From roughly 1985-1995 the NBA All-Star Weekend Highlight was a no-brainer. The Slam Dunk Contest was absolute must-watch TV. Filled with anticipation, excitement and some actual drama the Dunk Contest was like an adrenaline shot to the Winter Sports Doldrums and got the entire Sports Community talking about and focusing on the NBA. Sure having Superstars like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins going head-to-head certainly helped but the contest also helped turn relative unknowns like Spud Webb and Dee Brown into cultural touchstones.
You can’t say the same about Desmond Mason. Who you ask? That’s Desmond Mason, 2001 Dunk Contest Champion. Yeah. Who? Exactly.
From 1996 until 2006 the Dunk Contest was DOA. “Uninspired dunks by unknown players” would be the elevator pitch for those years. Nate Robinson (all-time win leader with 3, yes really) and Gerald Green (okay okay the Lil’ Dogg promises not to turn this into another Gerald Green Appreciation Society piece) injected some energy and creativity into the dying contest for a few years but then it went back on life support.
To be fair 2016 was pretty great and last year wasn’t terrible but there’s certainly a consensus that even though it will never reach its 85-95 peak again it can still be an exciting Must-See event.
And here’s how:
Step 1 – Expand the Number of Contestants
In the early years the line-up was between 7 and 8 guys long. It shrank to 6 in the 90s then to 4 in the last decade. 4 is way too few. You need variety. Seeing the same guys over and over gets old fast. Personally 7 is the bulls eye number for me. You let more guys in and you get a better chance at seeing something unique happen.
Step 2 – More Contestants, Less (missed) Dunks
There is absolutely positively nothing that kills the momentum in a Dunk Contest faster than missed dunks, especially if it is the same guy missing the same dunk over and over.
ELIMINATE THE TIME LIMIT
Round 1 everyone gets 1 dunk. If you miss on your first attempt you can take 1 more attempt but your score automatically starts at 48 instead of 50.
Top 3 scores move on. The bottom four compete for the remaining spot in Round 2. 1 dunk each, top score gets the final spot in the next round.
Round 2 all four guys get 2 dunks each. Top 2 combined score move on to the Finals.
The Finals is a 2 Dunk dunk-off with a slight twist. After the first set of dunks the guy with the HIGHER score goes first.
Normally you either have a set rotation or the higher scorer would get to go last. But that kills all the drama. If the high scorer goes first you are guaranteed to have a guy dunking to win.
Dunking Rules i.e. props, teammates, mascots, etc.
The Lil’ Dogg is an Old School Pup. I want to see a dude get creative with just a ball and a hoop. I understand why the props were allowed but I think we’ve reached the apex when you get a mascot spinning on a hover board. It becomes all about the gimmick and not the dunk. Let’s bring it back to pure dunking skills. We have high school kids like Zion Williamson doing reverse rotation 360s like it’s nothing. There’s a million dunks you can do without jumping over a product placement car. Let’s get back to that.
So c’mon NBA, the Lil’ Dogg knows what’s up. Facts is facts and if you follow these simple steps we can return the Dunk Contest to its rightful place as the adrenaline shot that gets us all through the last gasps of winter and catapults us into spring.