The NBA Dunk Contest Is Like ‘Saturday Night Live’

In case you didn’t watch, the NBA Dunk Contest on Saturday night was actually pretty dope. The entire thing came down to a dunk-off against Derrick Jones Jr. (Miami Heat), and the Buffalo Bills of the NBA Dunk Contest, Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic).

A lot of people always love to clown on the Dunk Contest, as if jumping over another human while putting a basketball between your legs and through a hoop is not an impressive feat. Anyone can do it, right? Haters will claim the contest has become unoriginal, uncreative, and no longer exciting or fun, which is ironic, because the same things are usually said about Saturday Night Live.

Many people like to think both the NBA Dunk Contest and Saturday Night Live were better when they were younger. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those people to an extent. I firmly believe (and recently wrote about how) the greatest NBA Dunk Contest happened in 2000 – it was the More Cowbell sketch of dunk contests. I also believe the greatest SNL cast came in the mid-90s with Myers, Carvey, Phil Hartman, Farley, Sandler, Spade, and Norm MacDonald hosting Weekend Update. But the show hasn’t failed to be great since then. Many will say the dunk contest was best with Michael Jordan, Spud Webb, Dee Brown, Dominique Wilkins, etc. But again, it hasn’t failed to be great since then.

In fact, they’ve both been great since, and I’m not sure which uses more props.

SNL has been good. Here are some examples:

Just as the NBA Dunk Contest has been good. Here are some examples:

Saturday night only further proved the NBA Dunk Contest doesn’t just have a pulse, its heart is beating out of is chest like that alien from Aliens.

Now, again, haters will claim there’s no originality anymore. Everything we’re seeing is something we’ve seen before, which isn’t entirely wrong, and no one falls more victim to this take than the guys who announce the NBA Dunk Contest for TNT, primarily Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith (Kevin Harlan is excluded because that mane could make a time-share meeting exciting). These guys have been announcing the dunk contest for years, so they’ve literally seen every attempt of every dunk. Plus, they feel like they have to play it cool more than just bring excitement to the event, so Kenny Smith spends more time telling you why a dunk isn’t that impressive than he does hyping it. Kenny’s nickname is The Jet, but during the Dunk Contest, he’s The Buzzkill.

If Kenny commentated SNL, he’d probably be like, “This sketch isn’t that funny. The timing wasn’t right on the jokes. You want a funny sketch you have to watch Sprockets with Mike Myers. That’s a well-timed, hilarious sketch. This isn’t that.”

It’s for that reason why Aaron Gordon failed to win on Saturday night, despite jumping over the 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall in the finals. Think about that for a second. Aaron Gordon jumped OVER a human being who is SEVEN FOOT FIVE INCHES TALL, and DID NOT win the competition. Sure there wasn’t much creativity to the dunk, but sometimes I feel like we forget just how incredible it is to jump over humans who would scrape their heads walking into most parking garages.

It’s like Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed catch. We all initially freaked out because it was the first time we saw anything like that in a game, but from here on out, every time someone makes a one-handed catch, it will feel less significant, even though the feat isn’t any less difficult.

Take a step back and appreciate the greatness.

If you meet someone around the water cooler this week who claims the NBA Dunk Contest isn’t good anymore, ask them what they think about Saturday Night Live, because odds are it’s the same take. After you ask that, ask them when the last time was they watched either one in full. Odds are the answer to that question is a couple years ago – at least.

Does every dunk land? No. Is every SNL skit funny? No. But that doesn’t mean they’re all lame dunks or unfunny skits. You can’t go into each dunk/skit comparing it to what you grew up with, or else nothing will ever be good enough. Nothing you see today will ever make you change your opinion, but don’t let that make you miss out on the greatness happening today.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.


Austin hosts a country music morning radio show in Chicago after nearly a decade in sports talk radio (The Jim Rome Show, Steve Gorman SPORTS!) Colin Cowherd and Smash Mouth follow him on Twitter (which he apparently thought was important enough to share here). He also wears pants everyday.


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