by Nick Jaroszewicz and Ben Blatt
When the NBA Slam Dunk Contest was created in 1984 to be a part of the NBA All-Star Weekend it featured basketball legends Julius Erving and Clyde Drexler. The following year Michael Jordan took part. Compare those headliners to the players in this year’s event: Paul Geroge, Chase Budinger, Jeremy Evans, and Derrick Williams. It’s hard for a fan not to be upset that the big names aren’t playing.
The above graph plots the average PER of the top four players in each year’s contest. Clearly the quality of the players has gone down over the years with a few exceptions. Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin are both players that have participated in recent years that qualify as a huge draw. One important factor to consider is that since 2002 only four players have been in the contest. This is perhaps the greatest indication that the NBA feels it would have trouble fielding more than four marketable players in the contest. While the qualities of the dunks themselves may not be declining, the star power of the dunkers certainly has.