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When Should a 50 be a 50?

Posted on February 20, 2010 at 8:50 PM

When you have a competition based solely on subjective judging, there will always be controversy. In the dunk contest, there’s a panel of five judges who each score a dunk from 6 to 10. This makes a 50 the highest possible score for a dunk. DeMar DeRozan was awarded a 50 this year on a dunk that was way less than spectacular. That got me thinking: ‘What makes a 50?’


I think a 50 dunk must have creativity, elevation, style, and of course, difficulty. DeRozan’s off the side of the backboard windmill, had some of each, but it wasn’t a “perfect” dunk, as 50 should be.


When you simply apply logic, if two dunks get the same score, one can’t be better than the other. Therefore, all dunks given a 50 are tied for the best-dunk-of-all-time. But, DeRozan’s dunk was clearly not as good as Vince Carter’s 360, Michael Jordan’s free throw line dunk, or Jason Richardson’s off the backboard between-the-legs which also got 50’s and are some of the best-dunks-of-all-time.


DeRozan’s dunk should have been at most a 46. It is time that the judges think about how good the dunk is compared to other past dunks before they score it. The NBA used to use a decimal point system to grade dunks, and I think it would be a good idea to bring that system back so that judges can differentiate between a good dunk and a very good dunk.




Of the 46 dunks that have received 50’s, here’s my list of nine that actually deserved the score:


- Michael Jordan’s leaning windmill

- Michael Jordan’s original air walk from the free throw line

- Vince Carter’s 360 windmill

- Vince Carter’s bounce-pass between-the-legs

- Jason Richardson’s bounce-pass between-the-legs

- Jason Richardson’s off the backboard between-the-legs

- Nate Robinson’s dunk over Spub Webb

- Andre Iguodala’s off the back of the backboard reverse

- Dwight Howard’s Superman dunk


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Reply Shoshana to Lev
10:43 AM on February 27, 2010 
oh ok. But some of the false 50's can be attributed to people attempting and failing to do what MJ already did so well (many times).
Reply Lev to Shoshana
10:41 AM on February 27, 2010 
Yes, other people have tried and failed the air walk. However, what I really am talking about is the fact that Michael Jordan did the dunk in one round and then repeated the exact same dunk in the finals, got a 50 and won. He did the free throw line dunk in 4 different rounds and got 50's every time! The first time he did it was the best.
Reply Shoshana
10:25 AM on February 27, 2010 
It's pretty pathetic that only a 5th of the dunks that received 10s actually deserve them.

And I like how you say "the original" air walk. So many people have tried to replicate it (wasn't it Moon two years ago who put the tape down, then TOTALLY ignored it??) and most have failed.
Reply Mike
10:02 PM on February 21, 2010 
You're absolutely right that precision is lacking in the judgment of the dunk contest. Let's say that all 5 judges view a dunk as deserving a total score of 46. That means that the dunk deserves an individual score of between a 9 and 10, but since it is slightly closer to a 10, each judge will independently vote 10 and the result is a perfect score of 50. A one decimal system would be ideal, but I don't think the NBA is intellectual enough to make that change. But after this year's lackluster display, the NBA is probably looking for a way to spice up the event, so anything is possible.