Fifteen years ago, after throwing down one of the most impressive dunks in the history of the Slam Dunk Contest, Vince Carter turned to the camera and proclaimed, “it’s over.” Now, in 2015, the only thing that’s “over” is the Slam Dunk Contest itself.
The Slam Dunk Contest used to be an event filled with joy, excitement, and awe-inspiring dunks. Now, it is an event filled with misery, dullness, and ordinary, unimpressive, unoriginal dunks.
What the hell happened to the Slam Dunk Contest?
One reason for the contest’s apparent decline is the lack of star participation. When the Slam Dunk Contest was young and thriving, stars made it their mission to participate and take the title. All-time great superstars partook in the event, including Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, and Shawn Kemp. The Slam Dunk Contest meant something in those early years. It was important to the players to be named the Slam Dunk Champion. It was something they strived for. It was something they cared about.
After a decline in talent during the mid-to-late 1990’s, Vince Carter rejuvenated the competition with his electrifying, all-time great showcase of unbelievable dunks.
Another decline in the early-to-mid 2000’s led to a pretty solid string of participants including Nate Robinson, Dwight Howard, and culminating with Blake Griffin. Not all of the participants from 2006 to 2011 (the years from Nate’s first win to Griffin’s win)
were stars, but there was enough star power, along with a plethora of fantastic dunks, to get fans excited. Right after Blake Griffin jumped over a car (overrated dunk, by the way), the Slam Dunk Contest died again. It reverted to no-name players performing no-name dunks. It hasn’t resurrected ever since.
Now, superstars can’t be bothered with the Slam Dunk Contest. They would rather spend their All-Star Weekend relaxing and buying sneakers than participating in the once high-flying competition. (LeBron James has infamously denied participation for several years, much to the disappointment of millions of fans worldwide.)
Over the last few years, we’ve been subject to the names of Jeremy Evans, Chase Budinger, Derrick Williams, James White, Gerald Wallace, Shannon Brown, and Ben McLemore, among other lesser-known NBA players.
Sure, there have been some exceptions. The 2014 Slam Dunk Contest, for example, included three All-Stars: Paul George, John Wall, and Damian Lillard. However, the talent of these three individuals was completely wasted with a ridiculously stupid newly-implemented format. The format consisted of a “team round” and had an East vs. West theme that left many fans confused and shocked.
This year’s contest includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo, Mason Plumlee, and Zach LaVine. It also reverts back to an older format, to the delight of many fans. Although the four participants in this year’s contest are undoubtedly talented basketball players, they are by no means star players in the NBA. With the exception of LaVine, this year’s participants don’t boast much dunking prowess. Sure, “The Greek Freak” is athletic and has a ridiculous wingspan, but he’s no LeBron James.
The NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest is dead. It’s over. And the only way to bring it back is to convince the superstars to participate. Until then, it will just be a filler for an open Saturday night television slot.
Seriously though, watch Vince Carter’s performance in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. His first and third dunks are, without a doubt, the greatest dunks in the history of the Slam Dunk Contest. Seeing the reactions of his peers all but proves that it was truly unbelievable. I’ve seen this video at least forty times, and it just gets better and better each and every time I watch it.