There Was Once a Dunk Contest That Included Ken Griffey Jr. and Deion Sanders
With the start of the NBA regular season less than a week away, it’s a good time to remind the world that arguably the best thing to ever happen to the sport of basketball had very little to do with actual NBA players. For a handful of years in the late 80s and early 90s, Foot Locker gathered an assortment of star athletes from every sport other than basketball and had them face off in a dunk context. Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. Randall Cunningham and Deion Sanders. Track stars, who naturally had a leg up even among this superhuman lot. There were NBA legends in the mix in some capacity—Wilt, Havlicek, etc—but they were of little consequence. Barry Bonds was dunking.
Just look at this collection of cards from the 1991 event and try to imagine assembling a similar mix of pan-sport athletes these days, what with injury concerns and contract clauses and whatever it is that has kept LeBron from ever entering the actual dunk contest. You get Calvin Johnson and RGIII and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and Usain Bolt out there and the Internet may well explode.
Hell, we can’t even get a good NBA dunk-aroo these days. Last year’s NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest featured Gerald Green, James White, Terrence Ross, Kenneth Faried, and Jeremy Evans, Eric Bledsoe. In 2011, Blake Griffin won by filming a Kia ad. There’s no way the NBA Dunk Contest wouldn’t be better if it had non-basketball stars in the field. But it’s never going to happen.
Instead, we’ll have to get by with grainy YouTube videos from yesteryear showing Mike Conley Sr. dunking from the foul line. It’ll do. It has to.