A Dunk Contest to Forget

For an on the fly All-Star weekend, the NBA didn’t do half bad. The Skills Challenge brought entertainment through the form of two big men making the finals. The 3-point competition had fireworks, as Mike Conley and Steph Curry battled for the crown. Even the All-Star game itself, albeit a blowout, was still able to be entertaining. Steph and Damian Lillard were putting on a shooting clinic; while Giannis Antetokounmpo went a perfect 16/16 from the field to win MVP.

Then there was the dunk contest.

Anfernee Simons, Obi Toppin, and Cassius Stanley were the participants in one of the least memorable dunk contests to date. There were two main issues when it came to this year’s contest. The first being the participants themselves.

Anfernee Simons was the winner of this year’s contest. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No disrespect to Simons, Toppin, and Stanley, but they are far from household names. Simons is averaging 8.2 points while playing just 17 minutes per game for the Blazers this season. Toppin is putting up 4.7 points in just under 13 minutes per game. Then there’s Cassius Stanley, who is currently in the G League after appearing in just eight games for the Pacers this season. Even before the contest began interest was going to be low simply due to the lack of star power.

Yes I know current dunk contests don’t have the biggest names like they did when Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins were competing. That however, doesn’t mean they have been devoid of all name recognition. Just look at the past six contests before this year’s. In 2020 Aaron Gordon was the headliner. In 2019 John Collins was a borderline All-Star (averaged 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds) and participated. 2018’s contest had Donovan Mitchell and Victor Oladipo. In 2017 Aaron Gordon was once again showing off his talents. 2016 was a dunk contest for the ages as Gordon and Zach LaVine competed. And finally in 2015 LaVine went up against Oladipo and a guy named Giannis Antetokounmpo. Safe to say this year’s contest definitely had one of the lowest amounts of excitement leading up to it.

2021’s contest lacked a headliner like Aaron Gordon. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

But lack of excitement doesn’t necessarily ruin a dunk contest. Below the radar guys like Derrick Jones Jr. and Hamidou Diallo weren’t exactly drawing viewers to the television. They both however, went on to win their contests. This is because they were putting on a show, which leads to the second reason why this year’s dunk contest flopped. The lack of great dunks.

I mean it is a dunk contest after all. People want to be wowed. Fans want to be brought out of their seats. That didn’t happen though. Not a single perfect 50 was awarded all night, and for good reason. The dunks were fine. Simons paid homage to Tracy McGrady with a 360 dunk. Toppin slammed one in over his father and Julius Randle. The best dunk of the night in my opinion was by Stanley, who went between his legs off the bounce and somehow earned the second-lowest score of any round (44). That alone brought some controversy to contest.

Many thought Stanley deserved a higher score in round one. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In the end though, Simons went on to defeat Toppin in the finals thanks to his kiss the rim dunk (even though he didn’t actually kiss the rim). While much of the contest was a dud, one good thing did come out of the lackluster performance. The final round wasn’t judged by score like usual. It instead was up to the judges to decide which participant had the best dunk of the two. This method would help eliminate last year’s debacle of needing two tie-breakers to determine a winner. But besides that, much will be forgotten about the 2021 NBA Dunk Contest.

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University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist & Kicks N’ Cleats

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Jacob Burns

Jacob Burns

University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist & Kicks N’ Cleats

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