Tonight’s Sprite Slam Dunk has several new features intended to pump some much-needed life back into the competition. Even though no high-profile sports network pundits have recently decided to create their own news story, the NBA’s dunk competition will feature plenty of star power.
For the first time in over a quarter century there will be three All-Stars participating in the event: Washington’s John Wall, Portland’s Damian Lillard, and Indiana’s freshly minted “elite” star, Paul George. Not since Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and Clyde Drexler battled in 1988 has there been this much talent on display. Considering the defending Slam Dunk Champion, Terrence Ross, is participating along with young up-and-coming high flyers Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore, the night’s main attraction has the cast to demand interest. But does the format provide for enough excitement to keep viewers tuned into the action?
The six participants will be divided into two teams based on conference affiliation. Wall, Ross, and George will be competing on behalf of the Eastern Conference while Lillard, Barnes, and McLemore carry the Western Conference banner. The rounds themselves are not individual, but team competitions. At no point will the players break off into individual competition. The two rounds are designed to determine a winning conference.
Round One has been deemed the “Freestyle Round.” Both teams have 90 seconds to rotate in as many amazing dunks as they can. This will hopefully eliminate the worst aspect of past dunk competitions: too much time between successful jams (baseball, looking at you to increase the tempo of the home run derby). When the 90 seconds expire, a panel of judges will vote on the winning conference.
Round Two is the “Battle Round.” The winning conference from the first round will have the choice of dunking first or second as the two conferences go head-to-head in a dunk off. One participant from each team will have a chance to out dunk the other. The judges will determine the winner. The losing dunker will be eliminated from the competition. The winning dunker will rejoin his team and the next two dunkers will face off. The two teams will continue dunking until one conference has all three of its members eliminated. Once this has happened, the winning team will be rewarded with the title of Slam Dunk Champion.
Of course America doesn’t care who takes home that trophy. The people want their NBA kingdom ruled by a single Duke of Dunk, Statesman of Slam, King of Kaboom. The responsibility of crowning the “Dunker of the Night” falls upon the shoulders of the fans. All are encouraged to vote for their favorite single participant through SMS, Twitter, NBA.com or the NBA GameTime App.
Expectations should not be for every new aspect to work perfectly, but the NBA is trying to keep everyone’s childhood favorite event of this weekend from becoming exclusively a “remember back when…” moment of nostalgia to a “Did you just see that!?” moment. By securing top talent to take part in a fast paced competition, the NBA has attacked the biggest problem from years past and put the fans in position to watch potentially the best dunk contest in recent memory.