Late last week, All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest invites started going out. On Saturday, Randy Kim at AOL Sports wrote an article about Jamario Moon’s inclusion, and then yesterday Mike Trudell at Timberwolves.com reported that defending champion Gerald Green accepted his own invitation to participate.
That means that within a few days, half of the participants have already been chosen. Henry Abbott at TrueHoop speculates that Dwight Howard should and will also be included, leaving only one remaining spot.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing Gerald Green and Dwight Howard square off in another dunk contest won’t be so bad, but I’m sick of how the league continues to mishandle a wonderful opportunity for sheer excitement. How can it be so hard to run a fruitful dunk contest when there are so many years of successful models from which to copy?
There are some glaring problems that need fixing. For example, the contest needs to have 8 participants instead of 4. 8 is simply the natural number for this event. The best dunk contest I can remember is the Vince Carter/T-Mac/Stevie Franchise contest of 2000—it should be duplicated in every way possible. Following that lead, each round should be based on two dunk attempts (with a shot clock, thanks Chris Andersen), with each dunker getting their first dunk attempt, then going back for their second.
But the biggest and most important change is in how the participants are selected. The NBA has the dumb rule about players needing to be in their first three years to be allowed to participate. That must go. I don’t care if it is the Rising Stars Dunk Contest, change the damn name!
And I’m not the type of person who wants to see Kobe and LeBron and Vince in the contest: I’m fully aware that those players want nothing to do with the dunk contest anymore. But in an interview on Dime magazine’s website yesterday, Austin Burton asked Rudy Gay about a rumor that he was trying to get into the contest, and Rudy Gay responded that he hadn’t “heard anything yet.” He also said that he “tried to get in last year, too,” but obviously was unsuccessful.
Not including established stars, or players who have stated (as LeBron has) that they don’t want to participate in the dunk contest, is one thing, but leaving out a dunker who is possibly the best contestant the league could possibly offer for what looks to be two consecutive years is quite another. That’s plain mismanagement, and as a fan, I shouldn’t have to stand for it.
Therefore, I have come up with a solution on how to rectify the problem, and I don’t believe the league will have to drastically increase its prize money to do so. Young players want the acclaim that comes with winning the dunk contest (except for Tyrus Thomas apparently)—I don’t believe the money is a deciding factor.
I propose that the league let the fans select the participants. It would be simple enough to do. First off, sometime before the Thanksgiving, the league would query all the players about whether or not they would be willing to participate in that season’s dunk contest. That alone would narrow down the list substantially, and would take little effort on the league or players’ parts.
Then, once the list had been compiled, the NBA would simply create a site (just like its All-Star balloting site) and let the fans take over from there. Voting could run from December through when the All-Star voting closed, leaving plenty of time for the contestants to be announced and the excitement to build.
Obviously, this system would not be fool proof. There would be bias based on player’s popularity (Vince really isn’t good anymore guys), team affiliation (I see you crazy Toronto fans), or even country of origin (Yao in a dunk contest?), but I believe that with 8 spots to fill, at least 6 of the players picked would be absolutely deserving of their spot. True hoop heads would probably vote more than once, trying to spread out picks to those players who would make for the a highlight filled night (compared to filling out an All-Star ballot, which I haven’t even bothered to do once this year).
If nothing else, the contest would represent the wants of the fan, and isn’t that what the NBA is trying to achieve? Fans having a direct hand in the selection of the contestants would increase viewers, and that of course would increase $/Stern’s happiness. It certainly would solve the poor reaction the past 6 or so contests have received (although the last 2 or 3 have been markedly better than the ones before them).
With all that being said, I am interested to see who you, a representative fan population, would select if this dunk contest were instilled into this year’s All-Star weekend.
So, I have compiled a list of all the players I think would accept the opportunity to participate, if selected, and then narrowed it down a little more based on my personal bias.
What you should do is leave a comment with your 8 selections, or, if you think I have left out someone that deserves to be included, feel free to write them in. Hopefully a few bigger blogs (TrueHoop, Slamonline, Sports Guy’s World, Dime Mag, DC Sports Bog, Celtics Blog, Free Darko, etc.) will pick this up and boost the number of readers on this—I am curious to know what we as a basketball community think about the dunk contest, and also how our picks will stack up with who the NBA invites. After a week or two (if the responses are good) I will post our participants, and we can see if anything else comes about.
A quick disclaimer: the list below is missing a few names of people who would probably be good contestants but I personally don’t think would accept the invite (Tyrus Thomas, Jason Richardson, Desmond Mason). If you strongly disagree and think that they would, in fact, participate if selected, by all means, write them in.
- Adams, Hassan — Cleveland Cavaliers
- Ariza, Trevor — Los Angeles Lakers
- Brown, Shannon — Cleveland Cavaliers
- Carney, Rodney — Philadelphia 76ers
- Cook, Daequan — Miami Heat
- Evans, Maurice — Orlando Magic
- Gay, Rudy — Memphis Grizzlies
- Green, Gerald — Minnesota Timberwolves
- Howard, Dwight — Orlando Magic
- Iguodala, Andre — Philadelphia 76ers
- Jefferson, Richard — New Jersey Nets
- Jones, Dahntay — Sacramento Kings
- Mensah-Bonsu, Pops — Dallas Mavericks
- Moon, Jamario — Toronto Raptors
- Nachbar, Bostjan — New Jersey Nets
- Outlaw, Travis — Portland Trail Blazers
- Pietrus, Mickael — Golden State Warriors
- Price, Ronnie — Utah Jazz
- Robinson, Nate — New York Knicks
- Smith, J.R. — Denver Nuggets
- Smith, Josh — Atlanta Hawks
- Strawberry, D.J. — Phoenix Suns
- Stuckey, Rodney — Detroit Pistons
- Swift, Stromile — Memphis Grizzlies
- Wallace, Gerald — Charlotte Bobcats
- Warrick, Hakim — Memphis Grizzlies
- Williams, Louis — Philadelpha 76ers
- Williams, Sean — New Jersey Nets
- Wright, Antoine — New Jersey Nets
- Young, Nick — Washington Wizards
Tags: Andre Iguodala, Antoine Wright, Austin Burton, Bostjan Nachbar, Chris Andersen, D.J. Strawberry, Daequan Cook, Dahntay Jones, Desmond Mason, Dwight Howard, Gerald Green, Gerald Wallace, Hakim Warrick, Hassan Adams, Henry Abbott, J.R. Smith, Jamario Moon, Jason Richardson, Josh Smith, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Louis Williams, Maurice Evans, Mickael Pietrus, Mike Trudell, Nate Robinson, Nick Young, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Randy Kim, Richard Jefferson, Rodney Carney, Rodney Stuckey, Ronnie Price, Rudy Gay, Sean Williams, Shannon Brown, Stromile Swift, Travis Outlaw, Trevor Ariza, Tyrus Thomas, Vince Carter