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Why the D-League Slam Dunk Contest Was Much Better Than the NBA One

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Led by the likes of Mad Ants' swingman Tony Mitchell and Bighorns' guard Ra'shad James, the D-League's Slam Dunk Contest proved to be much better than the NBA one. Here's why.

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

On Saturday afternoon, watching the D-League Slam Dunk Contest was supposed to serve as a fun little appetizer in anticipation of the NBA's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest later in the evening.

But have you ever had an appetizer and thought "gee, that was so good and fulfilling, I could have done without my main course!"

Well, after watching both Slam Dunk Contests, that's probably how most basketball fans felt, too.

The fact of the matter is, there's a reason most players are in the D-League. They're young. They're raw. Most prospects are there because they lack something in their overall skill-sets, or at the very least, need more time to work on things and fine tune such abilities. NBA players are better, and there's no denying that or making light of it whatsoever.

But because of this, such minor league players carry themselves with more hunger. There's more of an itch to prove themselves, succeed, and impress whomever may be watching. Such a desire to do so, on any and all stages, makes the show they set out to put on each and every night arguably more intriguing to watch.

The Boost Mobile NBA D-League Slam Dunk Contest was no different.

The likes of defending champion Tony Mitchell, Ra'shad James, Darren White, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (with a little help from his brother and NBA rookie Giannis) aimed to put on a show on Saturday afternoon, and certainly didn't disappoint. Along with such hunger came an immense amount of creativity and a desire to push the boundaries on each and every dunk. As they aim to catch the eye of an important decision-maker or two, even the Dunk Contest provides these prospects an unique stage to shine on, as it allows them to feed off the crowd and put their athleticism on display.

Though all three members of the staff expected Bighorns' guard James to fly high and run away with the trophy, it was Mad Ants' swingman Mitchell who ultimately went home the victor. The former certainly gave the latter a run for his money though, making for an exciting and eye-popping finish all the way to the very end.

You can watch some of the top moments by clicking here, courtesy of our buddy Seth Rosenthal from, with a nod to RU's very own Scott Rafferty.

On the flip side, the NBA's Sprite Slam Dunk was filled with all sorts of disappointment.

Whereas the D-League Slam Dunk Contest was that awesome appetizer that left you satisfied to the fullest, the NBA's contest proved to be the main course that leaves you bloated, feeling frustrated that you just didn't quit while you were ahead. There's a disappointing level of unnecessary excessiveness involved.

That said, perhaps the players involved aren't all to blame. New rules, including head-to-head battle rounds, conference formed teams, a limited amount of judges (3), and an even weirder group layup-like line of dunking, highlighted one of the strangest dunk contests The Association has ever put forth.

Thus, each dunker's potential creativity was limited.

Oh, and there wasn't exactly a clear cut individual "winner" when the contest was all set and done. You can read more about it here, courtesy of's Tom Ziller.

The overall talent level in the NBA may be better, but the evident gap increases the level for potential showmanship as such D-League prospects hope to get noticed and continue their respective climbs to becoming household names, much like their NBA counterparts.