Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shaq's Dunk Contest: Keep Dreamin'

LeBron James preliminarily put his name in this year's dunk contest at the event last season, but will not participate this season. I can try to delve into every possible reason he wouldn't (risk of injury, lack of spectacular dunks that haven't been done, etc.), but I won't. Instead, Shaquille O'Neal has given another reason for James' absence: lack of big-name competition.

It would be fun to watch James in the dunk contest, but would players like Nate Robinson, Gerald Wallace, Shannon Brown, Eric Gordon and DeMar DeRozan stand a chance? O'Neal recognized this in calling out Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter, saying if they participated his client (James) would as well.

We haven't heard yet from James, Bryant or Carter on Shaq's comments, but the likelihood of this happening is slim-to-none. James may have just turned 25, but Bryant is 31 and Carter will be 33 on January 26. Bryant is in the midst of his 14th (!!) NBA season, while Carter is in his 12th. But it isn't all about age.

Bryant has been dinged up this season, dealing with finger and back injuries that have affected his shooting in recent games. Why would Bryant risk re-injuring either body part, a definite possibility in a high-flying dunk contest, and destroying his team's chances at another NBA title?

Carter hasn't exactly been one to stay healthy throughout his career either, but he has played at least 76 games in each of the past four seasons and has learned how to stay on the court as his career has gone on. Part of this is his transformation from an electric dunker who consistently played above the rim to a player who uses his mid-range game, court savvy and passing ability to create offense for himself and his teammates. So why would he risk going back to his old, exciting and injury-prone ways?

O'Neal thinks donating half the proceeds of the contest to Haiti might be incentive for players to come out for the contest. Not only are you putting on a show for the fans, you're helping an earthquake-ravaged country in a time of need. As much as I love Shaq's idea (and I LOVE IT), it's just not going to happen. A dunk contest featuring James, Bryant, Carter and returning champion Nate Robinson (by default), as entertaining as it would be, is a near impossibility.

So for now we may be stuck with Robinson, Wallace, Brown and the winner of the Gordon/DeRozan "dunk-off," but at least they want to be there. I'd love to be wrong about Bryant and Carter, because if they entered along with LeBron it might "save the dunk contest" like Shaq is hoping for. If only we could rewind the clock back to 2005, when each player was under 30 and this pipe dream could turn to reality. Please prove me wrong, Kobe and Vince. Please?


  1. I've been wanting this for years! I have a few more awesome ideas like a 1 on 1 tournament but we all know that would NEVER happen. All 3 of these guys have too big of egos to do something like that, even if it's just for fun. By the way, Vince wins this dunk contest hands down.. and this is coming from a Lakers/Kobe fan!

  2. I don't know if Vince has the springs in his legs anymore to take it...LeBron is my pick, those legs are still young!