The NBA’s dunk contest has misplaced its luster. The place as soon as superstars unleashed never-before-seen slams, we now should typically endure glorified G League gamers recreating throw-downs of yesteryear, typically taking a number of makes an attempt to finish the feat. The three-point contest has been extra entertaining of late, and it’s excessive time the dunk contest returns to its rightful place because the spotlight of All-Star Weekend.
Solely 4 gamers participated final season, with Oklahoma Metropolis’s Hamidou Diallo taking residence the crown. Names have begun to trickle in for the 2020 occasion in Chicago — residence to essentially the most well-known of all dunk contest winners — and Dwight Howard’s reported return isn’t an incredible signal that this 12 months will carry the thrill again. Which bought me to considering: Who would make the perfect 2020 dunk contest?
Allow us to return to the deeper fields within the contest’s 1980s heyday and think about 10 hopeful members.
You may argue the Michael Jordan mystique was born within the dunk contest. By no means thoughts the gold chain in 1985. It’s laborious to explain how large a spectacle Jordan’s 1988 duel with Dominique Wilkins was. The image of Jordan leaping from the free-throw line — the ball cocked in his proper arm, tongue out, flying in the direction of a contest-clinching 50-point explosion — made the proper poster. The feat is much less spectacular every time somebody replicates it, however the dunk contest was king then, and Jordan sat on the throne.
LeBron has chased that ghost ever since he joined the league, but he has by no means entered a dunk contest. He told our Chris Haynes that he got here shut a number of instances, particularly in 2006, however minor accidents at all times held him again. In 2012, he instructed Fox Sports activities Florida, “I’m getting too old for that.”
However a part of the LeBron mystique is his outstanding longevity. Now, think about he have been to win the dunk contest at 35 years outdated, almost twice Kobe Bryant’s age when he turned the youngest to ever win it. LeBron can nonetheless throw down with the very best, and I might like to see him attempt to shatter a backboard.
Carter simply turned the primary participant ever to play in 4 completely different many years. The 42-year-old may assist LeBron not really feel so outdated if he participated. It has been 20 years since Carter’s epic victory in the 2000 dunk contest — arguably the best efficiency within the occasion’s historical past — and there could be some symmetry to him returning in his final season to an occasion that launched his legacy 20 years earlier.
We’re solely three years faraway from Carter saying “it’s possible” he may nonetheless win the dunk contest.
“Today folks say, ‘Oh, why didn’t you defend it?’” Carter instructed Sportsnet in 2017. “Yeah, I may have. However I didn’t wish to make a profession out of it — didn’t need folks to anticipate me to be there yearly. Now if I didn’t win it, that’s a totally completely different ball recreation. You understand, wanting again, I had two dunks I may’ve tried that I didn’t. And I can’t let you know [what they are]. Nope. Can’t inform anyone.”
Present us, Vince. Present us.
The best duel since Jordan vs. Wilkins was LaVine vs. Gordon in 2016. Equally controversial, LaVine sealed his second consecutive victory with a between-the-legs dunk from (simply contained in the) free-throw line. Gordon’s double pump deserved a 50, too. One dunk was extra unbelievable than the following.
Gordon returned to the competition the next season, however LaVine declined an invite to defend his crown once more, and the occasion has misplaced a few of its shine ever since. They each stay amongst the handful of most athletic players in the league. Gordon mentioned this previous summer season he is down for the rematch, and LaVine would have homecourt benefit, so there’s actually no excuse for Spherical 2 to not occur.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Hear me out. Williamson has but to make his NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans because of a knee harm, however all indicators level to him making a healthy return quickly. The Pelicans are enjoying for the longer term anyway, so why not maintain Williamson out and unleash his death-defying athleticism on the dunk contest.
Now, I perceive it looks as if an extremely dumb concept to ask a 285-pound child to place the form of pointless torque and influence on his rehabilitated proper knee it might require to win a dunk contest, however a man can dream. What higher technique to introduce essentially the most anticipated athlete since LeBron to the NBA world than on the dunk contest, the place he can unleash the very skill set that made him famous.
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
Morant is mulling an invitation, in line with Haynes. Right here is hoping the Rookie of the Yr favourite accepts it, and never simply because it might be enjoyable to see him duel with Williamson. The hype surrounding Zion’s athleticism overshadowed that of Morant, the No. 2 total decide behind his fellow 19-year-old.
The younger Grizzlies have performed themselves into the early dialog for the Western Convention’s remaining playoff seed, largely because of Morant’s relentlessness. He assaults the rim with the aggression of Russell Westbrook, hurdling in the direction of the basket with little regard for his opponent’s security or his personal.
When Morant leapt over 6-foot-10 Kevin Love and almost completed what may have been the best in-game poster in NBA historical past, all Love may say afterwards was, “Ja almost ended my professional career with this dunk.” In some ways, Morant is perhaps safer taking his anger out on the dunk contest.
Anfernee Simons, Portland Path Blazers
Simons entered the season as a number one breakout candidate, however enjoying behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum within the Portland backcourt doesn’t afford him ample alternatives to showcase his expertise. The dunk contest is perhaps the proper place for him to announce his arrival — and audition as a commerce piece for the Blazers shifting ahead — and Simons has already made himself obtainable.
“I’m simply going to allow them to resolve who they put in it, however, clearly, I wish to take part,” Simons told The Oregonian’s Jamie Goldberg on Tuesday. “I won’t be essentially the most acrobatic with all of the methods, like Zach LaVine, stuff like that, however I can bounce actually excessive, so I can use that to my benefit.”
The dunk contest is an effective place for guys who humbly share, “I can bounce actually excessive.” Which may simply be an understatement, given what we noticed from Simons two days earlier. The 6-foot-Three guard dribbled baseline and almost bumped his head on the rim throwing down a dunk so forceful that he might need ripped Meyers Leonard’s arm from his physique had the Warmth heart bothered to contest it any additional.
Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Warmth
Jones is perhaps essentially the most athletic participant within the NBA. He’s definitely the very best NBA athlete you have no idea sufficient about. The 22-year-old has earned extra burn this season in Miami than he has gotten in any of his earlier three campaigns, and which means extra dunks for the remainder of us. His 36 dunks are more than any other wing in the league has this season, and each single one in every of them is a marvel.
Jones has already accepted an invite to this 12 months’s contest and almost gained as a rookie. In 2017, with simply 20 NBA minutes below his belt, a lanky Jones jumped four teammates for his first dunk and took an alley-oop off the facet of the backboard between his legs to enter the ultimate spherical with the very best rating of the evening. He misplaced to Glenn Robinson III in the long run, however he’s stronger and extra assured now.
Isaiah Thomas, Washington Wizards
It’s at all times enjoyable to have a brief dude within the dunk contest. Webb gained in 1986, and Nate Robinson gained thrice from 2006-10. They don’t even must get all fancy with the makes an attempt. There’s something about seeing a 5-foot-Eight man rising above a 10-foot rim that makes everybody so blissful. Given Thomas’ revival on the Wizards, the dunk contest could be an effective way to reintroduce him to the lots.
Thomas won a dunk contest in faculty at Washington’s Midnight Insanity occasion in 2009, hurdling 6-foot-10 teammate Matthew Bryan for the clincher. Nonetheless seeking his first in-game NBA dunk, Thomas nearly bounced an alley-oop to himself within the 2017 All-Star Sport, however didn’t stick the touchdown. He might not have his All-Star swag all the way in which again, however the weekend may use that smile once more.
Alex Caruso, Los Angeles Lakers
Caruso has develop into a cult hero, largely as a result of a balding white dude isn’t our typical touchstone for an NBA participant, a lot much less a complementary piece on a championship contender and a would-be recipient of alley-oops from LeBron James. The undrafted 6-foot-5 guard is greater than meets the attention.
There’s a mural in L.A. depicting Caruso dunking over a handful of All-Stars for a purpose. The person has a legendary aura to him that shines via in every dunk he throws down. I do know the NBA has already secured an entry from Lakers heart Dwight Howard, however give the folks the Laker they really need.
Additionally into consideration …
Not that anybody would decline an invite to The Best Dunk Contest in NBA Historical past, but when somebody have been unable to take part because of harm or actuality, we are going to prolong invitations to those runners-up: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks; Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets; Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics; John Collins, Atlanta Hawks; Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder; Sekou Doumbouya, Detroit Pistons; De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings; Javonte Inexperienced, Boston Celtics; Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz; Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers; Kelly Oubre Jr., Phoenix Suns; Dennis Smith Jr., New York Knicks; Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets; and Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves.
– – – – – – –
Extra from Yahoo Sports activities: