The logical evolution of most things brings about positive change. This is especially true in the world of sports and entertainment. Think about anything in either of those realms which you consume, and ask yourself, "Is this experience better now than it was 25 years ago?" For almost everything, because of advancements in technology and the caliber of players, the answer is "Yes."
I can only think of two exceptions. One is the bowl system in college football. All of the important bowls played on the same holiday (New Year's Day) with three televisions and a worn-out remote control is one thousand percent better than the way they spread out all the games in 2012. This is inarguable.
The other exception is the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star weekend.
What started as a legitimate battle for pride amongst some of the league's biggest names in 1984 has devolved into a four-man circle jerk of anonymous bit players trying to see who can select the most random stationary noun over which to complete a dunk. Heading into 2012's contest on Saturday, the random-hurdle bar had been set at a 2012 KIA, thanks to last season's winner (and one of a scant few actual relevant players to take part in the contest in the last 15 years), Blake Griffin.
Rather than figure out new ways to use their body control, flexibility and otherworldly leaping ability, players instead resort to doing the same tired dunks but in a retro jersey. (Or, in the case of Indiana's Paul George, a glow-in-the-dark jersey that made him look like a human version of those necklaces they sell at concerts for like ten bucks. You know, the ones that stay lit for like a half hour.)
This season, Chase Budinger of the Rockets added the next frivolous, nonathletic wrinkle to a dunk by engaging rapper Sean "P-Diddy" Combs in a contrived conversation about the inability of white men to elevate. These two thespians conducted their little mini play on the floor before Budinger's first dunk:
I'll admit the dunk looked pretty cool (mostly because watching a white guy elevate like that is like watching a cow literally jump over the moon) and bonus points to Bud for nailing it on his first try, but my favorite part of the whole thing was the scripted "first meeting" between Diddy and Bud. The acting was delightfully terrible, to the point that you could plunk the exchange into the middle of any porno movie and it would blend in seamlessly.
In case you missed it, here was Chase's second dunk, a pretty basic windmill slam on the first try:
And his third and final slam, a tribute to Cedric Ceballos' 1992 "blindfolded" dunk:
That baby hit all the lameness "hot buttons" for a 2012 dunk -- Retro jersey? Check. Unoriginal idea? Check. Multiple tries before executing it? Check.
In case you're wondering, the dunk contest was won by something called a Jeremy Evans, a bit player for the Utah Jazz and last-minute replacement in the contest for the equally nondescript Iman Shumpert. Evans's nickname is "The Human Pogo Stick," and on his winning dunk he threw down two balls while wearing a throwback Karl Malone jersey.
The next night, LeBron James had a dunk in the first two minutes of the All-Star Game that was roughly five times better than anything we saw on Saturday night, which highlights the only true fix for the Slam Dunk Contest if they care to salvage it -- beg the stars in the league to take part. The battles in the late `80's between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins were great not only because of the actual dunks, but because we gave a shit about both guys. Battle lines were drawn, sides chosen.
With all apologies to the Evans family, nobody gives a rat's ass about Jeremy Evans (or Paul George, Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams, for that matter). If you're going to sell the dunk contest as a big deal next year in Houston, make it LeBron, Dwight Howard, Griffin and a couple other All-Star caliber players (Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala, for example). You could scalp tickets for twice the face value to that one. Easily.
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In the meantime, if you're going to trot out Jeremy Evans and tell me I should care, then give me a reason to care. You can start by stringing razor wire around the top of the next random object these clowns opt to leap over when they dunk. The possibility of mortal wounds while dunking -- now THAT would get me interested.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.