The NBA tried out a new format for the 2014 Slam Dunk Contest, because that's what the NBA does: every few years, it tries to freshen up the ol' dog, teach it some new tricks, pray it gets a jolt of life. But the format changes the NBA made in 2014 came with some nasty unintended consequences and a disastrous result.
The format was this: six contestants split into two teams by conference. There would be a freestyle round in which each team would have 90 seconds to do ... basically whatever they wanted. The only benefit of winning this round, which was judged by a panel, would be choice of going first or second in the battle round.
In the battle round, each East dunker competed against an individual West dunker. The loser is eliminated. The three winners move on to another battle round. The first conference to win three individual battles wins.
Except the East swept the first battle round. So there was no further competition. In the portion of the competition that actually mattered, all six contestants got to show off one dunk each. Even though John Wall finished with a fine dunk and Ben McLemore broke the unintentional comedy scale, the whole thing was disastrously anticlimactic. The TNT broadcast crew seemed confused. Twitter was horribly confused. That was not the end of the Slam Dunk Contest. But it was.
And it was totally avoidable! Instead of putting the Dunker of the Night award in the hands of fans -- who votes for that honor -- the best dunker could have been determined in a final round, no matter what happened. Even if all three East guys advanced. Let Paul George, Terrence Ross and Wall battle each other for the award, with all of the fake drama of the conference war stripped out.
People have long complained about the dunk contest format -- too many misses, guys get tired by the end, it's too slow, etc. But the NBA either dumbly ignored the potential sweep, didn't properly train the judges on tipping the scales toward a longer competition or had the worst luck possible. It was a total disaster.
Just when the NBA dunk showcase, not contest, was getting good it ended. Disappointed fans can't leave arena fast enough. Whose idea at NBA?— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 16, 2014
Good job, guys. The signature moment of All-Star Saturday was Marco Belinelli hitting a string of corner threes. This went well. Let's do it again never.