Halfway through the 4th quarter of last night's preseason game in Atlanta, Hawks rookie point guard Sharife Cooper blew by his former high school teammate Isaac Okoro. Cavs center Jarrett Allen stepped under the basket to prevent the easy layup. Although it was the correct defensive decision, it was Allen's first mistake. His second was being in the paint at the same time as the Hawks human pogo stick John Collins.
Cooper tossed the ball in the air, well above the rim. Collins materialized, seemingly out of nowhere, and grabbed the rock with one hand and tomahawked the alley-oop over the head of Allen. The 6'11 rim protector went tumbling onto the court as the crowd, and both benches erupted.
Allen is only the most recent victim of one of Collins' aerial assaults. Of course, we all remember Joel Embiid's baptism and the t-shirt which came out afterward. But if you've been watching Hawks games for the past few years, then you would know that Collins compiles dunk highlights like rich people collect NFT's.
That's why the high-flyer took flight in Charlotte at the 2019 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Even though he was docked points for his foot clipping the model airplane, Collins still finished in 4th place.
This season, the 2022 NBA All-Star Game takes place in Cleveland, Ohio. The house that LeBron built, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, will host the first All-Star weekend with fans at full capacity since Chicago in February 2020. The league, the Hawks organization, and Atlanta's new mayor (whoever they will be at that time) must do everything in their power to draft the affable big man to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest.
Yes, the contestants have trended towards younger players over the years, but the Hawks have a history with the competition. Hawks legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins participated in five Slam Dunk Contests (winning two of them and robbed of one in another).
Several forwards from the 2021 NBA All-Star Game should be voted out in favor of Collins in 2022. But in case the casuals get their way, and Collins is left out of the All-Star game, he could easily put on a show by pulling a few tricks out of his bag in the Slam Dunk Contest.
The Hawks have several different players who could prioritize individual accolades over team success, but luckily that doesn't match the character of the roster. In fact, a few days off in late February would be better for Collins than the hustle and bustle of NBA All-Star weekend. But displaying his athleticism and charisma would undoubtedly be good for the game.
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