New York Knicks high-flier Obi Toppin used creativity to lift himself to the 2022 NBA Slam Dunk competition championship.
The last time NBA All-Star Weekend emanated from Cleveland (1997), the weekend’s Slam Dunk Contest was so poorly received the NBA would cancel the contest completely, removing it from the weekend schedule for 1998.
The contest would return in 2000 when Vince Carter single-handedly brought the competition back for good. Since 2000, the dunk contest has been held annually with no breaks, delays, or cancelations.
Even the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t keep the dunk contest away. The 2021 contest will be remembered for its oddness more than any of the dunks performed on the night.
This year, four first-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest participants looked to get the contest back on the right track after a profoundly weird and uninspired contest in 2021.
Despite the best efforts of contest champion Obi Toppin, the 2022 Slam Dunk Contest will go down as one of the most lackluster in the 36-year history of the competition.
Attempts performed by Toppin (New York Knicks), Juan Toscano-Anderson (Golden State Warriors), Cole Anthony (Orlando Magic) and Jalen Green (Houston Rockets) were creative but each competitor had trouble completing their dunks. In the first round alone, dunkers completed only seven of their dunks out of 25 attempts (28 pecent). 7-25 (28 percent) in the first round. Jalen Green went 1-9 (11.1 percent) on his first dunk.
The finals (Toscano-Anderson vs. Toppin) featured several more missed dunks with Toscano-Anderson not even completing his final dunk. Toppin would win the competition with a between the legs dunk that saw him tap the background before slamming it home.
Toppin is the third New York Knicks player to win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest joining three-time winner Nate Robinson and 1989 champion Kenny Walker.
After two disappointing NBA Slam Dunk Contests in a row, the league would be wise to figure out a plan of attack for 2023 and beyond. If not, real conversations about the long-term health and viability of the competition must be asked.
The 2000 contest brought the competition back from the dead and 16 years later, the duel between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine raised the bar to levels far beyond comprehension. We’re only two years removed from a stellar 2020 contest (scoring controversy notwithstanding) that saw Derrick Jones Jr. and Gordon bring their A-games and dazzle the Chicago audience.
Maybe it’s just a Cleveland thing?
The night’s festivities began with Anthony who replaced his normal basketball shoes with Timberland boots and threw down an alley-oop windmill with help from his father Greg Anthony.
Toscano-Anderson got his night started by jumping over teammate Andrew Wiggins and throwing down an impressive cupped windmill.
Champion Toppin clearly prepared for this competition as he brought a great sense of creativity, purpose and practice to this year’s competition. That his first dunk saw him jump over famed dunk contest coach Chuck Millan is no accident. Millan had teased all week that Toppin was going to show up in a big way this weekend.
In a scene that will make everyone under 20 feel old, Green began his dunk contest wearing a gold chain with a phone attached to it. The phone was playing an NBA Top Shot of Green. Unfortunately Green did not dunk with the chain on, instead opting to gift it to judge Isiah Thomas. Green missed his first dunk concept eight times before finally throwing down an alley-oop windmill for a disappointing score of 38.
The second round began with the lowest scorer going first giving Green another chance to right the wrongs of the first round. After two attempts, Green completed a 360 between his legs.
Anthony tries for a lob 360 but after several attempts, he cannot land it. Toscano-Anderson throws down a very impressive 360 windmill to give himself a first-round score of 87.
Toppin would throw down a great between-the-legs, behind his head dunk but failed to get high enough to make the dunk look as impressive as it could have.
The final round saw Toscano-Anderson show some love to Carter and his iconic 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest winning dunk: The Honey Pot. Toscano-Anderson, however, isn’t 2000 Vince Carter and while it was a valiant attempt, an inability to put his elbow in the bucket turned a nice homage into a regular windmill.
Toppin’s first dunk of the final round was an impressive off-the-background between-the-legs dunk.
For the final dunk of his contest, Toscano-Anderson put on a Jason Richardson jersey and attempted to recreate the magic that helped Richardson win this contest in both 2002 and 2003. Specifically, Toscano-Anderson tried to re-do the dunk that helped Richardson win the 2003 contest over Desmond Mason.
Sadly, after several missed attempts, he’s not able to put it down.
Toppin, who could win at this point with a layup, locked in his win with a baseline between-the-legs dunk that saw the Knicks flier tap the ball on the backboard before throwing it in.