Fans tuning in to watch NBA All-Star Saturday Night probably regret that decision, in large part because the highlight of the evening, the Slam Dunk Contest, ended up being an utter dud. Utah Jazz star and former dunk contest champion Donovan Mitchell thinks he has the solution.
In the past, the Slam Dunk Contest has offered some of the most memorable moments in All-Star history. Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins battled it out at the old Chicago Stadium in 1988, with MJ punctuating the scintillating duel with an iconic free-throw line jam. Vince Carter essentially resuscitated the contest with an electrifying performance in 2000. Then there’s the iconic 2016 showdown between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon, which featured multiple dunk-offs.
The Slam Dunk Contest has the highlight-reel goodness and astonishing feats of athleticism that basketball fans crave. However, this year’s competition lacked any real punch. Mitchell knows one guy capable of bringing that excitement back into the fold: Ja Morant.
Donovan Mitchell watched a forgettable Slam Dunk Contest
Back in 2018, a rookie Spida displayed the bounce and style that has since made him one of the most exciting players in the NBA. As a fan and now a three-time All-Star, Mitchell probably hoped to see this year’s participants show off their style and elicit a similar sense of enthusiasm.
The 2022 Slam Dunk Contest absolutely had potential. New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin had some of the best dunks of the season entering All-Star Weekend and merited consideration as a favorite. The Houston Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft in part because of his explosive athleticism, and his bounce made him someone to watch.
Ultimately, though, Mitchell and numerous other fans came away disappointed.
All four participants had hiccups. Green took an eternity to complete his first jam. The best dunk of the night, a behind-the-back slam by Toppin, also needed a second effort. Golden State Warriors swingman Juan Toscano-Anderson whiffed on his chance in the final, earning just 69 points to Toppin’s 92 points.
The Slam Dunk Contest has grown increasingly dull in the last couple of seasons. Mitchell wants to see one of the NBA’s magnetic talents bring the heat next season.
Mitchell wants Ja Morant in the competition
Before participants were finalized, we pleaded for Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant to take the plunge and enter the Slam Dunk Contest. After watching Saturday night’s disaster, Donovan Mitchell wants the same.
Mitchell had a simple message at the conclusion of the contest, tweeting at Morant and imploring him to enter in 2023. Spida included a shrugging emoji, for good measure.
Morant has dazzled with his jams — and even attempted posters — in each of his first three seasons. He has the audacity to pull off the seemingly impossible and likely the creativity to boot.
Unfortunately for Mitchell, Morant doesn’t appear all that interested.
Morant has mostly scoffed at the idea of competing in the Slam Dunk Contest. He did tell Bleacher Report‘s Taylor Rooks he would consider it if the NBA offered the winner $1 million, but there’s no telling whether that happens.
Will Saturday’s outcome change Morant’s mind?
What about both Spida and Ja in 2023?
If Ja Morant won’t commit to the 2023 Slam Dunk Contest, could Donovan Mitchell tempt the Grizzlies star by entering the competition himself?
Stars tend to follow trends and typically want some kind of shared experience. It’s why players now recruit so heavily in free agency and attempt to attract as much talent as possible. Maybe Spida can convince Morant to participate with him next season.
Some superstars, like LeBron James, prefer to avoid any physical aggravation or injury. At their core, however, the likes of Mitchell and Morant are competitors and would probably relish the chance to go against one another.
Spida wants to see Ja jams. The Jazz’s sensational combo guard might have to manifest them himself.