When the Slam Dunk Contest goes wrong, it is typically with the best intentions. The Contest is all about testing the limits of creativity and athleticism. At times, that second limit is reached too soon. These are those dunks: ones that could have been great. Could have been.
PAUL GEORGE: TRON
This could have been something special. The lights go out, a landing strip guides a path to the rim and Paul George pulls off a technically impressive 360 windmill:
But George wasn't lit up particularly well -- is that glow-in-the-dark masking tape? -- and you really just see his headband and wristbands. Put him in a glowing body suit, lose the landing strip and you really have something here. As it stands, it was a neat idea and a good dunk that just didn't add up to anything all that fun. I bet our sibling at The Verge could make this one glow.
JAMARIO MOON: THE TAPE MISTAKE
In 2008, Jamario Moon set expectations sky high for his appearance in the Dunk Contest by posting this practice video on YouTube:
Whoa! Did he hit a 17-foot dunk?!
So, he gave it a shot in the actual contest. He actually put down a piece of tape two feet behind the free throw line. Jason Kapono set him up:
And ... Moon jumped from inside the free throw line to put it down. It's a fine dunk and scored well, but as Magic Johnson aptly noted, "I think he made a mistake by putting the tape down." Indeed.
NATE ROBINSON: THE ENDLESS ATTEMPT
The reigning champion made the finals with Gerald Green in 2007. After an underwhelming jam on his first go in the finals, Nate attempted a pretty awesome 360 off the backboard. Then, he attempted it again. And again. And again.
All told, he attempted it 10 times. (Fast forward to the 4:36 mark):
He finally hit it on what would have been his final attempt either way. Unfortunately, the judges punished him for putting them to sleep and he lost handily to Green.
CHRIS ANDERSEN: THE BIRDMAN FLAPS HIS WINGS
True classic. Two neat dunk ideas that Birdman completed in ... 15 attempts. The best part is the reaction from the players, which range from stifling laughter to head-shaking disbelief to blatant clowning.
JASON RICHARDSON: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
By 2004, J-Rich had won two straight Dunk Contests. He flew into the finals with the top-scoring first round ... and then tried to pull off a show-stopping 360 between the legs. (Fast forward to the two-minute mark):
Once he missed it a couple of times, the panel had deemed it impossible. Alas. He still threw down a nice dunk after abandoning the 360 between the legs and had a great chance to win it with his final dunk before falling completely apart.
BLAKE GRIFFIN: TWO-HANDED 360
As pointed out by Ricky O'Donnell, Griffin went for the gold on his first attempt in 2011. He botched it and moved on to a different dunk. He'd later go on to win the whole contest by finishing a sun roof alley-oop over a KIA. This one, though ... man:
Pretty close to an instant classic, man.