Last week Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson offered LeBron James one million dollars to participate in next year's dunk contest. My first thought after hearing the news was; did some network executive put him up to this to try and get ratings up? And my second thought was; you can offer LBJ the moon and he's still not going to be in it.
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Over the last few weeks, LeBron's dunks in pre-game warmups have been a YouTube sensation, bringing up the question will he ever be in the dunk contest? If you recall, James said he was going to participate during the 2009 All-Star Weekend, and of course, didn't. I knew it was all talk even then.
Here's the dirty little secret that no one has talked about when dealing with LeBron and the dunk contest -- he's not really that great of a dunker. Obviously you don't want to be on the business end of a 3-on-1 break when he is barreling through the lane, but he does not invoke the creativity of great in-game dunkers.
Another argument for some people is that Jordan and Kobe did it, so LeBron should too. Well James isn't wired the same way as those guys, and that shouldn't be held against him. It's not his responsibility to try and bring back the mystique of the dunk contest. That ship has sailed and it will never be the same. We're not going to see battles like Jordan vs. Dominique or Vince Carter going up against Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis ever again.
Fans can't make James be something that he's not. If he wants to spend All-Star Saturday night hanging out and clowning with his fellow All-Stars, that's his prerogative. Despite what a few talking heads may say, his legacy will not be affected by not doing the dunk contest. Years after his career is over when people look back at LeBron's accomplishments of several MVPs and winning at the highest level, no one is going to say, "yeah, but he didn't do the dunk contest."
Also, if he does it now, he would have essentially been bribed into doing it, and if he wins the critics are going to say he didn't beat the best dunkers. The dunk contest is now filled with guys who average less than 15 minutes a game and are only known for one weekend in February. In the end, James can't win either way.
Many people are still bitter at LeBron for the one-hour decision special and the circus that was the entire 2010 summer surrounding the Miami Heat. Nearly 3 years and a NBA title later, critics are now just grasping at straws for ways to downgrade James. At this point, having one of the greatest years of all-time and heading for his 4th MVP still isn't enough for some people.
The question is, why do we care so much about LeBron being in the dunk contest in the first place? Why can't we just appreciate that he is having one of the best seasons in NBA history?
The bottom line is, James doesn't owe us a dunk contest. What he owes the fans is constant effort when he steps onto the basketball court. The rest is academic.