- Phil Berquist
I had an idea to post this right after NBA All-Star weekend. So, TBT to All-Star Weekend and a shout out TBT to the "good old days."
I haven't watched an entire dunk contest in years. I remember watching Blake Griffin jump "over" a KIA... that's about it for the last several years. For some reason, I watched this year's competition. Apparently it's now officially called "Sprite Slam Dunk." Which just sounds awkward. Would it hurt them to add "contest" to the title? I mean, there is more than one dunk involved...
Regardless, what stood out to me about the dunk contest and the all-star production, in general, was the gaudy amount of flash/production and the glaring lack of substance. This dissonance was really apparent when finalist Ben McLemore came out dressed in a robe, preceded by a herald, and had Shaq sit in a throne for him to jump over... then he missed the dunk. "All show, no go," comes to mind. He made the second attempt and then knelt to be crowned by Shaq. But the wind had already left the sails. SO much build-up.
John Wall just came out and dunked. He executed, on the first try, a physically impressive dunk. Then went into a swaggerlicious victory dance. Something to be said for letting the work speak before going into hype mode. Wall not only executed this platform, he verbalized it in this article, questioning the role of hype in recent contests.
Of course, back in MY day, I don't remember any victory dances. Just raw dunkage and maybe a mean game face afterward. Those were the days. Less pyro, less fly-girls, less hype men. You tuned in for the athletic competition. So what happened? Either the crowds/audience/consumers have grown hype-thirsty, demanding high-fructose entertainment along the lines of the WWE or the NBA realizes there is nothing new under the sun and all the dunks have been dunked, so to speak. (Dunkers realize this, too, as made evident by the influx of props and hype over the last several years.)
It's also evident in the NBA's formatting remodel that they're trying to keep up or stay relevant somehow, knowing their product is lacking. It's also glaringly evident that there is a lack of superstar showdowns. Where is Lebron? Where was Griffin? This year's contestants were no slouches, but at the NBA's peak the brightest stars threw down (Jordan vs. Wilkins, anyone?) One of my favorite dunk exhibitions of all time was Vince Carter. Props for no props, if you know what I mean.
I think the superstars are afraid of losing. They claim they are too busy, need/want to rest or possibly avoid injury. More likely, they just can't afford to hurt their brand, so younger, hungrier dudes are trying to make a name for themselves or gain some ground on the elites.
Overall, I feel like All-Star weekend is broken. It was a bunch of smoke and mirrors perfectly cued and timed, accompanied by the reality of missed shots and dunks. The fanfare presented superheroes, but real people came out to compete. It kind of creates a disconnect.
All that to say, maybe I think it's "too loud" because I'm just too old. Maybe the NBA's targeted demo loves the hype machine. Maybe they love being told what is awesome by emcee Nick Cannon, rather than just waiting and reacting to the events as they unfold.
I'm sure the "good old days" I keep referring to are abhorrent to previous generations. The idea of a dunk contest, in general, is pretty self-aggrandizing I realize... as are blogging and tweeting, heh. But yesterday's dinner table soapbox rant is today's blog post. Welcome to the table.