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All-Star Saturday: Dunk of the Night

LAS VEGAS -- I was a bit torn coming into the Slam Dunk Contest last night. I couldn't decide between Gerald Green and Dwight Howard. I knew that Gerald Green had unbelievable hops and the showmanship to wow the crowd, but at the last minute, I decided to pick the 6-foot-11 Howard because he had the most impressive in-game dunk the past two seasons - better than Vince Carter's posterization of Alonzo Mourning last season.

On a fastbreak last season against the Celtics, Jameer Nelson threw a lob that seemed impossible for any human to catch. Instead of leading him with the lob, Nelson tossed it backward and Howard needed to extend his arm completely behind his head and still send it home. I know it's not like posterizing someone, but degree of difficulty has to be taken in consideration. I also knew that Howard had a kiss-the-rim dunk in his back pocket. I thought people needed to see it.

Judges in these competitions typically don't like big men in the slam dunk contest - it truly is discrimination! Larry Nance, at 6-10, won the first slam dunk contest in 1984. Since then, no player Nance's height or taller has won. But I thought that we had moved past this, people. It is 2007. Apparently we haven't progressed as much as I had hoped. Howard got robbed, my friends.

Green, the eventual champion, definitely was a great entertainer last night; he had two of the best dunks -- catching a pass from Paul Pierce off the backboard and ramming it with two hands and dunking over last year's champ and multiple dunk misser Nate "Don't Ever Give Up" Robinson (after he intended to dunk over a Robinson cardboard cutoff) - but Howard had the best dunk of the night.

Howard caught an alley-oop lob from Nelson with his right hand and slapped a sticker on the glass backboard with his left hand before dunking. He then pointed toward the backboard. The Jumbotron then revealed his smiling face on a sticker with the all-star logo high above the rim. Nelson then got out a tape measure to measure the height of the sticker. An announcer said it was 12 feet, 6 inches.

No matter how tall you are, that's getting up. Okay, let's break down how hard this was.

Catching lob from Nelson with one hand. Degree of diffculty (on a 10-point scale): 8
Nearly slapping the top of the backboard. Degree of difficuly: 12
Catching a lob from Nelson with one hand while nearly slapping the top of the backboard: 15

I looked over at the Mt. Rushmore of Slam Dunk judges - Dr. J, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Carter and Kobe Bryant - and I couldn't believe what I saw. Jordan was holding up an eight. An eight!!!! I wanted to stick the letter "H" over the "G" on my Gatorade bottle and hand it to Mike, because he was hating.

Overall, Howard got a 42, when he should've received a 50. It was inventive, athletically absurd and hilarious. Did I mention Howard had his smiling face on the Vegas all-star logo?

He didn't get out of the first round. The kiss-the-rim dunk never saw the light of day. (And trust me, Howard can dunk while kissing the rim. DeShawn Stevenson can confirm it). We was robbed, I tell ya. Afterward, Howard said, "We had some tough judges. I put it up there pretty high. I guess they didn't get it."

I get it. Big men need not apply for the Slam Dunk contest. You gets no love.

By Michael Lee  |  February 18, 2007; 1:01 PM ET
 
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