CHICAGO – Three-time Sprite Slam Dunk Contest winner Nate Robinson has been an underdog, in the macro sense of fashioning an NBA career at all and in the micro sense — especially the micro sense — of winning, at 5-foot-9, a competition determined above the rim. Not once (2006), not twice (2009) but three times (2010).
But Robinson can’t bring himself to pick any of the underdogs in this year’s dunk contenst at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles Feb. 18-20. Like so many others, Robinson believes that Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka and Washington’s JaVale McGee will be vying for second-best.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who has turned the first half of the 2010-11 season into one big commerical for the dunkathon at Staples Center next month, is Robinson’s pick. Rather cynically, in fact.
“Of course. They set it up like that. They set it up for Blake to win it like that,” Robinson said before the Boston Celtics faced the Chicago Bulls Saturday night at United Center.
B-b-but why would the almighty “they” do that? Because it’s in L.A.? Because Griffin is the likely Rookie of the Year? Because he finally has given the Clippers a budding star with national and global marketing appeal?
“Everything. It’s all set up,” said the Celtics’ guard, who “retired” from the dunk contest after winning in Dallas last February. “But we’ll see. I’m not saying he can’t dunk, because he can. Though we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully the guys that are in there with him will give him some competition and put on a show. Because that’s all it’s for — it’s a show. That’s the whole meaning of the dunk contest.”
There is no automatic bond between Robinson and Jennings, the Bucks point guard who will be the smallest man in this year’s field. “I’ve never seen him dunk,” Robinson said. “I’m interested to see what he’s going to do, but I’ve never seen him get a dunk in a game yet. So I’m just waiting patiently.”
Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said Friday night he was surprised when he heard Jennings was selected to compete. Not so much because the point guard is recovering from a broken bone in his foot (he is scheduled to be back in the Bucks’ lineup for about a month before All-Star Weekend) but because, Skiles said, ”he has two dunks this season.”
Said Robinson: “That’s why he has to have charisma. He has to do somnething that hasn’t been done. If I was a judge, that’s how I’d judge a dunk contest. ‘If I can do it, I’m not giving good points.’ He’s got to do something difficult that I know I can’t do.
“That’s how I would judge it. You’ve got to do something spectacular. Even if it’s like something somebody has done, you have to make it look even better. Add your own little flair.”
Robinson said he would like each contestant to choose his own soundtrack, music to get the player primed and to accompany the dunks. “They should bring back the music,” Robinson said. “Back in the day, when other guys dunked, they used to play music and get guys kind of hypede. Now they’ve taken away from that. You should be able to play whatever song you want to get you hyped. Then afterwards, you can do your antics or whatever the case may be. But it would make it more fun. It’s a stage, right? People coming to watch?”