Michael Jordan from the free throw line, Spud Webb soaring through the air at 5-foot-7, and Vince Carter with the Honey Dip are all iconic slam dunks. This year’s Slam Dunk Contest didn’t have anything close to those legendary moments, but it still doesn’t take the title of Worst Dunk Contest Ever.
The date: February 8th, 1997. The dunkers: Darvin Ham, Chris Carr, Bob Sura, Michael Finley, Ray Allen, and Kobe Bryant, the only hint of personality in the event.
The dunk contest hinges on big names making amazing dunks, not no-names just barely getting it in the basket. The 1997 All-Star Game had guys like Jordan, Pippen, Drexler, and Shawn Kemp. None of them were in the Dunk Contest. Allen Iverson won MVP in that weekend’s Rookie Challenge. Young A.I. was a solid, exciting dunker, and he wasn’t in this dunk contest either.
So what did we get? Dunks as boring and uninspiring as the cinema from that year. Shaq was in Steel as a high-tech weapons designer and Dennis Rodman was in Double Team...as a high-tech weapons dealer. But it wasn’t just basketball players in movies, tv, and music in 1997. The 6th Man had basketball and a ghost. Air Bud had basketball and a dog. Flubber had basketball and science. “No Diggity” by Blackstreet had Lil’ Penny.
For the record, yes, Kobe won the 1997 Dunk Contest. And the response was so tepid that the 1998 Dunk Contest got canceled. Truly, this was the bottom for what should be one of our most electric basketball exhibitions.