LeBron James has staked his claim to “most electrifying basketball player alive”. The dude has won multiple MVP awards, he led the Miami Heat to the NBA title a season ago, and now he wows fans prior to games with his unreal dunks.
For everything he has done, and as world-beating of a talent as he is, however, Bron Bron has never performed in the dunk contest.
For the last 10 years (yes, James has been in the league for decade; commence feeling old … now) James’ choice to politely decline invitations to perform at the Dunk Contest have been a mere minor frustration for fans of the game. However, his pre-game shows have turned the pressure up to another level.
A million-dollar level, to be precise.
Recently, the one and only Magic Johnson offered King James a cool $1 million to put his name in the hat as a participant in the 2014 Slam Dunk Contest. Currently, the winner is awarded a trophy and $100,000 by the league — nothing to sneeze at, but also roughly the amount of money Bron makes every time he puts on a pair of shoes.
The guy can absolutely fly; there is no question about that. Jordan defined the early years of his career with his dunk from the free-throw line in front of his hometown Chicago crowd during the 1988 event. Dominique Wilkins has done it. Dwight Howard turned from mere mortal to Superman during his showcase battles against little man Nate Robinson.
The Slam Dunk Contest can obviously be belittled. It is not a necessary part of the game. LeBron James does not have to do a dunk contest to define his career. People talk about Jordan’s six championships, but here’s the thing: The free-throw line serves as a nice footnote to the man’s highly decorated career. Lest we forget, the game of basketball is purely meant as entertainment for the paying customer, and Magic is willing to pay a hefty price to be entertained by James and his springs for legs.
Finally, all of this begs the question: Should the player who is quickly emerging from the shadows of Kobe and MJ finally shut the critics up, take the cash, and dominate the dunk contest?
ESPN experts debate the same thing we do.
Just for reference (not to mention entertainment) here’s Jordan’s 1988 dunk:
Check out how Bron’s biggest pre-game slams compare to those of His Airness: