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Fan fundraising effort’s goal: Raise $1 million to get LeBron James in the Slam Dunk Contest

Could a big enough check for charity get LeBron to enter the Dunk Contest? (AP/Mark J. Terrill)

LeBron James kind of gave us the ol' "bah humbug" just before Christmas when he told Fox Sports Florida's Chris Tomasson he'd never compete in the Slam Dunk Contest at the NBA's annual All-Star Saturday festivities. The Miami Heat star's announcement, in which James said he's "getting too old for that" sort of thing, effectively ended the seemingly constant "will he? won't he?" buzz that's followed James throughout his NBA career — which, it's worth noting, he stoked himself by saying he'd be up for the 2010 contest before later hemming and hawing and ultimately not doing it.

Still, despite James' yuletide kibosh, an NBA lover has decided to take one more run at changing the King's mind. See, during All-Star Weekend 2012, James told ProBasketballTalk's Brett Pollakoff he might consider entering the dunk contest if the winner received a $1 million grand prize, because a check for $1 million is enough to make most people consider most things (including offering up their wives for one night of passion). So 28-year-old fan Chris Thomas decided he'd try to get that $1 million together ... with a bit of a twist:

Let's raise enough money to entice LeBron to enter the 2013 Dunk Contest. But instead of the money going to him, it will go to his charity, the LeBron James Family Foundation. [...]

Through GoFundMe, I will collect donations on behalf of LBJ's charity that are entirely contingent upon his participation in the 2013 Slam Dunk Contest. In other words, the only way everyone's donations are transferred to his foundation is if we get to see King James throw down Saturday night in Houston. If this idea falls on its face or if we are successful in raising a ton of money, but James is still unwilling to participate, all donations will be refunded. [...]

If this is successful everyone wins: the fans, the game of basketball and most importantly the LeBron James Family Foundation. There is certainly no guarantee even $1 million will convince him to participate, but let's raise enough money to make him an offer he can't refuse.

In explaining the fundraising project both on the donation site and in interviews with outlets like the New York Daily News and Mashable, Thomas said he decided to launch the effort after discussing with some friends how disappointed they've been by recent dunk contests' reliance on props and overly elaborate set pieces, as well as their relative lack of star power. With LeBron clearly the league's biggest star and the years of built-up buzz over the prospect of seeing him in the competition, Thomas thought he'd be the perfect choice to, as he writes, "bring the Dunk Contest back to its former glory," and after remembering James' million-dollar quote, he started looking into crowd-funding options and launched the GoFundMe site two weeks ago.

[Also: Heat to give Chris Andersen another 10-day deal]

It hasn't gotten much traction yet — as of press time, it's raised just under $3,200, which is a long way off from the goal — but Thomas tells Mashable he's hoping for a big push before next month's midseason classic in Houston:

Thomas hopes one big donation can help generate some momentum, but says he'll approach the foundation with whatever the campaign totals in the next couple weeks.

"We'll raise as much as possible, whether that's $50,000, $500,000 or $5 million," he says. "Whatever aggregate amount is raised, I'll contact the foundation and anyone else associated with LeBron, say 'take or leave it' and see what happens."

My guess is he'll say leave it, especially if the money's low, because he can get more than that for his charity just by tackling dudes who make half-court hook shots without having to actually do some work on a Saturday night. (Plus, again, he's already said he'd take a pass if presented with the opportunity to participate in this year's dunk contest.) Then again, if the number and good-karma publicity opportunity are both big enough, we suppose anything can happen.

If nothing else, we applaud any attempt to get LeBron to do more, and more creative, dunking; to give this year's competition a bit more juice than last year's had; and to raise some money for charity in the process. Even if it goes nowhere, it's still a "good job, good effort" type of situation.

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