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Blake Griffin jumps Dunk Contest over car, into new era of spectacle

Feb 20, 2011, 12:40 AM EDT

Blake Griffin car dunk Getty Images

The days of the Dominique tomahawk are gone. The Jordan cradle dunk is a dinosaur. Throwing it off the backboard to yourself is passé.

Blake Griffin dunked over a car while a gospel choir sang at midcourt. And he is your 2011 Slam Dunk Contest champion. It was impressive and entertaining.

That, my friends, is where we are headed with the dunk contest.

Saturday night the four participants — Griffin, JaVale McGee, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka — used props, skits and showmanship to make the dunks spectacle. It was made-for-television. This wasn’t just four band members in jeans and T-shirts rocking out, it was a Kanye West concert. It was pure spectacle with some dunks thrown in.

And it was the most entertaining contest in years.

It’s how things will be for years to come. Say you miss the old school Dunk Contests all you want, the event has evolved.

“A lot of the things that are possible have been done, you know what I mean?” Griffin said after the contest. “So it’s tough to come up with something that nobody has ever seen before. That’s always the big thing. Everybody is like ‘Oh it’s going to be something nobody has ever seen’ but you kind of have to use props for that. It’s kind of become — it’s kind of moved toward that.”

“All of us definitely came prepared,” said runner up JaVale McGee. “We came with props and everything. We all came for entertainment because we definitely didn’t want to be another disappointment for the Slam Dunk Contest like the year before was.

Last year, after the year of Dwight Howard’s show, guys went old school. Few props, just athleticism on display. The event got panned as dull.

Griffin is spot on — we’ve pretty much seen it all. Serge Ibaka executed a dunk taking off from the free throw line and couldn’t get a perfect score from Dr. J (who was one of the judges).

But he didn’t just do the dunk. The Congo native came out to Kanye music with people carrying African-colored flags. The flag carriers lined his path to the free throw line.

It was like that through the first two rounds — two of the best rounds the contest has ever seen. Ibaka grabbed a stuffed animal hanging on the rim with his teeth while dunking. McGee dunked three basketballs at once (John Wall assisted on that).

McGee even had them bring out a second backboard, lined up right next to the first, so he could dunk on both at once.

There was still the crazy athleticism — on Griffin’s first dunk of the final round he put his arm through the rim and hung there on his cocked elbow for a while. DeRozan got a perfect score without props and just leaping and spinning. McGee dunked from behind the backboard having to duck his head out of the way.

But that alone is not enough anymore. The contest has evolved. More importantly our expectations have evolved. It is a show. It is a spectacle. Just being athletic is not enough; you have to be an entertainer.

Could you argue that some dunks were better than the winners, that someone got robbed? Sure. Knock yourself out. I’ll even agree that with fans voting for the finals Blake Griffin won this thing a month ago. But that’s all besides the bigger point.

This dunk contest forever changed the game. Don’t accept if you don’t want to be a showman. In-game dunks don’t cut it here, this is an exhibition and the bar has been raised.

In the end, Griffin had the biggest spectacle of the night — Baron Davis lobbing an ally-oop out of a sunroof to Griffin leaping over a Kia while a gospel choir sang R. Kelly. The dunk contest has never seen anything like it.

It moved the needle and now there is no going back.

  1. starks3 - Feb 20, 2011 at 1:02 AM

    My big gripe is as a tv spectale it took too long to set everything up. It takes away from the “surprise”. If they want to set a car up then use the other hoop, same with teddy bear or whatever. Dont make us wait so long to see a dunk that takes 4 secs to do and 10mins of setup.

    Alsowe missed thd Blake dunk over the car be ause the tv was too worried about the setup showin choir singer instead of showing Blake Dunking over car!! Imo a huge miss by TNT

    • digitalpoo - Feb 20, 2011 at 1:23 AM

      I know right!? They were so set on that stupid choir boy that they showed the dunk late.

      Honestly, I wasn’t as impressed with the car dunk as I was with Blake’s first attempt MISSES. If only he could have pulled them off on the first attempt Carter may have actually had someone bumping him off his throne.

    • jcfromdallas - Feb 20, 2011 at 8:24 AM

      The “new era” will end as soon as one of these idiots cracks his skull open or the owners cancel someone’s contract if they get injured doing this and wreck a team’s chances for a title. This stupidity will last only as long as the first serious injury. Count on it.

      • zackd2 - Feb 20, 2011 at 12:15 PM

        Didn’t Blake smack his forearm on the backboard during his 1st dunk? The “powerful” 360 one?

  2. realirvine - Feb 20, 2011 at 1:57 AM

    I Believe I Can Fly is R. Kelly.

  3. ryancasalyisfuckingawesome - Feb 20, 2011 at 2:50 AM

    Choir was singing R. Kelly.

    • Kurt Helin - Feb 20, 2011 at 9:57 AM

      You guys are right, that song is R. Kelly, not Seal. My bad. I changed it in the post.

      I never liked that song or Seal, so I associate them in my head.

      • realirvine - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:33 AM

        No worries – just trying to let you know.

        R. Kelly is much better when impersonated by Dave Chapelle anyway.

  4. downtowndanny - Feb 20, 2011 at 4:01 AM

    sorry kids, Javale got robbed and Ibaka killed everybody with the free throw line dunk, thats hard as hell to do. I would have been more impressed had Blake jumped over Baron in the car instead of over the hood, Javale dunked 2 then 3 balls thats insane, it was a set up from the start, Blake was going to win regardless…thats why the nba sucks sometimes,but it was entertaining…

  5. zackd2 - Feb 20, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    I hope this isn’t where the dunk contest is going. Why was it an And1 mixtape? Why is Kenny hyping Blake like there’s no tomorrow? Why is Chris Weber yelling?

    If you have to hype a crowd to get a reaction, then its not a good dunk. Chris Mannix of SI tweeted the car dunk was the greatest EVER. It will be the most overrated ever..

  6. jonirocit - Feb 20, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    Sorry but the whole 5 tries at a dunk just ruins the pure excitement part . Too many thugs. The NBA needs to make a stand . Require players to at least spend 3 years in college and clean this crap up . I can’t help but think that soon they will be converting to something like death race where games are held behind barbed wire at a prison and it’s a fight to the death. At least we know they will all be strapped and have their crew with them . Somewhere mr Naismith is turning over in his grave . Btw nice shades melo way to respect the game . I’m sure Jordan, bird and magic are like damn I wish I would have thought to wear shades during an interview!

  7. jstrizzle - Feb 20, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    The last two dunks by both people were probably the worst dunks of the night. Very disappointing and I agree that Ibaka got robbed. 45 from jumping from the free throw line?

  8. murphylee - Feb 20, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    I didn’t watch the dunk contest and haven’t for years…it’s become too much of a show. Sure, it’s supposed to be a show, but when you have Blake Griffin jumping over the hood of a car, a choir singing R Kelly and Kanye blasting in the background, it’s just too much. This has gotten out of hand, and should be reined in a bit I also have another gripe with the NBA. This rule of having to be either 19 or one year out of high school before you can go pro is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I know a lot of people are worried about the maturity level of high school players, but if you’re blowing away your competition in high school, you’ll just be doing the same thing in college (a la Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, etc.), so if you have the talent level, you should be able to go, by all means. If you blow out a knee your freshman year, there goes your chances of ever playing again, so why risk it, when, even if you blow out your knee in the pros, you’ll still end up getting paid, even sitting on the bench? Ok, this rant is officially over.

  9. djeg07 - Feb 20, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    dump this made for tv crap, or limit to one attempt, or deduct point for each miss… the foul line dunk by far was THE most impressive, griffin only won on star power, dont let fans vote unless it is for the best dunk of the night not the winner. frekin horse was better

  10. dansullivan82 - Feb 20, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Wrestlemania is less planed than the dunk contest.I mean the Ibaka must not have been able to jump a KIA with a choir singing cus theres no way Griffins first round was better.By the way when did KIA introduce their new model Grriffiin jumped, the KIA Shark!

  11. 1historian - Feb 21, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    In the declining days of the Roman Empire the emperors would stage spectacles for the populace the primary purpose of which was to keep the populace from focusing on the fact that the whole thing was falling down. Watch the movie ‘Gladiator’ for a good example of this. The spectacles were called ‘panem et circenses’, translated as ‘Bread and Circuses’.

    Our modern counterpart is the recent Super Bowl and now this beyond idiotic dunk contest.

    Sooner or later someone is going to get hurt.

  12. savocabol1 - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    I don’t get how Blake is getting this monster attention from the media about this. He jumped over the smallest part of the car. Any NBA player could do that. It was a regular dunk. There was zero skill involved. Everyone of Blake’s completed dunks were average but because of all the hype around him he got the points. This is the reason why the dunk contest is a joke.

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