As Nate Robinson walked into the locker room after his second dunk of Saturday night’s Slam Dunk Contest, I was a bit puzzled as to what was going on.
In a true moment of clarity, each moment of one of the most absurd nights in sports played back in my mind.
First, there was the Shooting Stars competition. Announcers Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller began by mocking some of the teams, calling their players bad shooters and saying that Bill Laimbeer was out of shape.
I understand that may be a factual statement, but you don’t have to embarrass the guy on national television.
But then, they took it a step further in the Slam Dunk Contest.
After failing to convert a very difficult – and arguably the best – dunk of the night in his allotted two minutes, Rudy Fernandez caught a pass off the back side of the backboard, swung in underneath, and threw down a Dominique-esque tomahawk.
Not able to get over the fact that he took so long to finally get it down, Kenny Smith said that their failure to convert earlier “just showed the amateurism of Spain.” Not Rudy Fernandez, an NBA rookie. Not Pau Gasol, who was making his first appearance in the contest as Fernandez’s partner. They blamed it on Spain.
So when Robinson walked into the locker room, I didn’t think he was hurt. I knew where he was going. He was going to turn into his alter-ego, Krypto-Nate.
How was that possible though? Dwight Howard’s Superman persona, apparently weakened only by Krypto-Nate, hadn’t even appeared yet, let alone secured a spot in the finals. But right on cue, a super-sized phone booth was rolled out next to the court. In walked Howard and out walked Superman, ready to dunk on a 12-foot basket.
Even though this was one of the most hyped dunks in recent history, it proved to be one of the most anticlimactic. Not only that, Superman had injured team mate Jameer Nelson toss him the ball. Talk about amateurism.
Somehow, Superman received a perfect score of 50 for this, securing a spot in the finals, a battle to the death with arch-nemesis Krypto-Nate. Fernandez only received a 42 for his gem and was relegated to watching the death match from the bench.
When I finally was able to tie all these moments together in my mind, I could come up with only solution: the Slam Dunk Contest was fixed. This whole night was set up to revitalize an NBA tradition that has been fading in recent years.
So although Krypto-Nate may have won the battle, it looks like commissioner Stern has won the war, as this has been one of the most discussed contests in years. But was it anything more than going to catch the newest Spiderman movie, nothing more than a scripted drama with mediocre acting?
I guess then, in a way, Stern gave the public exactly what they had been asking for: a show.