9 Reasons the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Was Not Only the Most Important Dunk Contest, but the Most Important Event in Human History
We may be exaggerating slightly. Then again…
The NBA Slam Dunk Contest had a shaky history, struggling to draw fans, entice players, and get bigger and more outrageous each year. You still watch though, because well, you never know right? But will any dunk contest top the earth-shaking event that was Vince Carter’s performance in 2000?
No, the answer is no. It will never get better than that night.
It will forever live in our memories and dreams as the night that a human being reminded us why sports are amazing. And he did it in a way that seemed more like a basketball god sent from heaven than a man in a purple Raptors jersey….
1 – Vince Carter single-handedly resurrected the NBA Dunk Contest…
Back in 1998 the NBA actually eliminated the dunk contest because people were just over it. Star players weren’t agreeing to participate and fans weren’t interested. And then in 1999, the NBA lockout cancelled any All-Star action for that year.
But in the year 2000, instead of computers crashing and the world ending at the precipice of Y2K, Vince Carter made us all believers again, putting on an exhibition of the best dunks in the history of well, ever. A reverse 360 windmill dunk, one between the legs, and oh, ya know, just putting his arm through the hoop up to his elbow? Nobody had ever seen anything like it. And they won’t ever again. That night gave credence to his mythical title of “Half-Man, Half-Amazing.”
2 – And then he killed it that same night.
Carter set the bar so phenomenally high that no dunk sequence from any competitor in years to come will ever compete with his superhero display that night. Players today have to resort to props and gimmicks to impress the crowd and the judges at the dunk contest, but Air Canada astounded us with pure physical prowess, creativity, and finesse.
That variation on the East Bay Funk Dunk with help from his cousin and teammate Tracey McGrady didn’t hurt either. (And btw, McGrady was like one of the only competitors that night that mattered. Okay, his creativity was weak, but he tried.)
3 – A line was drawn.
As in, there’s pre-2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest and post. It was the pinnacle of basketball talent and skill.
Vince Carter walked away that night in Oakland leaving fans in awe, wanting more, and remembering why they loved the NBA so much. A sparkle was brought back to the dunk contest that hadn’t been seen since ’88 Jordan. The best dunk contest performance ever? Definitely? The most magical handling of a basketball? Maybe. The most insane display of athleticism ever? Well, we wouldn’t rule it out. While Vince restored glory to this All-Star event, his performance in 2000 meant that it would never again reach that kind of peak again. Our expectations are too high.
YOU GUYS, Blake Griffin jumped over a car for God’s sake, and after a couple minutes of watching YouTube videos of Vince Carter, we couldn’t care less!
4 -Carter’s goal with the “honey dip” wasn’t to excite the crowd but to leave them speechless.
Vince said he wanted to show people in the stadium just how high he could jump… by putting his arm through the hoop up to his elbow and then hanging on. (If this sounds pretty dangerous for somebody who makes a living through athletics, well yeah, I thought so too.) He wanted to silence the crowd with this one. And holy ups, he damn sure accomplished it. The man had some stage presence too – he hung there purposely for a few seconds, just so people could see exactly what had happened. If the other dunks had gotten the people hype, this dunk broke their brains.
Blake Griffin copied this one over ten years later, and sorry, we don’t care.
5 – The faces that the crowd made are gold, including Shaq. Especially Shaq.
After the first dunk, Shaq (holding his camcorder no less – btw, how much did that cutting edge technology cost at the time?!) made the best, most stunned, wide-eyed, open-mouth face on earth. It hurts that we’ll never know happiness like Shaq. Jason Kidd was there too, just as giddy with excitement as a little kid. Judges hopped over the table. Competitors moved down the court to sit on the floor near the basket to watch. Fans in their post-90s fasion sat their slack-jawed and bug-eyed. It was Vince’s show-and-tell and no one was hiding their excitement.
6 – He didn’t even really practice. Because he’s Vinsanity.
Several times, Carter was just like “Oh that one was on the fly.” He was just “feelin’ it.” ESPN reports that Air Canada improvised all but one of his dunks that night. For God’s sakes, he didn’t even know that he had to use a partner during one round of the contest! His between-the-legs dunk wasn’t even planned! Later he said he might’ve played around with dunks like 30 minutes a day, but only about a week or two out after finally agreeing to participate. But still, everybody knew he was gonna win.
7 – Kenny Smith didn’t give Carter a perfect score on his second dunk, so this contest ain’t rigged.
Just to prove that this legendary event in world history was a totally fair, somewhat democratic, objective competition, the ever-so-difficult-to-please and fellow Tarheel Kenny Smith did not throwing Vince a perfect 10 on his second dunk like all the other judges. What?!
Vince’s thoughts on the matter: “Once I did it, when I looked over — 10, 10, 10, 10, 9 — I was, like, ‘And he’s a Carolina guy!’ Like, ‘Come on, bro.'” Kenny’s excuse? He said Vince’s first dunk set the bar too high. It’s fair to say Kenny’s mind was made up after the next dunk, because everybody heard him shout (repeatedly) his iconic “It’s over! It’s over!”
8 – Even Vince knew it was over.
Because he told us so. Just after the first round. Looking cool as a really athletic cucumber. And somehow his confidence isn’t off-putting at all. Because he’s the man. Too bad we’ll never look this slick using any sort of hand signals.
He was just in the zone. Since then he’s said, “After that first dunk that I made and I had accomplished it better than I had ever practiced it, I was like, ‘I feel bad for everybody. Even my cousin.’ ‘Cause I was in a zone then that I couldn’t even explain to anybody.”
9 – Vince might be 40 years old now, but his mere mention of dunking gets our hopes up.
The ears of millennial sports fans everywhere perked up when Carter reportedly said it would be “interesting” if we saw him again in the contest this year. But nope, we’ll never feel those tingly, starry-eyed dunk contest feelings again. Unfortunately, he’s not coming back for the NBA Dunk Contest in 2017 to pretend like gravity doesn’t exist. (He is, after all, technically the oldest player in the NBA.) Wishful thinking on our part.
Even the man himself admitted what we were all pondering: “Why would I want to mess with the memory of that magical night back in 2000?”
Touché, Vinsanity, touché.