By Brian Batty
Come with me on a ride in my Delorian to about 15 years ago. My group of friends on my block growing up would play sports every day. We made sports up; we played anything you could think of. But in all honesty, some of my favorite memories from that era were when we had our own dunk contests.
One of my friends had a hoop that we could lower very very low. And by very low I mean to about seven feet. That opened up all sorts of possibilities for all of us. We were real NBA players for those hours. We would throw it off the backboard, do what we thought were windmills, there was even a line in cement that acted as our “free throw line dunk”. But the one thing I remember most was the Vinsanity. If you don’t remember what the Vinsanity was watch the video below (The Vinsanity happens at ~7:30, but honestly, watch the entire thing. You’re welcome). In the 2000 Dunk Contest, Vince Carter stuck his arm in the rim all the way up to his elbow. In my neighborhood it was worth an automatic perfect score no matter what and my best friend and I were really the only ones able to do it because we were the oldest and tall enough to get our arms up there.
The reactions to it were the part I remember most, even more-so than the actual dunk. The crowd, the judges, and the commentators have been going absolutely bonkers for him all night. Every dunk he did brought everyone out of their seats and had them screaming like a girl about to get slashed up in a horror film. Everyone remembers Kenny Smith after his off the bounce, between the legs monster saying “IT’S OVAAA!!! IT’S OVAAAA LADIES AND GENTLEMAN! LET’S GO HOME!” But when he did the Vinsanity it was almost a dead silence. It took every person in the arena a few seconds to comprehend what they just saw. 18,000 people just couldn’t wrap their minds around this feat of athleticism and creativity that happened right in front of them. It took until the replay came on the jumbotron for everyone to actually react with ooo’s and ahh’s. Just when the people in Oakland thought Vince couldn’t do anything more spectacular, he proved them wrong.
That 2000 dunk contest is still one of my favorite things to watch on YouTube. Around this time every year, I find myself typing in “Vince Carter dunk contest” into the search bar and smiling like it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. One of my goals in life is to be sitting courtside with all the other NBA players and celebrities on All Star Saturday Night. Now I love the 3-point contest and all the other quirky little contests during the night, but absolutely nothing beats the dunk contest.
You’ll hear a lot of people these days saying the contest is watered down, or we’ve seen everything there’s nothing else they can possibly do. To address that second part, you’re wrong:
And to that first point, yeah there may be something to that in a way, but there are reasons for that that have nothing to with the actual dunks.
One of the major reasons I think for that is the lack of superstars and big name guys that participate (I don’t even want to bring up LeBron being so afraid to fail, he refuses to do the one thing the world is begging him to do, because this is a happy piece, no negative energy allowed) I have no problems with Jeremy Evans as a person. I don’t know him, but I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but get off my night. I’m sorry Jeremy, but you really don’t belong. Your cute little painting dunk and the #LetJeremyDunk stuff was fun, I guess. But this is a night where legends are made and stars shine the brightest.
An aesthetic choice that the NBA has made over the last few years is to turn the lights off and have this ominous tone played throughout the arena leading up to the dunk. Get that out of here. It puts unnecessary pressure on these guys. It makes what should be simple, into a display of grandeur that just absolutely isn’t necessary. The very loud and audible “OHHHHHHHHHH” of the crowd is what makes some of these dunks so impressive. That completely goes away when you darken the arena and make it all about the athlete. Let the crowd be a part of it, go back to any great dunk and that is the first thing you’ll notice. The shock and awe is sure the first thing you notice after Carter pulls off Vinsanity.
Now I rarely ever won any of our dunk contests in the driveway because my best friend was always more athletic than me, but that was never the point. Acting out my hero’s moves and pretending for at least those few seconds I was Vince Carter is something that still sticks with me to this day. Even now, at 24 years old, any time I see a rim lowered enough to dunk on, I throw a few down. There’s something magical about a great dunk contest dunk that is almost impossible to put in words. When you watch the dunk contest Saturday Night, think back to all those times, whether they were in a driveway or on your Nerf hoop hanging from your closet door, that you thought you could fly for a split second. Now go outside, lower your rim, and stick your arm in all the way to your elbow, you’ll find me doing the exact same thing.