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2012 NBA Dunk Contest: Lakers' Darvin Ham unenthusiastic

February 25, 2012 |  2:57 pm

The incredulous tone in Darvin Ham's voice grew. 

A few minutes after processing the news that Houston Rockets small forward Chase Budinger would compete in the 2012 NBA dunk contest, Ham finally let me quote him to capture his disappointment. 

"Shouldn't he be in the three-point shootout?" Ham asked.

Perhaps. But with Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard publicly expressing a lack of interest in participating in Saturday night's contest, Budinger remains one of the fallback selections. The other three go to Minnesota rookie Derrick Williams, Indiana's Paul George and Utah's Jeremy Evans, who replaced New York's Iman Shumpert this week after Shumpert bowed out because of tendinitis in his left knee.

Ham, a Lakers assistant coach, has a unique interest in the competition. It was his glass-shattering dunk that helped Texas Tech beat North Carolina in the second round of the 1996 NCAA tournament, and that feat landed him on a Sports Illustrated cover. Ham also has joked with Kobe Bryant that he, not the Lakers' star, should've won the 1997 NBA dunk contest. Ham even revealed he posterized Lakers forward Devin Ebanks at a recent practice. But this contest hardly gets his blood boiling.

"I dunked on some Hall of Famers," Ham said. "So that dunk contest really doesn't impress me." 

Still, Ham remains impressed enough with Williams' athleticism to call him "a good choice." Ham tabbed George as his "favorite" after viewing a few of George's putback dunks while scouting for the Lakers' game last month against Indiana. But it's clear Ham relishes the dunks of a past era.

Ham fondly wishes the NBA would showcase its superstars in the dunk contest the same way Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins topped each other in the 1980s. Ham still maintains no one has topped Vince Carter's 360-degree windmill dunk in the 2000 contest. Ham loved the creativity in last year's contest that featured Clippers forward Blake Griffin jumping over a Kia, but it left him wanting more.

"I would be a litle bit more impressed if it was a Suburban and not a Kia," Ham said. "It's different than what everybody did. But for all of us in the know who either had or have hops, jumping over that Kia wasn't hard."

Instead, Ham recommends each contestant follow what he calls "a three-part recipe," mixing a good balance between leaping ability, creativity and power. But with how unenthusiastic Ham sounded about this year's field, he remains skeptical that will happen.

"I don't like these new cats when they get up so high and dunk the ball and they just throw it through and the rim doesn't break away," Ham said. "I like the old school breakway. To me, the power of it matters."


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-- Mark Medina

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