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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Slam dunk contest not an All-Star Weekend highlight

Published: February 28, 2013
Section: Opinions

The NBA All-Star Weekend recently took place in Houston from Feb. 15-17. Some of the most anticipated events on Saturday included the Shooting Stars Competition, Skills Challenge, 3-Point Shootout and Dunk Contest.

The Shooting Stars Competition involved three professional players (one current, one past NBA player and one WNBA player) shooting from a variety of pre-designated spots on the court, which progressively become more difficult at each location. The last spot was from the half-court mark. While those that promote the competition contend that efficient shooting from all of the spots are necessary to win, statistically that does not seem to be the case.

In this year’s competition, there was a .88 correlation between the number of attempts from the half-court line and the total time that the trio took to make all six shots. This correlation is a highly positive correlation, as a correlation of 1.0 is the strongest. From this statistic, it is obvious that the majority of the competition results in the skill or luck that follows from making a half-court shot.

One bright spot of this contest is that it has continuously attracted players of the highest caliber, with current young stars Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Brook Lopez as well as well a group of WNBA players who have gathered a total of 20 All-Star appearances and nine WNBA championships. Seven-time champion Robert Horry participated as well as Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. Bosh, Cash and Wilkins took home the trophy.

During the Skills Challenge, the league’s best point guards ran through an obstacle course type of setting by dribbling, passing and shooting. This event also included a long shot to be made, although it was only just in front of the 3-point line and beyond the paint. The correlation between how many attempts it took to make that jump shot and the competitors’ total course time was .88, as it was with the Shooting Stars Competition.

It’s clear that the larger part of the skill in this competition was shooting, even though it was a “skills challenge,” which was meant to test a point guard’s most vital skills. This competition also included a litany of young stars with the average age of only 24. The contest included up-and-comers Jrue Holiday (the first person to play in the NBA born in the 1990s) Brandon Knight, Damian Lillard, Jeremy Lin and Jeff Teague, as well as last year’s winner, Tony Parker. Lillard took home first place.

The third competition was the 3-Point Contest. As with the previous events, this event heavily involved shooting, although in a more direct sense than the others. Competitors had one minute to shoot a maximum of 30 3-pointers. This year’s shootout included All-Stars Paul George and Kyrie Erving, as well as Steve Novak, Stephen Curry, Matt Bonner and Ryan Anderson. Erving was the winner.

The final and generally most anticipated competition was the Slam-Dunk Contest. During the past few years, the contest has been known for including athletes that are not the greatest dunkers and for the resulting number of attempts that it takes the players to make a dunk. Years ago, the best of the best wanted to participate in the contest but that sentiment has strongly faded. This year’s competition included Gerald Green, Terrence Ross, James White, Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Evans and Kenneth Faried.

Faried was the MVP in the Rising Star’s Challenge after scoring 40 and grabbing 10 rebounds. Ross won the contest with 58 percent of the fan voting. The game is meant to be a “Who’s Who” of the top players, but instead leaves the viewers asking “Who is Who?” as the players have not had strong careers and have not made their names notable. The games’ best players and best dunkers, including Kevin Durant, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, were not participants in this year’s contest.

Of those three, Bryant is the only one to have participated, although in 1997. The participants averaged only 16 minutes per game and six points per game during the regular season, hardly warranting for All-Star Weekend participation. The most noticeable dunks were those that were completed through one attempt, as a common theme was the recurrent dunk, which were attempts that lessened the excitement and buzz around the competition.

What made this event slightly amusing was the broadcasters’ commentary, particularly Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, who had coached each of the teams in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge. The commentators had the same thoughts about the lack of talent and abundance of slam dunk attempts as the audience did. They were trying to hold back their laughter at the negative comments about the participants and the lack of playing time that the players receive during the regular season compared to the abundant attention that they receive during the Slam-Dunk Contest.

The All-Star Game was played as usual with the West winning the game for the third consecutive year, and Chris Paul being crowned the game’s MVP. In a related note, K.C. Jones, NBA Champion and Hall of Famer for the Boston Celtics was the coach of the Brandeis men’s basketball team from 1967-1970 and went on to win two NBA Championships and coach the Eastern Conference to two All-Star victories in 1984 and 1986.