Another year, another Slam Dunk Contest during NBA All-Star weekend where Aaron Gordon has a bone to pick with the judges.
The 2020 Slam Dunk Contest irked many basketball fans as Gordon was defeated by Derrick Jones Jr. in an evenly-matched contest after the final round went to overtime in a “dunk-off” to determine the winner.
In the end, Gordon dunked over 7-foot-5 Celtics center Tacko Fall, and ended up with a score of 47, one shy of Jones Jr.’s 48 from the Heat forward’s final dunk of the night.
Four years ago, a similar situation happened when Aaron Gordon lost to Zach LaVine in one of the greatest dunk contests of all time, and a similar story was written about the broken judging system for the All-Star Weekend’s Slam Dunk Contest, and the need for a serious overhaul of the rules.
Fans love the Slam Dunk Contest for its simplicity and its history, and like baseball fans, tend to go against any push for a change in the rules to keep the integrity of the event. However, for the sake of its future, the contest needs to go through some changes, or else it’ll turn into an event that fans lose interest in over time.
There are plenty of ideas out there for how to fix the problem, with some changing the judging system drastically, and others just making it more exclusive. Regardless, here are a few ideas to fix the scoring in the Slam Dunk Contest to make dunks feel more special, and determine a more decisive winner:
1. Decimal points in the scoring
This one seems simple enough to execute, and would please those who enjoy Dave Portnoy’s scoring in his “One Bite” pizza reviews for Barstool Sports. Adding in decimal points with get rid of the “50” dunks unless judges truly feel they’re deserved, and can make any errors that much more important.
Miss your first dunk attempt? Judges could automatically take half a point off to make players strive for perfection. Then, fans won’t have to see a dunk get a “50” after a missed first attempt, a la one of Gordon’s dunks from the 2020 contest.
Decimal points can also add intrigue to the final rounds, and will almost guarantee that no extra rounds would be needed to decide a winner, as well as discouraging judges from trying to force a tie in the scoring if they can’t pick a winner.
It’s simple, makes the event more definitive, and will bring back the value of a perfectly-executed dunk to help separate the boys from the men in the Slam Dunk Contest.
2. Judges can give one 11
This idea may not change much, but it could help separate dunks in the final rounds that every judge views as perfect.
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Give each judge the ability to score a single dunk as an 11 throughout the entire contest, while keeping the usual 1-10 scale. Similar to the “Golden Buzzer” on America’s Got Talent, it’ll give judges the power to add extra value to dunks they think are exemplary, and could serve as an easy tiebreaker for any close calls in the finals.
3. Separate the judges
As fans saw in the 2020 edition of the event, the judges apparently tried to collude to force a tie in the finals, so as to not have to pick a winner between Gordon and Jones Jr. An easy fix to that issue to decide a true winner? Put each judge in their own part of the court.
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Why couldn’t Dwyane Wade, Common, Candace Parker and Scottie Pippen each occupy their own corner of the court, and possibly stick Chadwick Boseman close to the hoop for the fifth spot? It prevents them from communicating and giving the same scores, and also helps them avoid peer pressure by closing them off from each other.
It’ll allow for more genuine scores, and help figure out where each judges’ priorities lie.
4. Only allow previous champions to judge in the contest
To avoid the bias that comes from recent players rooting for their former teammates (looking at you, Dwyane Wade), create a criteria that only allows for former champions of the event to judge Slam Dunk Contests.
Imagine a panel of judges with Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter, Jason Richardson, Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson? It would be a qualified group that spans numerous eras of the event, and would feature players who starred on a variety of teams throughout their careers, helping to potentially eliminate bias.
If there was a need to get rid of the bias even more, the judges could be replaced if they have any connections to one of the competitors, making sure that the scoring is fair and balanced throughout. Sorry, Dwyane.
There are plenty of ways to fix the judging in Slam Dunk Contests, so why not experiment with some of them like the league is doing with the All-Star Game itself? It’ll bring back the intrigue and excitement around All-Star Saturday Night, and will help to figure out the best of the best when it comes to the NBA’s dunking kings.