How Much Worse Is the NBA Slam Dunk Contest Than in Years Past?

How Much Worse Is the NBA Slam Dunk Contest Than in Years Past?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Remember when the NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest was must-see TV instead of an afterthought? When the biggest stars in the game participated and not just less than a handful of high-flying specialists?

NewYorkBets, your source for New York sports betting, set out to show just how clearly the good ol’ days of the Slam Dunk Contest are over.

But first, a little history:

When the Slam Dunk Was a Show

The Slam-Dunk Contest didn’t even start in the NBA – it started at the 1976 All-Star Game of the ABA. The five contestants were among the best players in the league (and of all-time): Artis Gilmore, George Gervin, Larry Kenon, David Thompson, and some doctor named Julius Erving. Put those five on the court in their prime, give them a point guard, and you could roll out the ball against anyone. Even today. By the way, Dr. J won the contest when he took flight from the foul line.

Perhaps the key to the future of the Slam Dunk Contest was that year’s invention of the hinged rim, so that all the forceful dunks didn’t break the rim, player’s hands, or the backboard.

For 1976-77 the ABA merged with the NBA and the NBA wisely brought back the dunk. Yes, believe it or not, it had been banned for a decade. With it came the league’s first slam dunk contest. Players of the magnitude of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone participated, but they all lost out to a 6-9 forward on the Indiana Pacers, Darnell “Dr. Dunk” Hillman.

In 1984, the Slam Dunk Contest became a fixture of All-Star Weekend and winners included Larry Nance, Dominique Wilkins and all 5-foot-6 of Atlanta Hawks PG Spud Webb. Then came back-to-back titles for Michael Jordan, including his epic 1988 face-off with Wilkins. In 1990, Wilkins won again. In 1997, it was another all-timer, a youngster named Kobe Bryant.

The 2000 contest was another mano-a-mano showdown, this time between Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. Starting in the 2000’s, the biggest stars began to shy away from the contest, leaving the glory to smaller leapers such as 5-9 Nate Robinson or younger future stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, who lost in 2015 to Zach LaVine, a repeat winner in 2016. Other young winners were John Wall in 2014 and Donovan Mitchell in 2018. Controversial winners were Blake Griffin in 2011 and Derrick Jones Jr., who beat out JaVale McGee and Aaron Gordon, respectively, in 2020.

Must be 21+ to participate. T&Cs Apply.

My How It Has Changed

This year, Giannis is appearing with his brothers in the Skills Challenge and stars such as Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard are in the three-point contest. There are only four Slam Dunk contestants and none of them are going to make you forget Jordan vs. Wilkins: Kenyon Martin Jr. of the Rockets, Mac McClung of the 76ers, Trey Murphy III of the Pelicans, and Jericho Sims of the Knicks.

Still, you can get odds on the Slam Dunk Contest on NY betting apps.

FanDuel NY, for instance lists MacClung, the former Georgetown and Texas Tech guard, as the favorite at +150. He is followed by Sims (+280), Martin (+290) and Murphy (+380).

Your odds-on favorite, MacClung, has never played a game with the Sixers, who recently signed him. He has played two whole games in the league, for two different teams (one with Chicago and one with the LA Lakers).

You can find the FanDuel promo code NY on this website.

Visit for T&Cs. Must be 21+ and physically present in NY only. New Customer Offer. All promotions are subject to qualification and eligibility requirements. Rewards issued as non-withdrawable bonus bets. Bonus bets expire in 7 days from issuance. Please gamble responsibly. Gambling Problem? Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369).

How to Tell Talent Level Has Gone Down utilized to find the average draft position (ADP) of NBA Dunk Contest participants beginning in 2019. We then used the winner’s actual draft position to compare how he measured against the rest of the field. (For undrafted players, we used 61 to represent their draft position.

Dunk Contest YearMedian Draft PositionWinner’s Actual Draft Spot
🏀 2023 47.0 TBD
🏀 2022 21.5 TBD
🏀 2021 28.6 TBD
🏀 2020 26.75 TBD
🏀 2019 21.3 TBD

All these players are, of course, great athletes, but . . . so what?

A look at the chart shows clearly that the average draft position of the players who compete in the dunk contest has drifted well into the second round.

 A far bigger ratings draw would be to see if Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb and Julius Erving can still get above the rim at age 60, 63, 59 and 72. That would be appointment viewing. will bring you news and stories of interest on sports betting in the state as well as the best NY betting promos.



Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist who’s worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a founding editor of

Cited by leading media organizations, such as:

Scroll to top