Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fantasyland Basketball

By Gary Flick

As great as this past weekend's All-Star Game was, the NBA really dropped the ball on bringing competition to Saturday's events. The Warriors are shooting a Western Conference best 40%, including three3 players in the top 10, yet were not represented in the three-point contest. Blake Griffin was unable to be swayed by the league to defend his title in the dunk contest, and LeBron stayed consistent by once again toying with the fans saying he might join the contest and then backing out.

I don't know whether it's "uncool" in the NBA nowadays to be in front of a national audience and showoff your insane athletic ability, or if the NBA just doesn't try enough to get these players. Either way, Saturday was not one fraction as exciting as it could have been with the current talent in the NBA. Even the All-Star Game itself seems a bit less exciting because so many big name players play on the same teams now, but it is still the best players in the league doing what they do. Saturday's events are more like a gathering of players who the casual fans haven't heard of yet and are trying to make a name for themselves by launching threes or throwing down windmill dunks.

I tried to think of a way the NBA could spice up Saturday night during All-Star Weekend, but without a way to get the best players to participate, it is forever going to be boring in comparison to 10 years ago when the dunk contest was every bit as hyped as the All-Star Game itself. Without a solution, I resorted to the impossible and came up with "NBA All-Star Saturday: Players in Their Prime." Please come join me in Fantasyland, All-Star Weekend style.

Three-Point Shootout

FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS

Robert Horry vs. Reggie Miller
In the "Captains of Clutch" shootout, Reggie's swagger forces him to be rushed on the final rack and he has to get all five shots off in under 4 seconds. Due to the time constraint, he makes them all and wins in an 18-17 barn-burner to advance to round two.

Sam Perkins vs. Glen Rice
In the "Too Bad I Didn't Use My Size More Often, People Might Still Know My Name" matchup of the first round, Glen Rice knocks down 20 to easily beats Perkins who had to stop for oxygen and water after the third rack, though he still tallied an impressive 12 without jumping once.

Jeff Hornaceck vs. Steve Kerr
In the "Little White Dude Who Played Alongside Two of the Greatest Tandems Ever" contest, Jeff goes wild and notches a round-high 22 to take him into the semis.

Ray Allen vs. Dirk Nowitzki
In the "Why Did the Bucks Trade Me For Pennies?" matchup of evening, Dirk's runs his hands through his hair and in-turn has trouble picking up the balls because of the grease. He eventually gets hot, but Ray stays solid the whole time and knocks down the money ball at the buzzer to win 19-17.

SEMIFINALS MATCHUPS

Reggie Miller vs. Glen Rice
Both players have amazing rounds and with 20 points and one ball left on his rack, Reggie sees that Glen ended early with 21 and lines up the money ball. The buzzer sounds and the ball swishes through. The crowd erupts but a shrill whistle quickly silences them. Esteemed Three-Point Shootout referee Spike Lee calls a shoelace-on-the-line violation on Reggie, so the basket doesn't count. Reggie backhands Spike then Spike calls him Cheryl and both parties are hastily escorted off the premises. Glen Rice wins.

Jeff Hornaceck vs. Ray Allen
Jeff Hornaceck goes stone-cold and posts only an 11. Ray Allen easily wins with a 19-point showing and cruises into the finals. After the match, Hornaceck storms over to the officials and complains about something. Nothing becomes of the complaints and Hornaceck retires to the locker room. Postgame reports would show that Ray Allen's Mom may have used one of her 17 platinum necklaces to divert light from the Jumbotron directly into Hornaceck's eyes. Though very probable, the allegations were never proven. Ray Allen wins.

FINALS MATCHUP

Glen Rice vs. Ray Allen
During pre-finals interviews, Glen Rice calls out Chris Webber on TNT and says, "If it weren't for that 'timeout,' you might be a more revered Wolverine than me!" and Webber replies with, "Remember when you had a post game? Me neither!" Ray Allen doesn't speak, as usual, and the finals begin. Introductions commence. "At 6'5" from the Boston Celtics, Rayyyyy Allennnnn!!!!" The crowd erupts. "At 6'8", from the Los Angeles Clippers (no applause), Los Angeles Lakers (no applause), Houston Rockets (no applause), New York Knicks (a few woos), and Charlotte Hornets! (crowd responds) Gleeeeeeennnnnn Riiiiicceee!"

The applause subdues, the lights go down, and my imagination once again runs rampant.

The round begins. Both players start out hot and by the rack at the top of the key, it is tied 10-10. Both players take a quick glance over their shoulders and the glance once again makes the crowd erupt. On to the shoulder rack. 15-15 heading to the corner. Ray drills his first two, Glen short rims both. Ray finishes miss-make-miss. Glen hits his third, the fourth, and finally, the money ball. 19-18, Glen Rice wins. (It's my fantasy ... I didn't wear No. 41 growing up because Dirk was my favorite foreign high school basketball player.)

Slam Dunk Contest

As the RNBA (Real National Basketball Association) shortened up its dunk contest this year due to a lack of interest from elite players, the FNBA (Fantasyland National Basketball Association) decided to gather the best of the best. Here is your FNBA dunk contest lineup:

Spud Webb
Vince Carter
Jason Richardson
Michael Jordan

There seems to be a formula for great dunkers, as Carter, Richardson, and Jordan are all 6'6". Spud Web breaks the mold, being a whole foot shorter than any of his competitors.

Knowing the level of competition and not wanting to just toss out 50s every time, the judges stiffen their criteria for a perfect dunk and get ready for the show.

Having two minutes to complete a dunk (as in this year's contest) is far too long and even if it does allow for an exceptional dunk to occur, it is anti-climactic during the contest and not truly appreciated until the next day on "SportsCenter." Because of this, the FNBA has shortened the length of time to a simple 24-second shot clock for our competition. It's the three best dunks. No cars. No headcams, just a man and a ball. Best total score wins. Let the high-flying begin.

Spud Webb

1st Dunk: Spud takes a page out of Nate Robinson's book and jumps over Gheorghe Muresan. 9, 10, 9, 9, 9. Billy Crystal is one of the judges and liked that "His Giant" was involved so he notched a 10. Total: 46

2nd Dunk: Spud pulls out a classic from the '86 contest and does a good old 360. 8, 9, 9, 9, 9. Total: 44

3rd Dunk: Spud one-ups the Vince Carter "elbow-in-the-rim" dunk and actually dunks himself. 10, 10, 10, 10, 7. Judge Charles Barkley is jealous that Spud can even fit his head in the rim, let alone his whole body, so he notches a 7. Total: 46

Three-Dunk Total: 136

Jason Richardson

1st Dunk: J-Rich goes back to '04 and throws it off the backboard to himself and then goes between the legs … only this time he does a 360 as well. 10, 10, 10, 10, 10. Total: 50

2nd Dunk: Richardson lines up with a ball in each hand and does a double windmill. 10, 9, 9, 10, 10. Total: 48

3rd Dunk: Knowing a great dunk will probably get him a win, Richardson starts waving his arm to get the crowd involved. He pushes aside a few ball racks and jogs to the other end of the gym. He takes of his jersey to reveal an old-school Michael Jordan jersey and the crowd goes nuts. He makes his break towards the free throw line and right as he takes off the buzzer sounds. Shot clock violation. Sorry, Jason. 2, 5, 4, 4, 0. Total: 15

Three-Round Total: 113

Michael Jordan

1st Dunk: 720. The house explodes with cheers. 10, 10, 10, 10, 10. Total: 50

2nd Dunk: M.J. walks over to his wife, who is holding their infant child. He calls Tim Duncan and his soft hands from the crowd to stand under the hoop. Then Jordan goes '85 dunk contest and does a rock the baby reverse … with an actual child. Tim secures the rebound and the crowd goes nuts. 10, 10, 10, 10, 0. Judge Candace Parker is pregnant and thinks the act was "dangerous." Hormones. Total: 40

3rd Dunk: Jordan parts the crowd, as Richardson does, but being a winner, Jordan glances at the shot clock and starts his run quickly. He takes off from the top of the key and dunks two handed. 10, 10, 10, 10, 10. Total: 50

Three-Round Total: 140

Vince Carter

1st Dunk: Off a pass from Tracy McGrady, Carter catches the ball and goes between his legs … twice. He flushes is home and the crowd explodes again. 10, 10, 10, 10, 10. Total: 50

2nd Dunk: Front-flip dunk. Crowd gets even louder. 10, 10, 10, 10, 10. Total: 50

3rd Dunk: Vince runs to the opposite side of the court and holds up three fingers. The crowd gets so loud in anticipation for a dunk from the three point line that the JumboTron falls onto the floor. Vince jumps over it and throws down a tomahawk. 10, 10, 10, 10, 10. Total: 50

Three-Round Total: 150

Vince Carter is crowned the greatest dunker of all-time and celebrates like he just won a championship. Well, what he imagines what it would be like to win a championship any way. He and Glen Rice head climb the JumboTron for one final bow and the fans shuffle out.

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