This is a joke, right? I was just looking online and saw that the lineup for this weekend’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2012 is Chase Budinger, Paul George, Jeremy Evans and Derrick Williams. To that, all I can ask is, “Who? Who? Who? and Who?”
This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously, who are these guys? Okay, in fairness, Jeremy Evans is a late addition. He’s replacing the injured, Iman Shumpert. Again, who? I hope the NBA is not using this contest to try to bring casual NBA viewers in before the actual All-Star Game. If they are, it’s not gonna work. I have to explain to my girlfriend who Russell Westbrook is (she knows Kevin Durant), do you think she’s gonna know Chase Budinger?
The NBA has made significant rule changes this year. First off, there are no judges. All of the winners will be determined by fan votes via NBA.com, Twitter and text messaging. In the past, there was a panel of judges and fans could only vote after the first round...which brings me to the second significant rule change: there is only one round. Dunkers will get three dunks and that’s it.
Cutting to one round is good for the fans who don’t have great attention spans. Maybe shortening the contest won’t leave so much time for fans to sit there and watch as crews bring out Kia Optimas, teddy bears and Superman phone booths.
I’m from the Old School. The Old School is a place where Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins battle it out to see who the best dunker is. It’s also a place where Dr. J takes off from the free throw line. It’s a place where the biggest stars in the game put on a show for the fans. It’s not a place where Paul George shows up. Who?
These days, the NBA markets the Dunk Contest by acting like they are trying to showcase young talent with this event. I don’t believe that for one second. What I do believe is that the biggest stars in the game feel like they’re too important or too big to take part. No doubt, some are also afraid of being embarrassed. I’m sure you remember LeBron James having someone confiscate a video recorder when Jordan Crawford, who wasn’t yet in the NBA, dunked on him in a summer league game. To me, that reeks of a guy that is afraid of being embarrassed.
The NBA needs to figure out a way to get the game’s biggest stars back into this contest. That is the only way the contest is going to be relevant again and the only time you’re gonna get anyone, NBA fans or not, to turn their TV to TNT on Saturday night.
Chris Wilder is a Philadelphia and New York-based journalist who covers sports for the Associated Press and ESPNU.com. He also writes for Black America Web and Common Ground News Service. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of The Source Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ceewild