2023 Slam Dunk Contest Preview: Can The Dunk Contest Be Great Again?
Who? The Little-Known Four Participants Should Surprise
Kenyon Martin Jr. Leads the 2023 Slam Dunk Contest
The NBA announced the 2023 Slam Dunk Contest participants and… it’s an understated group, let’s just say that. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the likes of Kenyon Martin Jr., the slight favorite on the 2023 NBA Slam Dunk odds at +165, headline the event.
Not too far are Mac McClung (+180), Jericho Sims (+200), and Trey Murphy IIII (+275). What this quartet lacks in name value, they can make up for in their performance. That is the idea, at least.
Who are These Dunk Contest Participants Really?
We are a long way from having the likes of Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin participate in the Slam Dunk Contest. Now, we’re down to three prospects and a G-League star in which none are any of the NBA’s top players like Bryant or Griffin was. But maybe they are hungry to make a name for themselves.
As Stephen A. Smith in a rant following last year’s “worst dunk contest in history”, the NBA can fix the dunk contest by selecting players that actually give a damn about it. Of the four, Martin Jr. is the one that gets the most playing time. Still, he’s mainly a bench player and gets around 26 minutes a game. Nearly 30 percent of his field goal attempts have been dunks.
Martin Jr. is the favorite, likely because he’s had the most playing time and is the son of an NBA star – Kenyon Martin. Jamal Crawford, who played with Martin and is a 2023 Slam Dunk Contest judge, said Martin Jr. is his favorite to win:
“He’s my favorite (Martin Jr.). I played against his dad (Martin), it’s in his blood. He’s dunking off left foot, right foot, one hand, two hands, he’s doing it with emphasis. He’s going to help bring the dunk contest back.”
But Shaquille O’Neal was quick to disagree with Crawford. The Hall of Fame center picked McClung since “no NBA player cares about the dunk contest”. McClung is not currently on an NBA roster.
“(He’s) a guy that deserves to be in the league,” O’Neal started. “He’s working hard. He plays hard, probably a little undersized nobody’s picked him up, but the boy got them bunnies. And what these youngsters don’t understand about the All-Star Weekend – this is the weekend where you make people say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know he had that.’ Mac McClung will not miss a dunk and he will take over the dunk contest. A guy that is not even in the NBA is going to win the dunk contest.”
As for Sims and Murphy III, both are sophomores and on the taller side of this contest. Sims plays forward or center with the Knicks. He’ll look to join teammate Obi Toppin as a “big man” to win the contest. Murphy III is a versatile scorer for New Orleans and is the first Pelican to participate in the event
Recent Slam Dunk History: Fade the Favorites?
While the 2023 Slam Dunk Contest odds favor Martin Jr., McClung, Sims, and Murphy III should know that recent winners have typically been underdogs.
A betting favorite has not won the NBA Dunk Contest since Zach LaVine in 2016. In fact, Hamidou Diallo (+300) in 2019 and Glenn Robinson III in 2017 (+700) both had the longest odds to win their respective events.
McClung is a good bet to win if this trend continues: The last three winners were second on the betting odds to win. Four of the last six Slam Dunk Contests saw the contestant with the second-shortest odds come out on top. And another nearly won in 2017 when Derrick Jones Jr. finished as the runner-up to Robinson III.
As for the favorites, they’ve at least made it to the final in three of the last four contests. Gordon almost won in 2020 as the very slight favorite over Jones Jr. The former Magic player also nearly dethroned LaVine in 2016 in what was considered the best NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Expectations are low for this dunk contest. That leaves plenty of room for these players to impress and maybe more for bettors to profit off the underdogs.Follow us on Twitter