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The Sunsets on NBA Slam Dunk Contest

The All-Star Weekend spectacle, organized by the NBA, usually gives plenty of highs. It provides various ways to showcase the league’s talent in settings that are dramatically different than the regular season. From Larry Bird lighting up the three-point contest in his warm-ups to Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine seemingly resurrecting the dunk contest, the good memories are not hard to recall. This year, Stephen Curry gave us another unforgettable moment when he hit 16 threes in the All-Star Game, as as Team Lebron triumphed Team Durant, 163-160. And then, there was this year’s Dunk Contest that failed to light up. THE DUNK CONTEST TAPS OUT Six years removed from Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon, the dunk contest has tapped out, with the epic duel in 2016 feeling like it happened a lifetime ago. With apologies to 2022 winner Obi Toppin, who deserves credit for pulling off some creative and original dunks, this year’s contest was one in the handful. In the first round of the competition, the dunkers went 7-for-25 on dunks. Jalen Green alone was 1-for-9 on his attempt. It was a rough showing, to say the least. The prolonged, often unsuccessful rounds from Green, Cole Anthony and Juan Toscano-Anderson sucked the life out of the building, robbing Toppin’s dunks of the reactions they deserved. None of the four dunkers had a score higher than 46 in the first round, so Toppin’s 47 on his final attempt went down as the best dunk of the night. Toppin went between the legs on the slam, which may not have been among the top dunks in the contest’s history, but was still quite impressive. Years from now, this dunk contest will largely be lost to history, as so many others are.

OUR GUY OBI! — NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 20, 2022

IS IT HIGH TIME TO REST THE CONTEST? For two years in a row, there have been zero 50s recorded in the NBA Dunk Contest, breaking the 20-year run from 2001-2020 where there was at least one 50 every season. Established stars have little incentive to lend their names to it. And after decades of dunk contests at all levels of basketball, it does not feel like there are a ton of individual dunks left to do. That said, this contest has been on the ropes before, and every time it seems like it’s about to go down, it comes out with haymakers like the ones thrown by LaVine and Gordon in 2016. The next guys to bring it back may be developing right now. Already, ideas are flying around aimed at replacing the contest, which includes a 1-v-1 competition, as well as the Shooting Stars challenge that people used to love, and other concepts that will showcase the NBA’s top talent. But if one thing has become increasingly clear, it’s that there’s an issue with the NBA Dunk Contest. And if nothing happens to change it, then getting rid of it altogether might be the only answer.

.@KendrickPerkins agrees with @stephenasmith … They want to see random people compete in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest 👀 "It's a lot of people out there that are doing some fantastic dunks. … I would rather see this than what we saw Saturday night!" — NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 21, 2022
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