One of the biggest draws of NBA All-Star Saturday Night is the annual Sprite Slam Dunk contest, even if the contest has failed to live up to fan’s expectations in the last few years. It has slowly gone downhill. After a while, there was too more emphasis on what prop a person could use instead of the actual dunk itself — I’m looking at you Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Gerald Green — leaving fans wanting something more.
In the ’80s, stars like Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb and Michael Jordan brought the popularity to an all-time high. The ’90s brought dunks like Dee Brown‘s blinded attempt, Cedric Ceballos‘ blindfolded dunk, Isaiah Rider‘s between-the-legs dunk (also know as “The Eastbay”), Brent Barry‘s take off from the free throw line and lastly, the onslaught of dunks that Kobe Bryant gave to us in 1997.
After a two-season grace period without a contest, Vince Carter re-introduced the world to the contest in a way that only someone nicknamed “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” could. No matter who gets chosen this season, I doubt anyone touches VC’s performance from Oakland in 2000. However, for this year’s festivities in Houston, the NBA has elected Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat as captains for All-Star Saturday Night. I like this idea and have hope that Wade and Paul will do a greater job of selecting the right players to take part in the action than the NBA has done in the past.
In case two of the best players in the league are unsure of whom to pick to participate in the dunk contest, I have put together a list of players who would be the ideal selections and have proven so during the first half of this season. These are four players that will not only bring excitement and popularity back to the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but they are also pure dunkers in the truest form.
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1. JAMES WHITE, New York Knicks
When your nickname is “Flight” you should be an automatic shoe-in for any dunk contest, anywhere in the world. White was an Internet sensation before YouTube was created in 2005. He made a name for himself at the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest in 2001 and brought his athleticism and creativity to many a Midnight Madness at Florida and Cincinnati, and then again to the NCAA College Slam Dunk contest in 2006. Plus, it sounds like D-Wade already has White on his radar.
2. TERRENCE ROSS, Toronto Raptors
Terrence Ross might have been the most athletic player in the 2012 NBA Draft, measuring in at 6-7 with a no-step vertical of 31.0 inches and a max vertical jump of 37.5 inches. Ross can explode off the floor. During his two seasons at the University of Washington, he made victims out of many of his Pac-12 opponents, but it’s the acrobatics he has displayed as a rookie that have his name on this list. Ross has already delivered the NBA.com Dunk of the Night on three separate occasions. Whether it’s a tomahawk, windmill or tip slam, Ross can do it all and has caught Wade’s attention as well.
3. HARRISON BARNES, Golden State Warriors
Barnes wasn’t highly touted for his athletic abilities after his two years at UNC, but he put on an athletic display at the NBA Combine tallying, a 38-inch no-step vertical (highest of the group), and a 39.5 max vertical jump (top five). Barnes had a choice amount of sensational slams as a Tar Heel, but since being shipped West to the Bay Area, Barnes has been putting big man after big man on posters — Nikola Pekovic, Ersan Ilyasova and Aaron Gray to name a few. While Barnes hasn’t shown the range and repertoire of dunks that the other contestants on this have, I’m sure that if he were selected to participate in the contest he would bring his A-game on Saturday night.
4. RUSSELL WESTBROOK, Oklahoma City Thunder
The biggest name on the list and the NBA’s most polarizing star, Westbrook has the “it” factor to bring the common viewer to tune into the contest even though he may not be the best dunker of the four. A player like Westbrook is needed in order for contest like these to be a success. Thanks to his recent outburst on the bench during a TNT game against the Grizzlies, Westbrook’s name and image have been all over the television screen lately. Don’t get it confused though. Westbrook will be in contention to take the title if he took part; he’s too much of a competitor to give anything less than his all to anything he participates in. With the emotional way he plays and his love for showcasing his flair at all times, Westbrook would be the perfect player to wrap-up this quartet of athletes.
Who do you want to see in the dunk contest this year?
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