It’s difficult for the NBA Slam Dunk Contest to annually live up to the hype and 2019 was no exception. Hamidou Diallo was a deserving winner last night with some show-stopping jams, but the overall experience still seemed lacklustre. For the large part the comp is run reasonably well, and the heroics of Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon in recent times spoiled us somewhat, leading to a high level of anticipation each time the dunking showcase rolls around. If the league wants to spice things up though, I have some ideas.
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1. Do it at half-time of the All-Star Game
There is so much pressure on the Dunk Contest to deliver and being featured as the last event on All-Star Saturday only enhances our expectations. While you could shuffle things around and perhaps feature the dunk comp earlier in the night, playing it out at half-time of the All-Star game isn’t a crazy idea. On the rare occasion that a player picked in the All-Star Game is also slated to appear in the vent, they can strategically manage minutes to make sure they’re fresh at half time. Let’s be honest, that would be much a better option than having a random artist perform for an arena of people who really came to see basketball.
2. Add non-NBA players into the contest
Ths thought of adding non-NBAers has been flirted with for a while and honestly, I’m a huge fan. While it wouldn’t then be labelled as the ‘NBA’ dunk contest, adding outside performers could spice up the event and make it a much more worthwhile showcase. Perhaps street dunkers could compete against some NBA players or act as dunk coaches? Failing that I’m sure there are a few other athletes or celebrities out there who would happily try their hand at the contest. Besides J. Cole needs a second chance to throw one down.
3. Have fans/players vote for the competitors
Fab voting would likely see LeBron top the charts every year until his retirement. However, there’s an easy way to combat that. Players who want in on the Dunk Contest could throw their hats in the ring, with the league choosing a field of 15-20 that people can vote for. Players like this year’s winner Diallo would find it harder to break through, but the league could have the votes determine a few players before adding some contestants of their own if they really want. Many more people would tune in to watch the players they voted for in the contest, which leads to my next point.
4. Add more contestants
Four contestants work well, with two moving into the final round after the preliminary dunks, but why stop there? Imagine if there was a field of 6-8 contestants who were only allowed one dunk in the first round, eliminate a few, repeat the concept for a second round and then have the final two compete for one last dunk. It would take longer to play out the entire event, but they could introduce a shot clock of sorts to speed up proceedings if that becomes an issue.
5. Ensure hometown players are involved
This weekend when Kemba Walker or Miles Bridges were called upon, the hometown Charlotte fans went nuts. Neither Walker or Bridges were able to take out the 3-point comp or the Dunk Contest respectively, but they were clearly vocally supported by the Hornets faithful when it came time for them to perform. If the city hosting the All-Star festivities had someone to cheer for each year, it would be a nice addition, which would definitely enhance the atmosphere at the event. Next year’s All-Star game is heading to Chicago – no pressure Zach LaVine…
Image from swarmandsting.com
6. Change the structure
It’s a bit of a cop-out to suggest a change of structure, but let me explain. I like the current way the Dunk Contest is held, but imagine if they held a 20-30 minute open dunk session, that allowed every player the chance to execute a handful of dunks. No serious structure, just come and show what you got, after 10-15 minutes if the NBA chooses, they can narrow the field for the final portion. Simply put, here’s your timeframe, go dunk the ball, best dunk wins the contest.
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