Once upon a time, the NBA dunk contest was full of All-Star contestants.
In 1985, Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, and Larry Nance all competed. Through the early 2000s, many A-list names in the league took a stab at claiming dunking royalty. Chief among them was Vince Carter. As a member of the Toronto Raptors in 2000, Carter went toe-to-toe with teammate Tracy McGrady, winning an electrifying contest.
But in recent years, big-name stars have avoided the event, giving way to younger and upcoming players. While still an thrilling event, it has lost some its luster without the superstar appeal.
And Carter, 42, now with the Atlanta Hawks, told Marc Spears of The Undefeated he doesn’t understand why stars avoid the competition.
“I don’t think there’s a remedy. It’s just how they’re feeling,” Carter said. “I can’t answer that question. I just don’t know. That was just something I looked forward to.”
Carter only competed in one contest himself, retiring from the event after his historic win. He also says that social media puts a lot more pressure on players.
“Some people may think different, but I just feel it,” Carter said. “Me being in the dunk contest at that time, that’s not that hard. What people were saying around the world instantly was not a worry. Now, it’s instant. The pressures of it tends to get to us. I don’t care who you are. It’s the reality of it.”
This year’s dunk contest will feature John Collins, Dennis Smith Jr., Hamidou Diallo and Miles Bridges. And while it certainly will be a night full of high-flying throwdowns, it will be hard to top the epic shows put on by the likes of Carter back in the day.
Thumbnail photo via Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports Images