Hall of Fame guard/forward Julius Erving said he thinks mascots are why the dunk contest has declined in popularity, according to a report from ESPN's Darren Rovell.
Erving is regarded as one of the best dunkers of all time. He beat David Thompson in the first Slam Dunk Contest, which took place at halftime of the 1976 ABA All-Star game.
From the report:
"The mascots messed it up," Erving said, referring to the stunts pulled during regular-season games as part of crowd entertainment. "It was great seeing regular human beings, even though they were 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, running and dunking a basketball. When mascots started doing it with all the trampolines and all the crazy stuff and falling on the floor, then it became more like the X Games. The players can't live up to that."
Irving will be a judge for Saturday night's dunk contest at Barclays Center featuring the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Minnesota Timberwolves' Zach LaVine, the Orlando Magic's Victor Oladipo and the Brooklyn Nets' Mason Plumlee.