The NBA Dunk Contest has historically been the backbone of All-Star Weekend. While the big game on Sunday is entertaining, all eyes are drawn toward Saturday Night when some of the best athletes in the world get to showcase their athleticism. From the presentation and creativity to the crowd reaction, there’s nothing like the spectacle of the NBA Dunk Contest, but in recent years the contest has lost a lot of its luster.
Since its inaugural year in 1984, the dunk contest has featured not only some of the best athletes in the world but also some of the best players to ever play the game. We’ve seen names like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Vince Carter all participate and eventually win the event. But more recently, we’ve seen a steady decline of star players willing to compete. Whether it’s been the consistent denial over the years by LeBron to join or more recently Ja Morant, the dunk contest is not what it used to be. You can make an argument that the 3-point contest is now the headliner on Saturday night especially when Steph Curry is involved.
Before the all star festivities begin, we have the definitive answer on Ja and the dunk contest 👇🏾 pic.twitter.com/fCh5Gpu6fB— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) February 17, 2023
Will the NBA Dunk Contest ever get back the stars and the names people are itching to see? Only time can tell but as of now, it’s a deteriorating product that needs reviving. With no disrespect to this year’s competitors, we put together the dunk contest participants we would like to see compete.
Ever since the world was introduced to Zion Williamson as a 16-year old, fans have been itching for him to one day throw his hat in the ring for the NBA Dunk Contest. Unfortunately, his health has prevented that from even being considered, and there’s a chance we may never get to see him compete in the event. With that being said, we can still dream, can’t we? If Zion ever committed to the dunk contest, it possibly could end being the most-watched dunk contest ever. The man is a walking highlight reel and that’s been case on every single level he’s played. He teased NBA fans during the Rising Stars game in his rookie season but it was on tired legs.
Zion missed a 360 windmill, off the backboard between the legs & a 360 between the legs dunk in the final minute! pic.twitter.com/hk9aEfvJAh— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) February 15, 2020
While he’s battled injuries in the NBA, many have questioned if he still has the ability to put on an aerial display. Those whispers were silenced when Zion threw down a breathtaking 360-windmill in the closing seconds of a win against the Phoenix Suns.
If Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler called Zion’s 360 windmill dunk 😂🔥pic.twitter.com/sgIaQpJ5d6— Randy Cruz (@randyjcruz) December 10, 2022
Ja Morant has already publicly denied participating in the dunk contest but maybe one day he’ll reconsider his stance.
https://t.co/3Bhgvudoy4 pic.twitter.com/Xlu5BmDytb— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) January 8, 2022
You know you’re a must-see talent when your missed dunks consistently go viral. Ja might have the greatest collection of missed dunks in NBA history and he’s already proclaimed as one of the most explosive and athletic guards the game has ever seen. He’s a more realistic option that Zion Williamson but still very much a long shot. Ja has never shied away from the spotlight so it’ll be interesting to see if he ever commits.
JA MORANT POSTER OMG 🤯🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/rLSlPvuFWj— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 15, 2023
There’s not many individuals in sports as entertaining as Anthony Edwards. Whether it’s in movies, in the studio, postgame interviews or on the court, Ant Man will always keep you entertained. While Ant may not be as flashy or creative with dunks as the other players on this lists, his athleticism is must-see television. Just ask Yuta Watanabe.
Amazing dunk by Anthony Edwards aka Ant Man but Yuta Watanabe gotta catch a fair one with those teammates that walked off after he got dunked on. Made it that much worse pic.twitter.com/lOOXPBhK8V— Talk Spicy (@mpifonifunny) February 20, 2021
There’s no doubt that he will also bring elite presentation to the competition. Factor in too that Ant is a pretty competitive person so you know he’s not going to show up for fun; he’ll show up to win.
While he’s not an All-Star or a big name in the NBA yet, Shaedon Sharpe has already shown the world that he might be bounciest player we’ve seen in a while. Sharpe was initially set to compete in this year’s dunk contest but pulled out in order to focus on second half of the Trail Blazers’ season as reported by Shams Charania. While this year’s field has some sleepers, Sharpe would’ve been the crowd favorite to bring home the slam dunk title. It’s hard to believe this kid was in high school just 13 months ago.
Shaedon Sharpe’s bounce is different. Here are all 45 of his dunks so far this season: pic.twitter.com/vOu0f6pZaZ— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) February 15, 2023
With that amount of hang time and explosiveness, there’s no telling what Sharpe could accomplish in the dunk contest but I guess we’ll have to wait another year.
This article was originally published on complex.com.