There are people calling this year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest the best ever.
Doug Gottlieb is not one of those people.
The CBS Sports Radio host acknowledged that this year’s collection of dunks were the best of all time, but the dunk contest itself was not as great as, say, the 1988 edition, when Michael Jordan beat Dominique Wilkins in Chicago. That would be like LeBron James and Kevin Durant squaring off in Cleveland.
No offense to Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon, but they’re not Jordan and Wilkins. Or James and Durant.
“I agree with that,” 2001 NBA Slam Dunk champion Desmond Mason said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I agree with the dunks obviously being better, but I think the dunks were comparable at the time they were doing them. It was something that hadn’t been seen very much. The kiss-the-rim that Jordan did, the rock the cradle (that Julius Erving did) – those are things that no one was doing at the time. Those dunks were iconic at that time. They still are today. But the dunks now as we look back, obviously they’re more advanced. They’re more thought out. But yeah, when you talk about Dominique and Michael Jordan, you’re talking about two Hall of Famers going at it. These kids have great careers ahead of them, but that dunk contest was iconic. So the dunks were better yes, but I agree with the dunk contest as a whole historically being better between Dominique and Michael Jordan.”
While Gordon’s under-the-legs mascot jam is being called the best dunk ever, Mason believes LaVine’s between-the-legs dunk from the free-throw line was more difficult.
“I think (it’s harder) because you dribble up and you take off with the ball in your hands,” Mason said. “When someone’s holding the ball (for you), you have your full momentum to jump. You can use your arms, your body, and you don’t have the ball in your hand to worry about. You just got to make sure you make contact with the ball and get a good hand on it and finish. To me, it was almost like watching guys throw the ball up and then jump up and dunk it. That’s easier. I feel like I can get higher that way. It can make dunks easier. But when you have to run up to the rim with the ball dribbling, get your steps correct – it’s a lot to think about. I think the free-throw line (dunk) was a harder dunk to execute than the mascot dunk.”
While LaVine and Gordon have received considerable praise for their efforts, guest judge Shaquille O’Neal has received considerable criticism. The Big Aristotle had noticeably high standards for the dunks, as evidenced by his scoring.
“In all honesty, when you put either Hall of Famers, ex-dunk contest participants, ex-winners, guys that are iconic to the game, (this can happen),” Mason said. “Dr. J is not going to give a 10 very often because he thinks his dunk was better. Shaq is just being Shaq. I think he was out there just being silly. I mean, those dunks were 10s. I think everybody knows that. I just think you need to really be cognizant of who you put on the panel. The NBA wants guys that are recognizable there, but there’s a lot of guys they can put on the panel that I think could do a better job. But at the end of the day, they want to make sure they have the big-name guys there if they can get them to come out.”