Washington Wizards guard John Wall won the NBA Dunk Contest last night even though no one really understood what was going on. Here is Wall's most memorable dunk, in which he leapt over the Washington Wizards' very bizarre mascot and threw down a reverse two-handed jam.
Isolated, this was impressive. But if you were watching live, this dunk was part of a fever-blitz of activity that robbed the moment of its tension. I'll explain. In a confusing turn, the NBA joined other major pro sports leagues in tinkering with its all-star game festivities to make the contests more exciting or something.
NBA Exec #1: "The dunk contest is just so bad these days." NBA Exec #2: "I know. But I bet we could make it even worse."— Dan Amira (@DanAmira) February 16, 2014
In recent years, the dunk contest had become less about dunking and more about skits, brand management, and savvy product placement. But the crowd still seemed happy and, as it's been argued, the contest remained relevant and fun to watch.
Last night's dunk contest took part in two rounds and ended not with two players squaring off for supremacy, but rather the sheepish awarding of the trophy. The first round went like this:
The first was a freestyle round, where Team East—John Wall, Terrence Ross, and Paul George—and Team West—Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, and Ben McLemore—each had a minute and a half to do any dunks they wanted. There was no buildup for any of the dunks, and the crowd recognized that with their minimal reactions. Even when one of the six dunkers threw down an impressive dunk, the crowd wasn't that excited, because they knew, in a few more seconds, there'd be another one that could be better. It was dunk inflation; even the best ones looked routine.
In the second round, each East player went head-to-head against a member of the West squad. So when Wall threw down his dunk, we knew he stood a good chance of beating his opponent Sacramento’s Ben McLemore (who dunked over a seated Shaq).
What we didn't know was that it was Wall's last dunk and that he had just won the whole contest. In other words, it was pretty anti-climatic.