3hree Things: On The Agonizing Death of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Watch out for 3hree Things (usually) every Tuesday, where Riley Breckenridge, drummer of Orange County's favorite local alt-rock band Thrice, gives his take on life in Southern California as an OC native.

My obsession with the NBA Slam Dunk Contest started in 1985, and thrived for almost a decade after. Those were the halcyon days. Dominique Wilkins. Spud Webb. Kenny “Sky Walker. And some guy named Michael Jordan. It was a time when dunks were still fresh, when legitimate NBA stars would actually compete in the contest, when players didn't have to jump over cars or their teammates or dress up like Superman to win. I'd watch every second of these dunk contests while I taped it on our VHS so I could watch them over and over and try to recreate my favorite dunks on the NERF hoop in my bedroom or the mini-hoop in our driveway. This was top-tier dorkery. (Thankfully, evidence of said dorkery has been destroyed and is decomposing in an landfill somewhere in Orange County, because one of the last things a middle-aged dork needs is for 25-year-old NERF hoop slam dunk footage set to bad early-90s hip-hop to surface on the internet.)
I think the beginning of the end came in '97, when Kobe Bryant won the contest with a series of mediocre dunks that had been done far better by Dominique and Jordan a decade prior. There was no contest in '98, and in '99 a lockout and shortened season meant there was no All-Star Game, and thus, no dunk contest. When it returned in 2000, it picked up where it left off with rehashed and uninspired dunks executed by fields of competitors that were either: a) bench players that casual NBA fans had never heard of, b) fringe stars that acted like they were doing the league a favor by competing, or c) rookies looking to lock down a shoe contract. Year after year, it kept getting worse, but I couldn't turn away, even though I know I'm just watching the slow, agonizing death of something I held so dear as a kid.
Saturday night's dunk contest was more of the same, with a cast of NBA rookies (and token white guy, Chase Budinger) performing a bunch of dunks we've all seen before. And even worse than the rehashing of old dunks, was the increased number gimmicks this year. I thought Blake Griffin's contest-winning KIA commercial dunk over a car last year was the apex of gimmickry, but I was wrong. When a dunk itself is not enough, I think it's probably time to put this thing to rest. 
/END RANT (Wow, do I feel like a curmudgeon.)
Here are the 3hree worst dunks from this year's competition. Proof that Slam Dunk Contest should be put out of its misery.


1) Jeremy Evans Wears A Headband Cam, Does Something Boring

The goal was to give armchair dunkers a first-person view of what it might be like to do a SUPER AWESOME dunk. The end result was a first-person view of what it might be like to chase a basketball and dive face first into a pile of nylon netting.


2) Jeremy Evans Jumps Over A Midget

I had no idea who Kevin Hart was before Friday's “Celebrity” game, and I'd already managed to develop an active hatred of him by the time this dunk went down on Saturday. As if this skit wasn't enough to make this dunk unimpressive, Hart is 5'2″, Paul George had dunked over 7'2″ Roy Hibbert, and Budinger had dunked over P. Diddy (5'11″) earlier in the contest. Aren't the stakes supposed to go up here? Isn't the level of difficulty supposed increase? This was like watching Final Jeopardy where the clue is “The 4th of July holiday is in this month.”


3) Derrick Williams Tries And Fails, and Tries And Fails, and Tries And Fails, and Tries And Fails, and Tries And Fails, and Tries And Fails, and Tries And Fails, and Tries And Fails, and Tries And Fails, and Then…Ah Fuck This

That's nine attempts, if you're scoring at home.
The NBA. Where Mind-Numbing Futility Happens.
(Note: After watching the awesome dunks by John Wall in the Rising Stars Game on Friday, and the insane dunks by Griffin and Lebron James in the All-Star Game on Sunday, there might be hope for the dunk contest after all, but not without the best of the best doing their thing. The league has to find a way to make these guys get involved. Since the contest has been reduced to three dunks per contestant, the “I'm too tired.” excuse won't fly any more, fellas.)

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