Poor Lebron James. Too bad he gets criticized by the media for disappearing in the fourth quarter in the 2011 NBA Finals, kind of like the anti-Tim Tebow. It’s not like he rode into South Beach on a fork lift proclaiming that championships would rain down on Miami like some kind of biblical plague in Egypt involving frogs. Don’t worry, he still gets to drive away in his sports car and live the life of a mega-rich spoiled NBA superstar while we have to go back to our poverty-stricken normal lives. Hey, he said it.
Ok, so maybe I am just a little bitter after “King James” didn’t come to Chicago and team up with 2011 MVP Derick Rose and secure another decade of dominance for the Bulls. I’m not here to criticize the second-most-hated man in the NBA (thanks Kim Kardashian for making sure people know who Kris Humphries is) for his failure to win a championship. I’m here to blame him for killing the NBA dunk contest if he doesn’t compete this year.
The best dunk contest of all time was the 1988 showdown between the greatest player in history Michael “Air” Jordan and Dominique “The Human Highlight Reel” Wilkins. As Jordan soared through the air with acrobatics that could earn him a spot in Cirque De Soleil and Dominique delivered his ferocious windmill dunks with equal dexterity, Jordan narrowly edged out ‘Nique with his classic foul line double clutch dunk.
This brings me to my point of how to save the dunk contest and return it to its’ former glory: Make sure at least two superstars are in the contest. No disrespect to Nate Robinson, (does he even still play?) but no one really talks about the heated rivalry between him and Dwight Howard. (I don’t think Robinson has a list of teams that he will accept a trade to like Howard does). Here is a list of unimpressive winners from the last ten years: Nate Robinson won three times (yeah, the most ever – 2006, ’09 & ’10); Gerald Green (2007); Fred Jones (2004) and Desmond Mason (2001). I’ll cut some slack for Jason Richardson (2002, ’03) and Josh Smith (2005), who are both solid players, and obviously Dwight Howard (2008) and Blake Griffin (2011) are pretty good dunkers. Even in the years that had superstar winners though, the final showdown was always a letdown like Jamal McGee vs. Blake “I don’t really drive a Kia” Griffin in last year’s final.
If the world is going to end on 12-12-12, we should at least have a good final dunk contest. Here is my proposed fantastic four for 2012: LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook.
There is no argument from real NBA fans about the two best dunks of the year so far, Blake Griffin’s ferocious assault on a slimmed down Kendrick Perkins:
and Lebron James leaping over Chicago Bull John Lucas for an impressive flush:
These two dunks automatically ensure that these two should be in the contest. Dwight Howard is the real Superman now since Shaq has hung up his size 38 sneakers to join Charles “The no longer round mound of rebound” Barkley on TNT’s set. I don’t think fans realized how impressive Howard’s dunk was in the 2007 contest when he put a sticker 12 and a half feet up on the backboard. I get it, he’s tall. But I bet Yao Ming couldn’t do that. Russell Westbrook is an impressive dunker and of course we need someone in the contest who isn’t 6’8 and above. That’s my lineup, and I expect the NBA to heed my suggestions. Yeah, I’m talking to you David Stern.
Of course, the breaking news from the Blake Griffin camp: “As of right now I don’t plan on being in it,” said Griffin on Thursday. “Those dunk contests aren’t my thing, I said that last year. There’s a lot of guys that can put on a great show and do some good stuff.”
Which leads me into a rant about last year’s disappointing contest. First, let me preface my Griffin bashing by saying he is the best dunker in the league and his dunk over Perkins this year is top three all time, behind Jordan’s dunk over Ewing and Vince Carter over some poor foreigner in the Olympics. Ok, glad to clear that up. The 2011 dunk contest was a disgrace. First of all, a choir? Really? That was ridiculous – and I am the first one to say I love R. Kelly’s “I believe I can fly” – but there is a time and a place (Space Jam). But more importantly, a KIA? I would have been impressed if they drove a Range Rover out and he dunked over that, but even Spud Webb could have dunked over that small family sedan. We need to keep marketing out of the dunk contest, it isn’t Nascar. What’s next, the Oklahoma City Thunder sponsored by the Weather Channel or the Portland Trailblazers sponsored by former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford? (It’s a long story). I love the NBA, but every time I see a KIA now I want drive it onto a basketball court and ruin a good dunk contest. Seriously though, Dr, J didn’t have to drive a Ford Pinto on to the court in 1976 to win the first dunk contest. Of course, dunking had just been legalized in the NCAA in 1976, so maybe it just took a while to dunk and drive. We can thank new United State’s tourism representative Kareem Abdul Jabar for turning dunkers into criminals.
So this brings me to my plea: Pretty pretty please with a championship ring on top, will you join the dunk contest this year Lebron? I can’t say that I will be rooting for you if you do enter, but I will passionately root against you, which is close. Do it for the kids who haven’t had the privilege of seeing all time greats like Jordan and ‘Nique in their epic battles. Do it for the city of Cleveland that still holds a special place in their hearts for you. Do it for Nike – maybe they’ll bring those stupid puppets back. I’ve never asked you for anything since you spurned the Bulls (except for you to lose every game for the rest of your career)…and maybe, just maybe, a small part of me who liked the old LeBron will come back to life.
The best (hypothetical) dunk contest of all time? That would be Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Dominique Wilkins and Dr. J – all in their prime of course. Lebron didn’t make the cut because he would probably disappear in the final round and have to call Dwayne Wade in to finish the contest for him.
Here are some other (hypothetical) dunk contest matchups that would be epic:
Kobe vs. Shaq – No love lost between these former teammates. Maybe the winner gets a Hall Pass to cheat on their wife.
Shaq vs. Dwight Howard – The battle for the real Superman. The winner gets to wear the cape for the rest of the season during games.
Kobe vs. Lebron – The battle of the two best players in the league, with Kobe getting knee replacements from the 90’s of course. The winner gets to kill off the other’s puppet in a new round of commercials.
Jordan vs. Pippen – They’ve always had a complicated relationship. If Pippen wins he gets to lose $100,000 of Michael’s money at a craps table in Vegas.
Rob Gronkowski vs. Jimmy Graham – With all the former basketball players turned NFL TEs, we could spice things up by bringing in NFL players. Tom Brady could throw the lobs. After all, he has a lot of time on his hands now after losing to Eli.
The 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest takes place on February 25 at 8:30 p.m. It’ll be damn near ten by the time the dunk contest starts though, after three point contests and some other meaningless nonsense.