The Issue with the NBA Dunk Contest


Bleacher Report

Derrick Jones Jr. takes off during the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Jacob Myers, Sports Writer

Normally when I do these ‘issue with’ stories, I like to focus on one specific issue surrounding a certain game or sequence. But, while watching the dunk contest, too many issues emerged during (in my opinion) the best dunk contest of all time. Before you start to debate that opinion, let me say one thing: a dunk contest should be evaluated with every dunker in mind. Most would say that the Zach LaVine-Aaron Gordon duel in 2016 would be the best of all time, but, without doing research, can you name the other two athletes who participated? That’s what I thought. The other two were Andre Drummond and Will Barton. Barton put up an abysmal 44-30 and Drummond put up 36-39. This year, both people who didn’t make the finals at least put up a 49, if not more, in the opening rounds. But, that whole rant aside, that’s not the point of this article. There are two major flaws that I will point out: the judging and the result.

First: the judges and the judging process. The fact that both Derrick Jones and Aaron Gordon didn’t receive 50s for their last dunks is terrible. Derrick Jones took off from nearly the free throw line and Aaron Gordon jumped over the tallest player in the league. That in itself is unfair. But, somehow, that is the least of my worries when it comes to judging. Here were the five judges: Dwayne Wade, Common, Candace Parker, Chadwick Boseman, and Scottie Pippen. What does every single one of those people have in common? They’ve never won a dunk contest. The judges in the dunk contest are not qualified to judge said contest. There are literally professional dunk contests with actual dunk judges that exist in the US. Having people who can’t even touch the net judge a contest with the most athletic freaks in the NBA isn’t fair. The solution is simple: no more celebrities judging the dunk contest. But, that answer doesn’t suffice. As much as I love that all of the judges had a Chicago connection, the judges need to either be professionals or previous dunk contest winners. No former winners who would actively support any of the contestants, and no randomly inserted celebrities. This will help the scores become not only valid, but acceptable to the average viewer. The Black Panther should not be able to give Aaron Gordon’s last dunk a 9.

Also, I have a bone to pick with Dwayne Wade specifically. He was boasting actively that he was rooting for Bam Adebayo, who plays for the Heat. He repeatedly said that he was rooting for the Heat player during the Skills Challenge, so why allow him to judge a Heat player during the dunk contest? Notice that when it came down to their last dunks, Wade gave the Heat player a 10 and the other player a 9. If there has ever been corruption in the dunk contest, you saw it the other night. 

The last thing that I hated about the 2020 dunk contest was the fact that there had to be a  winner, and who was the winner. This is the first dunk contest when I truly thought that the contest should have just stopped and had a tie for the winner. Derrick Jones and Aaron Gordon alike brought out dunks that no one had ever seen before, and dunks that none of the judges could ever get close to. They put on a show unlike anything the NBA had ever seen. For almost every dunk, most would agree that the dunks deserved a 50. Both of their last dunks deserved a 50. The announcers agreed, NBA Twitter agreed, and the casual sports fan would agree. It’s not like every dunk contest is going to come down to a tie, but for the latest dunk contest, both truly deserved to win.

But, look at Aaron Gordon’s total scores: 50-50-50-50-50-47. If a dunk contest goes into a ‘dunk off’ phase, the average score of every round should be who wins the contest. It’s not fair to judge someone off of one dunk when the entire competition had been one sided throughout. Just because the second round ended in a tie doesn’t mean the first round scores should be voided. Aaron Gordon, if you look back at his total performance. And his total performance was better. I still believe that it should have ended in a tie, but the people that say that Aaron Gordon was robbed do have a point. You shouldn’t be able to put up five straight 50s and lose a dunk contest. The judges need to see a revision, and so do the rules of the contest themselves. I feel bad for Aaron Gordon, because he truly does deserve a trophy. These changes would help players from suffering the fate of Aaron Gordon, as well as Dominique Wilkins, in the future.