Nate Robinson Retires After Third Dunk Title

Nate's departure leaves contest thin on thrills

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Feb 15, 2010  |  Updated 10:45 AM PDT
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Nate Robinson Retires After Third Dunk Title

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It's hard to blame Nate Robinson for saying he's done with dunk contests after taking a third title in Saturday's sleepy affair in Dallas. He's reached the limit of what he can do as a dunker, which isn't insignificant given his size (he's listed at 5'9"), and since the NBA wouldn't let him jump a blackjack table in Vegas he's also going to find it hard to make the contest entertaining.

What the NBA does plan to do to actually make the thing entertaining again remains to be seen. This year's outing was the worst in memory with only one dunk standing out as original -- DeMar DeRozan's off the side of the backboard windmill -- and the contest field lacking much in the way of star power. Robinson is still fascinating to watch, slo-mo replays take his remarkable leaping ability to another level, but we've seen him too many times for it to induce anything resembling shock or awe. 

It was an interesting juxtaposition to flip between the dunk contest and the women's moguls finals from Vancouver on Saturday night. As the skiers flew down the mountain at ever faster speeds and took off on higher jumps with bigger tricks than we've seen before, it wasn't hard to ask yourself if such progress was possible in what was once one of the most thrilling parts of the NBA season.

Freestyle skiing, snowboarding and even figure skating are constantly providing things we've never seen before and that's why people still tune in every four years for the Winter Olympics. The dunk contest, meanwhile, remains mired in the realm of the same old, same old. The only things that stand out from recent years are ancillary bits of flair -- Dwight Howard's Superman cape, Krypto-Nate -- that enliven otherwise generic dunk attempts. 

The thing is, dunks have progressed. Check out a video of Taurian Fontenette, a.k.a. Mr. 720 or Air Up There. He plays on the streetball tours that travel the country, think amped up Harlem Globetrotters without the buckets full of confetti, and stars in various videos that show off his tremendous leaping ability, including a 720 degree dunk that we've never seen in the NBA-sanctioned contest. Perhaps having NBA players take on Fontenette and his peers would raise the stakes for a future contest? 

Robinson would miss such a throwdown, but it's best for him to move on from the dunk contest. The sideshow has raised his profile more than any number of scoring binges off the bench, but now's the time to focus on a way to be a productive regular for the Knicks and whichever team gives him a home following the season. He'll always be popular with the fans, but general managers and coaches can prove to be a more fickle audience.

As for the other two Knicks involved in the All-Star festivities, the less said the better. Danilo Gallinari barely registered in the Rookie-Sophomore game and didn't live up to billing in the three-point contest. David Lee deserved to be an All-Star, but his three turnovers in 12 minutes was an unfortunate reminder of what the rest of the season likely holds for New York basketball watchers.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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