual million viewers tuned in, clinging to the hope that they would see a dunk similar to the 2015 and 2016 Dunk Contest that featured Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon- arguably two of the greatest dunk contest dunkers that have stepped on the hardwood.
The 2019 lineup boasted some young athletic talent: New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith jr., Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges, Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Hammadou Dialo. It seemed promising.
However, we had missed dunks, Bridges disappoints while sporting a smooth Larry Johnson throwback and John Colins trips over a makeshift Wright Brothers looking airplane.
Then DSJ jumps over J Cole and the crowd goes crazy.
Then we had more missed dunks, however, Dialo is starting to impress a bit. Finally, it happened. Dialo over Shaq dunk. Arguably one of the top 20 best dunks in dunk contest history as it brought energy to an already drained crowd. He went on to win.
This generation showed promise as the 2000s era ended on a high note, despite a very low decline during the mid-years as we were exposed to atrocities such as the “Dunk Wheel”.
It was the beginning of the Nate Robinson bandwagon and everybody was hopping on.
Upon entering the 2010 dunk contest, he had 2 dunk contest wins, which included winning against Dwight Howard (08’ winner) in 2009. Sadly, that year’s contest became a worldwide snooze fest.
Lebron James, in fact, was supposed to enter that dunk contest. There is footage of him at the 2009 contest preliminary entering his name into the next years’ contest. Maybe he could have saved that contest from being as bad as it was. All the candidates, including Robinson, underwhelmed. It was just a repeat of the same bland and tasteless dunks that was featured a decade earlier. Robinson gets somewhat a pass because he is 5’9, and all the dunks he performs are a physical phenomenon in itself. However, it does not take away the fact that there was a huge desire for more from him, along with the other contestants as well. Nate went on to win and became a 3-time dunk contest champion.
2011, the year Blake Griffin jumped over the Kia Optima and dazzled many fans across the globe. This Dunk contest was the blueprint of what was thought to be a bright future for the dunk contest. Personally, this was one of the best dunk contests of all time when it came to creativity and performance; Javale Mcgee brought out 2 basketball goals for one of his dunks; Serge Ibaka jumped over the free throw line for his dunk (keyword OVER, whilst MJ and Dr.J’s foot was directly on the line when they attempted theirs back in the day); Demar Derozan showed off his elite athleticism capped off with a mean cradle dunk that left even Dr. J impressed.
Now you may be asking yourself, where’s the problem?
2012-2014 and 2017-19 were arguably the dryest, uneventful and the most time wasting years ever in the dunk contest. I would separate each year and explain but they’ll eventually fall under the same category.
It’s really sad how people constantly point out that basketball players are evolving and becoming more athletic as years go on, yet we find ourselves pumping each other up every year with the hope that we get to see a dunk that is out of this world and original.
On Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter, there are regular freak athletes regularly posting videos of creative dunks that have yet to be seen or extremely difficult to attempt. You would think after all this time, a player in the NBA would look at these videos for inspiration.
Instead, viewers are subjected to either the same bland bull that helped Larry Nance Sr. and Dominique Wilkins win dunk contests back in the 80’s, except with a higher vertical leap, or we get to see players dunk over rappers, average sized celebrities, or former NBA players who are 9 times out of 10 sitting down holding a ball up.
An example of this was in 2013. Jeremy Evans (2012 champion of arguably the worst dunk contest ever) jumped over a 7’4 Mark Eaton who was sitting stationary near the goal with a ball in his palms to throw up to Evans when he came. Predictable. That’s why dunks such as Hammadou Dialos’ are so appreciated because he actually jumped over a man over 7’0 who was standing up.
Then, you have guys like Donovan Mitchell (2018 Champion) who jumps over a minuscule, 5’0 something Kevin Hart and think they did something spectacular.
Another issue that sucks the fun out of the dunk contests are the judges. It boggles my mind that they allowed DJ Khaled to judge a dunk contest when he has never touched the rim in his life.
The scoring of the dunk contest has been flawed for the past couple of years. In this past dunk contest, Dennis Smith Jr. was awarded a 45 out of 50 total points despite missing his dunk three times (a 40 caliber dunk in my opinion, but I digress).
Even when Khaled was judging in last year’s dunk contest he was throwing up 10s on the board like they were free of charge. This gives players the idea that they don’t have to try as hard to get a high score from judges, as long as they show how high they can jump, bring a random celebrity or bring a ridiculous prop that has no effect on how a person needs to jump.
The dunk contest should be a place where the most athletic and creative players in the NBA compete as well as entertain fans along the way. As of now, we’re seeing it become an afterthought in the NBA All-Star Weekend, where it used to be one of the most anticipated events of the weekend.
The 2010s have yolked our time and energy to something that is becoming a disappointment. In my opinion, athletes should be more inspired to push their bodies and creativity to the limit in order to provide the best show possible. Instead of jumping over average sized people, athletes should try and go for the moon and stars. They could jump over Shaq as Dialo did, jump over known 7 footers such as Boban Marjanovic, Kristaps Porzingis, Dirk Nowitzki, heck even Yao Ming.
Who knows what the future holds, but I genuinely hope it’s not DJ Khaled getting the chance to judge another dunk contest.