LeBron James
Why did LeBron James never participate in the Slam Dunk Contest?
LeBron James

Why did LeBron James never participate in the Slam Dunk Contest?

Updated Mar. 6, 2021 7:34 p.m. ET

For the better part of 20 years, one question has arisen during the buildup to each and every NBA All-Star Weekend: Will LeBron James do the dunk contest this year?

And each and every year, the answer has been no.

Now, as he traverses his 18th season in the league, it would be somewhat of a miracle to see James enter his name in the pool of Slam Dunk Contest participants. However, that hasn't stopped fans and pundits from discussing the matter, with the reason being that it seems incredulous that LeBron will have gone his entire NBA career without participating in the once prestigious event.

Michael Jordan did it in 1985, 1987 and 1988, winning it in the final two years he participated. Kobe Bryant did it and won it in 1997. Vince Carter won it in his lone appearance in 2000. 


Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, Blake Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dwight Howard, Ray Allen, Scottie Pippen, Paul George, DeMar DeRozan, Shawn Kemp, Damian Lillard, Tracy McGrady, Donovan Mitchell – the list goes on and on of NBA elites who participated in the dunk contest when their star shined the brightest. 

LeBron never budged, even though he got our hopes up back in 2009, in regards to the 2010 version of the contest. 

James didn't participate in 2010, and over 10 years later, fans' hopes have been all but dashed. 

It's one of NBA history's oddest conundrums, why James never touched the event that was partly made famous by his professional hero in Jordan. 

And it's not like LeBron never did a dunk contest before. In fact, he won the McDonald's All-American Game's Powerade Jam Fest just months before he entered the NBA, defeating future NBA high-flyer Shannon Brown. 

Talk about head in the clouds. 

Then, there are the in-game dunks that James has been pulling off for years, many of which would have been 10s in any dunk contest. 

Here's 20 minutes' worth.


Moving on, on Friday's edition of "Undisputed," Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe laid out, once and for all, their takes on why "The King" never sought to rule over the Slam Dunk Contest. 

For Sharpe, he believes winning a dunk contest wasn't imperative to James' lifelong campaign to be the greatest player in the history of the game.

But he also pointed to a potential flaw in James' dunking abilities.

"When I look at LeBron, he's a power dunker. He's not a creative dunker. Although it would have been nice, I never went into the next season like, 'I can't wait to see LeBron enter the dunk contest.'"

Bayless agreed with Sharpe's assessment.

What a James dunk contest would have amounted to will be one of the great what-ifs in NBA history. 

As for now, we'll just have to enjoy the in-game stuff – or, better yet, the in-theater stuff.


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