In the modern NBA dunk contest we rarely get to see who we truly want. We saw legendary performances in the past, from showdowns between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in the 1980s to Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard in the late 2000s. For a while now though, the NBA dunk contest has been lacking something: star power.
The dunk contest for the most part has been taken on by young guys with no real star power to draw the fans in. For the most memorable dunk in recent memory you have to go back to Dwight Howard’s Superman in 2008. Established stars do not compete for the title anymore – be it for fear of injury or concern over not being able to fulfill high expectations of fans.
It once meant something to win the dunk contest – there was a source of pride involved in competing, and especially winning, the trophy. The dunk contest should be one of the highlights of the NBA season, but more often than not we are left with a less-than-stellar product. Whether the NBA needs to change the format or increase the prize money (Warren Buffett doesn’t seem to have a problem offering up his money for basketball-related reasons) something needs to be done to get the stars back in the dunk contest.
Assuming everyone was willing and able, here is a list of the top 15 guys we want to see in the dunk contest this coming February.
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15. Aaron Gordon/Andrew Wiggins
Can we make an exception just this year? Both these guys are high-fliers who we will almost certainly see in this contest in the near future – but why should we have to wait? Either one could put on a show and even win the contest this year.
Gordon is not the most polished of prospects, but he can sure dunk it. Arizona runs multiple alley-oop plays for him each game and he finishes with authority. He is quite agile, but powerful as well. I don’t want to do the disservice of comparing him to Blake Griffin, but you can’t help but make the connection when seeing Gordon dunk. Has he ever tried to jump over a Kia?
Wiggins came into Kansas with the most hype of anyone in this potential draft class, and it was almost impossible for him to live up to it. His mixtape coming out of high school showed an athletic freak with an almost Gerald Green-like leaping ability. He hasn’t had many highlights to that level so far this year, and has almost been overshadowed by teammate Joel Embiid. Nonetheless, the talent is still there for Wiggins, someone who ESPN’s Chad Ford has compared to a poor man’s Tracy McGrady. Not a bad comp.
Unfortunately, we won’t see these guys this February in New Orleans, but without question they will be taking the contest by storm in a few years.
14. Vince Carter
Vince has seen a career revival of sorts down in Dallas, where he is playing hard on both ends and putting up solid numbers. Clearly, Vince is not giving us highlights like he was at one time in his career – but that doesn’t mean he is a slouch, either. We are talking about the guy who dominated the contest in 2000, putting on one of the best performances the dunk contest has ever seen. In case anyone forgot:
VC has had several highlight-worthy dunks this season, showing he still has plenty of hops left in those legs. Even for nostalgia alone, Vince would be someone we’d want to see in the contest. He’d want to show he can still throwdown with the best of them and would most definitely give the fans what they want. Check out these dunks from pregame just a few weeks back. Vince still has it!
13. Miles Plumlee
Plumlee has been a revelation this season. He was acquired in the Luis Scola deal with Indiana this offseason and was seen as just a throw-in after a disappointing rookie campaign. But like many young players on the surprising Suns, Plumlee has had a breakout season. He has had countless highlight plays this year, with plenty of blocks and big slams. The dude can get up, and he can throw down. Plus, it couldn’t hurt to have a white guy who can jump in the contest. Check out these two hammers on Philadelphia as proof that Plumlee more than belongs in the contest.