ORLANDO — The silence, and we’re talking crickets, in the Amway Center after several of the dunks was the first sign that All-Star Saturday night’s signature event was going to be a little off.
That “worst dunk contest ever” chatter seems a little strong, but the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk contest certainly exposed the fact that a serious tweaking of the format, namely the rules and regulations of the competition, is in order. No offense to the league’s new slam dunk king, baby-faced, human pogo-stick Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, but not even his peers around the league were satisfied with the competition or the results.
The 4 million fans that cast the deciding votes on NBA.com, Evans snagged 29 percent of them compared to Chase Budinger‘s 28 percent, were drowned out after Evans was handed the trophy by a flood of Tweets from other players around the league who didn’t agree with the results.
A small sampling of the instant, and at times brutal, reaction that reflected the mood in the building:
- Roy Hibbert: Robbery!!!!
- Jason Richardson: I think Paul George or Chase Budinger should of won…. Guess all  million votes came from Utah lol
- Hassan Whiteside: u tellin me I could of won a NBA slam dunk contest in HIgh school Jump over 5’5 Kevin hart n a reserve dunk with a cam n dunk 2 balls smdh
- Stephen Curry: Even though the 2 ball dunk was nice prolly the best of the night, u can’t have the WORST dunk ever and win.
- Hasheem Thabeet: “@MAL___: This is what happens when you let half a million ppl that probably can’t touch the backboard vote. Jeremy Evans?!? Smh” LoL
- Shane Battier: Evans had the best single dunk, but this voting process was seriously flawed. #airbudwazrobbed
There are so many elements involved in pulling it off just right, but Battier said it best, the voting process is seriously flawed. We need the on-site, human element involved. Evans admitted that his first dunk was “awful” and that if not for his splendid two-ball dunk where he jumped over the head of a sitting Gordon Hayward, who tossed the balls into the air for Evans, the trophy probably would have gone to either Budinger or George.
(For the record, my ballot would have had George edging Budinger for the top spot with Evans and Williams rounding out the field.)
Now that we’ve seen what this contest looks like without an expert panel sitting courtside crowning the winner, it’s obvious we need to get that back for Houston in 2013. If we’re going to be upset with anyone for the results of the contest, it might as well be Dr. J, Dominique Wilkins and whatever other Hall of Fame dunk legends willing to sit in those chairs and judge the new kids on the block. Plus, without that instant feedback from the judges, how are any of the contestants going to know what degree of difficulty their next dunk needs to be to survive?
It never helps to have props (Diddy, Kevin Hart, throwback jerseys, etc.) that are more recognizable than the contestants themselves. But I’m not going to bother lobbying for LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook or any of the other superstars people want to dunk to enter this contest without some sort of high-stakes focus (we could start with a $1 million cash, winner-takes-all pot that the winner walks out of the building along with his trophy) for them to lock in on.
I think we can all agree that the days of the superstars entering this contest as a measure of pride in their abilities to perform above the rim are over. But if the big boys can’t see that their services are needed to help revitalize one of the oldest and most beloved events on the NBA calendar, they need to take those fancy glasses they love to wear and crush them under their feet.
Bottom line, when the crowd disperses after the contest you want them buzzing all night at the parties and into the morning about the amazing things they saw, the outlandish showcase of skill and talent that was on display. You don’t want everyone shaking their heads about all the flaws in the system.
You certainly don’t want to see those long, awkward silences that we saw Saturday night as the dunks were completed without nary a scorecard being raised to show how they fared.
And you absolutely don’t want the fans exiting the building before the champ is announced, the way so many of them did here during All-Star Saturday night’s marquee event.