“The dunk contest is dead.”

“The dunk contest is back!”

Every NBA All-Star Saturday Night, these takes are dispensed on an almost dunk-to-dunk basis. They’re both true to an extent. No, the dunk contest is nowhere near its heyday of the 1980s in terms of importance—but neither is All-Star weekend as a whole. There used to be a necessity to have all-star games when viral highlights weren't a thing so there was some novelty in watching certain players you could otherwise only read about.

If there is one redeeming quality about the NBA Dunk contest as it exists today unlike the all-star game, the players involved truly are a mystery. Which is actually kind of cool! These guys are basketball deep cuts. But I am pleased to report that after careful review: They can dunk.

Jericho Sims, New York Knicks

Knicks big man Jericho Sims can jump, some would argue, comically high. Granted he’s probably not even the best dunker on his team—that distinction goes to last year’s dunk contest winner Obi Toppen—but there’s no question the guy can throw it down with authority. The dunk contest generally favors shorter players, simply because aesthetically it looks more impressive when they dunk. But Sims' ability to literally put his head above the rim should translate well.

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans

Ah yes, Troy Murphy III, the young player on the Pelicans all basketball fans would love to see in a dunk contest. Okay, so it’s not Trey’s fault that he’s not Zion. We’ll find a way to forgive him. Regardless, he is a very solid young player for the Pelicans and did throw down on a two-time MVP in-game. We’re definitely interested to see what he has in his bag.

Kenyon Martin Jr., Houston Rockets 

I’ll level with you, I watched the dunk in the clip above like 20 times. It’s giving Tom Chambers. Kenyon Jr., fortunately, did inherit his hops from Dad, and it seems like 90% of the buckets he makes are in fact dunks. The Rockets aren’t winning anything this year, essentially by design. This is big for them.

Mac McClung, Delaware Blue Coats (G-League)

While he might not be a household name to most, McClung has been Instagram famous for some time on account of being a relatively short, baby-faced, white dude who can absolutely throw down. At only 6-foot-2, McClung is easily the smallest dunker in the field, which I actually mark as an advantage. The shorter the player, the cooler the dunks look.

I'm guessing when people who haven’t heard of him see Mac do some of his spinning between-the-legs voodoo for his first dunk, he’ll become a household name in short order. For that reason I think Mac is probably going to win this thing, it’s just a shame Pat Connaughton already did the White Men Can’t Jump thing first.

How to watch the 2023 NBA Slam Dunk Contest

The slam dunk contest is slated to be the third event occurring on All-Star Saturday night (February 18, 8 p.m. ET) and will be broadcast on TNT.

Odds on the contest aren’t posted yet but should be available on FanDuel leading up to Saturday.

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