Five guys who should have joined the Slam Dunk Contest
AUBURN HILLS, MI - NOVEMBER 14: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes to the basket against the Detroit Pistons on November 14, 2016 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Maybe the most universally electrifying move any basketball player can do is a slam dunk. Most highlight reels are chock-full of dunkers punishing the tin, and most, if not all, young hoopsters remember their first dunk as a milestone in their growth as basketball players.
This is why the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest has been a unique attraction in nearly every annual NBA All-Star Weekend (there was no contest in 1998 and no All-Star Weekend in 1999). Sure, there have been a few years when people went, "What else haven't we seen anyway?" but, by and large, the Dunk Contest has generally been a treasure trove of memorable moments.
Of course, it also goes without saying that most of the best dunkers and highest flyers in NBA history have participated in the Dunk Contest. From Julius Erving to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant to Tracy McGrady, Blake Griffin to Zach Lavine, we've seen some of the greatest skywalkers to ever grace the game wow us with their rim-rattling repertoire.
There have been, however, a number of players who, despite being reputed for their dunking prowess, have never joined the Dunk Contest. Here are five what-ifs, some of the game's greatest dunkers who either never got the chance or never said yes to the invitation to be in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
5) Kevin Garnett
Has there been any big man as athletic and as mobile as KG? Okay, fine, maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo is creeping up, but one cannot deny the Big Ticket's crazy athleticism and hops, especially early on in his career. How awesome would it have been to have Garnett make it to just one Slam Dunk Contest in the late 90s? To be fair, had the Association had contests in '98 and '99, Garnett probably would have made it.
4) Darryl Dawkins
Aside from KG, the only other big guy I really would have wanted to see strut his stuff in the Dunk Contest is Dawkins. Sure, Shaq was a power dunker extraordinaire and DeAndre Jordan punishes the cup like crazy, but Dawkins had the flair, the pizzaz that would have made him a meme-worthy pro had memes been in fashion in the 70s and 80s. I mean, Chocolate Thunder was already breaking backboards way before Shaq even knew how to play ball.
3) Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson did participate in one Slam Dunk Contest, but he did so as an assistant. In 2006, AI passed the ball to the backboard and the other AI - Andre Iguodala - caught it in midair, brought it down, and slammed it reverse style. Iverson - not known foremost for his passing - made a great dish, but I think he could have also been an awesome contestant, especially early on in his career. If Darrell Armstrong could get in, why not AI, right? Much like KG though, I think The Answer was a victim of the fact that there were no Dunk Contests in '98 and '99.
2) Russell Westbrook
It's still possible, and I am lobbying for Angry Russ to be in the Dunk Contest sooner rather than later. Nobody right now throws it down as hard as he does, and even if he dunks over Enes Kanter three times in a row in the actual contest, I'd still pay to see that happen. And well, I wouldn't put it past him to wear something fashion-forward like a leopard-print jacket and purple shades while flying high for the hammer.
1) LeBron James
Even LBJ regrets not having joined even one Slam Dunk Contest. His pregame dunk warm-ups are a draw, especially when visiting opposing cities, and come on, a guy of his size and physique flying high, cocking the basketball in midair, and then throwing it down like the world would end tomorrow? Besides, if James really wants to shut people up about the things he's lacking when contrasted with MJ and Kobe, having a Dunk Contest title (though incomparable to rings) would be a nice conversation piece.
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