Chase Budinger Joins Weak Cast In 2012 Dunk Contest

By Chris Shelton

For the first time since Steve Francis was a great player, the Houston Rockets have a participant in The Slam Dunk Contest.

Third year rocket, Chase Buddinger will represent the Rockets in a star-starved affair. Perhaps Budinger’s biggest competition is Timberwolves rookie forward, and fellow Arizona alumnus, Derrick Williams.

Williams has amazing athleticism and size. He has a great package of skills that could allow him to take the crown.

Pacers guard/forward Paul George is also a participant. He has consistently been a fixture on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. He has also been a solid contributor in the Pacers success on the court this year.

Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert is the final participant.

The NBA has taken a new direction in the Dunk Contest. There are no big names and or players who were close to an all-star bid themselves. Budinger, 23, is the oldest participant this year.

The All-Star Dunk Contest has come a long way from its heyday in the Jordan era, when the game’s biggest stars duked it out for supremacy and bragging rights.

In fact its come a long way from the post-Jordan era. Vince Carter and Steve Francis used to take pride in winning the contest. It was an honor. They jumped at the opportunity to showcase their athletic prowess, no pun intended.

But a new line of superstars now patrol the NBA. They are pretty far removed from the Jordan era. Jordan’s legendary battles with Dominique Wilkins are way in the rear view mirror.

They don’t take as much pride in winning as the previous generation of superstars did.

I think this signals that we are finally post the Jordan copy cat era. I guess we should have figured it was here when LeBron changed his number from 23.

This is a good thing for the NBA but a terrible development for the Dunk Contest.

With stars on every coast and scattered in between who are attempting to be themselves and carve their own niche, the NBA is set to increase in popularity for a long time.

From the Rocket’s perspective, it is compelling to see a member of this year’s team be a part of all-star weekend. Next year’s game will be held in Houston and a win by Buddinger could go a long way in increasing the hype surrounding the game.

Buddinger becomes the fourth Rocket to participate in the Dunk Contest, joining Ralph Sampson (1984), Kenny Smith (1991, ’93) and Steve Francis (2000, ’02).

But from a fan’s perspective, interest in the game is seemingly dwindling by the year. Sure, the addition of Blake Griffin last year was a temporary boost but with no players to get excited about this season I expect the ratings for this year’s event to plummet.

Honestly, who is Iman Shumpert?

Without a vested interest in the Huston Rockets, I would rather watch Law and Order reruns.

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