Rating the NBA All-Star 2021 Dunk Contest
Updated: Apr 5, 2021
Hi, after a short break (to bring you this re-vamped website oooohhhh) I'm back to blogging and back to rating all the action from NBA All-Star 2021 in Atlanta. Obviously, given that it has been just over a week (at the time of writing) since the All-Star Festivities went ahead, there will be spoilers in this post. You have been warned. So, I've rated the Skills Challenge a respectable 7/10 and the 3pt Contest earned a hefty 9/10. Now it is the turn of the Dunk Contest to be reviewed and critiqued by yours truly.
The Dunk Contest has become an iconic part of NBA Basketball and it has brought fans some truly classic moments. Michael Jordan's Contest Winning Dunk from the free-throw line back in 1988 springs to mind. Other classic moments include; Vince Carter's elbow dip dunk, Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon's clash in 2016 or Dwight Howard's Superman Dunk. These were all truly special moments that are all worth a Youtube search and are all reasons why the Dunk Contest is such a highly anticipated event.
Normally, like the other All-Star events I've reviewed already, the Dunk Contest takes place on the Saturday Night of All-Star Weekend. However, with all of the All-Star taking place on Sunday 7th March, the Dunk Contest was slotted into Halftime of the All-Star Game itself.
Now the hype for the Dunk Contest usually begins several days before the Event when the NBA announces who shall be taking part. Usually, one can make an educated guess as to who the competitors will be by checking on the relevant Social Media Accounts. For example, SportsCentre, ESPN and Bleacher Report have been awash with star rookie Anthony Edwards catching bodies for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Zion Williamson on the other hand has been making a name for himself and his bruising Dunks have a lot to do with that.
Unfortunately, neither of them were selected to compete (Anthony Edwards reportedly declined an invitation). The three players selected to take part this year were; Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks, the Portland Trailblazer's Anfernee Simons and the Indiana Pacer's Cassius Stanley. To the casual observer, you'd be hard-pressed to recall who these players were from simply reading their names, other than 1st Round Draftee Obi Toppin I had to do my research on the participants. Stanley for example is a two-way player who spends the majority of his time in the NBA's developmental G-League. You'd be forgiven if you weren't as hyped for the contest after reading these names, and that was the reaction around the NBA Fandom. To be honest, that does the three participants a discredit, they all boast freakish athletic ability and there was no reason why they wouldn't be able to put on a show. I believe the hype died a little as none of the contestants had contributed to the amazing dunks we'd seen so far in the league this season.
Would the young trio be able to prove the doubters wrong?
Let us take a brief moment to discuss the format.
In the first round, each competitor will get to wow a five-strong judge panel with two dunks each. Each Judge in this years contest was a previous champion of the event, the most famous of the judges being Hall of Famer and Atlanta Hawkes legend Dominique Wilkins. Judges score a dunk out of ten, meaning the highest a player can get for a Dunk is 50. The two highest-scoring players after two dunks advance to the Final. In the Final, the two contestants will have one Dunk each, the Judges will then vote for their favourite Dunk and the player with the most votes becomes the Champion.
Cassius Stanley started proceedings with a through the legs Dunk, he scored 44 out of 50. Toppin followed him up with a bounce through the legs on the way up to his Dunk. That effort scored him 48. Anfernee Simons placed a ball on a stand above the rim for his first Dunk. He showed off impressive hops as he leapt up to it and brought it crashing down through the hoop. His Dunk showed off the most athletic ability yet he only scored 46.
For the second round; Cassius Stanley tried something flashy, after two attempts he couldn’t make it work so he settled for something standard and only scored a paltry 37. Simons pulled out a classic Tracy McGrady Raptors jersey for his second attempt, setting himself up with a high bounce to complete a 360 Dunk, which scored him 49, 1 shy of the hallowed 50 point dunk. Obi Toppin brought out his Knicks Teammate Julius Randle and Toppin Senior for his second round Dunk. His first attempt failed, but on the second attempt, he nailed a windmill dunk, albeit with the help of a hand on Randle’s shoulder. He scored 46.
That left Cassius Stanley to lick his wounds and watch on as Simons and Toppin advanced to the Final. Toppin elected to leap from the free-throw line for his final Dunk, it took him two attempts. Simons' Dunk took a slow-mo replay to properly digest its ingenuity as he aimed to jump high enough to blow a kiss to the rim. His ability to leap just enough to attempt this clearly impressed the Judges. They voted 3-2 in Simons' favour to make him the 2021 Dunk Contest Champion.
So, what did I think of the whole affair? Whilst it was entertaining, this Dunk Contest won’t go down as a classic. Like I mentioned earlier, it was missing a Star Name, or Young Star to get everyone excited prior to the Contest. However, a Star does not a Dunk make. So, surely some amazing Dunks could still have been put on? Well, you would have noticed that nobody scored a 50 Point Dunk. This may have been down to the fact that none of the contestants did anything that I'd say hadn't already been done before. As well as this, the compressed format into Halftime meant the contest was over before it began. The Final Round only featuring one Dunk per contestant was also an anti-climax. Hopefully next year we will see a return to the norm for the Dunk Contest, but for now, I'll rate this year's Contest a 6/10. Good, but forgettable.