The New Dunk Contest format + The 15 most disappointing NBA dunk contest moments (you don't remember)

So for the first time since the fixed 1988 Dunk Contest when Jordan unfairly beat Nique in Chicago, we have 3 All-Stars in the Slam Dunk Contest.  Yes 3!  The last time the contest even had 2 was back in 2000 when Jerry Stackhouse unfairly had to go after Vince Carter.  But forget about Stackhouse's performance (yeah, I know you already have so my apologies for bringing it up) and back to how the NBA just loves to screw up the dunk contest.

The perception is the contest has been hurt by the lack of "stars" but the truth is it's been hurt by the lack of support and good ideas from the NBA and/or any contributing sponsors that has a say in the format.  It's like a club owner complaining the reason why he doesn't have a line outside of his club is because celebs and the "in-crowd" don't want to come but when you go into the club you realize it's not a fun place to be and you leave feeling cheated by wasting your night doing something that people are going to criticize you for.

The NBA continues to come up with twists and new rules thinking it will help bring more excitement but what they end up doing is exactly what every shooting coach that worked with Shaq did – make it worse!

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My favorite format was the original format in the 80′s –  3 dunks in the first round, 3 dunks in the semis and 3 dunks in the finals..and you didn’t get minutes of attempts either.  They kept it moving  by guys dunking, making, missing and moving on.  It also gave the announcers more to talk about as a new player was up every minute.  That constant make, miss, movement made the contests feel more lively and fast as opposed to that c’mon you can make it feeling we get now.

I’m even ok with the 1993 format change when they just took the two highest scores from the 3 dunks in the first round.   We need 3 dunks in the first round.  The problem with 2 is that if you miss one dunk you are basically out no matter what you do on your other dunk.  This also causes players to either play it too safe or go for broke too early as opposed to warming the crowd up.

Then the dunk contest went to a timed routine where you dunked for 90 seconds to the sound of Will Smith yelling (but no rap music which was banned by Stern) and after Kobe won it in a snoozer that saw Darvin Ham robbed the NBA cancelled the event.  It made it’s return in 2000 with arguably the best dunk contest of all time with, surprise, the best format of 3 dunks in the first round.

Since then we have had highs and lows (the infamous wheel) that had Magic Johnson saying every year that the “dunk contest was back” but it wasn’t until the players started using props.  Just like every good viral video series, the props and production got bigger and better until it just made a lot of original fans sick to their stomach.

So last year the NBA said to hell with the Broadway show and let's try to satisfy the dunk aficionados and get true "dunkers" like James White, Terrence Ross, Jeremy Evans, Kenneth Faried and Eric Bledsoe.  Although some great and underrated dunks went down in H-Town that night, the contest, with 2 rounds of 2 dunks, was considered a disaster and had people screaming, begging and in Magic Johnson's case, offering a million dollars (I guess he backed away from that offer), for All-Stars to participate in the event.

Well, the NBA wasn't able to get LeBron to compete but they were able to convince 3 NBA All-Stars, last year's dunk champion, a popular rookie, a Warrior with arguably the best dunk of last year and an underdog that's participating in 5 events to be in the 2014 Dunk Contest.  If that doesn't excite you because only LeBron getting up gets you up then watch this video (1:10 mark).

I was excited. I say "was" because I just read they they are adding a bunch of twists to the Biggie vs Tupac format that has me pissed.  Here's the new rules of the 2014 NBA Dunk Contest from the desk of Adam Silver.


  • Three players representing the Eastern Conference and three players representing the Western Conference will compete in the two-round competition.


  • The competition will feature two unique rounds of dunks. Both rounds will be team-based.


  • The three dunkers for each conference will have a 90-second time limit for all three of them to participate in a freestyle dunk exhibition, featuring an unlimited number of dunks.
  • Each dunker must make at least one dunk attempt during the freestyle round. Dunkers can attempt dunks in any order they determine and are free to assist each other.
  • The East team will dunk first, followed by the West.
  • After both teams compete, the panel of three judges will review their performances and submit a vote by selecting “East” or “West”.
  • The conference team with the higher number of judges’ votes in the Freestyle Round will be given the choice of order for dunks in the Battle Round.


  • The Battle Round will consist of head-to-head matchups pitting the East dunkers vs. the West dunkers.
  • Each dunker will be limited to three attempts to complete a Battle Round dunk.
  • The panel of judges will decide the winner of each head-to-head battle by choosing “East” or “West”.
  • Upon losing a head-to-head battle, the losing dunker is eliminated from the competition.
  • The first conference to win THREE head-to-head battles will win the Battle Round and be crowned Slam Dunk champions.
  • If a fourth or ultimately a fifth head-to-head battle is necessary to determine the winner, the remaining players from each conference will compete in the same order in which they began the Battle Round.

It's a freaking dunk contest where athletic freaks of nature jump really high and show off their balletic skills and throw a ball through a rim.  We don't need a complex game with complex rules. We just need a group of guys to dunk and a group of judges to hold up a piece of paper with a number on it.

I'm really hoping that I'm wrong and the new format will actually be fun and not leave the dunkers pissed and disappointed like Steve Francis, DeMar DeRozan and Gerald Green in the past but I wouldn't be surprised if the new format cracks my list of the most disappointing moments in dunk contest history.



The most disappointing moments in NBA Dunk Contest history, like the 2013 disaster, have been discussed many times over the years, so I made up a list of the 15 disappointing moments (in no particular order) that you probably don't know about or remember.  So you wont hear much more about the Wheel,  LeBron not competingJosh Smith and the mysterious tape or me talk about the 88 home job again with the help of some judges that thought MJ deserved a 50 on his free throw line dunk in the finals after missing it and making it in the first round and only getting a 47.  If you watch any NBA recaps of the contest, don't expect to see any of this footage because they removed it the same way Topps removed Michael Jordan from a card showing John Starks famous dunk on the Bulls - but that's another story.

Charles Barkley, Iverson and Grant Hill dropping out because of injuries
The first NBA dunk contest was stacked with dunk legends from Dr J to Dr Dunkenstien to the Human Highlight Film and the Glyde but it was Larry Nance that came out victorious. Charles Barkley was originally a contestant and it would have been really interesting to see how well Barkley's power dunks would have done in this event. Even if he didn't do that well, i'm sure he would have done better than Edgar Jones. Grant Hill and Allen Iverson both dropped out of the 1997 dunk contest that was won by Kobe Bryant. Iverson was looking forward to the contest and thought he had a good chance since he was the shortest guy but a shoulder problem and bruised ribs made him drop out although Iverson did play and win MVP of the the Rookie Game that took place on the same day.  The NBA cancelled the contest the next year  but if Grant and Iverson were able to compete maybe things would have been different.

Shawn Kemp & Clyde Drexler losing 4 & 5 times
Nowadays big names wont compete in the contest but in the 80s and 90s it wasn't uncommon for the league's best to compete and lose multiple times and nobody has lost more than Dream Team member and members of the NBA's Top 50 players Clyde Drexler who lost 5 times. Before Kemp's final contest he said he didn't want to be known as the Jim Kelly of the NBA dunk contest.

Spud Webb's not so memorable follow-ups to his Cinderella win
We all remember that magical night when 5'7" Spud Webb won the NBA dunk contest by beating his teammate Nique.  What we don't want to remember is Spud Webb getting eliminated in the 1st round of the 1988 dunk contest with the two lowest scores of the contest.  He came back again the next year and was eliminated in the semi-finals.

No dunk contest during 98 & 99
Go back to #1 for the reasons why the NBA cancelled the 98 contest and then the NBA had a lockout the next year.  Thankfully when the NBA did return we were treated to the return of the dunk contest and it turned out to be the best one ever with Vince Carter, T-Mac, Steve Francis and Larry Hughes...maybe not because of Larry.

Let(blank)   Shannon Brown, Demar & James White
The website and campaign was a great idea in 2009 to get Shannon Brown into the NBA dunk contest.  It worked and Shannon made the contest only to do absolutely nothing impressive in the contest.  The most memorably moment of Brown's performance was getting Kobe to pass him the ball.We created the campaign which helped get DeMar DeRozan in the contest but he was robbed by the judges.  Most recently, K1x did a big #LetJamesWhiteDunk campaign for the Knick's James White and the 2013 dunk contest happened...or didn't happen...or just happened the way it happened.

LSU dunkers (Shaq, Rauf, Stromile & Tyrus Thomas)
During Shaq's rookie year he dunked on every major center in the league and took down two backboards.  The league asked him to compete but he declined and said it would be too easy for him to win. Another rookie, Harold Miner, would end up winning the 92 contest.In 2001, Shaq picked LSU alumni Stromile Swift to win the 2001 dunk contest against a very disappointing follow up lineup to the 2000 dunk contest.  Swift finished 3rd behind Deshawn Stevenson and Desmond Mason. Like Swift, Tyrus Thomas was another big man from LSU that showed lots of potential and posterized a lot of of defenders but finished last in the 2007 contest against Gerald Green, Nate and Dwight.

Minor drop off: From Harold to Greg
Thanks to Shaq not competing in the 92 contest. Harold Miner won 2 NBA dunk contests.  He declined to do the 1996 dunk contest after beating JR Rider in 95 and a last second addition was Greg Minor of the Boston Celtics.  Although Minor finished 3rd in a week contest that saw Brent Barry win by doing the free throw line dunk twice, he just wasn't the Minor we wanted to see.

The NBA ignoring Russell Westbrook and inviting Durant and Ibaka instead
Kevin Durant is a great (understatement) player but it was a joke when the NBA invited him to compete in the dunk contest espeically considering his teammate Russell Westbrook said he wanted to be in it. Not only did the NBA ignore the best dunker on the Thunder but they then invited Durant to invite Serge Ibaka instead.  Ibaka finished last in the 2011 dunk contest.  There's been a lot of other impressive high flyers like Terrence Williams that have campaigned to get into the dunk contest but the league continued to ignore them and invite guys like Chase Budinger instead.

Defending Darrell Armstrong
What people don’t know was he was injured and taken off the IL a week before the dunk contest just so he could participate and entertain Shaq and Penny who pushed him into the contest.  That was also during the time when the dunk contest format was a  90 second timed routine and with the time running out and no hope of advancing to the next round, Darrel just threw up a layup at the buzzer.  The perception built over time is that Darrell actually did a layup for a dunk attempt.

Davis Dunkers: Antonio, Baron and Ricky
There's been some great dunkers in the NBA with the last name of Davis and the Hornets had two of them that I thought had a good chance of winning.  Baron Davis came in 3rd place in the 2001 contest and Ricky Davis finished 4th in the stacked (no pun intended) 2000 contest beating only Stackhouse and Larry Hughes.  Ricky returned 4 years later as a member of the Celtics only to finish last and (worse) behind Chris Anderson.For some reason 6'9" Antonio Davis competed in the 94 dunk contest against the likes of JR Rider, Robert Pack and Shawn Kemp.  He was so awful that even Allan Houston finished ahead of him.

Darvin Ham's last place finish in the last contest of the 90s
The 2007 contest with Kobe has been brought up for a lot of reasons and here's another reason why the last contest of the 90s was a disaster.  Darvin Ham was eliminated in the first round and probably deserved to advance over Finley and Carr.

2002 Tournament format
The NBA messed around with the format a lot in the past decade and the Wheel from 2002 is the favorite to pick on but what most people don't remember about this contest was the NBA created a tournament format where 2 players faced off against each other in the first round and the winners of those two faced off in the finals.  After getting eliminated in the 1st against Gerald Wallace, Steve Francis said he was done with the contest.

2012 fan voting by text & twitter
I've seen fan voting ruin so many contests over the past few years when finalist found ways of winning by having large followings on social networks vote for them eventhough they had no idea what dunks were even done.  I've also seen local favorites win at events because they had the most family and friends.  Then we have the 2012 NBA dunk contest that was determined 100% by fan voting via text and tweets.  The controversial gimmick heavy contest was won by Jeremy Evans with only 29% of the votes which was 1% more than Chase Budinger and 5% more than Paul "glow in the dark" George.   The next year the NBA ditched the text voting and just made the final round a fan voting event via Twitter.

The Sprite Slam Dunk-in with Eric Gordon and DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan finished 2nd in the 2010 dunk contest but almost missed the opportunity to be there because he had to participate in a silly "Slam Dunk-In" against Eric Gordon the night before.  Gordon and DeRozan had to perform two dunks each and the winner would be decided voting via text and tweets! Thankfully the NBA killed this idea.

Larry Johnson, Ceballos & Drexler refusing to dunk in the finals
I mentioned earlier that Drexler was a loser in 5 dunk contests so I'm going to excuse him for not wanting to do a final dunk when he knew he wasn't going to win but Larry Johnson was the favorite going into the 1992 dunk contest and had the highest scores in every round going into the finals but after 2 mediocre dunks and watching Cedric Ceballos score a 50 on his blindfold dunk, LJ decided to forfeit and not do a final dunk.  Since he didn't do a dunk that meant that Cedric was the winner so he skipped his final dunk too.

Maybe Larry was just too busy telling little Stephen Curry that one day that these All-Star weekend will one day belong to you.

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