For years, fans have dreamed of watching LeBron James — one of the most athletically gifted and remarkable in-game dunkers the NBA has to offer — compete in the Slam Dunk Contest at the league's annual All-Star Saturday Night festivities. And for years, from James' thrilling early days with the Cleveland Cavaliers through his heel-turn move to the Miami Heat to his redemptive title-and-Finals-MVP-winning 2012, we've found ourselves disappointed by the King's decisions to decline.
Sure, the inferred rationales were understandable — the competition has largely become a showcase for younger, lesser-known players; a star of LeBron's magnitude has more to lose in terms of reputation/public perception by posting an unimpressive showing in the contest than he has to gain by winning it; adding more All-Star Weekend work rather than getting rest where you can doesn't do you any favors in a season expected to extend into June, etc. But the heart wants what it wants, and since he entered the league with the top pick in the 2003 NBA draft, NBA fans' hearts have wanted to watch LeBron throw down in the midseason exhibition. Unfortunately, it's never going to happen.
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After scoring 30 points in the Heat's 105-89 win over the visiting Utah Jazz on Saturday — his 29th straight regular-season game with 20 or more points (45th straight, including playoffs) and his sixth straight game without being called for a personal foul — James put the kibosh on any speculation about whether he'd take part in the dunk contest this February, or in any other year. From Chris Tomasson at FOX Sports Florida:
James told FOX Sports Florida that, while he has thought seriously several times about entering the dunk contest during All-Star Weekend in his nine previous seasons, it never will occur.
"No," said James, who turns 28 on Dec. 30. "It's over with. I'm getting too old for that. ... There were times when I wanted to do it. But I came into All-Star Weekend a few times banged up and I didn't want to risk further injury."
While there's been buzz about the prospect of James competing just about every year of his career, discussion reached a fever pitch back in 2010. With Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson going Superman and Lex Luthor in the '09 competition, James tossed his name into the ring for the '10 edition. Then, the following December, with the competition drawing nigh, James began to waffle, proclaiming the odds of his participation "50-50." Sure enough, when the 2010 Dunk Contest field was announced one month later, James' name was nowhere to be found.
The chatter was briefly revived for the 2012 competition, prompting one Oregon youngster to record an impassioned plea for LeBron to finally stop straddling the fence and actually get to dunking, but the song remained the same, as James steered clear of the 2012 event, which Jazz jumping jack Jeremy Evans won (somewhat underwhelmingly) by jumping over teammate Gordon Hayward and slamming two balls at once. James did tell ProBasketballTalk's Brett Pollakoff he might consider entering if the contest's winner won a $1 million grand prize; shockingly, NBA Commissioner David Stern didn't write a check on the spot.
For his part, Evans thinks it's just as well that James has decided not to submit his name for consideration in this year's competition — after all, it just saves the King the embarrassment. More from Tomasson:
[Evans] has no doubt who would win if he had the chance to take on James.
"I'm going to say I would," said Evans, whose Jazz fell 105-89 to Miami at AmericanAirlines Arena. "I haven't seen any tricks from him yet because he hasn't been in (an NBA) dunk contest. ... You need the tricks and moves rather than just being a power dunker in a game." [...]
"I'm not a dunk-contest guy, so he probably could beat me in a dunk contest," James said. "I'm OK with that."
Ah, but LeBron — once upon a time, you were a dunk contest guy! Surely you remember the Powerade Jam Fest at the McDonald's All-American Game:
Ah, memories of days gone by. So bittersweet.
According to Tomasson, Evans also said he thinks he'd take down '08 Dunk Contest winner Howard and '11 champion Blake Griffin, which is a pretty impressive amount of moxie for someone just four months removed from getting beat by a Latvian dude. One thing we can say for sure: Jeremy Evans is doing his part to restore the contest to its former prominence.
LeBron, though? Not only is he forsaking the Dunk Contest, but by making the announcement just three nights before Christmas, he decided to play Grinch to NBA fans all over the world. Somewhere, Kobe Bryant's just angry that LBJ's stealing his bit.
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