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Ball Don't Lie

Ranking the 2012 dunk contest, dunk-by-dunk

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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Jeremy Evans was the only person happy about this year's dunk contest (Ronald Martinez/ Getty).

Another dunk contest has passed, and yet again fans have come away disappointed. While last year's competition with Blake Griffin captured a good amount of attention, the recent focus on props and a lack of star power seems to have brought down the profile of what used to be one of the NBA's most signature events. The changes in this year's contests, with no judges, fan voting, one round, and three dunks per contestant, promised something new. Sadly, we saw a lot of attempts we've seen before, with diminishing returns.

[ Video: Kevin Love takes 3-point Shootout ]

Nevertheless, Saturday was not without its share of solid dunks. Utah Jazz big man Jeremy Evans, a largely unknown player with fewer than 100 minutes played this season, made a name for himself and earned 29 percent of the fans' vote as this year's champion.

After the jump, check out rankings of all 12 dunks from this year's competition, in order of impressiveness, including the two-ball alley-oop over teammate Gordon Hayward that won Evans the trophy.

1. Evans jumps over Hayward and throws down two balls on the alley-oop. The dunk contest has gone on for enough years that dunk creativity, at least when it doesn't involve props, now primarily involves pasting together aspects of past dunks to create something new. So Evans gets credit for this attempt — covered more extensively by Dan Devine here — which combined the basic dunk of jumping over someone, the even simpler idea of taking an alley-oop, and the old-school decision to throw down two balls. It was something we hadn't seen before, and he did it with enough power to make a statement about his abilities. It would've been better if he'd done it on the first try, but, on a bad night, this dunk is possibly the only one that will be remembered years down the line.

2. Ricky Rubio passes off the side of the backboard, Derrick Williams grabs it and does a 360. We've seen better variations on this dunk before from Andre Iguodala and especially DeMar DeRozan, so it's hard to give Williams many points for creativity. But on a night with lots of forced personality and aborted execution, it was nice to see someone come up with a simple idea for a dunk and throw it down cleanly. (Also, Rubio is the NBA's puppy and makes everything more enjoyable.) That such a basic dunk rated highly in this competition tells you everything you need to know.

3. Paul George jumps over the 7-2 Roy Hibbert. This completed dunk wasn't George's original idea — at first, he tried to jump over All-Star Hibbert, then grab an alley-oop from teammate Dahntay Jones (positioned directly behind Hibbert), and finish the dunk. If he'd been able to finish that version, it might've been the best dunk of the competition. But after two tries, George changed direction and opted for a dunk we've seen from him in the past. It's still pretty darn impressive, though, even if George had to push off Hibbert to make it happen. Let's just hope Roy's able to play without any discomfort.

4. Paul George turns off the lights, does a glow-in-the-dark 360 windmill. This was the most creative dunk of the night, but the execution killed it. Strapped with glow-in-the-dark strips and a green ball, George opted for a "Tron" aesthetic and largely delivered. Yet it was almost impossible to see him on TV, to the point where it was pretty much impossible to grade the degree of difficulty on his 360 windmill. In a different situation, with better visibility, this might have been a legendary dunk. Instead, it left most people asking exactly what had happened.

5. Jeremy Evans straps on a camera, throws it to himself off the bounce for a reverse. Evans deserves come creativity points for this one, because the camera allowed fans to see just how high up he got on the leap. Unfortunately, Evans' pass was bad enough that the dunk came off as fairly unimpressive. It was too close to the rim for Evans to generate much power, and that added up to an underwhelming effort.

6. Derrick Williams enters on a motorcycle, jumps over it. Last year, Blake Griffin won the dunk contest with the corporate-friendly dunk over a Kia that all NBA fans have now seen roughly 400,000 times now. So it was a little pathetic that Williams did largely the same dunk over a motorcycle, which only stands maybe three feet off the ground. In actuality, this dunk only rates this highly because it started with Williams hitting the court on the back of the bike, driven by Minnesota Timberwolves mascot Crunch. At BDL, we approve of mascots in all situations. Really, the dunk contest would probably be better if the four contestants jumped off trampolines in furry suits.

7. Jeremy Evans gets a visit from mailman Kevin Hart, wears a Karl Malone jersey, jumps over the very short Kevin Hart, does the Mailman dunk. This dunk had so many shameless moving parts that, in even a halfway decent dunk contest, it would have rated near the bottom. Comedian Kevin Hart, using a terrible stuttering "funny" voice, came out in a mailman's uniform to inform Evans that he had a special delivery, which turned out to be a Karl Malone retro jersey. That would've been enough, if tied to a decent dunk. But Evans wasn't done piling on the "jokes," and finished things off by dunking over the 5-foot-nothing Hart with a callback to Malone's classic "hand-behind-the-head" dunk. The Malone idea was nice, but the entirety of Hart's involvement and the general unimpressiveness of dunking over such a short person killed any chance it had. In today's dunk contest, simpler is almost always better.

8. Paul George throws up a Larry Bird sticker, dunks several minutes later. This one was a good idea, considering Bird is the Pacers' general manager and George will be able to negotiate a contract extension in a little over a year. On the other hand, the execution was just awful, with George throwing up the sticker on the backboard twice without completing his slam. On the fifth try, he finally got it, but the stickers had been waiting for too long.

9. Derrick Williams tries to go off the backboard and through the legs nine times, ends up doing something way less impressive. In the run-up to the dunk contest, Williams grabbed attention for completing this dunk — done in 2004 by Jason Richardson — in practice. On Saturday, he failed terribly, missing it nine times and nearly running out of his two-minute allotment. So, with time winding down, he did something much less notable and simply threw the ball off the rim for a two-hand tomahawk. It was all a little sad, and a perfect fit for this year's competition.

10. Chase Budinger "honors" Cedric Ceballos while dunking with a thin blindfold. At 1992's dunk contest in Orlando, Cedric Ceballos won by dunking with a blindfolded that he could very obviously see through. Budinger chose to "honor" Ced by blindfolding himself. The first attempt was hilarious, as Budinger came up well short and caused everyone to think that he'd blundered by using a real blindfold. That idea was quickly proven wrong with his second attempt, in which he took off from exactly the right spot to execute a reverse jam. This dunk was scripted, hammy, and totally indicative of the overdetermined approach Budinger brought to his first dunk contest.

11. Chase Budinger does Derrick Williams' motorcycle dunk, just without the motorcycle. There are few things worse than when a dunk contestant tries a less impressive version of a dunk that another competitor had finished several minutes earlier. Yet, here was Chase Budinger, trying the same windmill as Derrick Williams without a motorcycle to provide a gimmick. For some reason, Budinger didn't realize the problematic nature of this dunk and carried out his original plan. He came to this dunk contestant with no belief in the power of spontaneity.

12. Chase Budinger kind of dresses like Woody Harrelson in "White Men Can't Jump," jumps over Diddy for some reason. Yes, while Budinger might have attempted the most boring dunk and Derrick Williams had massive problems completing one of his, this dunk takes the crown as the worst of the night, because it was indicative of everything wrong with the contest as it currently exists. There was a reliance on props — Budinger's entire schtick involved throwing a snapback on backwards and wearing a Sprite T-shirt, as if everyone could immediately identify that as inspired by Billy Hoyle. There was the unnecessary inclusion of a celebrity — Diddy has no connection to the movie and isn't even very tall. There was no spontaneity or surprise — the concept was the entire point. And, in a very sad development, the dunk itself has been done many times in recent years.

Like all but one other dunk in the competition, this dunk did nothing to expand our conception of what's possible on a basketball court. When that's the state of affairs, it's time to start wondering if the dunk contest shouldn't be retired indefinitely.

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