Well we just witnessed quite possibly the worst dunk contest of all time. To those irresponsible commentators who misuse the word “creativity”: there was nothing creative about any of this. The NBA Dunk Contest seems to have gone the way of today’s cinema, and for the most part music, as tonight we were bombarded with remakes, remixes, and gimmicks abound. The best we got in terms of acrobatics and athleticism was a pedestrian windmill, and the rest you can blame on the Allstar host himself, Dwight Howard.
The dunk contest used to represent something. It was a symbol of sheer hops, absolute will power, and artistry in mid flight, imbued with the simple purity of one ball, one man, one rim. Now instead of Michael Jordan walking on air, or Vince Carter levitating at the rim, we get horribly executed pre dunk interviews from Kenny Smith, P Diddy screaming into a microphone, Kevin Hart tromping around delivering mail, someone with a camera on their head, a dunk in the dark–which actually turned out to really be a dunk in the dark, did anybody see that?–and to top it off just insert a motorcycle for a Kia. The dunk contest has become an absolute sideshow; a circus act. It’s WWE on the hardwood, and it’s a wonder why such proud dunkers like MJ, Dominique, Carter, and even active talent like Andre Iguodala and DeMar Derozan, don’t step forward and denounce the thing entirely. You could almost see the smirk on Kenny Dobbs‘–amateur dunk champion–face as he presented Jeremy Evens with the trophy, as if to say “Dude, I’ve done dunks you could only dream about.”
At the end of the contest I believe it was Shaq who mumbled that the real stars need to get involved. But what Shaq doesn’t know is that it probably wouldn’t make a difference at this point. The dunk contest died the day Dwight Howard donned a cape, and was cremated the moment Nate Robinson stormed out of the tunnel dressed as Kryptonite. And when Blake Griffin jumped over the smallest part of a compact vehicle, the ashes were spread Big Lebowski style. To think that a Lebron James would come in and do anything less absurd is wishful thinking. But it’s not the participants who are completely at fault. They’re simply abiding by the standard that Dwight and his sidekick have seemingly set in stone: either bring a big prop, dress up, or do something else completely outside of the actual act of dunking, or don’t even bother showing up. Demar DeRozen and JaVale McGee found this out the hard way last year, as they threw down some of the most spectacular dunks we’ve seen since Vince Carter’s all time performance, only to see their efforts shat upon by Blake Griffin and his new endorsement deal.
No, bringing in the stars isn’t going to change anything. Until the NBA takes a stand and outlaws props, costumes, and limits court access to participants only, the annual freak show will continue unabated. What Dwight Howard has done to the dunk contest may never be undone, and the reverence we held for what was once the purest and greatest allstar event of any sport is no more tangible than a memory.