With no NBA games this weekend, Good Men Picks shifts its focus to All-Star Weekend. The Slam Dunk Contest is all that really matters, so who should you root for?
My birthday was yesterday: February 17. It’s the same day Michael Jordan was born. It was my 23rd birthday, and Michael Jordan wore 23. Shouldn’t I get some commemorative ring or postcard or something like that? It’s a burden I’ve had to try to live up to my entire life. I’ve tried to become something more than just “That Guy Who Was Born on Michael Jordan’s Birthday.” So far, I’ve failed … miserably.
But, I was also born on the same day as Paris Hilton. The more I think about it, the more I realize—outside of a complete lack of physical likeness—if Paris Hilton and Michael Jordan had a kid, it would be me. To a lesser degree, my mom is Michael Jordan and my dad is Paris Hilton—but that’s another post—actually, a novella—in itself.
Is there anything more Paris–Jordan than All-Star weekend? It’s a scary, whirlwind convergence of celebrity and sport. The marquee event of the weekend? The Slam Dunk Contest that MJ used to dominate. Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that this is the pinnacle of my life. Writing this column, on my 23rd birthday, about the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, is what I was born to do. After this is published, it’s all downhill.
At first I wanted to write about the HORSE competition, but this, this is my true calling (and they canceled HORSE anyway). So here’s an analysis of each participant—four in all—and a decision on who you should root for. Last week’s loss puts our record at 16-21.
JaVale McGee is seven feet tall. If you’re seven feet, you’re not supposed to be in the slam dunk contest. It’s one or the other—not both. But McGee has been able to overcome that awkward bumblingness of most big men. He’s taken his freakish length—draft lingo!—and turned it into a sort of one-of-a-kind NBA side show. He’s still yet to harness all of his ability or come to terms with his body, so every night, anything can happen with JaVale McGee. He’s also the first son of a WNBA player to ever play in the NBA, so he’s got that going for him. Which is nice.
According to my research, he’s also the only “green” dunker out there. He pulls trash out of the net with his mouth, while dunking the ball with his hands:
But for all of his environmentally-conscious dunking, he also does some pretty moronic stuff, too. Or at least one time he did something stupid. When his team was down 25 at Sacramento with the clock expiring, he tried to dunk from the free throw line and missed by a few yards. A layup would’ve been appropriate there, my friend.
Sorry, maybe next year.
Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka
Sergeballu, or Serge, is only 21. He grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, meaning, he grew up in the midst of one of the bloodiest wars in African history. His mother died when he was eight, and his father was imprisoned for a year because of the war. He has 18 siblings. When he came to the NBA last year, he didn’t speak a word on English. He learned quickly and now speaks four different languages. And he can do this:
Ibaka is an impressive dude. Logically, we should pick him, but if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, “logic” is the last word that would come to mind. Anyway, he’s on the Thunder. They win too much already.
He’s the sentimental choice. At this point in his career—his second season—he’s not much more than a dunker and big leaper. He plays in Toronto, which can’t be too fun (Sorry, Lu). It’s not a basketball city. Watson might think it’s an American city, but it’s not. It’s not the ideal spot for a 21-year-old basketball player to grow and improve. He just doesn’t look happy when he plays.
Originally, DeRozan wasn’t selected for the dunk contest, despite coming in second last year. In response, he tweeted, “Dang! I’m not in the dunk contest this year?” That’s tweeted disappointment at it’s most crippling. That spare prose—it’s just so honest and raw. The use of punctuation. It all makes you feel really bad for the guy—until you realize he’s making millions and you’re not. Luckily for DeRozan, Jennings injured his foot and had to pull out.
Here’s a preview of one of DeRozan’s dunks:
Shouldn’t the chicken be the one jumping over a ladder?
Yes, we are rooting for Blake Griffin. Even though he’s a rookie, he’s the most accomplished of the four. He was a first overall pick. He’s already one of the most valuable players in the league. He’s playing in the All-Star game. Oh, and he’s easily the favorite to win because of plays like this:
Despite every indication to the contrary, I actually do have a heart. And Griffin lost one of his best friends this week. Wayne Holloway, Griffin’s high-school teammate and a football player at Tulsa University, passed away on Wednesday, losing his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves, Griffin received a phone call at his locker and started to cry.
Blake, we feel for ya. Our thoughts are with you and the Holloway family this weekend.
—Photo AP/Mark J. Terrill; TwitPic