Pro sports leagues "All-Star" moments missing it-factor

Pro sports leagues "All-Star" moments missing it-factor
February 15, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Jeremy Evans soars over a guy in a chair at last year's slam-dum contest. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

NBA - Slam Dunk Competition
The NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest is held every year during All-Star Weekend. The contest was inaugurated by the ABA in 1976 at its All-Star game in the high-jumping air of the Mile High City.

The first slam dunk contest was won by Julius Erving (or Dr. J.) of the Nets at the 1976 All-Star Game. For reasons that I can’t fathom, the Slam Dunk contest took a hiatus until 1984.

There have been 20 players who have been crowned princes of mid-air. Three are two-time winners: Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Harold Miner and Nate Robinson is the only three-time winner.

Here's a full list of past NBA Slam Dunk Winners:

1984 (Denver) – Larry “Rock The Cradle” Nance, Suns
1985 (Indianapolis) – Dominique “The Human Highlight Reel” Wilkins, Hawks
1986 (Dallas) – Spud Webb, Hawks
1987 (Seattle) – Michael “Air” Jordan, Bulls
1988 (Chicago) – “Air”, Bulls
1989 (Houston) – Kenny “Sky” Walker, Knicks
1990 (Miami) – Dominique Wilkins, Hawks
1991 (Charlotte) – Dee Brown, Celtics
1992 (Orlando) – Cedric Ceballos, Suns
1993 (Salt Lake City) – Harold “Baby Shaq” Miner, Heat
1994 (Minneapolis) – Isaiah “Night” Rider, T’wolves
1995 (Phoenix) – Harold Miner, Heat
1996 (San Antonio) – Brent Barry, Clippers
1997 (Cleveland) – Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant, Lakers
1998 (New York City) – No Slam Dunk Competition
1999 (Philadelphia) – Lockout – Shortened Season, No NBA All Star Game
2000 (Oakland) – Vince “It’s Over” Carter, Raptors
2001 (Washington, D.C.) – Desmond “Perry” Mason, Sonics
2002 (Philadelphia) – Jason Richardson, Warriors
2003 (Atlanta) – Jason Richardson, Warriors
2004 (Los Angeles) – Fred Jones, Pacers
2005 (Denver) – Josh Smith, Hawks
2006 (Houston) –  Nate Robinson, Knicks
2007 (Las Vegas) – Gerald “Being” Green, Celtics
2008 (New Orleans) –  Dwight “Superman” Howard, Magic
2009 (Phoenix) – Nate Robinson, Knicks
2010 (Dallas) – Nate Robinson, Knicks
2011 (Los Angeles) – Blake “Kia” Griffin, Clippers
2012 (Orlando) - Jeremy Evans, Pacers

The last decade has seen many NBA All-Stars take a pass on participating in the Slam Dunk festivities. Ever since Vince Carter’s “Tour De Dunk” in Oakland in 2000, the luster has worn off the slam-fest and the NBA can’t seem to get it back. OK, I’ll give you Blake Griffin jumping over the KIA, but Oakland playground legend Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell was doing that at Mosswood Park in the 80’s over full size cars, no imports for “Hook.”

This year’s participants aren’t exactly a ‘Who’s Who of Hops.’ Pacers’ forward Jeremy Evans will be back to defend his 2012 title against his teammate Gerald Green - who won the 2007 dunk contest - Eric Bledsoe of the Clippers, the “Manimal” Kenneth Faried of the Nuggets, and Terrence Ross of the. Without swooping stars like LeBron James participating, this event is no ‘slam dunk’ to continuing being a fan favorite.

NHL - Winter Classic
The NHL Winter Classic is an annual event held on or around New Year’s Day in which a regular-season game is played outdoors in a football or baseball venue. The first outdoor NHL game saw the puck drop in 2003 with the Montreal Canadians visiting Edmonton Oilers. It became a yearly event in 2008. After featuring only American teams during the first five years, the 2013 Winter Classic would have featured the first Canadian team to play in one. The Toronto Maple Leafs were scheduled to visit the Detroit Red Wings but the game was cancelled due to the NHL lockout. This game would have been huge since it was going to be played at the University of Michigan’s football stadium which seats over 100,000. Talk about a missed opportunity for the NHL, this was it. The Winter Classic was officially made a permanent part of the schedule through at least 2021, as part of the league's television contract with NBC.


MLB - Home Run Derby
“Back, back, back, back!”

Eight players are selected to participate in the Home Run Derby and compete in a traditional playoff system, in which the players with the most home runs advance to the next round. Each player gets ten "outs" per round. An out is defined as any swing that is not a home run. Should a tie exist between players at the end of any round, there will be a five-swing swing-off to determine who will advance, followed by three extra swings if needed (as of 2012; if a tie still remains, sudden-death swings continue until one player homers). Until 2006, the home run count was reset after each round. However, a rule change was made for the 2006 Home Run Derby which causes the home run count for the four players advancing to the second round to carry over. The home run count for the final round is still reset to zero.

One of the challenges for this made-for-TV event is that by the rules listed above, it gets a bit complicated and drawn out.

For the most part, the field of players selected consists of four players from the AL and four from the NL. The first Derby in 1985 featured five bats from each league, the 1986 featured three and 1987 Derby had two players from each league face-off. In 1996, the field was again expanded to ten players, five from each league, but in 1997, the AL had six contestants to the NL's four. In 2000, the field reverted to the four-player-per-league format, which it has remained ever since. I can’t wait until the miracles of DNA engineering bring Babe Ruth back to life to compete with today’s big boppers.

NFL - Pro Bowl
The yearly all-star game followed by a luau is clearly on life support, with Commissioner Roger Goodell playing the role of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The game has been around since 1951.

Unlike other leagues, which hold their All-Star games at the halfway point of their regular seasons, the Pro Bowl is played at the end of the NFL season. Between the 1970 NFL-AFL merger and 2009, it was usually held on the weekend after the Super Bowl. Since 2010, the Pro Bowl has been played on the weekend between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.

The NFL faces a number of problems with the Pro Bowl. The increasing debate on concussions, fear of injuries, dwindling TV ratings and players not going at full motor have hurt the game’s viability. NFL owners are set to decide the future of the Pro Bowl in April.

Over his 40-year career, sports executive Andy Dolich has held positions at the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A's, Golden State WarriorsMemphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers. He is the Sports Business Insider for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.