January 28, 2009
This is some serious weak sauce. We’ve known for a while now that three of the four participants in the 2009 Sprite Slam Dunk contest would be defending champion Dwight Howard, 2006 winner Nate Robinson and also-ran Rudy Gay from the 2008 contest. Yawn. The fourth participant was decided by a fan vote, which I’ve always thought was a strong idea. It’s always good to get the fans involved and let them see somebody they actually want in the contest. I’m a fan of the young guns, but I’ll admit fans were given some less-than-stellar options: Joe Alexander, Rudy Fernandez or Russell Westbrook.
The results were announced last week and now I’m re-thinking this whole fan vote thing.
Of those three options, Russell Westbrook was the obvious choice. It wasn’t really close. He’s a rookie on a team most people don’t get a chance to see very often, but he’s dynamite. Westbrook is an explosive leaper and pure athlete who takes it hard to the rack and would have undoubtedly brought some energy. I could get behind that.
Joe Alexander, another rookie, was certainly a more curious option, but the guy at least had a reputation as a finisher. Coming out of West Virginia last summer the scouting report on him said, “When deciding to go all the way to the rim, Alexander has all-world finishing ability off of one or two feet. He showed signs of finishing aggressively with awesome power.” OK, I could get behind that, too.
Instead of those two the fans, undoubtedly influenced by that all-important Spanish vote, decided to select Rudy Fernandez. I can’t get behind that. Yeah, one half of Portland’s Spanish Inquisition is having a nice season on one of the more up-and-coming squads in the league – but a potent dunker he is not. Far from it. Most of the time he barely seems capable of getting the ball over the rim. And sure, he’s gotten a reputation of freeing himself for alley oops. We’re not talking Trevor Ariza oops here though, we’re talking mild, bland, boring, run-of-the-mill oops. Did the fans even bother to watch his highlight reel? It’s not what I would describe as awe-inspiring:
Fernandez’s opponents don’t exactly give me the vapors either. Nate Robinson? Yeah, he’s tiny and it looks kinda weird when he dunks. We get it. We’ve seen it before. He also flat-out robbed the vastly superior Andre Iguodala in 2006. Rudy Gay? He’s an athlete, but Gay lacked creativity and wasn’t even one of the top two dunkers on the court in 2008. We’ve seen his stuff before, too. Dwight Howard? Yeah, dude was sick last year and deserves a chance to defend his title, but how many slams can a man his size really come up with? I guess we’ll find out.
This is coming from a huge dunk contest fan and somebody who relishes the chance to see lesser known kids in the contest over high-profile superstars. I was ecstatic to see Gerald Green in it the last two years. I don’t hate the contest and I don’t hate fresh faces representing it – but I hate this Fernandez pick, and I’m nonplussed about the other selections. I guess Fernandez can’t be much worse than The Birdman though, with Brandon Roy throwing the oops we can take solace in the fact that he won’t be any more pathetic than this: