THE SANTA CLARA
February 20, 2014
It began with the Eastern Conference’s freestyle jam session and shortly thereafter, the 2014 NBA Dunk Contest was over with John Wall’s reverse throw-down over the Washington Wizards’ mascot.
In other words, this year’s dunk contest was over before you knew it. And even worse, the new competition format left many people confused, disappointed and hungry for more.
The NBA decided to pit three dunkers from each conference against each other, an odd deviation from the typical individual battles. The judges didn’t utilize the classic numbered scoring style, not allowing contestants to achieve the coveted score of “50” for a jaw-dropping slam. And the design only allotted time for a few memorable throw-downs. Needless to say, the NBA gave it a shot on Saturday night, but tossed up an air ball.
Overall, the league needs a better concept for this premiere event. Fortunately, the NBA can pick and choose from ideas that worked in the past — and even one from Saturday — when it comes to creating a solution.
First, it needs to keep the one aspect that went right this year — the freestyle event. During a five-minute jam session, eight dunkers individually compete against each other, trying to impress the audience and the judges. This way, dunks are thrown down in rapid-fire sequence, feeding the players and viewers with much-needed energy and excitement that has been lacking in the past. Once time expires, the judges decide which four players get to move on to the second stage based on a numbered score.
In the next round, it’s time to bring out the creativity and props. I know I miss the days when Blake Griffin jumped over a car and Gerald Green blew out a candle on their way to the hoop. The four remaining competitors will have three attempts to put down one ingenious jam with a prop and a little bit of pizzazz.
The two contestants voted through the second round get to duke it out, mano-a-mano in round three, just like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins did years ago. The contestants will only get to use the ball and their natural ability in this final round to prove who has what it takes on the brightest stage. They each get to throw down two dunks and the contestant with the highest combined total will walk away victorious.
Before the NBA tinkers with any format ideas, it needs to find a way to attract the high flyers. Granted, this year’s cast of dunkers was an improvement from prior contests, but there is no denying that fans really want to watch Griffin, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and some of the other perennial dunkers go at it.
Perhaps a new format will attract these players, perhaps it won’t. Either way, the NBA needs to rebound following Saturday’s debacle.
Brendan Weber is a sophomore communication major and editor of the Sports section.