All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles was filled with all sorts of unforgettable moments. Mostly, it was the desperately-needed return of competitive play in the game itself that had NBA basketball fans feeling refreshed, but as always, the ancillary events were not without their own instances of charm.
The Dunk Contest is always among the most highly-anticipated moments of the weekend, and even when it’s underwhelming or outright disappointing, the level of showmanship and/or novelty involved is worth the price of admission alone.
For first-time All-Star Victor Oladipo, it was the full spectrum of experience, and being something of a showman himself, he wasn’t afraid to pull out the gimmicks when it came time for him to return to the Dunk Contest, an event he lost three years ago to Zach LaVine.
Alas, Oladipo would not find redemption in this year’s contest, but he was responsible for a very cool and prescient homage to the world’s No. 1 movie at the time, the Marvel superhero flick Black Panther. Oladipo recently explained how that moment with the iconic mask and lead actor Chadwick Boseman ultimately came to pass.
So how did you go about making that dunk happen where you got the Black Panther mask from Boseman before your dunk and put it on?
I wasn’t the one who kind of came up with it. People in my camp kind of came up with it. They understand comics, so they kind of came up with it. We had mutual friends, me and Chad. We got a hold of him and he was gonna be in the arena, luckily. It kind of just worked out on itself, and I felt like it was the right time to bring that out just because Black Panther is such a monumental statement.
It’s part of a movement in our generation that will go down in history as obviously one of the first black superheroes, and I just felt as though it needed to be brought into the NBA and I thought it would be a great idea to add him into it. He was with it and they got the approval from Disney, and it just turned out the way it turned out. I’m just glad I made the dunk.
The dunk itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy, but as Oladipo said later in the interview, the fact that he couldn’t really see or breathe through the mask renders it that much more impressive.
Oladipo also alluded to the more overarching cultural significance of the film. Black Panther is the first superhero movie in which the majority of the main characters and actors are black, and upon its initial release, athletes around the NBA and other pro sports organized free screenings for kids across the country in an effort to expose youngsters to more positive black role models.
Oladipo did his part, too, and despite rookie Donovan Mitchell ultimately taking home the Dunk Contest trophy, the Pacers guard gave the world one of the weekend’s coolest moments.