INDIANAPOLIS — Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The dunk contest is broken. Saturday night’s event in Indianapolis was, once again, a snooze fest. Mac McClung won with some cool dunks, but the overall contest was a bore. 

The dunks were bleh. The judging was strange. So was Jaylen Brown’s performance. The question now is, if there’s anything the league can do to salvage this event?

Here are some ideas:

Entice stars with a cash prize

LeBron James’ refusal for years to participate in the dunk contest was a decision other stars were more than happy to follow. What was disappointing about this year’s contest, though, is that we finally had an All-Star in the event in Jaylen Brown. And Brown seemed eager to take on the role of savior.

“It sucks to see the abandonment of the dunk contest,” he told reporters earlier on Saturday. He added that, “When it comes to dunking, I think it’s an art form, and I think when it comes to dunking on someone, I think I’m one of the best to ever do it.”

So much talk! Yet Brown came out and dunked like he hadn’t watched a dunk contest in 20 years. He did a windmill like the ones we see during NBA games. He had teammate his Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum throw him an alley-oop … and then covered his eyes after the dunk. And the most creative thing he could think of was dunking over someone sitting in a chair.

Mac McClung, meanwhile, was leaping over a tower of people. 

After the event, Brown said he was proud of his performance. “I wanted to be creative and bring some more entertainment to show at the end of the day,” he said. “I thought it was cool.” 

His words made sense. But his actions didn’t back them up. 

The event needs stars, but stars who are interested in standing out. Brown did offer a theory as to why so few stars compete in the event.

“It takes some energy to go out there and do tricks and perform,” he said, adding: “I think ultimately, in this media era, some players are afraid to make it into a meme or anything like that.”

It’s time for the NBA to take a page out of its In-Season Tournament playbook. Put a million dollars on the line, and get some big names in the contest. On a related note:

No more G League players

Nothing against Mac McClung, who’s now won the contest in back-to-back years! He’s one of the greatest dunkers ever and deserves all the accolades and praise he’s receiving. Watching him dunk is a treat, and he was the one dunker on Saturday to generate any sort of buzz within the stadium. 

But McClung is a G-League player. Jacon Toppin, who also competed Saturday night, basically is as well; he’s played in just five NBA games this season. If the NBA wants to turn the dunk contest into a “best dunker in the world” competition, then, fine, let’s open up the field and make it a yearlong competition. But this is supposed to be the NBA dunk contest. As long as that’s the case let’s fill it with actual NBA players, players with whom fans have connections and relationships. 

After the contest, McClung was asked about Brown being the first All-Star in six years to participate in the dunk contest. 

“I think Jaylen Brown did it because he wanted to,” he said. “But I think you want people that want to do it, that want to win. That’s the biggest thing.”

We all agree. But let’s find some stars who fit this bill.

Get rid of the fancy court gadgets and tech

Seriously, who asked for any of this? This is a basketball event. It should take place on a basic basketball court. 

Get some current players to serve as judges

It’s great how the NBA goes out of its way to honor its past and former players from host cities. But this thing needs to be spiced up a big — let’s get some current players on the dais, and make them judge their peers. Best case scenario: we generate some player-on-player beef!

Open it up to fans

The dunk contest is a for-TV event, but, as anyone who watches sports knows, the vibes in the arena can often impact the TV experience. 

Well, the vibe Saturday night in Indianapolis was, well, not good. Sitting in the stadium, I can tell you there was no juice. The majority of “fans” in the building seemed to be business people associated with the league. I have no problem with the NBA taking care of its partners. But the league needs to do a better job of getting fans inside the building.

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience

National Basketball Association


Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *