11
Feb 2014
Matt Bourgault

A gift from Lovetron

Matt discusses the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

I celebrated my birthday on Monday.

Well “celebrated” is a strong word. I certainly acknowledged it. You see, my birthday has always kind of been overshadowed by that other holiday.

You know the one. Schoolchildren celebrate it by giving each other cards and candy (But everyone needs to get cards and candy! You take your love-based capitalism to a private school, you little imperialist!), and I usually celebrate by listening to songs Irv Gotti produced in the early ‘00s.

I don’t sweat the limited birthday hype, though. I know that every year the people I love will get me the only present I ever need. Well, every year excluding 1998 and 1999, those were some rough winters.

Of course, those loved ones are the National Basketball Association, and that present is the Sprite (for now) Slam Dunk Contest. From the lumbering simplicity of Artis Gilmore to the high-flying Terrence “Nobody remembers how many dunks I missed because the ones I put down in the final round were pretty sweet” Ross, dunk contests have never failed to make me smile.

Slam dunk contest day has long been one of my favorite days of the year, right up there with fantasy sports draft day.

I always get absorbed in the hype leading up to the contest. Will someone go between-the-legs twice? Will Tom Chambers prove he can fly? Is the NBA going to let the AND 1 guys join (sans The Professor, oh baby!)? Will Kenny tell me when it’s over?

These are the answers I need to know.

This year’s contest has plenty of excitement surrounding it. While I may appreciate every contestants’ efforts (yes, even Greg Minor), the public has been waning on the dunking exhibition for a few years now.

In order to win them back, the NBA has shaken up the format. This year features the highest concentration of that-season All-Stars that have ever competed in the dunk contest. Paul George, John Wall and Damian Lillard headline a cast that also includes Harrison Barnes, Ben McLemore (Better write a letter!) and Terrence Ross.

The dunkers will be split into two teams, East and West (Where’s our pick-up game, NBA?), and each team will spend the first round doing as many dunks as they can for 90 seconds. Judges will decide which side won, and then that team can choose who goes first in the battle round.

The battle round will consist of each player dueling with a member of the opposite team. Losers are eliminated from the competition, and the first team to record three victories wins. Fans will vote (gross) for the “Dunker of the Night.”

Changes to the dunk contest are nothing new. Well, these changes are new, but changes aren’t new, you know what I mean? For years the NBA has fiddled with gimmicks to revitalize the competition. Some of these (former winners being judges, the dunk wheel) have worked, while others (letting the fans vote, letting Chris Andersen take his sweet time, the dunk wheel) have not.

As for this year’s gimmicks, I’m a fan. The elimination dynamic really intrigues me. It would be really fun to watch a contest-weary Damian Lillard fight back and eliminate every member of the East team.

The way you can tell these changes are good ones is that they transcend eras. Go back to 1985. The teams would be ‘Nique, Dr. J, Terence Stansbury and either Jordan or Orlando Woolridge versus Larry Nance, Dr. Dunkenstein, The Glide and the other Bull for fairness reasons.

I would throw down pay-per-view money for that. In fact, I’m going to spend the rest of my night watching the 1985 contest (and all the other ones) on YouTube.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!