The Press box Perspective: Why the Slam Dunk Contest is Still Relevant


By Drew Zuhosky


This Saturday, thousands in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and millions more watching on TNT will witness something dramatic, majestic and artistic. No, we aren’t talking about an Oscar-nominated film; we’re talking about the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, the grand finale of All-Star Saturday Night.


Quite honestly, the Dunk Contest is the most exciting event of the entire evening because you could see some of the craziest slam dunks you’ll ever see on a basketball court. Just think back to what’s happened in the event in years past.


For me, Los Angeles Clippers power forward, Blake Griffin, performed the best dunk in contest history in 2011. After already completing a two-handed, 360 degree dunk and using his forearm to hang off the rim on his first two dunks in round one, Griffin unleashed what might be the sickest dunk in recent memory in the championship round.


There, while a choir belted out R. Kelly’s hit single “I Believe I Can Fly,” Griffin received the ball from his former teammate, Baron Davis, who was in the sunroof of a 2011 Kia Optima, which he dunked over to win the event.


Another great dunk happened in the 2008 contest in New Orleans. Dwight Howard, then a center for the Orlando Magic, really brought the crowd to its feet in the first round. Howard wore a Superman shirt underneath his basketball jersey. Before the dunk, the jersey came off. At the mere sight of the shirt, the crowd was already in an uproar.


Howard’s then-teammate, point guard Jameer Nelson, supplied the cape, completing the ensemble. The ensuing dunk was spectacular, with Howard throwing it down from the foul line — the proverbial cherry on the sundae? The in-house DJ cued up the theme music from “Superman: The Movie” by John Williams. Dean Cain would have been proud of that.


However, despite the excitement the Dunk Contest generates every year, the event has come under fire in the past. Case in point, the 2011 Dunk Contest was marred by allegations that the event had been fixed so that Blake Griffin, then a rookie, could be crowned champion.


Ben Maller, overnight host on FOX Sports Radio, added fuel to the fire when he found a press release for a slam dunk exhibition the next day for junior high school students sponsored by a local radio station in Los Angeles. The press release, time-stamped one hour before the Slam Dunk Contest began, contained language that prematurely dubbed Griffin as the event’s champion.


Even if the Slam Dunk Contest might be rigged, who cares? In my opinion, this contest takes the slam dunk, a very basic basketball concept, to new levels. Every year, the competitors in the contest try to outdo not only themselves, but also their opponents and even former champions from previous seasons.


The Dunk Contest is also appealing to me due to its artistry. Whatever dunks you’ll see in Saturday’s contest are truly amazing and perhaps as crafty as a painting by Rembrandt or Picasso.


Through the use of props, such as the Kia used in Griffin’s dunk five years ago or the Superman shirt and cape worn by Howard eight years ago, the slam dunks performed in the contest are exceptionally creative.


What will happen in this year’s contest featuring Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard, Zach LaVine, Magic small forward, Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets shooting guard, Will Barton and Detroit Pistons center, Andre Drummond? I don’t know, but everyone could be talking about the greatest dunks of the night for some time.