And the crowd goes...mild?
John Wall won "Dunker of the Night" Saturday night in the Slam Dunk Contest in what was a rather lackluster event.
He's the third No. 1 pick all-time to win, per ESPN Stats and Info:
John Wall is the 3rd No. 1 overall pick to win the #DunkContest (Blake Griffin in 2011, Dwight Howard in 2008).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 16, 2014
For the majority of the night, most were complaining about the new format, but the Washington Wizards star nearly saved the entire competition with this insane double-pump reverse dunk after jumping over and snatching the ball from the Wizards' mascot:
That was one of the best dunks in recent memory. Even Magic Johnson, Dominique Wilkins and Julius Erving—the three judges—were left in awe, and those guys have seen their fair share of jaw-dropping highlights.
Here are a few of the best reactions on Twitter, courtesy of Chris Palmer, CBSSports.com's Matt Moore and Grantland's netw3rk:
Oh, John Wall. That was next level.— Chris Palmer (@ChrisPalmerNBA) February 16, 2014
JOHN. WALL.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 16, 2014
BRING THE WALL DOWN— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 16, 2014
OHHHHHHHH— netw3rk (@netw3rk) February 16, 2014
We're done here. Clear out. Everyone go home.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) February 16, 2014
Before that though, the Slam Dunk Contest was a bit of a mess.
The Freestyle Round was one of those things that sounded great on paper, but it was terrible in practice. With so many players all dunking at once, it didn't allow any time to sit back and revel in the spectacle. It was sensory overload. Right as fans were basking in the glory of one slam, here came another.
ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton put it best:
The freestyle round kills the moment where everyone stops and admires a great dunk.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) February 16, 2014
It's a shame, too, as there were a couple of nasty dunks during the round.
The East had a great team dunk that included two alley-oops, the last of which went off the backboard before Paul George threw it down.
That dunk demonstrated the potential of the Freestyle Round.
As the West dunked, though, the massive flaw was evident.
Damian Lillard had a great between-the-legs slam, and Ben McLemore extended for a beautiful left-handed jam. But there was so little time to reflect on each dunk that they got lost in the shuffle.
McLemore's in particular was even better when you saw it in slow motion:
From the Freestyle Round, the competition moved to the Battle Round, which was what many fans have come to expect from the event.
Terrence Ross, the reigning champion, beat out Lillard with this nice between-the-legs jam that got a little assist from Drake:
George made it two in a row for the East when he dispatched Harrison Barnes with a between-the-legs 360 jam:
Barnes deserves mention, though, for what was that extremely weak effort. This is the dunk contest. You've gotta do better than that. At least the Golden State Warriors forward acknowledged his unimpressive showing, per Marcus Thornton of the Bay Area News Group:
Barnes on his and Curry's performances: "We both kind of laid eggs out there."— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) February 16, 2014
Although it came in a losing effort, McLemore deserves some credit for this dunk over Shaquille O'Neal, who was seated in a throne:
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck thought it was more impressive than Blake Griffin's famous dunk over a Kia in the 2011 dunk contest:
McLemore dunking over Shaq > Griffin over car.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) February 16, 2014
Then Wall came in for the kill.
This was probably the first and last year of the Slam Dunk Contest in its current iteration. There were some positives, but they were outweighed by the negatives.
Going forward, altering the format to include an additional round involving the winners would provide the sort of definitive result that was lacking from the competition this year. The awkward spectacle involving three people hoisting one trophy leaves the audience yearning for some sort of closure.
People want to see a winner, rather than a group of people deemed winners and a Dunker of the Night award. While the original format needed changing, the alteration is a work in progress and the NBA must allow the remaining dunkers the opportunity to battle it out for the crown.
Maybe the league can get it right next year.