Photo Credit: NBA.com
Is it time to retire the dunk contest?
The dunk contest has been a staple of the NBA All-Star weekend for over 30 years, but is it time to move on? After another underwhelming event where Hamidou Diallo beat Dennis Smith in a grotesquely underwhelming final, I believe it’s time the NBA either makes changes to the event or moves on from it entirely.
What makes the dunk contest so boring these days? The athletes are better than ever. They can jump higher and spin faster, but the dunks just aren’t that great. Outside of the legendary 2016 contest where Zach Levine and Aaron Gordon put together one of the best performances of creativity and athleticism ever showcased in the dunk contest, the level of creativity in most events is low and many of the dunks have either been attempted in a dunk contest before or could be accomplished by an average joe (on an 8.5 foot rim, but same thing). On top of the creativity being almost nonexistent in the contest itself, the scoring is an absolute abomination. In the final, for instance, Dennis Smith got a perfect 50 for his 7thattempt, officially it was his 3rdand final, but he attempted the run-up many more times, culminating in a dunk over Dwyane Wade. Meanwhile, Hamidou Diallo got a 45 for a two-handed windmill over Migos front man, Quavo, who held the ball above his head. Oh, and he did it on his first attempt. I struggle to understand how the judges can give a 50 for a dunk that took more than a half a dozen attempts to complete and a 50 to a first attempt dunk over 7’2” Shaquille O’Neal.
With that being said I have a couple of ideas for how the NBA can make some exciting changes to the dunk contest.
1.) Add a maximum height for participants and make it really low
No big man has won the dunk contest since Blake Griffin won in 2011 with his famous dunk over a sedan, albeit an underwhelming dunk. No big man has really come close since Aaron Gordon got robbed in 2016. Installing a height limit of something like 6’4”-6’6” would already narrow the field to the size range that has traditionally dominated the dunk contest this millennium. Since 2000, the average height of the dunk contest champion is 6’4.95”, so it makes sense to put a height cap on entries to narrow the field to those most likely to win.
2.) More Props
I love props. Props make the dunks more exciting if used tastefully and to increase the degree of difficulty of the dunk. Aaron Gordon taking the ball from the spinning Magic mascot might be the best dunk I have seen in a competition because of the degree of difficulty the props added. The NBA should encourage contestants to use props as a way to spice things up.
3.) Actual Scoring Criteria
The way the dunk contest is scored right now is so flawed that it’s hard to accurately rate dunks against each other. The NBA and current and past competitors should sit down and create a standardized voting system that actually has a scale for dunks to be rated on, rather than the “woah that was cool” system that is in place now.
The dunk contest is flawed and is probably the third most exciting event of NBA All-Star Saturday Night now as the creativity has peaked or even declined in spite of contestants being some of the best athletes to ever play in the NBA. The NBA powers that be need to make some drastic changes to the Dunk Contest format to help regain its popularity among fans or just scrap it altogether.