There are historic days in everyone’s lives that they will never forget where they were as history was being made in our country or across the world. One of those memorably historic days for me is the day that Vince Carter murdered the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Yes, I said murdered. During All-Star weekend 14 years ago, Carter put on the most spectacular and unique display of aerial artistry that everything since makes me feel like I am watching Bill Walton do layups in those short little shorts he wore at UCLA.
Not only is Carter the best dunker of my generation, but he is the best NBA contest-dunker of all time. Watching Julius Irving, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Shawn Kemp take people’s souls with in-game monster slams is different — even though Vince would rank pretty high on that list as well. When it comes to doing something original and making people stand up and pay attention to something that had become ignored, that’s no small feat. Carter saved and then ruined the dunk contest all in one day.
Jordan won the dunk contest two times with dunking from the free-throw line which is something we already watched Dr. J do. Wilkins won by throwing down vicious windmill dunks. Carter flew through the air as if he was a moving canvas and let his body paint the beautiful pictures that will never leave our minds. His very first dunk was a reverse-spin-360-windmill; everyone who saw that live leapt out of their seats, put their hand over their mouth and reenacted the scene in ‘Friday.’
That first dunk let everyone know exactly who was winning the slam dunk contest that night. First off, no one had ever done a 360-windmill and no one had ever done a reverse-spin 360, let alone combine the two. Carter also slammed one dunk home while hanging on the rim with his elbow, and he did a between-the-legs dunk off of the bounce. He managed to do new dunks, something that hadn’t been done in the previous five dunk contests.
Since Carter won we have watched Dwight Howard raise the goal and go through wardrobe changes, Blake Griffin jump over a Kia and Nate Robinson try a dunk roughly 235 times even though the dunk wasn’t hard at all. He was making the lead up to the dunk really hard, but that has no value anyway. The NBA and their dunkers have commercialized the dunk contest, tried to do impossible dunks or brought in props that only highlight how athletic NBA players are but fail to show us anything new.
This year’s crop of dunkers (Paul George, Terrence Ross, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore) have a tough road ahead trying to resuscitate the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. My advice to these guys is simple: Make dunks. I know that sounds stupid, but please just make dunks. Practice 6-8 dunks you know you can make, and do them better than anyone has ever done them before. Please, no more missing and missing and missing until you have to run up and do a 180 on tired legs.
I know I will never get one of those “where were you when…” with the dunk contest again, and maybe that has ruined me for all dunk contests. But I am an optimist, and I want to hope that day can happen again. I want my son to see a dunk contest and absolutely lose his mind. I wish all the dunkers in this year’s contest all the luck in the world and hope that they can save the contest that Vince Carter killed 14 years ago.