What Happened to the NBA Dunk Contest?

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Travis Cellucci

5 years ago, the world witnessed one of the greatest dunking performances of all time at the 2016 NBA Dunk Contest. In the final rounds of the dunk contest, fans saw Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic and Zach Lavine from the Minnesota Timberwolves put on a show that had jaws dropped throughout the whole arena. These guys were pulling off dunks we had never seen before and probably never thought were possible. After multiple rounds of perfect scores Zach Lavine finally came out with the win, but many thought both competitors were deserving of the title. What happened to the spectacular contests? Now the Dunk Contests are looked at as boring and unimportant and compared to previous years such as 2016, considered nowhere near that level of competition. Even back in the 90s we had dunkers such as Vince Carter and Michael Jordan who always put on a great show. Where did those days go?

It was just a little over a year ago today on March 13th, 2020 when the Coronavirus struck the United States and sent us all into a two-week lockdown at our homes. Most people thought it would blow over pretty quickly and was never really a big thing to worry about. The NBA season had just come off its All-Star break in February and was coming into the end of the season. Unfortunately, the season would be called off on March 11th due to Covid-19, only to resume in July in Orlando, Florida. The 2020 dunk contest was great with many fans and celebrities watching along and having a good time. This is always what happens as well, the contestants go up for an awesome dunk, and if they make it the fans in the stadium go crazy and look to be in a shock. 2020’s dunk contest also saw the return of Aaron Gordon, previously mentioned in the 2016 dunk contest. So what happened to the 2021 dunk contest? 

First, they had no fans. As mentioned before, fans are what make this contest so much fun. NBA players on the sideline hyping up their teammates, celebrities getting excited as well, and all the fans in the arena on their feet. Of course, due to Coronavirus they could not be in attendance but fans are what make the dunk contest special. 

Second were the players competing in this year’s contest. Anfernee Simmons, Cassius Stanley, and Obi Toppin were the 2021 dunk contest participants. Never heard of them right? I know some die-hard NBA fans know these guys but to the casual NBA fan these guys are nobody. Other star NBA players such as Zion Williamson and Jayson Tatum were offered to compete in the dunk contest but declined. Without these star players, the dunk contest loses a lot of its interest amongst the people as no one really cares to see these guys. People would always want to see Michael Jordan throw down a huge dunk or see Vince Carter get everyone in that stadium up on their feet. 

Until fans are allowed back into the dunk contest don’t expect there to be a lot of enjoyment in watching. I’m sure many people love to see players dunk no matter what the case, but many people could care less about it. Hopefully one day we will have a dunk contest to rival that of 2016’s but for right now, those days seem far away.