We remember Howard for his thoughts and reasons for being in the Dunk Contest not once, not twice, but three times. When Howard said his victory was for all the big guys from Dunk Contests past, we remembered seeing Shawn Kemp robbed and Larry Johnson jobbed.
He didn’t let being robbed in his first dunk contest deter him; the young man came back the next year, and made sure no one could steal his joy or derail his path to victory, and you know what? It made us respect Dwight Howard as a showman, a dunker, and as a budding legend during the weekend. Hell, like I said earlier, it wasn’t that long ago.
However, those times were few and far between. See, Dwight Howard felt he had an obligation to be in the dunk contest. Dare say, there was a spiritual dimension to his rationale (okay, maybe not spiritual, but there was certainly a deeper meaning). But see, he is an anomaly; a player who realizes the gravity of his slam dunk powers. He felt the need to share his gift with the masses. On the other hand, there are other players who do not, and for that, the dunk contest cannot be saved.
Sure, people are excited about this year’s version, because Public Enemy Number One is participating. The man who has commandeered Sportscenter’s Top Ten plays to make it his own personal showcase is headlining the event, but there’s something about Blake Griffin being in this contest that makes me nervous.
See, if you watch enough basketball, you know there’s a difference between dunk contest dunkers and in-game dunkers. Dunk contest dunkers can do stuff that’s out of this world. They’ll do dunks that you’ll tell people about years from now. In-game dunkers have similar ability, in regards to being able to do dunks you’ll remember for a long time, but when you put them in a dunk contest, it’s nowhere near the same.
There’s not someone there to dunk on, no lob to catch in traffic, or no fast break. It’s just them, the ball, and the rim. Granted, I have no evidence that Griffin is solely an in-game dunker, but it bothers me that we’re counting on the young man to resuscitate something that is beyond repair.
See, the NBA just needs to realize that the people fans want to see the most don’t want to do the dunk contest anymore, but there’s also an element that, if affected, will make a player bite: money, bread, paper. Raise the first place award to six figures, and we'll see who bites then, because, to today's players, the amount of money right now isn’t worth putting on their jersey and doing some dunks for the fans. The players the fans want to see the most don’t see the responsibility they bear to the game by participating, which is a shame, because in the old days, the marquee players in the NBA were in the dunk contest.
The old-school didn't pave the way for the dunk contest, so today's players could all play "dress-up" on Saturday night, and see who can wear the best clothes, shoes, and just be out there on the sideline chillin'. Today's marquee names would rather look cool instead of keeping tradition alive.
There's no moral, ethical, or spiritual responsibility they have to do the dunk contest, which players in the past looked at as an honor. The players from the past helped make it become so revered and so anticipated, but it’s simply another example of what my old-school mentor tells me all the time when he says “see, that’s the problem with your generation. Y’all don’t appreciate nothin'.” In a case like this, it’s hard for me to argue with the man.
Vince Carter being in the dunk contest is why, no matter how much he pisses me off today, I can never hate the man. Kobe Bryant, someone I despise, is another player I respect to the fullest, because he felt the responsibility to compete in this thing. The same goes for other players who realize the gravity of the moment and put their names in the mix. Simply put, the dunk contest cannot be saved. It’s sad that there aren’t more modern-day contemporaries that see the dunk contest as a rite of passage, and since they do not, and since the league will not adapt to what’s going on, this once-storied event during All-Star weekend is officially a waste of time.
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