One of the most epic dunk contests ever happened 8 months ago and you didn’t even know about it. The top secret event, featuring NBA/TNT production and the Inside the NBA crew as judges, showcased the best dunks from 32 of the best pro dunkers in the world- like Kenny Dobb’s NBA Jam “he’s on fire” dunk – as they competed for $100,000!
So why was this Cloverfield Lane 10 type contest so secretive? The reason is because the contest is part of an upcoming 4 episode reality show called The Dunk King, debuting this Monday after the Western Conference Finals on TNT. Each episode will show a part of the epic contest – with dunks that will either inspire Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon to try or make them next year or just shake their heads – and profile the aerial artists behind these video game like dunks.
And it’s these profile segments that will make you root and care for some of the artists over others. Like Myree Bowden, the 33 year old teacher and father of 5; Jordan Southerland, who will perform for the first time in front of his parents; Michael Purdie, honoring a friend who was tragically killed; Zach Jones, the entrepreneur who had surgery weeks before the event; Porter Maberry, the 5’5 underdog and so on.
Just as interesting as the dunkers and their inspirational stories are the host and judges: Terrance J, Kenny Smith, Shaq, Charles Barkley and former dunk champ Brent Barry. Barkley is notorious for hating on dunk contests and Shaq recently earned the title of Russian judge after his controversial role in the 2016 NBA dunk contest. During my interview with show creator Craig Barry, I asked what were the original thoughts by Barkley and Shaq when you pitched the show. Barry said they thought it was just another gimmick for TNT to make some money and the contest was going to be full of the same gimmicky dunks they have seen a hundred times. But it didn’t take long for the judges to realize that was far from the case. Kenny Smith, known for saying “I have never seen that dunk” during dunk contests, admitted he has never seen at least 10 of the dunks from this event.
I also wondered what made him come up with this high production event with a $100k prize (most major dunk contests from the past decade featured grand prizes between $10-20k). Barry said he originally thought about having the prize be half a million (!) and the whole idea came to him while having dinner and a few drinks with a friend, discussing the reality shows their wives watch. At $500k, I said I wouldn’t be surprised to see NBA players and former NBA dunk contest winners trying out for the event. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the characters from those reality shows trying to make some cameos – thankfully they are not in it and these guys are.