It's that time of year again. The NBA's version of "Spring Break," otherwise known as the NBA All-Star Break, is here. But oddly, this season's All-Star game (or as everyone has also been calling it, "a glorified pick-up game") is quite possibly overshadowed by the NBA Rising Stars Slam Dunk Contest, starring a certain you know who. Blake Griffin, the "rookie" from the Los Angeles Clippers, has been dropping, nightly, jaw-dropping highlights that are the perfect blend of Dominique Wilkins and Earl Manigault. In other words, he's half-alien, half-amazing. And us fans are expecting big things from the man who seems to have trampolines for knees. But Griffin isn't the only one among this group of dunk contest participants that is making headlines with their highlights. To round out this season's "rising stars", Washington Wizards C JaVale McGee, Oklahoma City Thunder PF/C Serge Ibaka, and the Toronto Raptors G DeMar DeRozan (a late substitution for Milwaukee Bucks PG Brandon Jennings out with a foot injury). Who's your early on favorite?
Question is, do the other three dunk contestants, aside from Blake Griffin, even matter? Rather than make this a dunk contest, should this just be a dunk showcase starring Blake Griffin? Some say Griffin may be a great in-game dunker, with little dunk contest chops aside from some high-school contest that Ronald McDonald put on, but does he have the creativity to do it solo? Can Griffin ONLY dunk with people in front of him? And can anyone in this group of alleged dunkers give Griffin a run for his money?
This week, Eric Perdiguerra and Brian Chung consider these questions and more and give you our expert predictions of who will win this dunk contest and why.
Contestant Number One: Blake Griffin
B: You were probably expecting to see this NBA season's ultimate dunk highlight of Blake Griffin catapulting over New York Knicks Timothy Mozgov and Danillo Gallinari. But I showed these anti-highlights just to show how exciting his rebounding is. Should this just be a rebounding contest? But seriously, what are your thoughts on Blake Griffin. Should we just crown Griffin the winner now? Think he's got the creativity to come up with something new, like bring out Timothy Mozgov for some assistance?
E: There's something amusing about Timothy Mozgov being mentioned twice in a story about this year's dunk contest, or how early build up will lead to excitement if somehow Timothy makes an appearance, even if it is as a prop. That would be dope though if Blake Griffin brought him out to recreate one of the most thrilling plays of the season. But if that were the case, Adonal Foyle should offer up his services. No one gets dunked on like Adonal does. That definitely adds an interesting twist to a dunk contest more recently known for phone booths and neon shoes.
Although, there's a great handful of in game dunks that would have gotten at least a 50 in the contest itself, dunks like Scottie Pippen on Patrick Ewing, Kevin Johnson on Hakeem, and not to mention John Starks on the Bulls, in game dunkers just haven't really been able to translate their abilities to Allstar Saturday, with Dwight Howard as the exception. Howard's performance in the both dunk contests that he was in really paved the way for Blake Griffin to step up and do something incredible, or as Kenny the Jet would say, do something he hasn't ever seen before.If Griffin can continue to amaze the fans with his display of power and athleticism especially without a human obstacle trying to either take his head off or undercut him, then he should definitely be the favorite to wrap the belt around his waist.
B: Hmm. Your mentioning of human props not as alley-oopers but as people to posterize like in-game dunks sounds like something the NBA should look into when reconfiguring the NBA Dunk Contest. Especially if the amount of jaw dropping plays has been exhausted by over twenty years of dunk contests, perhaps it's time to give players and fans what they want: extensive tea-bagging. Perhaps they could do what they did a few years ago with that wheel-of-fortune of best dunk contest dunks, but this time, with in-game dunks like the one's you mentioned. But I agree, Griffin gives the fans what they want.
E: Or the wheel will land on whoever is lucky enough to be the recipient of said tea-bagging. I mean every sportscaster has gotta love Blake. He makes their jobs easy. He has two to three highlights on any given night regardless of the opponent. You could practice catch phrases and nicknames throughout the nightly highlight reel and see what works. Word is Blake Griffin is even opening up for suggestions. At the very least I think a good portion of the nation that has been catching the Blake Show on a nightly basis is going to tune in to see exactly what he can do.
B: So what about the others? Which JaVale McGee will show up? The one who looks like he's Ralph Sampson re-incarnated? Or will we see this instead at the NBA Dunk Contest:
E: Haha I have no idea what JaVale is going to bring to the table. He is probably ecstatic that he even has the opportunity, but of everything on YouTube I haven't seen anything that would garner a 45. Not saying he's a bad basketball player, or at least someone that would have the lowest ranking in a video game, I'm just saying that none of the dunks I've seen him do are at all spectacular. Even the pretty interesting dunks he's done aren't done with much flair or intrigue. Even this short segment in which he is the subject of has little pizzazz. Yo, B? You still there?
Javale McGee Dunk Practice (via TheNBAhoops)
B: Zzz. Those dunks are boring! The dunk of him grabbing a dollar bill stuck within the basketball net with HIS TEETH made as much sense as these spandex unitards for women's hoops. Whereas we enjoy watching Blake Griffin's botched dunks or alley-oops for his displays of athleticism, JaVale McGee's missed dunks are awesome in their epic failures. With that said, I agree he doesn't deserve a 45. But if we were to judge him based off hilarity, then could we give him a 45? I mean, if the dunk contest is about entertainment value, then maybe we should grade dunkers based off different criteria.
B: What do you think about Serge Ibaka's chances? Think Ibaka can live up to the hype of his nickname "Air Congo?" Or is he like the African version of budget Spirit Airways?
Sprite Slam Dunk: Serge Ibaka Part 1 (via NBA)
E: Hahaha. Well, if his use of props is somehow related to the assistants Kevin Durant was using I think he has a solid chance. I have to admit, that's something I've never seen before. Granted last year, Nate Robinson brought out the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders to sort of stand there while he mails in his game winning dunk.
But if you can somehow distract the judges to putting up their 10s without realizing what they're voting on, Air Congo could be the sleeper. If it was up to me, he's already in the Finals.
B: Wow. Do you think those are Kevin Durant's personal assistants? If so, no wonder he's committed to OKC than the bright lights elsewhere! But jokes aside, Serge's highlights don't overwhelmingly ‘wow' me, yet. As big (size-wise) of a guy as he is, his interviews show a very shy, humble immigrant kid who seems a bit star struck about the shoes he might have to fill given the legends of dunk contests past. Maybe he'll have the cheerleaders dancing in the background AS he dunks?
E: I think he should just come out Eddie Murphy style, in Coming to America, complete with a lion head on his shoulder, James Earl Jones on the sideline, rose bearers sprinkling rose petals on the court and Arsenio Hall throwing him the alley-oop pass. That'll win the contest in my book.
B: That sounds bigger and badder than Dr. J and Michael Jordan's famous free-throw line dunk! Lastly, we have DeMar DeRozan, a substitute for Brandon Jennings. From Youtube searches, its clear that DeRozan can dunk over people (further adding to our discussion about how the dunk contest should become a contest of ultimate facials/tea-bagging/postering of someone else). Based on how he fared at the last dunk contest, is he going to be in the final showdown with Blake Griffin?
E: In comparison to the other contestants who are all big men, DeMar DeRozan is more of your prototypical dunker. If he has any advantage over the others, it will be that he'll appear to get more air just for the simple fact that he's shorter. Also being he was in last year's (lackluster) contest, this time around he'll know to bring some more creativity and excitement to the table. As much as I'm sure the pressure is on to complete the dunks, boring performance seem to be even worse and more forgettable. Sometimes, a lot of the excitement comes from just having the cajones to try something. Nate Robinson probably won his first contestant based purely on perseverance. That said, I really have no idea what DeRozan is going to do. But like Ibaka and JaVale McGee, I think DeRozan basically has nothing to lose. Blake Griffin is basically to be the hands down favorite to obliterate this contest, so the door is open for the rest of them to attempt the unbelievable. Although, for Griffin to lose, he would have to have a pretty terrible perfromance, meaning missed dunks are lack of creativity, in which case... everybody loses.
Who are your frontrunners for this year's All-Star Dunk Contest? And would you rather see a dunk contest that was about posterizing some of the NBA's best player's to dunk on: Adonal Foyle, Timothy Mozgov, Yao Ming, Shawn Bradley, Frederic Weis, and Steve Nash?