The last time the NBA All-Star Weekend dunk contest was this bad may have been 1997, when one great Kobe Bryant slam was the only thing standing between the event being somewhat salvageable and it being a complete waste of time.
And that Bryant dunk wasn’t even original; it was a remix of a J.R. Rider dunk from the 1994 contest.
This year in Charlotte, North Carolina, the NBA repeated the same mistakes it made in 1997.
Big names fans can’t wait to see? Nope. Even the diehard fans would’ve been hard-pressed to know who each of the contestants played for when the lineup was announced.
There was Dennis Smith Jr., also known as that guy the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis for.
There was Miles Bridges, representing the hometown Charlotte Hornets and virtually unheard of outside of that city.
There was John Collins, an absolutely fantastic player to watch and a guy who, alongside Trae Young, looks to be the future of the franchise in Atlanta. Still, Collins was virtually unknown to the casual NBA fan.
And there was Hamidou Diallo of the Thunder, a player so obscure that there were no doubt fans who heard his last name and immediately thought of Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo.
Hamidou Diallo, meanwhile, took a nasty fall against the Warrior in November, though he was back for the dunk contest on Saturday night.
That’s where he found the possibly the tallest man available (retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal), jumped over him and threw down a Vince Carter “honey dip” for the finish:
Here it is in slow motion, as it’s certainly worth watching again. The dunk earned a perfect score of 50.
As great as that dunk was, it still suffered from lack of originality.
The fact that Diallo jumped over the 7-foot-1 O’Neal doesn’t grant his dunk any extra gravitas.
After all, Frederic Weis is a 7-footer as well, and Vince Carter posterizing him during the 2000 Olympics was far more entertaining than watching a player jump over a tall guy at the dunk contest.
And speaking of Carter, the “honey dip” was better in the 2000 dunk contest, joining Michael Jordan’s free-throw line takeoff and that Gordon dunk over the mascot in the annals of true dunk contest legends.
To be sure, Diallo’s dunk was impressive. In a disappointing contest, the only dunk that might have even come close was Smith jumping over a seated J. Cole for a lob-and-jam.
And while Smith’s dunk was cool as well, it was arguably most noteworthy due to J. Cole’s celebrity status.
The point is that the dunk contest is getting stale again, just like it did a generation ago. No-names throwing down uninspired jams takes the purest expression of power and athleticism in sports and reduces it to a yawner.
At least the 3-point contest included Steph Curry. It made it all the more amazing when Joe Harris of the Nets put up a 26 in the final round and stole the show.
The dunk contest needs guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and George, not a bunch of fringe G-League players whose one marketable NBA skill is that they can dunk the ball.
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