It’s Time to Retire the NBA Slam Dunk Contest


Did you ever have that “thing” that you just loved and hated to part with, but it eventually outlived its usefulness?  Maybe it was a car that you loved to drive that had a thousand miles on it and just got to expensive to fix when it broke down.  Or that baseball glove that fit you just right, but the leather gradually wore out and it could no longer be repaired?  Like that car or that glove, the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest has reached the point where it has gotten tired and needs to be retired.

Photo courtesy of nba,com

We all loved the Slam Dunk in its heyday.  It was easily the highlight of All-Star Weekend and must see viewing.  We will forever remember the battle between Michael Jordan and Dominque Wilkens in 1988 which ended with Jordan running nearly the length of the court and taking off from the free throw line to win the competition.  The image of Jordan hanging in the air is not only iconic, it became the logo for his multi-billion dollar corporation.

And there were many other memorable dunks in the competition.  Dwight Howard removing his jersey to reveal his Superman shirt and then throwing down a viscious dunk.  Vince Carter going between the legs before dunking.  Or Spud Webb winning despite being only 5’ -7”.  Former Celtic Dee Brown pumping up his Reeboks and dunking with his eyes covered by his arm.  All classic moments.

Photo courtesy of

With all these great moments, why do I think the Slam Dunk Contest needs to be put to rest?  The reason is two-fold.

First, the great players don’t want to participate any more.  When Jordan and Wilkens faced off in 1988 they were both in their primes and marquis players in the game.  Today, the big names simply don’t want to take part in the contest.  Maybe its because they don’t want to expend the energy or risk getting hurt, but it just doesn’t happen anymore.

Not only has it gotten to the point where the top tier players no longer participate in the contest, the second and third level players don't participate either.   This has reduced the competition to rookies and second year players (no the lottery picks here either), leaving the casual fan asking "who?" during contestant introductions.  This may be fine for a futures contest, but no the Big Show.

And second, and most importantly, there are just no more ways to dunk a basketball.  It has all been done.  Windmills, jumping over teammates, going between the legs – done, done and done.  Wearing the hometown hero’s jersey – done.  There is nothing humanly left to do, the creativity that once wowed the competition is now reduced to just finding small ways to tweak tired concepts.

Unless the NBA can find a way to incentivize the Slam Dunk Contest so that the Lebrons and Giannises of the day are compelled to compete, or humans evolve to jump even higher so they can perform more movements while in the air, it’s time to give the Dunk Contest a much deserved respite.  It was great while it lasted, but like that broken down car or worn-out glove, its time has come.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: It’s Time to Retire the NBA Slam Dunk Contest
It’s Time to Retire the NBA Slam Dunk Contest
Boston Sports Syndicate
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