NBA All-Star Weekend: Slam dunk contest and three-point shootout - The Guardian (blog)

Thank you for using! This service has been made possible by all our customers. In order to provide a sustainable, best of the breed RSS to Email experience, we've chosen to keep this as a paid subscription service. If you are satisfied with your free trial, please sign-up today. Subscriptions without a plan would soon be removed. Thank you!
Minnesota Timberwolves' Derrick Williams at NBA All-Star weekend

Minnesota Timberwolves' Derrick Williams: his part in the NBA All-Star weekend slam dunk contest didn't go entirely to plan. Photograph: Jeff Haynes/Reuters

The NBA All-Star Weekend's Saturday events technically begin with the D-League All-Star Game, but few fans actually pay attention to the event. It's not on national television because only a few stray diehards, basketball scouts, and the participants' immediate family want to watch an exhibition game filled with unproven talent and fringe NBA players. The All-Star Weekend, after all, is supposed to be a celebration of the game's top players, not its also-rans and could-be's.

I certainly didn't watch, so I was surprised to learn that former Boston Celtic Gerald Green captured MVP honors. I had no idea he was even still in basketball. Gerald Green being the D-League MVP makes plenty of sense, he's a player too good to be stuck in the development league and not quite good enough to stick in the NBA, a quadruple-A guy in baseball terms. I thought about Green in terms of the improbable Jeremy Lin story, going from sleeping on his friend's couch to two straight Sports Illustrated covers in the course of a month. Lin's story must give hope to players like Green who are seeking to return to the NBA, or break in for the first time, despite very long odds.

And where was Jeremy Lin this Saturday night? Unfortunately for TNT's ratings, the New York Knicks point guard was on the sidelines. His teammate Iman Shumpert was supposed to dunk over him and that famous couch in the Slam Dunk Contest, but "Shump" was too injured to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest. By the end of the night, Shumpert's last minute injury replacement, the Utah Jazz's Jeremy Evans, would find himself the winner of a contest he wasn't even supposed to be in.

But before the Slam Dunk Contest could begin, the NBA had to plow through its opening acts: the Shooting Stars Competition, the Skills Challenge and the Three Point Shootout. The first of these is the most dreadfully dull sporting event imaginable; teams featuring a current NBA player, a retired NBA player and a WNBA player have to make shots. I fear even that description oversells the drama. This year, Team New York won, but I somehow doubt that this will in any way overshadow the New York Giants' Super Bowl win as far as city bragging rights go. At the Skills Challenge, the San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker, who is quietly having a fantastic season, beat out the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo and the New Jersey Nets' Deron Williams, completing the final obstacle course at 32.8 seconds.

While the first two events were relatively uninspiring, the Three Point Shootout may have been the highlight of the night. The event came down to a Battle of the Kevins, Minnesota Timberwolves' Love and Oklahoma City Thunder's Durant, and Love won out in the end. While this year's Slam Dunk Contest featured a somewhat lackluster cast, the Three Point Shootout was a much needed true battle between All-Stars.

(As a side note: The curious thing about the Three Point Shootout is that ESPN Radio also covered it live. I listened to the broadcast for a few minutes, and was highly amused. Because all they have to describe is whether or not a player makes a shot or not, the repetitive broadcast borders on beat poetry: "He hits the first one, the second one rims out, the third one misses, the fourth one is good, the fifth one is good, the sixth is nah-nah etc".)

After the Three Point Shootout, the Slam Dunk Contest, in some respects, was a bit of a letdown. Jeremy Evans won by fan voting, a new twist in the contest, beating out the Houston Rockets' Chase Budinger, the Indiana Pacers' Paul George and the Minnesota Timberwolves' Derrick Williams. Evans contributed several different variations/combinations of classic Dunk Contest gimmicks: Dunking two basketballs at once; dunking over a seated figure; dunking over a small person and the always popular "wearing an older player's jersey as a homage" move (in this case that of Utah Jazz legend Karl "The Mailman" Malone). Evans was impressive, and certainly deserved to win, but at this point in the Slam Dunk Contest's history we've all seen so many versions of these dunks that the competition is starting to take on an air of belatedness. Even the best dunk of the night, Chase Budinger's blindfolded reverse dunk was a homage to an older player, in this case Cedric Ceballos.

It's difficult to pinpoint why exactly this year's Dunk Contest was off. Was it the quality of the competition? Perhaps it had to do with this year's lack of stars, as the event would have certainly been a bigger "must watch" if, say, LeBron James finally agreed to participate or if Blake Griffin had returned to defend his title (maybe he could have jumped over two cars this time). It says a lot about this year's contest that the most dramatic moment of the night was watching Derrick Williams fail to dunk nine straight times in the final round, frustration and embarrassment rising with every attempt. In an event designed to make NBA players seem almost superhuman it was humanizing, and a bit agonizing, to watch an athlete struggle on such a big stage. That's not the normal lasting imagine one gets from a normal All-Star Event, but, then again, this really hasn't been a normal All-Star Weekend.

27 Feb, 2012

Manage subscription | Powered by

What's on Your Mind...

Powered by Blogger.