The Dunk Contest Is Back To Not Being Back


Last year, the NBA All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest Presented By Verizon Before They Had To Re-Allocate Advertising Funds In The Wake Of 'Can You Hear Me Now?' Guy's Defection To Sprint left viewers breathless. A sensational (mostly) prop-free showdown between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine was just the shot in the arm the event needed. "The Dunk Contest is back!" proclaimed thoughtful and rational internet users. Some even declared it the best Dunk Contest of all-time. As you know, that phrase is not thrown around lightly on Twitter.

Sadly, this year's event failed to capitalize on that momentum. LaVine is out for the season with a torn ACL, and Aaron Gordon's foot injury reduced his bounce to a light hop. Every dunk is below. Judge for yourself if the Dunk Contest is still back, or if it's back to not being back. 

Our 2017 contestants are DeAndre Jordan, Aaron Gordon, Glenn Robinson III, and Derrick Jones Jr. Jones Jr. has played seven total NBA games after being called up from the Development League three weeks ago. Let's get the TNT guys' scouting reports on this relative unknown:

"To me, Derrick Jones is the mystery." - Kenny Smith
"Right now, he is the best dunker no one has ever heard of." - Reggie Miller
"(something about how Derrick Jones Jr. is good but not many people realize it)." - Shaquille O'Neal

Thanks for adding value to the broadcast, fellas. Good stuff.

DeAndre Jordan - First Round, First Attempt

Rough start to the Contest. Not for DeAndre Jordan, but Reggie Miller. First, he expressed concern for DJ Khaled's humongous dome and recommended he wear a helmet, as if standing near a dunk attempt is akin to a car crash. Then this, after Jordan's successful slam:

"If that would have been a guard doing that, the crowd would have been going crazy!"

No shit, Reggie. If an ant did it the crowd would be going even crazier.

Judges: 41 (out of 50)
Rim: 3 (out of 10)

The first lukewarm score of the night is overshadowed by the judges' table with digital scoring. True dunk contest purists like myself scoff at this kind of "improvement" to the system. I need middle-aged men fumbling around with paper cards, taking different amounts of time to settle on a score and occasionally changing their number after seeing someone else's. That's a real competition.

Also, DJ Khaled Snapchatted the whole thing. Most exciting thing to come out of that account since the literal birth of his son.

Glenn Robinson III - First Round, First Attempt

I have an irrational dislike for the sons of athletes who began their careers when I was 9 or 10. Seems like just yesterday I was sliding Glenn Robinson's '94-'95 gold-embossed NBA Hoops rookie card into a hard plastic case with "ROOKIE CARD" printed on the top edge. (It was worth $1.00, guys. Dollar cards don't grow on trees. Little something called protecting your investments.)

The man on that card procreated with a woman, who then birthed a human being that now dunks basketballs on my TV. Only thing that makes me feel older is the fact that kids with driver's licenses don't remember 9/11. Or Alien Ant Farm, for that matter.

Anyway, hell of a dunk. No-charisma-havin' GRIII jumped over two crouched people, which is infinitely more impressive than leaping over one tall person of the same height. Well done.

Judges: 50
Rim: 9

Derrick Jones Jr. - First Round, First Attempt

You'll find no bigger proponent of well-above-the-knees basketball shorts than myself. True shorts are defense-first shorts. Get low, pistols out. Function over form.

When your goggled opponent shows up to opening night of your rec league with compression shorts peeking out from under his regular trousers, you know he means only business. Same goes for NBA Dunk Contest competitors.

Derrick Jones Jr., whom I did not know existed more than a week ago, rocketed up my list of favorite athletes with his pure business getup. Granted, his needed function was more about cleanly slipping a basketball between his legs just before dunking it, rather than effectively defending a 42-year-old dentist, but still. The move is worthy of respect.

As for the dunk itself, Jones Jr. threw down his second attempt, using his right hand to catapult off Marquese Chriss and over two other teammates and some random dude. It was fine.

Not enough was made of this extra push. Imagine if Blake Griffin planted a foot on the hood of that Kia. Or if Jordan pole-vaulted at the end of Space Jam. Kind of takes away from it a little, imo.

Judges: 45
Rim: 3

After the dunk, Jones Jr. appeared to retrieve is phone from his non-basketball pair of shoes, which is precisely what all rec league players do during timeouts. 

Aaron Gordon - First Round, First Attempt

If you chart  "potential" on the x-axis and "acceptability" on the y-axis, a drone would find itself in the top right corner of the graph of Dunk Contest Props in 2017. Top three potential dunks with assistance from a drone:

  1. Player rips ball from the arms of the drone as it zooms past the rim.
  2. Drone hovers near rim, player dunks ball and drone. Drone remains in good working order, showcasing the product's durability.
  3. Camera attached to drone captures video of the dunk after dropping ball into the hands of the player. 

Not mentioned among these top three scenarios? "Drone just kinda drops the ball to the ground. and player dunks off bounce."

I'm old enough to remember when pulling off a between-the-legs-off-a-bounce dunk was enough to get you canonized. Three failed attempts and some heavy branding took the air out of this moment. Luckily, some Intel exec got on the horn and demanded Gordon attempt the dunk until completion. Shades of Swackhammer.

Judges: 38
Rim: 2

Let's check in on 39-year-old Paul Pierce, who is apparently unfamiliar with cloud computing:


Aaron Gordon - First Round, Second Attempt

Couldn't find video of this failed dunk, but I will say it was extremely ambitious. Last year's rightful champion is bounced in the first round.

Judges: 36
Rim: 0. He didn't make a dunk. Why don't they allow zeros?

DeAndre Jordan - First Round, Second Attempt

The only way DeAndre Jordan could impress in the Dunk Contest would be if he pulled in seven or eight players he's posterized and had them all play defense under the hoop while Chris Paul threw him an alley-oop. Sadly, Brandon Knight is in witness protection. The government just wants you to believe he plays for the Suns.

Judges: 43
Rim: 4

Derrick Jones Jr. - First Round, Second Attempt

Judges: 50
Rim: 10!

Commentary included, this was the best dunk of the night. Open acknowledgement of Jones Jr.'s no-name status, jokes about teammate sabotage, Shaq distracted by a shiny object, and a full-effort, clean-finish, spectacular dunk.

Glenn Robinson III - First Round, Second Attempt

As long as the ball somehow made it through the cylinder, GRIII was going to the finals. The replay showed he actually tried to squeeze in a dab at the end. Make of that what you will.

Judges: 41
Rim: 5

Derrick Jones Jr. vs. Glenn Robinson III in the finals. Shout out to suffixes.

Glenn Robinson III - Finals, First Attempt

Rough start for the finals! Glenn's already split his legs and jumped over several people. Surely there must be more creativity in that head of his! Though he did go to Michigan.

Judges: 44
Rim: 6

Derrick Jones Jr. - Finals, First Attempt

Judges: 37
Rim: 0

At least his shoes were cool.

Derrick Jones Jr. - Finals, Second Attempt

For his final dunk of the night, Jones Jr. made a smart move and started his jog back by the Hall of Famers at the judges' table. He's played seven NBA games, there's a decent chance Derrick Jones Jr. will never again be that close to greatness.

While it's comforting to know Jones Jr. will perform better in this contest next year, we're more concerned with the event taking place right now, KENNY. 

Both the crowd and the TNT guys were oddly nonplussed by this between-the-legs-off-a-bounce dunk. Given the nonsense that preceded this attempt, I half-expected Shaq to pull out the flip video recorder. Instead, they acted as if Jones Jr. was wasting their time. TNT = fake news, folks.

Judges: 50
Rim: 9

Glenn Robinson III - Finals, Second Attempt

Thanks to that mildly generous perfect score, there was still a possibility GRIII could lose the contest even though his opponent flat-out missed an attempt in the Finals. Crazier things have happened!

Leaping over Paul George, your team's mascot, and a cheerleader, then finishing with a two-hand reverse is very nice, and worthy of a perfect score. But Glenn missed an obvious move here.

Dunking over one's father is every boy's dream. When your dad happens to be a former All-Star with the nickname "Big Dog", then yeah I'd say it's a missed opportunity when you don't jump over him to clinch the Dunk Contest.

Judges: 50
Rim: 10

Still, what a story. The NBA-playing son of an NBA player overcomes the odds and wins an event on NBA All-Star Weekend. Can't make this stuff up.

Quick preview of the 2020 event:

(16-year-old) Zion Williamson - 2020 Preliminary Round - First Attempt