Posted February 05, 2014

All-Dunk Contest Team: How Adam Silver can save the All-Star’s showcase event

Ben Golliver, Blake Griffin, Gerald Green, John Wall, LeBron James, Paul George, Terrence Ross, The Point Forward All-Stars

Paul George

Paul George reportedly declined an invitation to be in this year’s Dunk Contest. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images Sport)

Paul George, Pacers

The degree to which George’s profile has risen over the last few years is mind-blowing. As The Point Forward noted in January, he received more than 1.2 million All-Star votes, a figure that was at least 20 times more than the number he received last year. The Pacers forward now stands just a cut below the likes of James and Durant in terms of popularity, but he’s not just a “big name.” He’s a big name who can absolutely slay the rim.

Like Wall, George was reportedly invited to compete in this year’s contest, but he told the Indianapolis Star that he declined. He also called the 2012 contest a “joke” after he participated, but failed to win.

This is where a little salesmanship and vision from Silver is needed. “Mr. George: You once campaigned to be in the contest, you’re an amazing dunker, you’re a huge star with limitless potential, we want you back in the contest, and we want you to be excited to be back. What do we need to do? How do we turn this thing from a ‘joke’ into an unforgettable memory for you and your millions of fans?”

After all, if George is pulling off Vince Carter-esque Dunk Contest material during games, he needs to be front and center in New Orleans.


LeBron James, Heat

Last week, ESPN.com reported that James wanted to sit down with Silver to “just throw out some ideas where I hope the league can be better.” The back-to-back MVP added: “Hopefully [Silver] has some ideas for me.”

Hopefully, indeed.

Although Durant is coming for James’ MVP crown and the Pacers, Thunder, Spurs and others will push the Heat for this year’s title, anything and everything in the basketball world still revolves around James. He is the game’s Alpha and Omega. That’s especially true for the Dunk Contest discussion, which James has personally stoked by saying he would “preliminarily” compete in the 2010 contest (before failing to follow through) and making a Nike commercial last summer in which he participates in a Dunk Contest. James has proud, accomplished icons like Durant and Magic — among many others — practically begging for him to throw his hat in the ring, and he’s openly flirted with the idea on multiple occasions. How can Silver grease these skids and seal the deal?

There just aren’t any excuses left for James, who at 29 has conquered the world, won two titles, captured two gold medals at the Olympics, and accumulated a stack of MVP trophies and numerous other individual awards. Someone this accomplished and established in his field can’t be worried about the potential for embarrassment, can he? James might posit that he’s an “in-game dunker” but that’s nothing more than a convenient (and lazy) excuse. Ditto the “injury risk” angle, which is poppycock. James puts on a show in games, before games, after games and everywhere in between. The Slam Dunk Contest should be his perfect stage.

Besides surpassing Jordan’s championship ring total and moving up the league’s all-time scoring list, what other mountains are left for James to climb? Wouldn’t non-participation in the Dunk Contest go down as one of the most aggravating aspects of his otherwise-sterling Hall of Fame career? This obviously isn’t on the level of “The Decision,” but it’s still something that will confound and frustrate future generations of basketball fans. Thirty years from now, young minds could well be forced to grapple with an unanswerable question: “What do you mean the best post-Jordan player and the biggest post-Jordan star never even competed in a single Dunk Contest?”

And, another one: “Why didn’t the league do anything about?”

Final Thoughts

To quickly recap, the dream 2014 Slam Dunk Contest field includes four past participants (Ross, Green, George, and Griffin), three past champions (Ross, Green and Griffin), four 2014 All-Stars (Wall, George, Griffin and James), and one white whale (James). Star power, proven dunkers, youth, off-the-charts athleticism, great personalities: check, check, check, check, and check. If assembled, this would be the best group, on paper, in at least 20 years.

The dream field also includes four players who should be considered fairly attainable (Ross, Green, Wall and George), three of whom have apparently been extended invitations. In other words, the broken reality isn’t all that far from the dream. All that’s missing is the elusive buy-in from superstars, and the vision to make it happen.

Regardless of who gets the call, we will all be watching this year’s contest. The joy of the dunk and the history of the event has ensured the Dunk Contest’s relevance. But until the best of the best are there, something big will be missing.

Now that he’s the boss, Silver should start with this dream and brainstorm innovative ways to achieve it,  rather than sticking to a reality that has left the basketball world so regularly unsatisfied and underwhelmed.

RELATED: All-Gridiron Team: NBA players who would dominate in the NFL


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19 comments
MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

Simple - make it charity focused.... players would have to participate or face the stigma of not wanting to help a worthy cause.... would take care of a lot

joshua33nelson
joshua33nelson

Have the fans vote on who should be in.  Top ten have to participate (unless legitimate injury) or get fined.  Consider it part of the job duties.

iamHoraceKnight
iamHoraceKnight

Here Is the Simplest Fix:  If Sprite Isn't Willing to Offer a Better Reward(I think it was $50,00) find a better Sponsor.  


A Custom Made Truck or Car.  

$300,000 To A Charity Of Your Choice


zsmitson
zsmitson

whats crazy is gerald green can't even palm the ball. he's got a chopped finger on his right hand from when he was a kid and it got caught in the net (while dunking) i think. he just has mad crazy hops and still has awesome dunks

TheBrownMamba
TheBrownMamba

Lebron won't join the Slam Dunk contest. Cause he knows he won't win. His dunks are not for the contest.

hubrob107
hubrob107

The best dunkers aren't in the NBA....open the contest up to the BEST DUNKERS...put up some real money...you will have the BEST contest EVER

butter04
butter04

Well, that was disappointing. I was actually expecting some creative ideas for how to fix the dunk contest. But this article didn't actually talk about how to save the dunk contest, all it talked about what who should be involved this year. If Silver wants to save the dunk contest, he needs to do a lot more than just get stars in 2014, he needs to completely reformat the event. I'm going to go back to Bill Simmons now.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

I remember when Darnell Hillman (IND?) won the first NBA dunk contest in the 70s.  It was interesting, but the game was cool, seeing the stars compete.


The dunk is passe, has been for quite some time now (Jordan?).  Those who run / own our sports are too often not sport fans and tinker to no good end.  MLB's time-honored All-Star game has now been ruined by the home run derby which even kids find to be a yawner.


Focus on the game (East v. West, not Magics v. Jordans) and stop dumbing-it-down for the kids who know better.  They want to look up to their heroes, not see them acting as, well, children.  It may be why LeBron disdains participation.  Let him disdain away, play the game and forget the dunk contest. 

nwaber
nwaber

How about tie the dunk contest to some sort of post-season benefit? For example, the winner of the dunk contest's team gets home court advantage in round one (if their record isn't already good enough for it). 


Or perhaps something nice for the following preseason, for example: the first preseason game for their team is played in the gym of that player's choosing, and they get to give out the first two rows of seats to whomever they want. If the player wants to play in MSG, MSG it is. If he wants the game played in his highschool gym in a town of 3000 in rural Idaho, make it happen (and maybe reinforce the backboards). Maybe someone would want to play at Rucker Park. That could be cool.


Or option 3: the winner of the dunk contest's team hosts the next year's all-star weekend.


Or option 4: the winner's team doesn't get scheduled to play on Christmas day, and can only be scheduled for home games for Dec 24th/26th.


Maybe all three. Telling a multigazillionaire like Lebron that he can have some more cash for doing the dunk contest is the wrong approach for two reasons: 1) he already has a LOT of money. A million dollars is still substantial, but not game-changing. 2) If he entered the dunk contest after being offered the million dollars, there would at least be the appearance that he entered because of the cash- not because of the competition, or the fans, or whatever else. He would presumably donate the money to some charity to show that he's not just money-hungry, but the optics are still suboptimal. Conversely, bringing a Miami Heat preseason game to his old highschool gym... that could be appealing.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

That Griffin contest was so rigged, I started believing the NBA is fixed.  Ibaka and Derosen did some incredible dunks that were far better than the nonsense Griffin pulled.  Ibaka did a BEYOND free throw line dunk.  Can't mess with the Sponsors I suppose.  I bet if he missed all his dunks, the refs would have given him 10 minutes to try again - ala Birdman and Nate Robinson.

TrevorThompson
TrevorThompson

Start with $10M to the winner's charitable foundation.  Then get a full panel of judges who take it seriously, so you can make some better scoring system work.  The winner also gets a super bling'd title belt to wear at game introductions for the next year.

pipdmx33
pipdmx33

Is Nate Robinson too old? Add him in there. Fans love the 5'7 dunker. It's a shame that most of these guys are afraid of a little competition and rather be on the sideline wearing goofy clothes instead of competing.

myhandlerules
myhandlerules

I think most of us who aren't drooling sportswriters recognize that Griffin's dunk "over a car" was nothing special. It was a dull dunk over the hood of a car, which most NBA players could probably do. Hell, I'm a 5'9" non-NBA player, and I can jump over a car's hood with a running start.

Hollywood26
Hollywood26

@myhandlerules  It was LITERALLY the same dunk i did in 2003 at the Hoop It Up in DC.   I finished 3rd (by the way I'm 6'0)

BenchSplinters
BenchSplinters

@myhandlerules I agree 100% with that.  It was a shameless advertising stunt with no particular difficulty compared with several other dunks.