Yesterday, many an NBA fan got his or her panties all in a bunch following video released of LeBron James messing around after practice and throwing down some nice dunks.
Personally, I couldn’t care less whether LeBron ever enters the competition or not — I think it’d be cool if he did and I’d definitely watch, but it doesn’t bother me that he chooses not to. However, this reopened debate, with names such as Dominique Wilkins and Vince Carter invoked, got me thinking about the most overlooked Slam Dunk Contest participant perhaps ever.
I’m speaking, of course, about Steve Francis. Now, it’s easy to overlook Stevie Franchise when the topic of the Dunk Content arises because he never actually won one. But, if you all recall, Francis put on quite a show himself on the same night Vince Carter was tantalizing the world with an iconic performance.
Almost any other year, Francis would have walked away with the Dunk Contest crown easily. Unfortunately for him, he was up against arguably the greatest individual performance this exhibition has ever seen.
Two years later, I got to witness Francis compete in person, with All-Star Weekend taking place in Philadelphia. I was hyped, thinking he’d get his crown after a year’s hiatus with no Carter to take his spotlight. Instead, the NBA screwed the participants, especially Francis, by introducing the “dunk wheel.”
The dunker had to spin the wheel on one of his attempts and replicate whatever dunk from the past the wheel landed on. Francis landed on a dunk he couldn’t actually do because he couldn’t palm a basketball, and he was never able to get his bearings.
On that night, Jason Richardson took home the first of his back-to-back Slam Dunk titles, with Francis once again left as second fiddle.
And that’s a shame, because Steve Francis was an incredible dunker, one who certainly had the hops and creativity to win one of these contests.
And now, Steve Francis looks like this:
I just can’t. Let’s get to the links …