LeBron James has caught a ton of flack for never participating in a NBA Slam Dunk Contest but could it be because when LeBron James entered the league the NBA Slam Dunk Contest’s appeal was already dwindling? I think so.
Dunking was once a new thing, Dr. J was really the first person to dunk with style then Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan came around an elevated the appeal to dunking even higher with their high-flying ability and creativity. But that was it’s peak, dunking is much more impressive in games than in dunk contests. You have rare talents like Vince Carter, who probably single-handedly extended the NBA Slam Dunk Contests lifespan, that can still be real creative with their dunks. I even saw some creativity and unique dunk ideas a couple of years ago from JaVale McGee, but that is rare. There are only so many dunk ideas for people to come up with and to actually have the talent to execute. The Slam Dunk Contest has become a show, it isn’t about what dunk you do anymore as much as it is about how you “perform” the dunk. Last year Paul George did a fairly typical dunk but he did it with the lights off while wearing a glow-in-the-dark uniform.
I often hear people say that LeBron James should participate because all of the greats before him have participated in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but that just is not true. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant both participated within their first 5 years; before they won championships. Other than Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Kobe Bryant, and Clyde Drexler (to a certain extent) who else participated in the dunk contest that was really “great”? Are we calling Spud Webb, Nate Robinson, Jason Richardson, and Brent Barry great? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t even consider Dominique Wilkins “great”.
I would love to see Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Dwyane Wade all in a Slam Dunk Contest but it will never happen because the NBA Slam Dunk Contest doesn’t have the appeal it once had. I find much more enjoyment from watching the 3-point competition than I do in the Slam Dunk Contest.