Format quirks can't quiet big jams

Erving was happy to see the contest dial back a bit on some of the outrageous gimmicks of the recent past, but he was impressed by some of the athletic exploits on display Saturday. From McLemore leaping over Shaquille O'Neal seated on a king-sized throne in the lane to George's between-the-legs, reverse 360-degree windmill to Wall's finisher, the execution overcame some misguided rule concepts.

"You could see there was some pure talent, some raw talent, and some dunks had a good look to them," said Erving, 64. "You got like four All-Stars in there this year. You got the rivalry in the East and the West. Guys were pretty impressive. Most importantly, there were dunks that people haven't seen before."

Several players, celebrities and high-profile fans took to social media to instantly express dissatisfaction with some of the kinks and quirks of the revamped format. But none of the criticism should take away from what Wall accomplished Saturday under the circumstances he competed under.

Wall competed in the contest as his mother, Frances Pulley, was hospitalized in North Carolina and reportedly being treated for a fluid buildup in her lungs. The condition prevented Pulley from traveling to New Orleans to be with her son for his first experience as an All-Star. Wall was able to communicate with his mother Saturday before arriving to the arena for the dunk contest and was in high spirits.

Otherwise, the only downer Saturday came when Wall learned his alma mater Kentucky lost to Florida.

"It's a humbling experience for me, and a great opportunity," Wall said. "I wouldn't be here without my coaches, my teammates and my fans in the city of D.C. supporting me for three years. So I did it for all those guys and I did it for my mom that's in the hospital sick right now. So it was a big moment for me."

It was also a moment inspired by input from fans and his social media followers. Wall said the idea for his contest-clinching dunk over the mascot came from YouTube footage.

"Someone sent me a link on my Twitter and said there were 27 dunks that haven't been done in the NBA dunk contest," Wall said. "And the first one was that one. It seemed hard, but for me, it came out to be easy. So it worked in my favor."

Erving also favored Wall's dunk.

A few moments earlier, Erving was so impressed with George's 360-dunk that he said, "sick is sick."

But what's ultimately ailing the dunk contest is that it's become a bit too convoluted. Four-time league MVP LeBron James entered the week making sure television news cameras were around when he did his own personal dunk contest after a recent Heat practice in Phoenix.

James then spent the next few days explaining he had no desire to enter the contest. Unlike in past years, James wasn't even in the building Saturday night to watch the contest

Count Erving among those who wouldn't mind seeing James, 29, eventually reconsider his stance and enter the contest at least once before he's past his prime. After all, Dr. J last competed in the event in 1984, just days shy of his 34th birthday.

"LeBron's got a streak going," he said of James skipping the contest his first 11 seasons. "And you know how LeBron likes streaks. He'll get in it when he's ready. It's not too late. He's still got what it takes."

Erving believes the dunk contest still has what it takes thrive again, too.

The true revival starts with fewer antics, and more action.

Wall emerged as dunk champion on a night that offered plenty of both.

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