As All Star Games go, in terms of meaning, effort, enthusiasm, pomp and circumstance, the NBA All Star weekend is in the meaty part of the curve.
Football's Pro Bowl becomes a bigger and bigger joke every year (highlighted by fanboy journalist Jay Glazer of Fox actually calling a play in this season's game), baseball actually has something of substance tied to the outcome (plus the players seem to mildly give two shits) and the NBA is in between.
The NBA's All Star festivities are about the entirety of the weekend -- the celebrity game, the game itself, Antonio Cromartie impregnating women while carding them at Dwight Howard's "Larger Than Life" All Star party, and the dunk contest.
Ah yes, the dunk contest...
To get you ready for Blake Griffin's march to slam dunk glory this Saturday, a little trip down memory lane. Ten meaningfully historical, awesome performances in the dunk contest (meaningful to me, at least):
10. Dwight Howard, Superman 2008
This was more of a full-body spike than it was a dunk. His hands don't even touch the rim! But this one is in here for me because in the one and only dunk contest that I wagered on, Dwight Howard won me $140 on a $100 bet. That always plays in my house.
9. Vince Carter brings the contest back in style, 2000
Slam Dunk Contest lineage has a two-year gap where the contest was briefly defunct, in 1998 (people were tired of it) and 1999 (lockout). Absence made the heart grow fonder as Vince Carter put on a show for the ages. For some reason, it's always cooler when a superstar (which Vinsanity was in 2000) wins the thing.
8. Orlando Woolridge, first through the legs dunk, 1984
I'm a complete homer for Orlando Wooldridge, friend and fellow Domer. Any dunk in which a player puts the ball throw his legs in the air can trace its lineage to the Big O in 1984.
7. Brent Barry, the reverse black quarterback, 1996
In 1996, Brent Barry gave hope to every suburban white kid who pretended he was a really, really uncoordinated version of Dominique Wilkins on an 8-foot rim. Groundbreaking stuff. Like Eminem.
6. Tracy McGrady!!
Okay, just making sure you're on your toes. Let's continue...
6. Kenny Smith, this dunk always fascinated me
Before he was a cackling fool during the contest as a commentator, before he was a three-point specialist on the Rocket championship teams, the Jet was actually a high riser. I always loved this reverse-through-the-legs-off-the-backboard joint (1) because clearly it takes some English on that ball to make it do what he needs it to and (2) back then you were actually penalized for missing dunks and didn't have two or three (or SEVENTEEN, Nate Robinson 2006) shots at it. Good stuff. 5. Dominique Wilkins with authority in 1985
This was a true best-of-the-best contest in 1985. People don't realize back when this thing was started in the NBA, superstars LOVED to compete in the dunk contest. Jordan versus Wilkins in dunk contest was legendary stuff. But look at the other names -- Erving, Drexler, Woolridge, Griffith, Nance. Hell, Ralph Sampson competed in the 1984 contest! There aren't many guys from back then who would still stand out today, but in terms of force and explosiveness, Nique would.
4. Spud Webb strikes a blow for midgets everywhere, 1986
Best part of this video, other than a five-foot-nothing midge getting busy: the "Oh shit" look on all the faces of the competitors as Webb throws down dunk after ridiculous dunk.
3. Terrance Stansbury, One Hit Wonder, 1985
In the "one of these things is not like the other" category, Stansbury was one of the few dunk contest guys in the `80's whose ONLY claim to fame was the contest itself. With his famous "statue of liberty" dunk, we as teenagers all thought Stansbury would be the next big thing. Of course, in 1985 we also thought Tears for Fears were the next Beatles because of "Shout," so what the hell did we know?
2. Dr. J, The Patriarch, 1984
Little known fact about me -- I was a HUGE mark for the early '80s Sixers, and other than a young, volatile Charles Barkley, the Doc was my favorite. Kind of like the MLB home-run derby in 2008 where Josh Hamilton put on a herculean, historical performance but didn't actually win because the rules are stupid (Trivia: Justin Morneau was your winner.), everyone who saw this contest remembers Doc taking off from the foul line like it was yesterday. But he didn't win this dunk contest (Larry Nance in the Justin Morneau role), and I was legitimately crushed. Priorities at age 15.
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1. Michael Jordan, Torch Passed All The Way, 1988
Simply the best.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.