Blame Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, Doc and Michael Jordan.
Sure, the dunks still push the envelope a bit and the contestants are as athletic and innovative as ever, it’s just when one has seen Doc leaping off one leg from the foul line with the afro blowing in the breeze, and Jordan getting horizontal and looking down on the rim before he throws it through, well, everything else is kind of blah. That’s a shame, too, because dunking a ball still is one of those great feats for dudes like me.
Unrequited athletic goals: run marathon fast enough to qualify for the Olympic Trials and dunk a basketball on a regulation hoop.
Oh, but they’ll be dunkin’ ‘em tonight in Dallas. Instead of a multi-leveled scoring system with elimination rounds in a veritable tournament of dunkitude, tonight’s competition will have just five contestants, which seems like the perfect amount. However, the casual fan might not know who a few of the guys are.
One of the contestants is two-time dunk champion Nate Robinson of the Knicks. Robinson, as some might remember, is the 5-foot-9 guard who jumped over 5-foot-3 ex-champ, Spud Webb, in the 2006 competition and was declared the winner. It didn’t matter that the Sixers’ Andre Iguodala was the better dunker in the competition because the 5-foot-9 dude jumped over the 5-foot-3 guy. Meanwhile, Iguodala dunked one from the out-of-bounds side of the baseline while behind the backboard. There is no way Robinson could have performed a dunk like Iguodala’s and I’m pretty sure Iggy wouldn’t even need a running start to leap over Spud Webb.
Here’s the thing about the modern-day dunk contest that may be its flaw: who are these guys?
Yeah, we know who Nate Robinson is because he won the dunk contest twice. Yet when it comes to his play with the Knicks, Robinson is an OK player for a bad team. In fact, the best thing about Robinson as far as the Knicks are concerned is that he can be a free agent at the end of the season.
That’s certainly not a knock on Robinson’s abilities. Coming off the bench for the Knicks, Robinson still gets more than 13 points a game in 24 minutes. Yes, Robinson is flawed, but he’s not the Knicks biggest problem.
He’s just the dunk contest’s problem.
Admit it, Robinson is only in the competition because he’s 5-foot-9. That’s it. There’s no other appeal to having Robinson in there other than he’s small. That’s the same reason for Spud Webb’s appeal, too. He was 5-foot-3, which is shorter than just about every adult male in the country unless they are professional jockeys or coxswains. So putting the little guy in to dunk against the big fellas is part of the show. It’s cool, it looks impressive, but it’s kind of like going to the freak show to watch the dude hammer nails into his nose. Who cares that Dominique had better dunks than Spud Webb way back when?
Robinson says he’s going to win this year, too, which would make him the most decorated dunker in the slam dunk contest ever. That’s more than Jordan, Dominique, Harold Minor and Jason Richardson. However, Shannon Brown of the Lakers appears to be the favorite of the pundits who wax on about such things. Ironically, Brown is the same age as Miner was when the Cavs waived him after just 19 games in 1996.
And there’s the rub—Robinson, Brown along with Gerald Wallace, Eric Gordon and DeMar DeRozan are the dunkers in Dallas, and undoubtedly all of them can go all out because there isn’t an All-Star in the bunch. There’s no LeBron, no Kobe, no Dwight Howard or even Kevin Durant. It’s almost the same deal in the three-point shootout, though All-Stars Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups will be firing them up. Still, it’s doubtful Pierce will walk into the locker room with the other contestants and start talking trash or ask, “Which one of you guys is going for second?”
Here’s all you need to know about the modern-day NBA All-Star weekend… while the big stars like LeBron and Kobe are wearing their best tailored suit and sitting on the sidelines, Jason Kapono is cleaning up in the three-point shootout. Yes, Jason Kapono won it twice in a row when he was (2007 and 2008) playing for the Heat and the Raptors. Yet for one reason or another Kapono can’t get off the bench for the Sixers this season.
How does that happen? Kapono is shooting 38 percent on just 79 three-pointer attempts this season. And who wants to see him shoot the ball for the three-point title or in game action with the Sixers?
C'mon LeBron... just dunk some for us.
 Harold Miner had the ignominy of being nicknamed, “Baby Jordan.” Isn’t that awful? It’s especially awful considering that Minor couldn’t play a lick. “Baby Jordan” lasted just four seasons in the NBA with the Heat and Cavs, but won two dunk contests. Sounds like he was spreading himself a little thin—instead of dunking maybe he should have been working on other things.
 Was there ever a better bit of PG-level bit of trash talk ever? You’d never know it, but everyone says Bird was the greatest trash talker in the history of the game. One ex-player from that era told me that Bird sometimes would start in on the trash talk when going through the layup line. My favorite was a bit he used to give to Charles Barkley: “Hey fat boy, how late were you out last night?”What could Barkley say to that? He knew where he was and how late he was there.