Taking a look back at the history of the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest that takes center stage during NBA All-Star weekend
AAAAHHHHHHHHHH. While most of us yell intensively after a “SLAM DUNK” in today’s game, that wasn’t the case in 1940.
It certainly wasn’t the case for Olympian and 7-foot center Bob Kurland. He was one of the first “slam dunk kings” during that era. But there was a problem that emerged 20 years later.
Dunking wasn’t allowed.
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It was banned in the NCAA from 1967 to 1976. Why? Because of the intimidating dunks by former NBA legend and college phenom Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. There was also perceived racial bias implemented into the “slam dunk” rhetoric. Most of the high-flying and acrobatic dunkers in college basketball were African-American. Subsequent opposition continued, and as a result, it became a prominent way to galvanize crowds.
It also invigorated sports colloquialism.
Basketball has it’s own dictionary. It differentiates from standard American English. If you’re a fan, player, or coach, many of you have heard people shout, “HE GOT POSTERIZED!” HE GOT BOOMED ON!” HE GOT EMBARRASSED Y’ALL!”
It’s the typical phrases you hear in the midst of a game whenever a player rises up for a SLAM.
Dunking became more widely accepted between 1950 and 1960. That’s when NBA legends Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain started showcasing more fancier dunks. Shortly after, Darryl Dawkins, Julius Erving, George Gervin, and David Thompson eventually took the “slam dunk” to a different level in the 1970s.
Irving and Thompson squared off in the 1976 ABA Slam Dunk Contest; the first-ever slam dunk competition in professional basketball. It was held during halftime of the 1976 ABA All-Star Game. Known for his astounding skywalker-like dunks in the 1970s; Irving was the winner of the competition when he was a member of the New York Nets. It was the initial start of a competition that would change the NBA All-Star Game format years later.
That change came in 1984 when the NBA reintroduced the contest in Denver at McNichols Sports Arena. It’s the same arena where the original contest was held in 1976. But there was one person who stole the crown as “DUNK KING” from Irving. Larry Nance.
Nance, a 6-foot-10 power forward for the Suns, defeated Irving in the final round. A year later, the human highlight reel himself, Dominique Wilkins, was crowned slam dunk champion. But in 1986, the definition of “vertical” or affectionately known in basketball vernacular as “HOPS” would change the meaning of the “slam dunk.”
Wilkins’ teammate and Hawks guard Spud Webb changed how the word “vertical” would be construed in normal conversation. Webb, who stood 5-foot-7, was the shortest player to ever win the competition. That’s impressive. There hasn’t been a player besides 5-foot-9 guard Nate Robinson that’s won the popular competition with a diminutive height.
In 1987, the man known for his “AIRNESS,” Michael Jordan, won two consecutive slam dunk competitions in 1987 and 1988. The battle between Wilkins and Jordan in 1988 was epic. Jordan beat Wilkins with a perfect score of 50 after flying from the free-throw line on his third dunk attempt. The ‘slam dunk’ became much more popular a decade later.
2000. Remember “VINSANITY” and his two electrifying 360 windmill dunks during All-Star weekend in Oakland? Unbelievable. Critics say it’s considered one of the most intense dunk contests in NBA history. It’s hard to disagree with that. Go back and thoroughly scroll down the list of slam dunk contestants during that year. You had guys like Tracy McGrady (a cousin and then-teammate of Vince Carter with the Toronto Raptors), and Steve Francis (Houston Rockets). McGrady and Francis are familiar names we haven’t heard from in a long time.
What about creativity?
That’s another vital component to the slam dunk competition. Contestants are given the opportunity to showcase their artistic skills with each dunk. We’ve seen tons of creative dunks. TONS.
Jumping over props, between-the-leg, 360 windmills, tomahawk, two-hand windmills, and double clutches. It’s exasperating to see the same dunks every year. That’s where creativity becomes a prevalent factor.
We’re three days away from NBA All-Star Weekend 2020, and after witnessing past competitions, I’m ready to see newer dunks in terms of creativity. I’m sure it’s the same scenario for most NBA fans across the nation.
Who will be crowned the 2020 Slam Dunk Champion?
Hopefully, Zion Williamson will ink his name among the list of participants for 2021.
It’s an event sponsored exclusively by Sprite.
So, that means what? Obey your thirst?
No. OBEY THE DUNKS in Chicago this Saturday at NBA All-Star Weekend.
OBEY THE SLAM! SLAM CITY!