The NBA Slam Dunk Contest is one the most popular All-Star Game events of any major professional sport. The only thing comparable is the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby. For the 2021 NBA All-Star Weekend, the Slam Dunk Contest may take place at halftime of the actual All-Star Game itself. This potential format change is another case of turning COVID-19 lemons into lemonade. The idea of having the Slam Dunk Contest at the half of the actual All-Star Game would add to the overall TV ratings for All-Star weekend. Most important of all, it would add to the widespread wagering handle for NBA All-Star Betting.
How the Odds Look
For the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend, the Slam Dunk Contest odds read as follows: Aaron Gordon +140, Derrick Jones Sr. +150, Pat Connaughton +410, and Dwight Howard +560.
For gamblers wanting to bet on Aaron Gordon, they would bet $100 to win $140. For Derrick Jones Sr., bettors would wager $100 to win $150. For Pat Connaughton, his underdog status would pay a higher $410 for a $100 wager. And then Dwight Howard had an immense payback potential of $560 for a $100 bet. Derrick Jones Jr. was the ultimate winner of the Slam Dunk Contest in 2021.
Origins of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest
Incredibly enough, the NBA Slam Dunk contest was not born in the Association but instead in a rival league. The American Basketball Association held the first ever Slam Dunk contest in 1976 at Denver. It should come as no surprise that Julius Irving won the event. Dr. J would go on to stardom in the NBA when the leagues merged. Dr. J was celebrated for making a slam dunk from the free throw line in spectacular fashion.
After the ABA NBA merger, a Slam Dunk Contest was held during 1976-77. But the idea didn't catch on, and the idea was shelved, albeit temporarily.
The Explosion of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest
At the 1984 NBA All-Star Game, a Slam Dunk Contest was included in the festivities. This time the event was well managed and was an immediate hit. Throughout the 1980s, the Slam Dunk Contest became a national sensation. In fact, the Slam Dunk Contest proved to be more popular than the All-Star Game itself. TV ratings exploded for the Slam Dunk Contest, and sportsbooks took notice. They began to offer odds on the Slam Dunk Contest. Betting handle blew away all expectations, and the event went from being considered a sideshow gimmick into one that was a moneymaker for the NBA and online sportsbooks.
As popular as the NBA Slam Dunk Contest was in the 1980s, it was a fad that became stale as the 1990s progressed. It got to the point where fans and gamblers asked themselves how often can you watch guys dunk basketballs before it gets boring. The Slam Dunk contest has never reached the heights of its Glory Years of the 1980s. However, it has enjoyed a renaissance over the past decade.
Perhaps Blake Griffin reignited the NBA Slam Dunk Contest's excitement in 2011 when he jumped over the hood of a Kia sedan for a spectacular slam dunk that ultimately won him the award.
How the Contestants are Chosen
The criteria of how Slam Dunk Contest participants are chosen is pretty loose. Basically, it is based on the slam dunk creativity shown during actual NBA games during the season.
What is interesting about the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is that gamblers and fans are often surprised about who the contestants are. Pat Connaughton is an excellent example of a small player that is a backup for the Milwaukee Bucks. Yet Connaughton caught enough eyes, even as a reserve player, to get an invite to the 2021 Slam Dunk Contest. In the same way, the recent winners of the Slam Dunk Contest are usually not household names. Many stars such as LeBron James, refuse to participate because they see the event as one for one-dimensional players.
Plenty of Controversy
The NBA Slam Dunk Contest has an Olympic "Russian Judge" element to it. How the dunks are graded is a source of constant irritation. Gamblers have often voiced outrage at lost bets that they believe should have been winners.