The National Basketball Association hosted its annual All Star Game weekend in Houston, Texas this weekend, featuring events such as the skills competition, three-point contest and the slam dunk contest. But what was expected to be the most exciting event to watch actually turned out to be the most disappointing event. With the notion of saving the best for last, the slam dunk contest aired live Feb. 16 at 10 p.m. eastern time. Fans waited up all night, anticipating an array of extremely difficult, high-flying dunks performed by the best jumpers in the NBA. Instead, we had to fight ourselves from falling asleep as a group of no-name, second-rate players botched dunk attempt after dunk attempt, putting on perhaps the worst dunking display in recent years. None of the superstar athletes we love to watch participated, drawing a new question for the AFRO Sports Desk to debate: could NBA superstar LeBron James have saved the dunk contest from its embarrassing showing Saturday night? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: I’ve been hearing a lot of people say for a long time that LeBron should be in the dunk contest. Well, enough is enough. The answer is no. He has said no to the contest every year since joining the league, and now I’m saying it for him. NO! I don’t know why anyone thinks that a person who is not interested in doing something will be good at it. Sure, James is a great athlete. He can jump out the gym and dunks with power and authority. But those are in-game dunks, not contest dunks. Quite frankly I don’t think LeBron possesses enough creativity to win a dunk contest. He would only embarrass himself, just as New York Knicks guard James White did Feb. 16 when he missed several dunk attempts under the pressure of millions of viewers watching. Let LeBron stick to winning championships, and leave the dunk contest to people who actually want to do it.
Green: I’m not buying the “He-lacks-creativity” argument. This is King James we’re talking about. It’s the same King James that puts on a dunking performance for his fans during warm-ups before every game during the season. It’s the same King James who finds creative ways to still score while facing double and triple team defensive coverage during the game. And even if he doesn’t do some wildly creative behind-the-back, through-the-leg, 360 dunk while blind-folded, he still has the freakish athleticism to jump higher and longer than anybody else in the NBA. LeBron isn’t just some great athlete. He’s a phenomenal athlete. We’ve all seen him jump so high that he’s literally a foot-above the rim looking down into the hoop as he slams it down. He would win the dunk contest with ease, and it would be the most impressive dunk performance we’ve seen since Vince Carter’s contest winning performance more than 10 years ago. All he has to do is try.
Riley: No one wants to see LeBron do the same dunks he does during games. We want to see tricks, stunts and showmanship. We want creativity. That’s not LeBron’s alley. He has made that clear with his refusal to perform in it during the past 10 seasons. Plus, the dunk contest is typically reserved for the younger athletes of the game. Kobe Bryant participated and won the dunk contest during his second year in the league. Vince Carter won it when he was in his third season as a pro. Michael Jordan won it back-to-back when he was in his third and fourth seasons. James is a 10-year pro now, and past that moment of his career. James is already a four-time MVP and just won his first of many championships to come. He has nothing to prove. Let him sit back and enjoy the contest like the king that he is.
Green: You say you want showmanship, but who else displays showmanship as well as LeBron does? LeBron is the best showman in the game. He takes the powder chalk and throws it up in the air before he takes the court for every game. He dances to the arena music during timeouts and halftime. He loves to put on a show for his fans. He even teased us all by posting “Dunk Contest?” on his twitter account just weeks before All-Star weekend arrived. Why would he do that to us just to not perform? That’s cruel, man. But what baffles me most is of all the amazing athletes you listed, from MJ to Kobe to Vince Carter, James is probably more athletic than all of them. He could out-dunk all of them if he wanted, but instead refuses to give the fans what they want. It’s like Pacquaio and Mayweather not fighting. Why is he doing this to us? And you forgot one great dunk contest winner: Dominique Wilkins, who not only won it in his fourth season, but also won it during his ninth season in the NBA. LeBron may be in his 10th season, but he’s only 28-year-old. And he’s in better shape now than he has ever been in the past. There are reports of him riding his bike to home games in Miami or deciding to jog back to his hotel after road games. That just proves how incredibly in-shape this dude is. No excuses will be accepted about his age or experience. He needs to just do the contest. If he doesn’t win, who cares. Just go out there and have fun, and all of his fans will be satisfied.