Issue 23: Dunk You Very Much

The first two games of the NBA Finals failed to live up to the hype of the rest of the NBA Bubble. Perhaps it’s not surprising — after all, the Los Angeles Lakers have two of the top-five players in the NBA, and all three of the Miami Heat’s best players are hobbled, with both Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic missing games and Jimmy Butler playing on an injured ankle that’s shakier than the bridge of “Hey Ya.”

But in Game 3, a rejuvenated Heat team showed up. Butler had 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, Tyler Herro — who could still easily pass as a 14-year old — unleashed perhaps the least intimidating scowl ever, and all of a sudden, we have a series again.

It’s got me feeling rejuvenated, too. So today, we’re going to revisit one of my favorite basketball moments of the year: The NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

It’s a time for players to shine. All eyes are on them as they barrel toward the basket. More recently, dunk contest entrants have been players that aren’t as well known, so it’s given them the chance to get in front of a national audience.

Most importantly, it’s provided players with an avenue to get silly. That’s what this email is all about — the goofiest dunks we’ve seen in the Slam Dunk Contest.

Dwight Howard Slaps His Face on the Backboard

Dwight Howard is one of the more polarizing figures in the NBA. When he was in Orlando, it was all smiles as he donned a Superman outfit and threw the ball at the basket (it still counted as a dunk, despite him never touching the rim).

But then he wanted to leave Orlando so badly that he farted his way out, which included what I still consider the most awkward player and coach interview I’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful.

He bounced around several more teams but is close to winning a championship with the Lakers. So maybe he’ll have a happier ending than Avril Lavigne after all.

But before all that, he slapped a sticker with his face on it onto the backboard.

Check it out at 1:15 in the video above. This dunk was met with an incredibly tepid response in the moment, but then Howard’s teammate Jameer Nelson pulled out a measuring tape to show that Howard had, in fact, touched a part of the backboard that was 12 feet, 6 inches off the ground.

That’s two and a half feet OVER the rim! And yet it wasn’t good enough to get Howard out of the first round that year. Probably why he felt he had to dress as Superman the following season.

Gerald Green Blows Out a Cupcake Candle

Gerald Green’s tenure in Minnesota wasn’t very memorable. He played in only 29 games, shot a career-low 33.1% from the field, and averaged 5.1 points, his worst output in any of his career stops.

But he had one moment as a Timberwolf that was spectacular.

During the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest, Green brought out a cupcake and placed it on the back of the rim. He then lit a candle on the cupcake, proceeded to run up to the basket, and blew the candle out as he dunked a basketball.

It wasn’t Green’s birthday, though it wasn’t far off. He was born on January 26, 1986, and the 2008 contest was on February 16. So you could argue this cupcake was a belated birthday present.

You could also argue Green’s true belated birthday present came five days after this dunk. He was traded from Minnesota to Houston. If you’ve ever lived through a midwest winter, you know they are HARSH.

Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash Play Soccer

Back in 2005, the dunk contest was hanging on life support. The league had tried some weird variations, including mixing in a weird dunk wheel, changing the ball, and pitting conferences against each other.

Turns out all they needed was to adopt another sport.

The 2005 Dunk Contest had plenty of fun moments. J.R. Smith had a cool behind-the-back dunk. Josh Smith leapt over a player sitting in a chair who also tossed him an alley-oop. Chris Andersen took 15 tries to successfully complete two dunks.

But this one was by far the best. Amar’e Stoudemire throws an impressive pass off the backboard to his teammate Steve Nash, who delivers a perfect header back to Stoudemire.

The year this happened, I successfully pulled off the same dunk (with a pass off the backboard and everything — shout out to my classmate Brian for the killer header), except instead of a 360-degree dunk like Stoudemire, I barely leaped off the ground and somehow managed to sneak the ball over the rim and into the hoop. The reaction was the same as when Stoudemire slammed it home.

Like Magic Johnson said, “I gotta tell you something. The dunk contest is BACK.”

Javale McGee Dunks on Two Baskets

Javale McGee may be the goofiest guy to ever play in the league. He has his very own shrine within the “Shaqtin’ a Fool” pantheon, reserved for the most bone-headed plays on any given night.

Perhaps all of his bloopers are the result of being robbed during the 2011 dunk contest, which he most certainly should have won.

Blake Griffin, that year’s champion, jumped over the hood of a Kia (the NBA’s official car sponsor) while a chorus sang “I Believe I Can Fly.” It was a horribly manufactured moment, and most NBA purists will tell you it was engineered to give Griffin, then a young rising star in the league, the victory.

Hogwash. McGee dunked ON TWO BASKETS. That’s far more impressive.

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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