Since its introduction into the NBA the “Dunk” or “Slam Dunk” “Slam” “Jam” and countless other namesakes have been one of the most interesting, and exciting parts of the game. But in recent years the dunks have become stale, prompting many to say the golden age of the dunk has passed. That may not be true, as demonstrated this past weekend in the All-star game the dunk is alive and well.
In the early days dunks were a no-no in the NBA. Anyone who left their feet was at risk of finding them knocked from under them when they came back down. But in these days the NBA ways on the ground, near the basket. There was no three point line, and the most shots were taken near the basket. It was a small mans game as the likes of Bob Cousey, and George Yardley ruled the hardwood.
By the 1960s the big men had made their presance in the NBA felt. Guys like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin could dunk, but it was more of a force then finesse and style. It wasn’t until the late 60s that the modern dunk was invented, and it wasn’t invented in the NBA. In 1967 owners in many smaller cities that could not lure an NBA team, formed their own league. The American Basketball Association or ABA as it become called was made up of many players who were said not good enough to be in the NBA. But the ABA introduced no concepts to the game of basketball such as a three point line, and reinvented the Dunk.
In 1971 the Virginia Squires signed a big named free agent who would revolutionize the dunk, his name, Julius “the Doctor” Erving. DR J as he become called could dunk like no one had ever seen. He could windmill, rock the ball, go behind his back, head, and other stuff thought that no human could ever do with a basketball. Ervings abilities didn’t go unnoticed in the NBA, many teams including the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, New Orleans Jazz, and Boston Celtics tried to lure Erving away from the ABA, it didn’t work. Even the NBA players began noticing Ervings dunks, and many tried to copy what they had seen. And some guys when even future, such as Darryl Dawkins. Dawkins was never even was an all-star, but he is famous in his own right, most notably he broke a backboard against Kansas City.
In 1976 the ABA held its annual all-star game, in Denver Colorado. That year they introduced a new concept that would change the game, the slam dunk contest. The contest included many of the ABA’s most notable player, including Erving. Julius Erving would win the contest when he did something no one had ever done before, he jumped from the free throw line to dunk the ball. The innagual ABA slam dunk contest would also be its last, the league merged with the NBA that summer, and Julius Erving was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers.
With the start of the 1980s the Dunks had become a household name, along with the Dunkers; guys like David Thompson, Julius Erving, George Gervin, Darryl Dawkins, and Darrell Griffith. But again the NBA needed something to keep the fans entertained between the Laker-Celtic finals. So it 1984, at its birthplace in Denver, Colorado they reintroduced the slam dunk contest, to great acclaim.
The 84 contest would include Julius Erving, Darrell Griffith, Larry Nance, Dominique Wilkins and others. Erving and Nance would face each other in the finals. After Erving missed a dunk, Nance looked in great shape to win the contest. But Erving had one last ditch effort up his sleeve. He brought back a classic, he once again jumped from the free throw line to slam it hope, but it wasn’t enough Phoenix’s Larry Nance went home with the trophy.
In 1985 the Dunk contest once again saw a final showdown that the fans loved. Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins and a second year player from the Chicago Bulls named Michael Jordan. The two faced off in an awesome display of dunking power that is still talked about today, Wilkins would win the contest, but the young Bull had made a name for himself.
The 1986 contest would bring a whole new facade to the game. When a player no one knew could dunk entered the contest. Five-foot-six Spudd Webb. Webb would go on to win the contest over Atlanta teammate Dominique Wilkins, becoming the smallest player ever to win the contest.
In 1987 and 88 the dunk contest would get its first back-to-back winner in Chicago’s Michael Jordan. Jordans dunks had already revolutionized the game, but his all-star dunks left fans, and competitor awestruck. Jordan once again show his awesome leaping ability when he copied DR J and dunked from the free throw line.
Thought the early 90s the NBA dunk contest had some great moments, Cedric Ceballos blindfolded dunk, Dee Browns arm covering his eyes, JR Riders thought the legs dunk, Kobe Bryant’s thought the legs behind the back dunk, but the contest had become stale, fans were no longer interested in it. And to the dismay of many, in 1998 the NBA cancelled the contest. After the 99 shorted no all-star season the NBA brought back the contest in 2000.
In the 2000 contest Vince Carter gave fans something to smile about, as he put his arm thought the rim and hung by his elbow. But following the 2000 competition, not many stars entered, and the 01 dunk contest featured rookies. once again the fans got bored, but in 2002, 2003, and 2004 Jason Richardson revived their hopes. Richardson would win the contest in 02, and 03 before losing a great match to Fred Jones in 04. Again in 2005 it looked as if the stars would be gone from the contest, and another boring dunk contest was to ensure. But Amare Stoudamire and Josh Smith did their best to prevent this as both unleashed many awesome never before seen dunks.
With the athletic players in today game, the dunks of tomorrow are surly going to be a thing of beauty. as a fan, All I can do is wait.