Hi there people, the All Star Game is a little less than two hours away, more than enough time to take a look back at the events which took place on Saturday.
First up the Shooting Stars Competition. I want to tell you the truth, this event is so insignificant, I couldn’t really bring myself to watch it. It’s a nice little way to incorporate another sponsor, but as far as fan appeal is concerned? Drama? Suspense? It makes you long for the return of 2Ball … Anyway, San Antonio won, with two seven-footers (David Robinson and Tim Duncan) alongside the WNBA’s Becky Hammon … somewhere Bob McAdoo is smiling.
Next in line was the Skills Challenge the one event in which at least some of the contestants have most blatantly shown their lack of interest and hustle over the years. This time however at least winner Deron Williams (in record time) and hometown hero Chris Paul tried hard, while Dwyane Wade wanted to go “an unprecedented back-to-back-to-back”. Unfortunately the guard’s run eerily resembled his club’s season so far: First he fumbled the ball out of bounds dribbling, then he couldn’t make a jump shot from the top of the key (twice missing on purpose to save time) and even his passes couldn’t hit the target. Did I mention that Wade is leading the NBA in turnovers?
On to the most European of all the contest: the Threepoint Shootout. With Peja Stojakovic, Dirk Nowitzki (both the only international Shootout winners in history) and Steve Nash this event was the only one with an international flair. And really isn’t the long ball the most European skill of them all? Still the international crop along with Rookie-Sophore-Challenge-MVP Daniel Gibson and Rip Hamilton were no match for defending champion Jason Kapono. His 25 points tied Craig Hodges for the all-time record – no other shooter had ever scored as many points in the final round (Hodges hit his 25 in round one 1986). And how dominant was the guy, who suggested just prior to being drafted that he should have just moved to Serbia for a year and call himself Kaponovich in order to secure a higher draft status? Even his 20 points in the opening round went unmatched on this evening.
Last but certainly not least, the Slam Dunk Contest (SDC). While every other event is pretty much just around in order to build up tension for the dunk contest (and to rake in advertising money), the SDC is king or at least, it should be. Before being revived in Denver 2004 by Atlanta’s Josh Smith, the SDC was thisclose to being (again) pulled from the All Star lineup. Too unimaginative, too low-profile were its contestants in recent years. The dunk, so it seemed, had run its course, since Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis had duked it out in Oakland in 2000. Every aerial acrobatic had been tried. With an increasing availability of games and highlights via the internet, more and more in-game dunks became visible and easily beat out their contest brethren.
Well until this year, anyway …
Dwight Howard, shunned by the judges in 2007, came into the contest with a vengeance. And he wasn’t the only one who seemed to really take this SDC serious. Rudy Gay looked for inspiration from the youtube-users, urging anyone to send in videos for inspiration. Jamario Moon went cloverfield on us, posting videos without revealing his dunks. Last year’s winner Gerald Green was going to garner support via posting clips as well, but his video “somehow got messed up” and never made it to the web. With all the preparation, the SDC 2008 seemed to be the most promising since 2000.
In the end, however, Moon (what the heck happened to the guy who thrilled the gym on Friday?) and Gay didn’t really get the job done and Green, though trying, couldn’t match Howard’s showmanship or imagination. When all was said and done, the Big Man had shown two totally awesome, never before seen jams (the Superman and the Self-Alley via the backboard) and copied one from Andre Iguodala with a serious dose of newly added flavor. (BTW: The one, where he grabbed the ball off a mini basket, which was attached to the backboard, didn’t really impress me …)
One question, however, remains. As inventive as Howard was (and Green with his Cupcake-Dunk for that matter), has the ability to entertain taken away from the athletic aspect of the SDC? What happened to the old mantra “Run fast, jump high, dunk hard”? Let’s hope that Howard’s exploits won’t send the wrong message. Lost among his show was the fact, that he cleverly worked around the league’s refusal to raise the rim, by doing his work so far above the basket, that it didn’t matter, that he is a seven-footer.
In order for the SDC to work in the future, potential contestants should really use Youtube as an inspiration. After all, i.e. the guys from Slamnation aren’t shabby role models to pattern one’s dunks after.
New Orleans beads …
- How about opening the contest to the world? Let’s have a global dunk-off with one guy entering the All Star SDC?
- Overheard at David Stern’s press conference, where he again talked about a European division of the NBA. One US-Reporter talking to another: “Well, playing in Europe they could go by train from Paris to London, it’s not that far. Paris to Rome as well.”
- Why did Gerald Green take off his shoes, sign them and give’em to Darryl Dawkins? Is Chocolate Thunder in financial troubles?
- Memo to Jason Kidd: Before you get fleeced into entering the Skills Challenge again, remember: You have to make a real jump shot during your round …