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Julius Erving thinks trampoline dunking mascots killed the dunk contest

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Dr. J made the dunk contest popular. He thinks he knows what ruined it.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Erving won the first ABA dunk contest back in 1976, famously dunking from the free throw line. After some highlights in the 80's and 90's, the general consensus is the event has lost some of its luster. Why? Erving thinks he knows:

"The mascots messed it up," Erving said, referring to the stunts pulled during regular-season games as part of crowd entertainment. "It was great seeing regular human beings, even though they were 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, running and dunking a basketball. When mascots started doing it with all the trampolines and all the crazy stuff and falling on the floor, then it became more like the X Games. The players can't live up to that."

I'm not really sure I agree with Erving -- it's much cooler and better to watch humans dunking using their own legs than large furry faux-animals using trampolines -- but Erving has forgotten more about dunks than I've ever known.