Houston • We learned last night that the dunk contest has some fundamental problems.
Hours after Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver (who replaces David Stern as top dog next spring) said the NBA had looked at "refreshing" All-Star Saturday night, the dunk contest went out and fizzled before an excellent final between Evans, the Jazz forward, and Toronto's Terrence Ross. We'll get to the reasons momentarily.
First thing first, Evans likely cost himself a lot of votes. How? After all, the Jazz forward jumped over an acrylic image of himself, one he had painstakingly painted in the week and a half before the competition. It was like inception, Evans dunking over an image of Evans dunking over an image of Evans dunking over an... Get it? It was far and away the most detail-oriented dunk of the night, but there was a fundamental problem. I don't think people realized Evans was the artist who actually did the painting.
[Note: I'm hearing from Twitter followers that the point got made on the TNT broadcast. But in the arena there was a complete lack of awareness that Evans had painted the image. Obviously, more folks watched at home than inside the Toyota Center. Moot point? Still think Evans could have brought a little more gusto to play up his artistic role. Very few media reports from the event made the connection.]
Before dunking, Evans said he was a painting and drawing kind of guy, but let the mystery linger. After executing the flawless left-handed windmill, he signed the painting in big letters up top, more of an autograph than an artist's signature.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports tweeted, "Evans' painting dunk will go down as one of those dunks that had it been explained, would have gone over bigger. Ross better but still."
How could he have remedied this? Perhaps by signing his name with paint and brush.
I explained to countless colleagues post-contest that Evans was the artist, and it completely changed their attitude about the dunk.
However, Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated suggested that Evans needed to get more creative. While jumping the easel was "the most memorable moment of the contest," in three of his four dunks, he jumped over something. Once it was Mark Eaton, then the easel and Dahntay Jones. Last year, he jumped over Gordon Hayward and comedian Kevin Hart.
"If Evans had just one unique concept - one more different look," Golliver wrote, "he would have been in position to be a back-to-back champion." But the bigger issue was the soul-sucking number of misses viewers endured during the first round. Said Ben Bolch in the Los Angeles Times, "If at first you don't succeed, then you would fit right in at the NBA's dunk contest."
Evans, who at his media availability a day earlier said it was critical to make your first dunk on the first try, struggled on his first attempt, over Mark Eaton. He needed several tries before grabbing the ball from the seated Eaton's outstretched palm and finishing a reverse dunk. But he was far from alone. Ross missed his first six attempts before earning a 50 [sidenote: How do you get a perfect score after missing six times?]. James "Flight" White never did complete his second dunk, a from-the-free-throw line windmill. Gerald Green's attempted double-dunk after cutting the net off the rim was pretty but he didn't complete it until he ran out of time.
The NBA format gives each participant 30 seconds to complete a dunk, no limit on attempts.
In the final, Evans completed each of his dunks on the first try.
"If you make it on the first try you [should] get more points when the judges make their decision," Evans said.
It's unlike in the classic dunk contests of Eaton's era when, the former Jazz center said, "it was like one dunk and if you got it you got it. You didn't get to do it over again."