Monday, February 18, 2008

Dart's Rant Of The Day: NBA All Star Weekend Through The Years

I remember way back when All Star Weekend consisted of an Old Timers Game and Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday and the NBA All Star Game on that Sunday and it was a wrap. This was all before the NBA began really caking hand over first and became super popular overseas, though. It wasn’t until 1986 that the Long Distance Competition (later renamed the Three Point Shootout) was added and we had the first semblance of what we now call All Star Weekend AKA Black Thanksgiving. This post will take us all down memory lane with NBA All Star Weekend.

1984 Old Timers Game

Back in 1984, the NBA had the great idea to have some of the retired ABA and NBA greats put on the short shorts and lace ‘em back up to play an exhibition in front of the fans. We got to see greats like Pete Maravich, John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Zelmo Beatty, Alvan Adams, Johnny “Red” Kerr and others run up and down the court and brick 15 footers. The best part of the game was seeing some grey haired old cat dribble the ball with one hand exclusively and shoot long ass set shots. Sometimes we got to see running hooks and underhanded free know, old school “before the Black guys showed up” shit.

The game was halted after the 1993 exhibition after two participants suffered ACL injuries. I’ll never forget seeing Norm Nixon flying down the court and during a stop and go dribble, his knee stopped and the rest of his body went. I remember hearing a *Pop!* and ol’ Norm fell into a heap on the court. After that the NBA decided it would be a good idea to stop forcing these old men to have to use their retired players’ health insurance benefits.

2000 Slam Dunk Contest

The NBA decided to jack yet another idea from the old ABA (the 3 point shot was an ABA innovation as well) and added the Slam Dunk Contest to it’s All Star festivities. The great early Slam Dunk contest competitors were Julius Erving, Larry Nance, Jerome Kersey, Ron Harper, Clyde Drexler, Terrence Stansbury, Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan.

After the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest it became harder and harder to nail down competitors for the Slam Dunk Contest and the exhibition itself had become incredibly dull and creativity was at an all time low so it didn’t reappear again until the 2000 All Star Weekend. Meanwhile, the McDonald’s High School Slam Dunk Contest and the College Slam Dunk Contest were incredibly exciting and the showdown between Felipe Lopez and Ruben Patterson in 1999 was incredible.

The NBA has changed the dunk format so often it’s crazy by reducing the number of competitors and rounds and by adding and removing helpers and props in different years. One year they even added the bullshit dunk wheel and forgot that everyone can’t palm a basketball and/or don’t jump off of two legs.

With the new influx of young athletic talent and the burgeoning streetball influence in the NBA (thanks And 1!) it was a new era of creativity in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. It’s been a staple of the weekend since the classic performance by Vince Carter.

1987 Three Point/Long Distance Shootout

In 1986, the NBA decide to have a showcase for the deadeye shooters and they set the stage for the Long Distance Shootout. The Long Distance Shootout was merely a showcase for Larry Bird to get another check back in the old days. The greatest shooters in the NBA all participated like Ricky Pierce, Dale Ellis, Eddie Johnson, Mark Price, Dana Barros, Reggie Miller, Chuck Person, Tim Legler, Detlef Schrempf and Craig Hodges.

In the early days it was normal for a score of 16, 17 or 18 to win you the prize because they shot for 3 rounds and peoples arms got tired. Now heads get 20’s on the regular. My, how times have changed.

1997 Rookie Game

In 1994, the NBA execs decided that it would make more sense to trot out the young players that don’t get a chance to be seen very often then it would to subject the old heads to injury and they have the first NBA Rookie Game. The young guns got to run up and down the court and entertain the throngs of fans. As I look back over the years, a whole lot of NBA busts and disappointments (also known as scrubs) got to play in this game such as Dino Radja, Lamond Murray, Khalid Reeves, Popeye Jones, George Zidek, Tyus Edney, Micheal Stewart, Popeye Jones, Matt Maloney and Rodrick Rhodes.

In 1996, the game switched to East vs. West and the best Rookie Game by far was the 1997 edition that featured what might go down in history as the NBA’s G.O.A.T. Draft (1996) class (thanks to cocaine) as Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Marcus Camby, Antoine Walker, etc. all played in an exhibition for the ages. In 1999, the format was changed and instead of having undeserving rookies running up and down the court the instead opted to have the best rookies play the best second year players in what later became the Schick Rookie Challenge AKA Rookies Vs. Sophomores Game.

2001 All Star Weekend

The Slam Dunk Contest was gone in 1998, so what did the NBA do to replace it? Promote fundamentals, shooting and teamwork, that’s what! The NBA, in an effort to include WNBA players in All Star Weekend proceedings concocted a game called 2 Ball. In this game there are numbers scored from 1 to 9 on the court and a team of two (an NBA and WNBA player) would go out and hit the most shots they could in 60 seconds provided they shot from each spot on the court. They had to pass to each other as well and the most efficient team won. Almost no one remembers 2 Ball because it failed to catch on and it only appeared in 1998, 2000 and finally in 2001 (there was no 1999 game due to strike).

In 2000, the Shick Rookie Challenge pit the top NBA rookies versus the best second year players in an effort to get airtime for the younger NBA players that didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the All Star Game until some folks retired. These games were a lot more entertaining because more of the players were well known but the Sophomores always tend to kill the Rookie squad...even when the Rookie Squad had LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade in 2004 they still lost by 24. The Rookies won in 2000 and 2002 but haven’t even come close since.

NBA Hoop It Up was an ill conceived idea that was a mishmash of teams consisting of NBA Legends, NBA players, WNBA players and celebrities playing each other in half court pick up games. The games were hard to watch and they only appeared in 2002 and 2003, afterwards they were replaced by the NBA Celebrity game. As long as I don’t have to see old ass Moses Malone sweating like a factory worker while Jamie Foxx tries to guard him ever again in my life I’m good.

2006 Skills Challenge

The NBA Skills Challenge is a ball handling, passing, shooting, speed and dexterity exercise that has competitors that are usually point guards or ball handlers. It’s probably the only idea the NBA has ever nicked from the NHL. It’s somewhat entertaining but not by much. Meh.

The NBA took 2 Ball and Hoop It Up and merged them into this snoozefest of an exhibition called NBA Shooting Stars and have featured it in All Star Weekend since 2005. I don’t need to get into it any further because this event allows the audience at home to take a bathroom break, make a plate or catch a quick nap. Blech! © The Clipse

Regarding this past All Star Weekend:

Gerald Green was robbed.
Ray Allen was robbed.

The “Superman” dunk that Dwight Howard did was way better when Arkansas’ Brandon Dean did it in the College Slam Dunk Contest back in 2002.

His bounce behind the backboard dunk has been done by countless streetball players since 2004 so it was nothing new to me. Plus, he’s 7’0 tall with a 40” vertical and long arms! Where’s the surprise?

Originality? If other people have done it before then when exactly is it original? The tip dunk was ill but Gerald’s “Birthday Cake” dunk was slept on hard. Where was Sean Williams (New Jersey) at? They need to expand to 6 competitors again and go all out and make sure they get “show dunkers” as opposed to “game dunkers” (Tim Perry, I’m looking at you!).

My dream Slam Dunk Contest:

James “Flight” White
Chris “Skywalker” Lowery
Will “The Thrill” Bynum
Luther Head
Drew Lavender, Xavier
Billy Walker, Kansas State

Mr. 720 and Helicopter could be added if I went to 8.



Spaiseone... said...

all time favorite dunk contest for me has got to be David Lee and James White in the McDonalds HS dunk contest, don't remember the year though, White jumped with like an entire foot behind the free throw line. i was astonished. then he had that damn between the leg dunk where his head was above the rim.

Still can't believe Lee won, but he had a few creative dunks so whatever.

Dart Adams said...

It was the 2001 McDonald's Slam Dunk Contest because Eddy Curry was supposed to be in it but he had hamstring issues. He convinced his roommate David Lee to enter in his place and he ended up winning. James White got robbed because he was dunking from BEYOND the free throw line.

Dude is 6'7 with a 45" vertical! He's in the NBADL right now.