The Dunk Contest: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and more…
What’s good, basketball fans?
Before we get going, I’d like to respond to those of you who bemoaned the omission of LeBron James, Allen Iverson and, in particular, Kobe Bryant from my All-Star squads. If the presence of Ricky Davis and TJ Ford wasn’t enough of a clue, I’ll put it in plain language: I vote for the players I like, as should you.
If the All-Star Game had been intended as a showcase for the league’s best (rather than most popular) players, the fans wouldn’t be invited to vote, and it’s likely the process would have been turned over either to the coaches or, worse still, computers. Of course, talent plays a big part in our thinking, and it’s for this reason that we generally see a selection of the league’s finest players on the floor during the weekend. It is not, however, the only factor, which is why ballots like mine have Sixth Man and MIP candidates in place of MVP hopefuls.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at your proposed dunk contest entrants. Before we get cracking, it’s worth noting that, although the competition is technically only open to players in their first three seasons in the league, the NBA is quick to bend the rule to accommodate big-name dunkers with more experience, as they have previously for Ricky Davis.
Although there are a number of others in contention for one of the four coveted spots, the following thirteen (excepting Fred Jones) are the players most frequently mentioned as those you’d like to see in the contest, based on your comments, emails, and a survey I conducted elsewhere. My thanks to everyone who participated, by the way.
Let’s get right into it.
Who doesn’t want to see King James in the dunk contest? Me, for one. The kid may be able to rise like few others (more on this in a minute), but he has the creativity of Mike Jones once he gets up there. Those of you that have seen the footage of his McDonald’s high school dunk contest “victory” will know exactly what I mean by this. In front of an international television audience, the best he could muster was a few lacklustre self-alleys off the floor, something akin to Steve Francis’ 2000 effort, but without any of the style. It’s certainly impressive that he can look into the bucket from above, but it’s also a little disappointing that he does so little with so much.
To return to my point about his leaping ability, here are some numbers which should show you how he’s wasting his dunking potential.
Name: Average Player X
Vertical Leap: 32”
Name: LeBron James
Vertical Leap: 44”
This means that LeBron has eight inches in height, twelve inches in hops and roughly six inches in standing reach over your average amateur baller. For Player X, therefore, the equivalent of having LeBron’s physical ability would be to play on a hoop just 7’10’’ high. My statistics are roughly similar to player X’s, and I can tell you right now that I’m able to do far more on an eight-foot hoop than LeBron seems to be capable of on a full-size goal. It’s a crude (and perhaps somewhat misleading) comparison, but it doesn’t excuse LeBron for his vanilla performances in past competitions.
Unusually for such an athletic player, Kobe doesn’t appear to have lost much of his spring over the years, and many wish he would put it to use by reprising by his contest win as a teenager. While his effort wasn’t a classic by any means, it should be noted that it came during the dunking dark ages, which eventually led to the league’s decision to shelve the competition in favour of the infamous 2Ball. With the inspiration of more creative efforts in later years, I’ve no doubt Kobe could pull a few tricks out of the bag to impress his juniors. That, however, seems less than likely at the present time, particularly given the loosely-enforced rule prohibiting players with more than three years of experience from entering the contest. Still, we can dream.
(Talking of Kobe, those of you who haven’t seen his commercial alongside Ali G can check it out here. Also at that link are the spots featuring Steve Nash, Ben Wallace, and the TNT crew, with more to come.)
Although a popular choice, I’m not so sure Dwyane would cut it in the contest. Sure, he puts down some slick slams in the season, but that seems to me to be more due to his slashing mentality than dunking ability. Standing a shade shy of 6’4’’ in socks and with a 36’’ vertical (roughly average in contest terms), it’s likely he’d be somewhat overmatched physically by his fellow contestants, even with his massive wingspan. If the competition involved dunking on players, Flash would be one of my first choices, but, as things stand, I can’t see him giving the big boys a run for their money.
Now we’re talking. Not only is the other A.I. one of the most underrated dunkers in the league, but he has shown interest in being involved in the contest, instantly making him more intriguing than those previously mentioned. What’s more, sneak footage was briefly available online of a dunk he barely missed (twice) in a recent charity game which he is said to be planning to use in the contest. If you haven’t seen the tape and don’t want to ruin the surprise, skip to the next player as I describe it. For those still with me, the dunk consisted of throwing the ball off the board and passing it behind his back from one hand to the other before throwing it down, making it an alley-ooped version of J.R. Smith’s opening effort from last year. Although he failed to finish it, the attempt came off the back of the rim both times, indicating that, with a little refinement, he’d be more than capable of pulling it off.
As a player drafted largely on the strength of his athletic showing in the high school dunk contest, G-Money (as he likes to be called) is a no-brainer. While I’m not sure whether he’ll be eligible to enter if on duty in the NBDL, I imagine the league will find a way to include him if they’ve seen what he did the last time he was involved in one of these competitions. Even if they haven’t, his facial in the preseason should be enough proof that he’s guaranteed to throw something exciting in the mix if invited.
We all saw what he did last year, and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t do it again. Given that he’s the reigning champ, there’s really not much to say other than that he’d have to top his 2005 showing to win over the crowd, a task much easier said than done. Still, as a lithe 6’9’’ leaper with excellent hangtime, he certainly has the tools to improve upon his first victory.
If his past comments are anything to go by, Vince is about as likely to enter the 2006 Little Miss America Pageant as the NBA dunk contest, which is why it’s taken until now for me to mention the man responsible for the single greatest showing in the history of the competition. Even with a few more years’ wear and tear on his joints and a little less lift in his legs, I’ve a feeling he could still blow the rest of the entrants out of the water, even if he’s unwilling to confirm that. You can’t blame him, though. After all, why would you try to build on near-perfection?
Perhaps the luckiest winner in history, Jones took the crown simply because of a missed dunk by J-Rich, with a final successful throwdown that was just alright. While a superb slammer for his size (6’2’’), I still don’t think Jones is anything special by contest standards and, considering that not a single one of you mentioned his name in your many comments and emails, it seems that you’d agree with me.
I’m having trouble finding the quote, but I’m almost certain that J-Rich announced that he’d no longer be entering the dunk contest. A loss for the fans perhaps, but we can hardly complain that he didn’t give us anything. As the only back-to-back winner other than Michael Jordan, Richardson is responsible for two of the sickest stuffs in competition history: the reverse between-the-legs self-alley in 2003, and the off-the-glass between-the-legs in 2004, which just might be the most difficult dunk ever finished in the contest.
Another former champion who seems to have retired from the competition, Mase still looks capable of wowing the crowd with his low-gravity antics. His leaning between-the-legs left-hander from 2003 ranks among my all-time favourites, as does the spike over a crouching Rashard Lewis, which saw him palm the rock way over the cylinder before throwing it down. That said, the likelihood of seeing The Cowboy lace ’em up during All-Star Weekend again is lower than Chris Bosh’s body fat percentage.
With one of the more inventive stuffs in recent years to his name (the never-before-seen behind-the-back slam), many were disappointed that Smith didn’t go further in his first contest. This season, perhaps, he’ll be given the opportunity to show us what he had left up his sleeve after his early exit last time around, and with a tad more luck, he could even take home the trophy.
It’s a nice idea, but Nate is simply too small to compete. The counter-argument here is to point to Spud Webb and his win, but my response is that his dunks wouldn’t put him past the first round nowadays. As much as I love to see the little guy get up, I don’t see any room for Robinson in the contest.
Ariza is many people’s sleeper pick, and it’s not hard to see why. With a highlight reel already crammed with slams, Trev would be good for a few fancy throwdowns if given a chance. That said, he’s still very much an “only if” choice in my eyes, and shouldn’t be seriously considered unless the high-profile players choose not to throw their names in the hat.
That’s all for today, folks. As always, you can reach me with your comments, questions and suggestions at CY.Ellis@HoopsVibe.com, or by leaving a message in the box below. I’ll be back tomorrow (Tuesday) with the next edition, so make sure to check in again for that. Until then, take it easy.