Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers has reportedly been invited to participate in the 2014 NBA Dunk Contest at All-Star weekend in New Orleans. I, for one, hope he declines. Is that Blazers blasphemy? It could be, but Damian Lillard will already have his hands full competing in the Rising Stars Challenge, the Skills Competition (reportedly), and the All-Star Game. He ought to conserve at least a little energy for the big one, while taking time to enjoy the festivities.
There, that wasn’t so bad was it? Well here comes the blasphemous part. Damian Lillard is not explosive enough to put on a show. He is an “in-game” dunker at most, and not an especially gifted one, relatively speaking. It is a treat when he packs one like he did against the Nuggets last week, but there is not a lot of room for him to make dunks fancy. Damian Lillard is 6’3” with limited athletic reserves.
In other words, he can’t spend enough time in the air or jump high enough to accomplish any jaw-dropping tricks. We could see a 360 or perhaps a tomahawk, but the Dunk Contest is more fun to watch when it includes players that can go between their legs or take off from the free throw line (or both; fingers crossed). Yet, I see why he was invited.
Last year’s Dunk Contest wasn’t as big of a draw as it has been in years past. It featured quality dunkers like Terrence Ross, James White (robbed by the way; he made it look too easy), and Gerald Green, but when your biggest name is Kenneth Faried, the casual fan loses interest. The NBA is trying to get some star power on the court to rekindle the fire. It may be less impressive overall, but the theory is that people want to see which NBA stars are better than their season rivals.
John Wall of the Washington Wizards has also been invited to the Dunk Contest. He’s a hair better at dunking than Damian Lillard, but not exactly a specialist either. Other invitees include Paul George (declined) and DeAndre Jordan (pending). The 2014 NBA Dunk Contest could feature some marquee players, but it may be more lopsided than not. Comment if you think Damian Lillard can beat DeAndre Jordan in a dunk contest. I’ll wait.
The jury is still out on Damian Lillard’s response to the invitation, but the fact that he was invited says something very important. Damian Lillard is truly an NBA star. He was selected to the compete in the All-Star game because of his abilities as a player, but this Dunk Contest invite shows that he is transcending small market fandom and becoming a national icon. If he participates I’ll root for him not to get his ass kicked, but, on the whole, I’m glad his name was mentioned. It’s a big one now.