Phi Slamma Jamma: Predicting the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Competitors
By: Jemel Agulto (Follow on Twitter: @nycboi411)
2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest
What was once the most entertaining part of the NBA All-Star Weekend, the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, is set to take place Saturday Feb. 16, in Houston, TX. Considered to be the centerpiece of the All-Star Skills Competition, TNT will start its coverage of the event 8 p.m. EST, from inside the Toyota Center. However, this year's contestants have yet to be announced, but one can still speculate who may or may not help resurrect this once heralded spectacle.
Who Will Not Be There:
These are the athletes many would love to see participate in the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. However, it is with near certainty these players will not be showcasing their super-human leaping abilities inside the Toyota Center this year. Thus, not helping the competition's cause to return to its former entertainment glory.
After years of teasing and playing hard-to-get by one "Akron Hammer," name courtesy of former SportsNation host Michelle Beadle, NBA fans have given up on the idea, that LeBron James will ever hammer one down during a NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Despite the years of constant wooing by fans and the NBA, James has ultimately turned down offer after offer to be a part of the contest, even those made by teammates. In a recent interview with ESPN writer Brian Windhorst, teammate Dwayne Wade said "I tried to convince LeBron . . . He turned me down, I think he got nervous."
At the prime age of 28, and in his ninth year in the NBA, James is far beyond worrying about winning his first NBA Slam Dunk Contest title. He has his full attention on leading the Miami Heat in its defense as NBA Champions, "Not one, not two, not three . . ." Reality is, the closest the NBA and its fans will see James in any dunk contest, will be watching highlights of him winning the 2003 McDonalds All-American Powerade Jam Fest on YouTube.
Howard will not be participating in this year's NBA Dunk Contest, despite etching his name on the 2008 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Trophy. Ironically enough the self-proclaimed "Man of Steel," may not even be available to play in the All-Star Game itself, since he has been on-and-off the Los Angeles Lakers' injured list this season. Howard is ailing from a torn labrum that he suffered in early Jan. and the team has yet to have its entire roster healthy this year. The star-studded Lakers' difficulty to generate chemistry also has been evident this season, which has prevented them from winning ball games consistently. With Howard out, it will be a huge question mark on how the Lakers will perform once he returns.
Howard has not competed in the dunk contest since 2010, when he lost his title defense to Nate Robinson, and will not be doing so anytime soon. He wanted out of Orlando last season with hopes of improving his chances of winning his first NBA Championship, causing the debacle now referred to as the "Dwight Howard Saga." Consequently, it comes down to a "been there, done that" mantra with Howard. He already has a NBA Slam Dunk Contest title under his belt, now wants a NBA Championship to add to his resume.
The inclusion of these two superstar athletes would clearly bring the NBA Slam Dunk Contest back to its All-Star Weekend stardom. Unfortunately, the task of convincing just one of these high-flyers to compete in this year's dunk contest would be virtually impossible, let alone convincing both of them. The only way anyone will see LeBron James and Dwight Howard headline the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest is by watching their digital counterparts compete on 2K Sports' NBA 2K13's version of the competition.
Who Should Be There:
In contrast, these athletes have a significantly greater chance of being a part of 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. These players may not be a part of the headliner names of the NBA, but they bring the athleticism and creativity that the NBA Dunk Contest's foundation was built on.
Garnering just enough fan-votes during the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, holds the title of NBA's Slam Dunk Champion.
Evans is a no-name player, whose star teammates are in the center of swirling trade rumors, this season. The Jazz are a team recognized by the league to be "selling" by trade deadline's end, and is on a perpetual path of "rebuilding." These two reasons in themselves greatly increase Evans' chances of participating in this year's competition.
With many of today's rising stars considered to be crucial cogs to their respected teams' chances of winning NBA Championships, they are preserving their health by opting out of any offer to compete in any event that may put them at risk, as well. Evans is neither a rising star nor crucial cog, which gives him every reason to pursue his title defense as the NBA's Slam Dunk Champion during the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
Indiana Pacers forward, Paul George, was edged-out by the before mentioned Jeremy Evans in last year's NBA Slam Dunk Contest, thus creating a perfect storyline for this year's competition.
Unlike Evans, George is on the opposite side of the NBA player spectrum. He is recognized as being one of the Association's rising stars and is considered to be an integral part of this year's Pacers team's to continue as an elite contender for the NBA Championship.
So why would George risk his health and the team's success to compete in a silly slam dunk contest? Simply put, he wants revenge, he, along with thousands of other voters, thought he should have won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest last year.
George grew another inch during this past offseason, do not be surprise if the well-capable, determined, now 6'10" forward, dethrones the current champion Evans, in this year's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
These two young NBA players may not thrust the NBA Slam Dunk Contest back to what it once was in its hay-day, but they may help the competition take a step in the right direction. As long as the contest produces intriguing storylines of supreme high-flyers challenging each other athletically and creatively, like Paul George vs. Jeremy Evans, the competition will soon be back to topping television ratings; like it once did when Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan competed against one another.
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