Posted: Wednesday February 1, 2006 2:38PM; Updated: Friday February 3, 2006 1:35PM
Josh Smith will defend his dunk title against some weak competition.
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
In the history of the NBA slam dunk contest, contestants have dunked over a wide range of props, everything from chairs to other people. When this year's event takes place in a few weeks in Houston, a fitting finale would be for Hakim Warrick to drag a tank of hammerheads onto the court at the Toyota Center, leap over it and throw one down -- driving home the point that this event, now in its 21st year, has most definitely jumped the shark.
The league announced the participants this week -- all four of them. Warrick, Andre Iguodala and Nate Robinson will try to unseat defending champ Josh Smith. That roster, in a nutshell, tells you everything you need to know about the event. Smith is the top scorer in the bunch, at 12.0 a game; Warrick averages 3.3. If you were to combine them into a four-headed monster (let's call him Jonate Iguadarrick) he'd only be third in the NBA in scoring, at 32.3, barely a point better than LeBron James, who, like every other player you'd like to see in the contest took a pass.
Not to sound like one of those cranks who always talks about how things used to be so much better, but, man, the dunk contest used to be so much better. 'Nique, Jordan, Larry Nance -- these guys were inspired jammers, and they made the event something you'd look forward to. Now, primarily because there are only so many ways you can dunk and they've all been done to death, we're left with Jonate Iguadarrick. It tells you all you need to know that the most memorable moment of the past couple of dunk contests came when Chris Andersen, doing his best to perpetuate the white-man-can't-jump stereotype, needed eight tries to finish off his last dunk.
So what do we do about this? For starters, offer some serious incentives to get big names in the event. True, there aren't many dunks we haven't seen before, so it's going to be stale no matter what. But I'd much rather see LeBron and Kobe doing the boilerplate jamming. Failing that, why not make it a contest? Make it like HORSE and have people match each others dunks. Or better yet, just eliminate the whole thing and replace it with a HORSE contest. Who wouldn't want to see that?
Back when I was a wee little crank, they used to have HORSE games at halftime of NBA broadcasts. (In The In Your Face Basketball Book -- which should be required reading for every man, woman and child -- Chuck Wielgus and Alex Wolff note that in one such game, Bingo Smith, my all-time favorite player, refused to replicate an off-the-head shot that Kevin Grevey had made because he thought it would mess up his afro. As Wielgus and Wolff put it, "On such minor misunderstandings racial tension thrives.") It would be infinitely more enjoyable than watching a bunch of no-names throw down while fans who look as if they feel obligated to be enjoying themselves half-heartedly wave placards with 10s on them.