I attended the German Bundesliga All-Star Day last weekend and also followed the dunk contest of that event. This type of contest is always considered one of the highlights by most basketball fans, even if the “traditional” Euroleague fan does not care about such “NBA-like show elements.” The level of the contest was fair in my eyes, but the reaction of those in attendance was pretty limited considering the difficult dunks that presented by the participants. A dunk like this one from Robert “Hollywood” Turner, who is, by the way 2.06 meters tall, is not that easy to do, yet it was not even enough to win the contest.
Besides the speaker, most fans had nothing more to offer than a little hand clapping for a between-the-legs dunk executed by a nearly seven-foot tall player. Everybody who him- or herself plays basketball knows how hard it is to dunk the ball, especially if you have to put it between your legs. But these days, basketball fans worldwide are so used to such scenes that you even heard voices in the arena saying: “Nice, but that dunk is, like, 10 years old.”
I mean, ten or so years ago, there was no YouTube to see all manner of high-flying action. As a basketball junkie and slam dunk fan, you had to wait the whole year for NBA All-Star weekend and stay awake all night to see some spectacular slams. The dunk contest for European All-Star games were not highly covered by media, and the level was far from the NBA event. If you go even further back, a dunk in Europe was a very innovative concept to score a basket back then, and there were only a few European players like Richard Dacoury executing a dunk in the game.
After the Olympic Games 1992 in Barcelona, the dunk also became more popular in Europe, and young Europeans improved their athletic build in order to become above-the-rim players, too. And it was particularly in France where a real “Dunk Culture” developed and produced one of the most spectacular leagues outside the United States. Players like Alain Digbeu and Mous Sonko filled the highlight reels of the French basketball fans and unfortunately, there are not that many of these spectacular plays still to be found.
This Dunk Culture produced a lot of “pure” dunking artists in France and the creation of the Slam Nation team exported the French touch in Dunks worldwide. On the other side of the ocean, high-flying stars like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady improved the level of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest to unseen heights since the legendary MJ-Dominique Wilkins battles. The popularity of the NBA in Europe increased the notability of the dunkers and the dunk was considered THE element of modern basketball.
When YouTube started to become popular at the beginning of this century, the worldwide takeover of the dunk was starting. Everybody could put his favorite dunks on the net and made the slam dunk incredibly popular among viewers. But herein enters the factor that changed everything: With the huge amount of dunks available for free viewing, the magic of the jam started to crumble. Kadour Ziani and his Slam Nation acrobats published million-view clips and everybody started to think that these dunks are “normal,” as there are so many available on the net.
This availability of dunking on the net was, of course, also a boost to creativity during various contests, as the participants could check what was going on around the world in terms of dunks. You could see Europeans imitating the Isiah Rider between the legs dunk or Americans going for the Abdoul Bamba dunk. But more evident was the fact that more and more people got “used” to this type of spectacular move with the results described above: barely any reaction to highly spectacular dunks in a contest. Even a women dunking the ball in a game now seems quite common to YouTube users.
So what do we want? Personally, I’m not a big fan of dunking contest, I prefer the tough baskets in game situations. Let us show some respect to the artists of the slam, however, and give them the deserved credit during these events. But what’s better than a spectacular in-your-face dunk on the fast break? This can never beat any kind of acrobatics produced during a contest. (Found via BasketSession.com.)