Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dunk Contest: Blow it Up!

The Dunk Contest needs to be fixed. It seemed to be getting better (thanks J-Rich) but over the past two seasons there has been some questionable judgment from the judges that has unfortunately lead to questionable winners with gimmicky, but not dunk-champ-worthy dunks.

Here’s a great article that sort of covers the basis for today’s post written by Bethlehem Shoals of Sporting News.

He basically tears down this year’s competition, reducing Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson to “novelty acts” and then chastising the omission of Gerald Green.

Oh, and any world in which Gerald Green, inventor of THE BIRTHDAY CAKE, gets snubbed for this motley bunch is not one that values the Dunk Contest as I know it. Green can jump over anyone, has that perfect mix of agility and length to make his flight downright balletic, and comes up with crazy stuff. And he has managed to stick in the league and grow up a little.
“But my major beef is with the selection process. I don't know who comes up with the first three, or the fan fave options. I don't think, though, that it's the judges. And given what a miserable track record some have had for recognizing brilliance, seeing past the obvious, or even seeing what the heck was going on, it seems like they should be the ones consulted.” I agree wholeheartedly with the travesty of not inviting Gerald Green back into the fold. His ideas for dunks were great and his athleticism translates into eye candy.

I also agree that the selection process is horrible and that the judges are old and tired and miss some of the more subtle, yet beautiful to watch (especially in super-slo motion) dunks by lesser known players.

This point has been highlighted in recent years.

Exhibit A: Nate Robinson’s "win" over Andre Igoudala (who had the best dunk I’ve ever seen outside of Vince Carter’s whole contest) after the little dude tried to dunk it 50 times before finally getting it.

Exhibit B: Dwight Howard’s “Superman” dunk that was more like a Super lay-in and had nothing on Green’s cupcake dunk.

Both are prime examples of “star” power over actual ingenuity and execution.

Here’s what I think should be done.

First off, forget this four-player garbage. I miss the eight-player format. Better, yet, why not invite ten players? What about twelve? With that many participants, each player would only get a couple chances in the first round. This will limit the standing around and waiting. Keep the action moving.

Out of a field of 10 to 12 contestants, you’re going to get a lot of creativity. Sure, there will probably be some bad stuff too, but it will also add variety and cut down on watching a dude attempt one dunk for 45 minutes.

I’ve written about how much more athletic today’s NBA is then 10-15 years ago. Every team has at the very least an MJ-esque athlete (not player or talent, strictly athleticim-wise) on their roster. Some teams have two or three of these types of athletes.

Why not give some new blood a chance to shine? I mean, the NBA has already implied this very thing in the contest's “Rising Stars” moniker. Hell, why not give other guys who would otherwise never get to go to the All-Star festivities, not just newbies, an opportunity to participate?

For example, a five-year vet like Dahntay Jones, making $800,000. Dude’s got crazy hops, has thrown down some wicked dunks this season, why not give him 30 seconds to market himself to the fans, a chance to grab a bit of spotlight? Who knows, he might put on a show and give the Nugs more buzz when they travel.

I understand that the NBA is star-driven. That’s why Chris Paul gets awarded extra assists on official stat sheets and can initiate contact and still get the foul and Dwyane Wade can’t be touched, and K.G. can bark and wag fingers and tell everyone to go eff their mothers without getting T-d up, etc. etc.

But, due to this fact, the NBA should also be all about creating stars as well. While Gerald Green isn’t a star, he did sell a bunch of jerseys when he won the contest and put on a great show in the process.

Having a larger field will get more players into the competition, and give more fans reason to watch. It will also take pressure off of the contestants and allow them to just go out and try something. Think “safety in numbers.”

It might even attract some of the league’s biggest stars (Kobe, Wade, Lebron) to come out and try a dunk in the first round, knowing they won’t have to invest a whole mess of time or energy into the event. And if they do well, and the crowd wants them to keep going, they just might.

This year’s selection of Rudy Fernandez, Russell Westbrook and Joe Alexander is a fine starting point. The NBA could go a step further and run video highlights (using NBA trademarked game footage) during commercials of all of the would-be contestants so that the fans could vote their top 10-12 into the event.

We've already seen players trying to promote their all-star selections via youtube or myspace (Amare, Bosh, etc.), so why can't the NBA promote the dunk contest? The NBa coul run 20 second commercials on all the potential candidates so that the fans could decide and vote in who they want to see. This gets the causual fan interested and invested in the event as well. The league could even have the candidates (or the teams) themselves put together the highlight reels.

How fun would those commercials be? How excited about the dunk contest would you be watching 10 or 12 different commercials of the various potential dunk contestants?

Letting the fans have complete control over something superficial like the dunk contest is exactly what fan voting is about. Tracy McGrady and VC getting voted in as starters for the AS game simply based on their name is a travesty. But the dunk contest? Fan voting would be perfect. This would also eliminate the Bird Man and Bob Sura entries of years past.

Here’s a list of a bunch of guys who could be in the dunk contest, a lot of them from teams who probably won’t get much, if any representation during All-Star weekend (click on them to see their youtube highlights):

Wolves: Rodney Carney
Rockets: Von Wafer
Raptors: Joey Graham
Warriors: Anthony Randolph
Lakers: Trevor Ariza
Jazz: Ronnie Brewer
Wizards: Nick Young
Clippers: DeAndre Jordan
Heat: Dorrell Wright
Bulls: Thabo Sefolosha

Come on NBA. The world is changing. The dunk contest needs to change too (and I'm not talking about the wheel of fortune crap either...)

1 comment:

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