dunks through his legs with ease. (Issac Baldizon/Getty Images)
By Ben Golliver
NBA legend and ESPN commentator Magic Johnson challenged Heat forward LeBron James to enter the Slam Dunk Contest, dangling a large cash prize as an incentive.
Speaking on ESPN, Johnson said he would offer James $1 million if he participates in the NBA's annual All-Star Weekend showcase.
"I'm going to put up a million dollars," Johnson said during a telecast Friday night. "One million dollars to LeBron, please get in the dunk contest. I go every year, I want to see you out there. A million to the winner."
Johnson, 53, has an estimated net worth of at least $500 million.
Entering this season, James, 28, had earned more than $92 million in salary during his NBA career. Including this season, James has more than $79 million remaining on his contract with the Heat. His net worth has been estimated in the $100 million range.
The Associated Press notes that the dunk-contest winner is paid $100,000 while the runner-up earns $50,000.
James is regarded as one of the NBA's best dunkers -- if not the best -- but has not participated in the dunk contest, unlike Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler. James "preliminarily" pledged to participate in the 2010 contest, only to back out.
In February, James said he was "very close" to participating in this year's competition, which Raptors rookie guard Terrence Ross won.
“I was very close,” he said. “I was very close to getting into the dunk contest, man. For me, I’ve always been an in-game dunker, man. When you’ve got to be in the dunk contest, you’ve got to be creative, figure out ways to do something that no one has done in the dunk contest. I couldn’t figure that out. I couldn’t figure that out. I was entertained by being in the three-point contest, too.”
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James' dunking has taken center stage over the last few weeks because he's thrown down multiple pregame slams that are contest-worthy. Earlier this week, he went through-the-legs off of a self alley-oop. Before that, he jump-tossed the ball through his legs off the glass for a monster finish.
After those dunks prompted unnamed critics to bring up the fact that he hasn't participated in the dunk contest, James threatened to end
the Heat's pregame dunking show. He later backed off that statement, saying the dunking would continue