After originally saying he had declined the NBA’s invitation, it seems the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George will once again participate in the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest on Feb. 15.
Back on Jan. 18, George told Indy Star’s Candace Buckner that he had declined the NBA’s invite to the dunk contest. Later that night, against the Los Angeles Clippers, George showed off a dunk that would have put an end to the dunk contest, no matter what round they were in.
That dunk boosted George’s national spotlight. He ended up finishing third overall in the All-Star fan voting and was named a starter for the Eastern Conference squad.
George participated in 2012, but declined to take part in the dunk contest last season, and might have held to his word this year if not for his 360 Windmill. He gave Buckner a very good explanation about why he didn’t want to participate, and it’s something the NBA should take notice of.
“(Not to) take nothing away from the dunk contest, (but) it was a joke. I guess whoever had the biggest celebrity involved in their dunk was going to be the winner. I guess I should have tried to reach out to some people.”
Jeremy Evans won in 2012 by jumping over comedian Kevin Hart, which is what George is making reference to. Evans’ dunks were pretty good, but George completed a 360 dunk in the dark and dunked over 7-foot-2 teammate Roy Hibbert. 7-foot-2 is a lot harder to jump over than 5-foot-2.
Something changed George’s mind this season. Maybe it’s the publicity he received after his dunk against the Clippers. Maybe it’s the fact the other participants are legitimate dunkers and not just a thrown-together-at-the-last-second bunch. Either way the group — George, John Wall, Terrence Ross, Damian Lillard, Ben McLemore and Harrison Barnes — has a chance to reinvent the dunk contest and make it what it used to be.
It’s no secret the Slam Dunk Contest has become a joke over the years. I would venture to say it’s been since 2003 that we’ve had a legitimate dunk contest, one not involving ridiculous props like cars, paintings or capes. The contest also used to feature the best of the best; the likes of Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Julius Erving, Kobe Bryant, and arguably the greatest dunk champion of them all, Vince Carter.
Now the only question left is what dunk will George use to claim victory in the first round.