The NBA Slam Dunk Competition was once the greatest show on the hardwood. The best players in the game would gather once a year to show off how amazingly athletic they actually were. But in recent years, the truly great players have shied away from competing.
Not this year. This year, for the first time in a while, we have a true superstar in his prime. Paul George, the dominant swingman from the Indiana Pacers, will headline the list of 2014 NBA Slam Dunk participants.
George is one of the best players in the league. An all-around athletic player, he does just as much on the defensive end of the court as he does on the offensive end. Typically that’s not the kind of guy who does well in the dunk competition, but George is a high-flying marvel as well as a lock down defender. In fact, he also took part in the 2012 dunk-off when he was just a rising young star.
That’s typical. We see plenty of young, hopefully future superstars show off what they have in the dunk contest. Those guys have a lot to gain, especially in endorsements. See: Blake Griffin. But, the older, more established stars like George don’t want to take part in a glorified, well, a glorified glorification of real basketball.
George most likely sees it as a way to increase his own brand. Despite being one of the better players in the game, he hasn’t taken off nearly as much when it comes to the lucrative endorsements that players of his quality usually cash in on.
Playing in a small market like Indiana certainly hasn’t helped him score those commercials and shoe deals. But headlining, and winning, the dunk contest would make him a household name among the all-too important casual fan.