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NBA, TNT sit down to talk dunk contest changes

Feb 22, 2010, 1:59 PM EDT

This year’s dunk contest stunk. Everybody but Nate Robinson’s mother is on board with that. The competitors were plenty athletic, but save one throw down by DeMar DeRozan it seemed like we had seen it all before. And we were bored.

The NBA and TNT don’t want that — the dunk contest gets as much publicity as the All-Star Game, you don’t need people saying they would rather watch a Law & Order rerun — so they sat down today and started talking about how to fix it.

Any changes to the event ultimately will have to be made by the NBA, but TNT has carried the event for 25 years, and Levy’s opinion is certain to carry weight in league circles.

While Levy would not be upset to have LeBron James compete against Kobe Bryant in future dunk contests, he does not believe that the event necessarily needs that kind of star power to thrive. Levy, Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting’s president of sales, distribution and sports, is more interested in having the players who agree to participate put more effort into it. In some cases this year, it appeared that dunkers were trying to make up dunks on the fly.

Star power drives the entire NBA — any glance at the ratings over the last 20 years show that. Or look at how once Kobe pulled out of the NBA All-Star Game ratings in Los Angeles dropped 40 percent from last year. David Stern and crew chose from way back with Magic vs. Bird to make the NBA about the individual stars, so when an event lacks star power you have to expect some level of excitement to drop off.

But the dunk contest needs more than just Dwight Howard slapping stickers on the backboard to get it going again. Ratings for the dunk contest were good again this season, second best in the history of the event, people want to see it. But they don’t want to see what they have seen before, and Levy is right that previous years seemed to have more preparation. But on the flip side, where do you expect these guys to go? Expecting three guys every year to come up with something nobody has ever done before is not realistic.

Like any serious debate — and this isn’t serious, really, it’s the dunk contest — there are a variety of options. And a variety of people laying in wait to shoot down those options once they go public. But even if it leans toward the radical — letting in amateurs such as Taurian Fontenette, for example — something needs to be done. Because we won’t keep watching what we have seen before.

  1. Apricot - Feb 22, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    A simple solution. Open the dunk contest up for everyone (NBA, D-League, amateurs, insanely tall Scotsmen, etc). People submit audition tapes and the league selects the top eight. Then it’s a straight up 2 dunks, single elimination tournament.

  2. Dalton - Feb 22, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    The most crowd pleasing dunks in games are the ones that occur when a player dribbles around one or two players and then throws down a monster dunk in someones face. If I were running the NBA dunk contest I would require the players to weave through a maze of NBA logo cutouts (like the ones used in the dribbling portion of the skills competition) and then dunks over a collapsible cardboard cutout of a 7 foot person with their arms raised placed in front or on the side of the basket.

  3. bekay - Feb 22, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    i agree with the first commenter.. open the dunk contest up to anyone capable of making a spectacular dunk.. the d-league contest won by dar tucker was more exciting than the nba dunk contest. the sprite showdown dunk contest was more exciting than the nba dunk contest won by the “air up there” who can perform a 720 dunk. the nba players are concerned about their health for good reasons.. opening up to those other competitors would give the dunk contest its reckless abandon that it use to have back.

  4. Karen - Feb 22, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    Yes, the big names do need to be there…so hey Pro basketball players..where were you??? Where were the big guys, you know who you are. The slam dunks looked like they were thrown together at the last minute. What happened to superman, the cupcake? Lets show a little innovation, style, and just maybe a little respect to the fans that buy all of your stuff, pay high prices for your tickets. Could you at least work out a little sweat in preparation for this instead of talking to all the Old big names while you wait your turn. No insult to you guys who participated..thanks for stepping up. But where are the big names…oh big names to big for this now?? Come on Nate wins 3 years in a row geez. Come on guys just where is the love of the game not just the love of the money.

  5. Bryan - Feb 22, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    they could make the dunk contest like H-O-R-S-E..or P-I-G. The players should have to do the same dunk or get a letter. I also agree that anyone should be able to join it…we just wanna see sweet dunks.

  6. darren Jay - Feb 22, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    Its about time. Maybe a one on one tournament like back in the day.

  7. Mark - Feb 22, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    I’m for regulars to enter the dunk contest, but……
    The NBA players wouldn’t want no-name people coming off the streets and showing them up. Their ego would be crushed. Then it would come about why are they being paid that much when a joe-schmo can beat them in a dunk contest.

  8. Dan in Orlando - Feb 22, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    Don’t make it a contest. Make every player “playing” in the all-star game participate in a 30-minute “dunking” exhibition. That way the superstars like Kobe & Lebron can participate without the risk of losing. Set it all to music and it will turn into a “show” not a “competition”. None of these guys need the money, but all like to be entertainers. I would even consider having the point guards set them up with alley-oops and no-look passes. This would take advantage of what they all like to do in the first half of the actual all-star game and make it part of the show.

  9. Donk - Feb 22, 2010 at 8:02 PM

    I agree with Apricot. In addition to bringing people like Fontenette into the fold, I think the NBA players who participate in that kind of dunk contest will have no recourse BUT to show up prepared. They won’t want to be punked by dunkers who can’t play in the Association.

  10. Morgan Guyett - Feb 28, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    Hiya, nice day.. Your article is extremely impressive. I never considered that it was feasible to accomplish something like that until after I looked over your post. You certainly gave a great perception on exactly how this whole process works. I will make sure to return for more advice. Thanks

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