The dunk disaster?


Photo by Danny Bollinger

Demar Derozen of the Toronto Raptors dunks over teammate Sony Weems during the 2010 Dunk Contest in Dallas. Now, when players perform dunks like this, the crowd has little reaction.

From Vince Carter’s signature elbow dunk, to Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon’s iconic duel, and Michael Jordan’s legendary free throw line dunk, the dunk contest has been one of the most anticipated events for years during the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star weekend. 

     The dunk contest, to be honest, has been a total failure over the last couple of years.

     The Cleveland Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland got the honor to host the NBA’s 2022 All-Star weekend. The current NBA season happens to be the seventy-fifth anniversary of the league. Earlier in the season, the NBA75 team was released. The team honors the NBA’s top seventy-five players in the history of the league. The highlight of the weekend was when the players were honored at halftime of the All-Star game. Even Michael Jordan was there! 

     A new and improved skills competition was displayed for the first time. Three teams (Team Rooks, Team Cavs, and Team Antetokounmpos) of three players participated in a four-round competition consisting of shooting, passing and dribbling drills. The hometown “Team Cavs” won the competition when Evan Mobley hit a half-court shot with only four seconds left.

     The hype around All-Star Saturday night was real. Spoiler alert: the hype was not met. Some of the league’s greats were in attendance to watch the skills and three-point competition. They also saw the catastrophe of the dunk contest. 

     The 2022 dunk contest may go down as the worst dunk contest of all time. It was certainly the biggest disappointment of the year, so far. Houston Rockets young star Jalen Green made one dunk in nine attempts. In total, all four “dunkers” went seven for twenty-five (28%) in the first round. In the final round, Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson didn’t even complete a dunk. Bill Simmons, the founder of The Ringer, had some strong words on his Twitter account about the contest.

     “Let’s never talk about that dunk contest again. It never happened,” Simmons said.

     Backlash was quick to follow after All-Star weekend wrapped up in Cleveland. NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal’s courtside reaction told the story of the night: a confused and bleak expression. Sports commentator Stephen A. Smith labeled the contest as a “global atrocity” and the “worst slam dunk contest ever seen in the history of basketball on any level”. Even NBA Hall of Famer Paul Pierce said on his Twitter account that he “could’ve won the dunk contest tonight”. In other words, a retired forty-four year old could win the most prestigious dunk contest in the world.

     Analysts like former NBA forward Matt Barnes suggested the dunk contest should be the first event on All-Star Saturday Night.

     Don’t get me wrong, I think the NBA is one of the best leagues in the world, with one of the best commissioners in the world with Adam Silver. He has done nothing but improve and help grow the sport of basketball. But Silver is facing a serious challenge in fixing the dunk contest.

     The idea of incentivizing the winner has been brought up. A one million dollar cash prize has been discussed with the commissioner. Silver condemned this idea quickly.

     Another idea includes choosing street hoopers or content creators that are known for their dunking. If you could see some of the dunks these guys can do, you would be astonished. They are, without a doubt, a thousand times better at dunking than any NBA player. 

     At the end of the day, there is a sad reality that there is not much the NBA can do to fix the dunk contest. NBA fans can only hope that Adam Silver can pull something out of his sleeve like he always does.