Gimmicks we’d like to see in the Slam Dunk Contest

Published February 18, 2022, 3:30 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

NBA.com Philippines’ Jon Rodriguez has some crazy ideas for the NBA All-Star dunk competition.

Artwork from nba.com/rockets

More than the sheer athleticism and midair artistry, it’s the theatrics that turn the Slam Dunk Contest into a good time. It’s the surprise guests. It’s the throwback jersey reveals to give flowers to the OGs. It’s the post-dunk celebrations (of which Vince Carter is the GOAT). It’s the unexpected costume changes. It’s the props–from cupcakes to blindfolds to cars. 

The Slam Dunk Contest is pretty much the only time players can infuse crazy creativity with freakish hops. Remember the time Jeremy Evans dunked over a painting of himself dunking on a painting of himself? Do you remember Jeremy Evans at all? How about that time Gerald Green blew a candle sitting on top of a cupcake mid-flight? These are the types of things Dunk Contest participants should go for. Because really, the dunking-over-NBA-legend bit can only go so far. 

Here are final-round dream dunks we’d like to see in a future dunk contest.

LeBron James’ Banana Boat dunk

Since Day 1, LeBron James has been a name on everyone’s dunk contest wishlist. It’s probably never going to happen in Year 20, but with his son Bronny already packing his NBA go bag, who knows? Then again, Bronny jumping over his father or catching a lob from the side of the backboard might not be groundbreaking at all. If LeBron does participate in the dunk contest, he should bring out the entire Banana Boat Crew to help him out. Has anyone in the history of the dunk contest attempted to dunk over a banana boat that had Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union, and Chris Paul? Never been done. This is a guaranteed perfect 10 dunk. And because DWade is part of it, there’d be no chance he could give it a nine.

Zach LaVine brings out Michael Jordan

One of the league’s best dunkers and two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion is playing for the Chicago Bulls. How can we not bring him in the same conversation as one of the league’s greatest dunkers of all time and two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion who used to play for the Chicago Bulls? Yes, Michael Jordan is rocking with the Charlotte Hornets now, but if The Last Dance taught us anything, it’s that it would take nothing more than a goat emoji tweet from LaVine for MJ to take it personally. So LaVine, in his white cement Air Jordan 3s and red wristband, removes his Bulls warmup jacket to reveal a No. 23 jersey and stands by the free throw line. Jordan, in his baggy pants, stands up from his courtside seat and walks towards LaVine. In these types of scenarios, what usually happens is that the participant dunks over the OG. Jordan is no ordinary OG. So instead, LaVine will surrender his No. 23 jersey to its rightful owner and allow himself to be dunked on–not over–by a 60-year-old Jordan. LaVine will get a total score of zero for this stunt, but at least he’ll forever be a Bulls legend.

Aaron Gordon dunking trophies

For those times he was robbed in the very contest he was born to dominate, Aaron Gordon should break his own word of never joining the Slam Dunk Contest again by making a comeback. In 2011, JaVale McGee did the impossible by dunking two basketballs in two different hoops in one giant leap. It was a sort of eccentric, almost rebellious approach to the dunk contest. Gordon should take a crack at this while adding a personal touch. Instead of two basketballs, Gordon should dunk two replicas of the dunk contest trophies from 2016 and 2020. As a tribute to himself, he should just wear his perfect No. 50 jersey for this attempt.

Jalen Green in a barong

Dwight Howard in a Superman costume. Pat Connaughton as Billy Hoyle from White Men Can’t Jump. Victor Oladipo in a Black Panther mask. John Collins in vintage pilot gear. All of these will be forgotten once part-amazing, part-Filipino Jalen Green pulls off the most patriotic dunk of all time. Green should attempt his between-the-legs alley-oop tomahawk wearing a barong tagalog. Maybe have him leap over Jordan Clarkson and Erik Spoelstra? That should be enough #PinoyPride to last until the next All-Stars when Jalen defends his crown.