The 2014 Slam Dunk Contest is now just five days away, and for the 11th time during his 11-year career, Heat forward LeBron James will be watching from the sidelines.
And, for roughly the 20,00oth time over the last decade, James took a few minutes Monday to tease the masses with the dunking ability that we could be -- but won't be -- seeing on All-Star Saturday night in New Orleans.
Miami is in Phoenix in advance of a Tuesday night date with the Suns, and James pulled a few tricks out of his bag after practice.
With his teammates and a media horde watching intently, James started things off by throwing an alley-oop to himself off a column behind the hoop, snaring the ricochet with his right hand before slamming it forcefully home in one motion. He then proceeded to work through more traditional self-oops off of the high bounce, which he crammed with a quick-catch finish and a two-handed reverse.
James then returned to the wall toss route, using a baseball throw off the sideline wall to set up a reverse two-handed catch and slam, before hitting one more self lob for a (relatively) simple two-handed reverse finish. Last but not least, James pulled out a combination we've seen him execute during pre-game warm-ups, throwing himself a lob through his own legs off the backboard to set up a powerful two-handed catch and one-handed dunk with his head near rim level.
Would these dunks -- or something similar, if there wasn't a wall available -- win the actual contest? Possibly, but not definitely. Do these dunks suggest that James could put on a show for the ages with the right amount of preparation and a few outside-the-box ideas? Without question. Which is what makes Monday's videos that much more frustrating.
Reverse angles of a few of James' dunks can be seen below via Heat guard Dwyane Wade.
"[James] decided to give his teammates a [little] show after practice today," Wade wrote on Instagram. "The man has wings."
The NBA announced a loaded six-man field for this year's Dunk Contest -- Paul George, Terrence Ross, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore -- on Thursday. Although that field includes three All-Stars for the first time since 1988, it automatically registers as a mild disappointment because it lacks James' presence.
As The Point Forward noted last week, in naming James to our dream Dunk Contest field, the back-to-back MVP is out of legitimate excuses for not participating. His place in history is secure, he can still get way up at age 29, he's shown he can handle real pressure, participating carries no real injury threat, and this latest showcase (among countless others) proves that James is more than just an "in-game dunker," as if anyone believed otherwise.
"[James in the Dunk Contest] would be one of the most watched events of the year besides the Grammys," Wade said, according to the Miami Herald. He is, of course, correct. The Herald went on to report that James said that he would win if he participated.
James' show at practice is as maddening as it is tantalizing. As with the Nike commercial that depicts him competing in the Dunk Contest, James wants to enjoy the fun of the flirtation without the responsibility of the wedding. For a player who has consistently embraced challenges and shattered the highest possible expectations throughout his career, James' refusal to give it a shot in the Slam Dunk Contest seems almost out of character.
You can keep on dreaming by watching reverse angles of James' work below.
Top video via YouTube user ArizonaSports987 | Hat tip: ProBasketballTalk