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2014 Slam Dunk Contest the most star-studded ever

Feb 7, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT

Damian Lillard, Paul George

It’s been 14 years since the Slam Dunk Contest has featured multiple All-Stars.

Heck, in the last two years, no All-Stars have participated.

But after years of pleas, the NBA has finally assembled a Dunk Contest field that includes the game’s top talent. Paul George, Damian Lillard and John Wall headline the 2014 event – matching the most All-Stars ever to participate.

By volume, this Dunk Contest is special. Only 1988 (Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler) and 1985 (Jordan, Julius Erving and Larry Nance) have featured this many All-stars.

But percentage, it’s unprecedented.

The Dunk Contest field has varied in size over the years, ranging from four to nine players. This year will have six participants – Terrence Ross, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore have also been invited – which means half the competitors are All-Stars. That’s never happened before.

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The last time even two All-Stars competed in the Dunk Contest was 2000, when Vince Carter and Jerry Stackhouse dunked Saturday then played Sunday. The NBA really needed a boost that season. After three years without an All-Star in the Dunk Contest, the league dropped the event completely before reviving it in 2000.

And, with the multiple All-Stars participating, the dunks were the best ever.*

Carter won the event, slipping his elbow through the rim on one dunk and then catching a bounce pass, putting the ball between his legs and dunking on another. Really, though, the whole display was impressive.

*Only the 1988 Dunk Contest could make an argument, but that one was great more due to the dunking rivalry between Jordan and Wilkins than the actual dunks. Don’t get me wrong. The dunks were great in 1988, too. They were just a little better in 2000.

This year, instead of just two All-Stars like in 2000, we have three.

Are George, Lillard and Wall NBA’s biggest stars? No. The league didn’t reel in LeBron James, who would have been the biggest catch.

But that’s not a fair standard.

Just two players have ever competed in the Dunk Contest after finishing better than 10th in MVP voting – Erving and Jordan.

Erving entered the first two NBA Dunk Contests, 1984 and 1985, but his best dunking and playing days were behind him. If Erving, who won the 1976 ABA Dunk Contest, had begun his professional career in an NBA that had a Dunk Contest, he likely would have participated during his first few seasons and then outgrown it.

Jordan reached such great heights at such a young age, he rose up the honor list quicker than he could bow out of the Dunk Contest. But once he won his first MVP, he never competed in the Dunk Contest again.

Most of the great stars who participated in the Dunk Contest – players like Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen – didn’t become great stars until after they participated in the Dunk Contest. We remember their Dunk Contest showings and their superstar statuses and conflate the two, but they really came at different points in the players’ careers.

Maybe Paul George, Damian Lillard or John Wall will eventually become megastars and get treated the same way.

For now, we know those three are at least stars of the moment, as their inclusion in the All-Star Game shows. That they’re also competing in the Dunk Contest puts the 2014 event in historical footing.

Everyone yearning for more of the NBA’s stars in the Dunk Contest has gotten their wish. Now, we’ll see whether that actually translates into better dunks.

  1. timberwolvesbrisin - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    No it’s not. Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins was.

  2. sportsnut101 - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Lebron not doing it let it go
    Hes not even a great dunker in games he does same dunk

    This new format is good

  3. djeter220 - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    I think the biggest upside of having big name players in the event is that we’ll see more dunks completed on the first attempt. Using the 12th man on a team who happens to be a great dunker in practice makes for guys who aren’t used to the spotlight dealing with nerves, which I think is what lead to the rounds of a panicked half-dozen attempts we’ve seen in years past.

    • moseskkim - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      thats a pretty cool point. only thing i dont like is i dont like small guards dunking. i dont feel that they are playing on equal grounds. i think lillard and to some extent wall have to do something CRAZY to have a chance whereas paul george/ross can look crazy by doing something ordinary.

      • dinofrank60 - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:41 PM

        Nate Robinson? Spud Webb?

  4. ajsjr40 - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    The most star studded slam dunk contest was any year that Michael Jordan was entered. All others pale in comparison.

  5. revren10 - Feb 7, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    Dunk contest waist of time

  6. senorpapino - Feb 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    The dunk contest died when DeRozan got totally robbed in the first round. Hopefully this cast can revive it.

  7. pfic15 - Feb 7, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    Best ever my a**

  8. klownboy - Feb 7, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Until they LeBron and a few other stars involved in the Slam Dunk Contest, I won’t be paying attention.

    http://wp.me/1gCK6

  9. dinofrank60 - Feb 7, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    Julius Erving, David Thompson, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin and 5 time ABA/NBA All Star Larry Kenon.

    – the 1976 ABA Slam Dunk contest

  10. antistratfordian - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    Star studded? I think that’s a stretch. You can be an all-star today and still be unknown to most of the country – so all-star doesn’t necessarily mean stardom. I think over 90% of the country wouldn’t even know who any of these guys are. Just think, in mid 2012 Nielsen said that Kevin Durant was only known “by a scant 12% of people.” Just imagine where these guys are at… 3% 4%? 8%?

  11. themagicfanguy - Feb 7, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    Oladipo should be in over McLemore.

  12. campcouch - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    I guess if you were born in 2010 it would be.

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