Saturday night of NBA All-Star Weekend used to be one of the most highly anticipated and exciting nights in sports. Long gone from the slam dunk contest field are dunking legends Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and Vince Carter, but expectations still run high for each new installment. Sure there were a few off years for the contest here and there (i.e. Brent Barry), however nothing gets a fan’s blood pumping like watching thunderous dunks, and it has persevered as mandatory viewing for thousands. Sadly, this year changed that perception for me.
Here’s what I found to be irritating:
1. Rudy Fernandez was utterly snubbed by the judges
Fernandez was the decided heel of the 4 man field before the first dunk was even thrown down, and his scores reflected that. Rudy had two amazing (albeit not spectacular) dunks in the first round, and was given a paltry 42 for each effort. His second dunk was awesome, but I understand points should be taken off for multiple tries, and this was apparently what happened (more on this later). The only rational, although childish, reason the rookie failed to impress could be the former Phoenix Suns greats who posed as “judges” are still bitter that the Blazers stole Fernandez away from their beloved franchise.
Was Rudy hosed? Probably. Was Rudy a pleasant surprise? Absolutely.
2. Dwight Howard received a 50 for a dunk that took him multiple attempts
This got me going. Why was Fernandez punished for multiple attempts, but not Howard? Dwight’s first round was very lackluster for his standards, but he still managed to escape to the finals with a perfect 100. Bringing out a 12 foot (looked more like 11) rim, and running to a phone booth to change into a Superman cape apparently is worth 7-10 points alone. We can blame Cedric Ceballos, and his infamous “Hocus Pocus” dunk for the ass-clownerry that is now the slam dunk contest. I wouldn’t find out why this odd scoring occurred until the final round.
Expected more from Superman’s first round
3. Nate Robinson moves on to the final round for a dunk that includes him jumping off someone’s back
This was THE dunk that threw up red flags everywhere. He literally ran, put a foot on a guy’s back (who was on all-fours), and pushed off the elevated position to do a standard jam. We used to do this….in MIDDLE SCHOOL. The degree of difficulty for this shitty dunk is somewhere between 0-1.2. Nate Rob immediately runs to the locker room after the jam, and the announcers fake reaction pretty much ensure to the audience at home that the whole contest is scripted.
Yup, it’s just that easy……
4. The whole damn thing was fixed
We find out in the final round why Howard and Robinson were rewarded for sub-par dunks. Nate runs out in all green, and is Kryptonite to Howard’s Superman. Wow, what an original (rolls eyes) angle! Perhaps next year Howard could be Dorothy to Rob’s Wicked Witch of the West. Rudy and J.R. Smith, thanks for playing, but we didn’t really need you anyways, for it was determined long ago that these two would square off for the trophy.
Now before I poop all over the whole torrid affair, the next few dunks actually verify that Superman and Kryptonite deserved to be there (final) in the first place. Howard’s off the side of the backboard dunk was his first “Holy Shit” dunk of the night, and Robinson’s hurdle over Dwight is impressive considering his small stature, and the fact he pushed a little.
My faith in the contest is strengthened a little by the end (Robinson was the victor), but changes need to be made in order to get this once proud event back in the spotlight, where it belongs. See below.
Yes J.R., you just got a 33 for that one, perhaps you should have used a trampoline….
5. Obvious changes need to be made if this premier All-Star Weekend event wants to thrive
Here’s what I came up with:
1. The field needs to expand to 6-8 guys, like the old days
2. Premier names would be a nice bonus, but I’m not holding my breath on that one (LBJ, Wade, Kobe,etc.)
3. Rule changes (this is 100 percent necessary)
- Each participant gets ONE attempt per dunk, i.e. touching the rim, or the ball to it, is an attempt
- NO props: Just grab the fucking ball and dunk
- NO outside help: Save your shitty passes for the game Gasol
- Judges are ALWAYS past slam dunk participants/winners
So that’s my impression of the 2009 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Feel free to share you favorite Harold Miner/J.R. Rider stories below, and enjoy these clips:
Greatest duel ever in the dunk contest. Watch the crowd go ape-shit after every dunk
Single greatest dunk contest performance ever
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