The Slam Dunk Contest used to be the highlight of NBA All-Star Weekend.
And 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson becoming the only three-time Dunk Contest champion.
Since the Robinson and Howard days, the Dunk Contest has gone downhill.
Throwback to the greatest NBA Slam Dunk Contest ever between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine in 2016 🔥🏆pic.twitter.com/B8cIiXussi
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 20, 2022
All culminating this past weekend with maybe the worst edition ever.
There are a few problems with the Dunk Contest now.
Guys can take too much time per dunk and sometimes don’t even complete the dunk they start.
There is also seemingly too much emphasis on the lead-up or the props associated with the dunk.
Instead of just focusing on throwing down some athletic dunks, players try to make it a full production.
The contest also just lacks star talent.
Here are some ideas on how to improve the event to bring back the excitement.
Dunk Contest Time Limit
The current rules for the Dunk Contest are as follows.
All four contestants get two dunks in the first round with the two highest combined scores moving to the final.
Each finalist gets two dunks in the final round with the highest combined score then winning.
In both rounds, each player has three attempts to complete each dunk.
An attempt is defined by the NBA as a player controlling the basketball and moving toward the rim.
The issue with this is how the attempt label is enforced.
Most guys rarely control the basketball, move it toward the rim, and then miss the dunk.
Because of this, some guys will seemingly take 10+ attempts at a dunk.
The amount of time that goes by kills most of the excitement built up.
Kareem was disgusted with the dunk contest 💀💀💀 pic.twitter.com/zkRCmWNEji
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) February 20, 2022
Fans don’t come to watch a guy almost do a crazy dunk 11 times before finally completing it.
This could be solved by implementing a time limit on each dunk instead.
Rather than trying to determine what is and is not an attempt, just say a player has 60 seconds to complete a dunk.
A time limit could also limit the amount of pre-dunk production is done, making the contestants focus more on throwing down a sky-grazing dunk – what the fans really want to see.
Implementing a time limit would greatly improve the flow of the contest and prevent any dead stretches where no action occurs.
Better The Prize
While the time between dunks and non-dunk material could bore a few fans, the main problem with the Dunk Contest is the lack of star power.
Names that big-time NBA fans will recognize but the casual fan may have no interest in.
Part of this is because players care more about protecting themselves from injury.
Why risk getting injured in a meaningless contest that could impact your next contract?
The injury aspect will not go away, but it can be mitigated with a better prize for winning the dunk contest.
Last year’s winner only won $40,000, down from $100,000 in 2020 and $105,000 in 2019.
A large chunk of change to the everyday fan but minuscule to the average NBA salary of $8.3 million (median salary is $4 million).
And that number balloons when you start talking about the stars.
Stars can make upwards of $45 million with a bottom-tier star still bringing in around $30 million per year.
Why would they risk an injury for $40,000?
If the NBA wants to bring more eyeballs and excitement back to the Slam Dunk Contest, they will need to better the reward.
A better prize should incentivize the stars to get involved.