Watching Haiti and the dunk contest…

Last night, Shaquille O’Neal commented in his post game interview that LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and others should all participate in a slam dunk competition to benefit the earthquake-ravaged country of Haiti (see HERE). 

Maybe the “Big Philanthropist” is onto something here.

Imagine the financial windfall a contest between LeBron, Kobe, Vinsanity, D-Wade, Dwight Howard and others could create.  Then factor in television contracts, corporate sponsor dollars and donations that could be solicited during the competition.  Heck, they should just go ahead and put it on pay-per-view and then bring in what you normally would for an MMA or boxing card.

In watching coverage of the disaster in the island nation of Haiti, one can’t help but have his or her heart broken over and over again when news of orphans, looting, riots, shootings and deaths that really shouldn’t be happening flash along the CNN ticker.

So many Americans have donated money and time, but we know that with devastation of this magnitude, there really is never too much that we can give.  Americans should be commended for what they have done and how much sacrifice has already been given.  We surely have led the charge of the world coming to the aid of the truly less fortunate.  The aftermath is not over, (I got a tweet that a 6.1-magnitude aftershock rattled the area this morning) and the dominos have not stopped falling.

Several celebrities like Brangelina and Sandra Bullock have donated millions to aid the recovery effort and I’m sure athletes have done their share of donating, as well.  No offense to telethons and other efforts to procure funds, but a slam dunk contest with that kind of star power would be something I would watch over a reunion of “We are the World”.

Holding a contest with the marquee stars from the marquee sport around the world could garner so much attention and raise a ridiculous amount of funds.  No offense to soccer and baseball, but the global impact of the NBA and basketball in general is amazing.  Besides, do you think people would really get excited about a soccer shootout with Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and David Beckham?  I know I wouldn’t. 

The homerun derby would be a little different because it would be an attraction and could be global, but most of the biggest stars in baseball already participate in that competition, so what we would be seeing wouldn’t be completely novel.  Which brings me to this…

What has happened to our beloved slam dunk contest?

The first slam dunk competition was held in Denver in 1976 at the ABA All-Star Game.  That thriller saw Julius Erving soar from the free throw line to defeat the likes of David Thompson, George Gervin and Artis Gilmore.  All four are hall of famers with the exception of Gilmore and his lack of induction into the hall is quite controversial.

Gilmore had an ABA career where averaged 23 points and 17 rebounds, an NBA career where he averaged 17 and 10, is in the top ten all-time in rebounds, blocks, games and minutes played and in the top 25 in points.  He is also first in league history in field goal percentage.  His lack of induction is a travesty.  I haven’t done a ton of research on this, but I don’t think that a single player with his statistical profile has been denied induction in the history of the game.  It is clear that he is being slighted because his best years were played in the ABA, but isn’t it the hall of fame for all of basketball?  But, I digress…

The point is that this dunk contest set a precedent that the highest fliers came, competed and gave one heck of a show.  The NBA brought the contest to their all-star weekend for the first time in 1984, also in Denver.  Who had boarding passes in that competition?  Just three hall of famers: Dr. J, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler.  Larry Nance took the top honor that first year.

Dr. J came back to compete for the last time in ’85, a competition that added a fourth hall of famer to the lineup, some dude named Michael Jordan.  That year Jordan lost to ‘Nique in a phenomenal final.  Spud Webb topped Wilkins in ’86 (Jordan was injured), MJ won back-to-back titles in ’87 and ’88 and the rest is history.  The dunk contest was part of basketball culture and that culture dictated that the best came to play each all-star weekend. 

Jordan would compete in three contests (he sat out ’86 due to injury), Drexler and ‘Nique each threw down in five.  Down the road the competition would feature NBA stars like Scottie Pippen, Ralph Sampson, Shawn Kemp and other marquee attractions who soared above the rim.  They would enter themselves in multiple dunk showdowns unlike competitors like Carter (’00 champion), Bryant (’97 champion), Andre Iguodala (’06) and Tracy McGrady (’00) who have only entered one contest each.

These days we get scrubs like Hakim Warrick, Stromile Swift, Jonathan Bender, Ricky Davis and Gerald Green.  Nate Robinson is an interesting novelty like Spud was, but will he go to the hall of fame?  Will he ever be the best player on his team?  It is nice that Dwight Howard has made multiple appearances (’07-’09) and he may very well be on his way to the hall, but where are his backboard-rattling contemporaries?

So, let’s bring it back and let’s do it for the right reasons.  Let Shaq be the promoter, he did implore us to spread the word:

“I’m saying it now, so tweet it. Facebook it. E-mail it and hopefully it gets out. Vince, we’re calling you out. Kobe, we’re calling you out. We’re calling everybody out. If those guys step up in the dunk contest, then I will allow my client [LeBron] to step up.”

What would the impact be on our Haitian neighbors if this happened?  How many millions will it raise? 

Furthermore, what will the impact have on our dunk contest?  Maybe the precedent will be reestablished that it features legit, high-flying all-stars headed to the hall of fame. 

More recent contestants have seen the need to feature a stupid gimmick like a blindfold (thank you Cedric Ceballos and Dee Brown) or a Superman cape (props to you Dwight Howard), but when did we ever stop liking the visual of 6’6″ monster throwing down a dunk from the free throw line or a sick alley-oop delivered spot-on for a rim-rattling jam? 

Bring the stars back and the dunk contest is what it was meant to be again.  Let Shaq do it for Haiti and the world will see how powerful 180s, 360s and tomahawks really are.

Are you there Kobe, LeBron, Vince and D-Wade?  We’re waiting…

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