The end of the 2014 NBA Slam Dunk Contest was without a doubt the worst in memory. The anticlimatic event ended with confusion and about three dunks before it should have. Exactly two dunks actually got people out of their seats, and only the final one brought down the house.
But it is the Dunk Contest, so for the sake of posterity, we ranked all 21 jams completed during the event, including the freestyle round. No, Harrison Barnes did not fare well.
21. BARNES: Reverse Layup
During the freestyle round, Team West tried a couple of group dunks. They ... did not go well. On this one, Damian Lillard grabbed two balls and set up Barnes and then Ben McLemore on a baseline bounce for a reverse dunk. Barnes couldn't turn it so he ... laid it in. This wasn't a "I missed the dunk so bad it still bounced in." He realized he couldn't come close to dunk the ball, so he laid it in. IN THE DUNK CONTEST.
20. BARNES: No one noticed
Barnes' first successful dunk that wasn't a lay-up during the freestyle round. I literally didn't notice this dunk until my 15th review of the tape.
19. BARNES: Prelude to That Won't Be Downloaded
During the freestyle round, Barnes just kinda trotted into a one-handed pump hammer. Cool, I guess? It's basically LeBron's default in-game dunk.
18. BARNES: That Won't Be Downloaded
What really shone the light on that freestyle dunk, though, is when Barnes used it in the battle round. The only gimmick added: he got plugged into some sort of USB stick or something so that NBA 2K14 users could later download the dunk. After the completely underwhelming jam -- which took Barnes three tries, though the first two were more windmill-like -- Reggie Miller quipped, "That won't be downloaded." No. No, it will not be.
17. BARNES: Two-Handed Windmill
Barnes' best dunk of the night was a windmill in the freestyle round. It's basically the one he attempted and missed twice in the battle round. It was totally pedestrian. Like, if it happened during a game, no one on Twitter would even bother going "barnes dunk dot gif" or anything. Miller might have been able to do that dunk.
16. ROSS: Reverse Pump
This was Ross' first dunk in the freestyle round. It was basically John Wall's fantastic winning dunk without a human prop or the lift required to clear it. Pretty cool dunk, still. That it ranks so low shows that there were some neat dunks trapped in the awful format.
15. WALL: Bounce Hammer
14. WALL: Bounce Windmill
13. ROSS: Statue of Drake-rty
The reigning champ came out like a boxer, wearing a robe and Raptors global ambassador/R&B singer Drake carried his 2013 trophy. Cool cool, a little pomp. I like it. Then ... Drake stayed involved. He held the ball Statue of Liberty style for Ross, who grabbed it and went between the legs. It took three attempts. It benefited by Ross' ability to make any dunk look violent. It was hurt by, well, Drake.
12. LILLARD: Bounce 360
Like Wall, Lillard showed fun levels of springiness in the freestyle round. His 360 off the bounce was vicious.
11. TEAM EAST: Mascot Dunk
Team East pulled the ol' Globetrotter "drive and alley-oop NOPE another alley-oop" thing. It was neat.
10. GEORGE: Assisted Reverse Windmill
George's first dunk of the freestyle round was excellent: he took a pass from Wall into a reverse windmill that just assaulted the rim. We mentioned that Ross adds a little violence to every dunk, but George definitely had the most powerful dunks of the night. It adds a little something extra.
9. MCLEMORE: Windmill Off the Bounce
McLemore had two of the better freestyle round dunks. The problem is that there was little flow to the West's entry -- everyone was still reacting to Lillard's East Bay Funk when McLemore cranked this one. But there's no question that no contestant flew higher than McLemore, as we'll see in a moment.
8. ROSS: 360 Windmill
Ross' best dunk of the night came on a vicious 360 windmill in the freestyle round.
7. LILLARD: Reverse 360 Bounce Pump
This was the first dunk of the battle round, and there was no energy in the crowd at all. At least none that came over the TV airwaves. But this was a damn fine dunk by Lillard, showing great body control, spring and power. Lillard got robbed by the judges: he was matched up against Ross, and this one was way more impressive.
6. MCLEMORE: Shaqlemore
I am generally opposed to props, and skeptical of most human props. And as a Sacramentan, I was filled with a sense of dread when news broke on Twitter that Shaq would be involved in McLemore's dunk. When McLemore came out in a robe and they moved a throne under the rim and a dude read a proclamation about Shaqramento and Shaqlemore and ... no.
No no no. But McLemore did something pretty amazing: he jumped over a seated Shaq!
That's pretty impressive if you ignore everything that came before and after it.
5. TEAM EAST: Captain Planet
The potential of the freestyle round was in the combo dunks. But the teams only completed two dunks in which all three guys touched the ball, and only one -- this one -- was great.
Off the backboard, off the shot clock, hammered down by George. Fantastic!
4. MCLEMORE: Skying Lefty Hammer
You may be calling me a homer right now, but did you see how high McLemore got?!
Holy Hades, man. Kid can fly.
3. LILLARD: He Can't Do This
Famous last words from Reggie Miller, who declared that Lillard couldn't complete his between the legs off the bounce jam after the Blazer narrowly missed his first attempt.
Spoiler alert: he did it!
Using the old judging system, that's probably a 48.
2. GEORGE: Sick Is Sick
Julius Erving's reaction to this dunk says it all: sick is sick.
The impressive part is the reverse spin. He's moving away from the basket when he needs to crank out the dunk, and he pulls it off just in time. A+, would watch again.
1. WALL: G-Man Reverse Pump
The obvious dunk of the night, and the one that sealed East victory, made Wall the Dunker of the Night and ended the contest prematurely. No one on Team West could have beaten this one.
1. cleared a normal sized human standing up.
2. took the ball out of said human's hands.
3. dropped the ball even lower at the apex of his jumper.
4. hammered a completely clean reverse dunk.
Oh, and ...
A worthy champion, despite the ruination thrust upon the contest by a horrible format change.