This year’s Sprite Slam Dunk contest needed desperately to win back the heart of the fans; after an odd East vs. West format last year, interest in the contest was at an all-time low. But thanks to Zach LaVine and a throwback to the original format, the Slam Dunk contest seems to be as healthy as ever.

With the contestants all being first- and second-year players, there wasn’t much buzz about the Sprite Slam-Dunk contest this year; after all, it’s hard to get excited about seeing someone you’ve never heard of. Only one player came from a winning team, while the rest are from obviously struggling teams that have no chance to make the playoffs.

Going back to the original format of a small panel of judges is just what the contest needed. The only problem was the obsession with making everything seem “cutting-edge,” including the tablets used to present the scores. Thank goodness they had regular scoring cards available once they realized that tablet screens don’t show up very well on cameras.

While Mile Plumlee and Giannis Antetokounmpo were underwhelming, Zach LaVine and Victor Oladipo came through for the crowd with some amazing displays of athleticism. Honestly, there’s no point in explaining to you what you can see with your own eyes, so here are some Vines of the contest:

 

Of course, the champion gets a Vine all to himself

 

The only thing that I didn’t like about this year was the commentators having their voice broadcast through the stadium live. The concept is fine, it’s just that Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller are used to being TV analysts, not play-by-play commentators at stadiums. Their discussion was fine for a TV broadcast, but seemed very awkward for anyone actually inside the stadium.

At one point during Zach LaVine’s attempts, Kenny Smith said that “he had the whole crowd in his pocket” and the stadium went silent. It was the kind of comment that would be fine when observing the event from afar, but seemed to put the crowd off when they heard someone talk about them as if they weren’t there.

When people think of All-Star weekend, they think of the best players in the NBA being present; that’s the whole reason that it’s built up the amount of buzz it currently holds. Right now it feels like the league is just depending on the reputation from the contest’s past to get people to watch, but instead of the best athletes in the league being in the contest as people expect, they decided to use it as a platform to increase exposure for their young talent.

Now I’m not against the up-and-comers getting a chance to display their talent on one of the biggest stages for the NBA, but there has to be balance. Of course you can’t force anyone to participate, but I guarantee that the league can come up with enough incentives to make the best players come out and join.

Did anyone seriously want to see Miles Plumlee in the contest over the likes of John Wall, LeBron James, Russel Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Chandler Parsons? The league couldn’t get even one of them to participate to bring some star-power to the contest?

It seems like it would be worth whatever it cost to ensure continued interest in the contest; however, the league may have lucked out with Zach LaVine, who I could easily see being a regular in the contest for years to come.

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