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The weird new NBA Slam Dunk Contest format, explained

The Slam Dunk Contest rules are changing. We answer some frequently asked questions.

Scott Halleran

The format for the Slam Dunk Contest has changed, as you might have heard. Here's our best attempt to explain it.

Okay, so how does it work now?


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There are six participants, three from each conference. The participants from the East are Paul George, John Wall and Terrence Ross. The participants from the West are Damian Lillard, Ben McLemore and Harrison Barnes. Last year's All-Star Weekend introduced the whole East vs. West competition for the Saturday night events, and it looks like they'll be continuing that this year.

In order to decide which conference is objectively better at dunking, there will be a Freestyle Round and a Battle Round.

What on earth is a Freestyle Round?

In the Freestyle Round, each conference will get 90 seconds to perform as many dunks as they can. This will basically be like what you see when a team goes up against the 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers. Just a constant stream of dunking goodness. After each conference has its turn, the judges declare which side "won" and we move on to the Battle Round.

Does the Battle Round include Battle Bots and/or a rap battle?

Unfortunately not. In the Battle Round, each dunker from the Eastern Conference will go head-to-head against a dunker from the Western Conference.

The judges will pick winners for each head-to-head matchup, and when a dunker loses a matchup, they're eliminated. The first conference to win three matchups are declared the 2014 Slam Dunk Champions.

Hold up. There are multiple champions?

Yes, there will be multiple champions. But don't worry, the fans will still get to pick the actual best dunker once the whole contest is over.

After the judges decide which conference wins the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, fans will have a chance to vote for the "Dunker of the Night." This sounds more like the format that fans know. We'll watch the dunks and vote to pick which guy had the best dunks. So, I guess there's a "winner."

Tell me how to feel about this new format

The East vs. West thing is a little forced and the new setup is a bit hard to grasp at first, but it will probably make a lot more sense when we actually get to see it happen. I think the Freestyle Round will be pretty cool because it will just be dunk after dunk after dunk.

The Battle Round will probably be a bit more strategic, since you only have to get a higher score than one player from the other conference. I think this will make it a bit more competitive and make sure that guys only do dunks that they know they can finish.

Does that mean we won't have to watch guys try and fail to do the same dunk 48 times in a row?

Gosh, I hope so.

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