I know...not another article on how to fix the All-Star Weekend of a given sport.
But the NBA Slam Dunk contest, once a must-see event featuring the stars of the NBA like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins but also with the chance for lesser-known players like Spud Webb or Dee Brown a chance to shine, is a mess and continues to disappoint.
This year was no exception, with 36 missed dunks and just 15 successful ones - good for less than 30 percent "shooting". Even the made dunks weren't that great, and were easily trumped by the likes of LeBron James a day later. Adding a timer to speed things up hasn't helped the situation, with missed dunks one after the other just not fun to watch.
Now there is little fanfare for the event, with the average basketball fan unaware of the existence of many of these players, let alone what kind of dunks they'll be able to pull off. Even the 3-Point Shootout, the Skills Challenge and the Shooting Stars events all attract more stars these days. Critics, fans and even TNT commentators all lament that the best players aren't participating and that the best dunks happen during the All-Star game. The NBA can't be happy with TNT on-air talent openly mocking the event during the broadcast.
For whatever reason, the All-Stars don't want to compete anymore in the Dunk Contest. But what matters is that they pull off many dunks, lots of them of the spectacular variety, during the All-Star game - the marquee event that is the true event of All-Star Weekend.
So why not judge the best players pulling off the best dunks then?
The NBA is already using social media to vote on All-Star events. So during the All-Star event, TNT can flash unique hashtags for the best dunks during the game and let the people decide. The judging period can be just during the first half or the entire game. Since 2008, fans have already determined the winner of the Sprite Slam Dunk through SMS TXT and voting on NBA.com. This year, the fans were able to vote in a variety of methods (below is from the NBA press release):
1.) SMS Text Message* - Text the player's last name to 38657 (DUNKS)
2.) Twitter - Tweet #SpriteSlam with the player's last name
3.) Vote via the official NBA All-Star App (Available on iTunes, Google Play and at http://www.nba.com/allstarapp/)
4.) Log on to NBA.com from any computer or mobile device.
It also has the added bonus of making the first half of the All-Star game a little more competitive. The format right now is just clunky since NBA slam dunks take place during the normal course of a game, instead of an awkward situation where just about every dunk has already been tried in one degree or another this way. Problem solved with the All-Star game and plenty of fast break opportunities for any of the more athletic All-Star to "participate" in by getting out on the open court to finish fast breaks or trying to posterize one of the All-Star big men.
The winner can be announced after the game as an extra award to be given out before the more important All-Star MVP trophy is announced. If the NBA needs a replacement event for All-Star Saturday Night, I would suggest a 2-against-2 quick tourney or even an Old-Timers' event featuring some of your favorite retired players (I vote for Latrell Sprewell) back on the court. Either event, or another replacement, would still have to be more riveting than seeing the current version of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.