Point/Counterpoint: Would you rather see Ja Morant or Zion Williamson in a slam dunk contest?


The 2023 All-Star Weekend had many highs and lows throughout the three-day event, but the contests generating the most buzz were the slam dunk contest and the performance of Mac McClung. Fresh off signing a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, the guard put on a performance that many say have “revived” the event after a boring 2022 showing as McClung performed incredible dunks that made his opponents look unathletic. But while the former Big East guard’s performance was dazzling and deserved the win, fans have called for other star-studded dunkers to take the court in the slam dunk contest and show off their ridiculous athleticism. Two of those faces, Ja Morant and Zion Williamson, have been constantly been requested by fans. While Williamson has floated with the idea of an appearance next season, Morant may not ever compete — this begs the question of which player you’d rather see in the dunk contest. Would you rather see Morant, a 6-foot-2-inch guard with some of the best in-game dunks that the NBA will ever see, or would you pick Williamson, a 6-foot-6-inch forward who’s always been renowned for his incredible athleticism. Senior columnist Evan Rodriguez and Campus Correspondent Lotta Lavonen will argue this question in today’s edition of Point/Counterpoint. 

Evan: Ever since I saw Morant completely posterize the Timberwolves’ Malik Beasley, I’ve always been a fan of his insane athleticism and he’s easily my pick for taking the stage in the dunk contest. Even if Morant were to oppose McClung and Williamson, I’d argue that he would still win because the Grizzlies guard has shown that he’s not just a great dunker, but in fact, a legendary dunker. With his ridiculous vertical, he’s got a wide variety of opportunities that he could pull off in the dunk contest whether that’s making routine dunks over multiple people or something more unique. To further entice Morant into joining the dunk contest, judges have historically favored smaller guards, such as Nate Robinson in 2009 and 2010 or John Wall in 2014. He’d have the odds in his favor even if he didn’t meet the astronomical expectations put in front of him. While he certainly doesn’t need the money as he further adds to his legacy as one of the top guards in the NBA, it would delight myself and many NBA fans to turn on their TV screens and see Morant throwing down some incredible slam dunks.  

Lotta: A big reason why Williamson was chosen before Morant in the 2019 draft, becoming the first and second pick, respectively, was due to Williamson’s athleticism and show-off dunk performances, many of which have gone viral. Williamson recently reminded us of this with his 360-degree dunk in the last seconds of the December matchup between the Pelicans and Suns. Williamson’s dazzling strength can hardly be stopped by any defender, and the fourth-year NBA star is yet to show off his best. To be fair, there is nothing the audience loves more than a spectacular 360, which Williamson without a doubt masters. For example, Terence Stansbury in 1985, Vince Carter in 2000 and Andre Stoudemire in 2005 shined with theirs in the slam dunk contest. Moreover, Williamson’s physique is unique as a power forward with simultaneous strength and mesmerizing athleticism that can definitely blow up the stage and offer the audience a memorable experience. Therefore, I rejoin the myriad of fans demanding Williamson’s performance at the next contest.  

Evan: While I do agree that Williamson’s athleticism and strength are unique, I disagree that his 360 dunks separate him much from Morant, especially when the Grizzlies guard threw down many of those types of dunks, including one as recently as the All-Star game on Sunday. One thing that in my opinion separates Morant from Williamson as far as a better competitor in the dunk contest is his dunk package. There’s no doubt that Williamson is a phenomenal dunker, but Morant has shown off several different ways that he can dunk the basketball whether that’s with a notable posterizer, windmill or something else. I’m looking for a variety of dunks in my ideal candidate and Morant has certainly proven that in his time in the NBA. Williamson may have shown that he was the better dunker before high school with a higher vertical and some insane feats of athleticism, but in the NBA, Morant has shown more — even if we take away some of the insane posterizers he’s shown off on players from taller big men to smaller guards. Some of the greatest dunk contest candidates like Vince Carter, Aaron Gordon and Michael Jordan have all shown off an incredible level of uniqueness for their own dunk contests and with what Morant has shown in the NBA, I believe he can reach that esteemed level of fame in dunk contest history.  

Lotta: We should not forget the game between the Grizzlies and Pelicans in February 2021 when Morant tried to dunk on Williamson. This had an undeniable result: Williamson stopped the guard halfway in the air. How easily Williamson was able to stop Morant is a prime example of the big man’s strength that will work to his advantage in the long run. Especially in the postseason, it is not enough to dunk over the smallest of defenders, but strength is needed for phenomenal performances. While I agree Morant has been able to show off more of his skills in the NBA so far, this is simply because he has played more games, whereas Williamson has suffered unfortunate injuries. However, during the ongoing season, the former No. 1 pick has started to outperform, often leaving his doubters speechless. The following postseason is precisely the stage where he could shine and leave his fellow dunkers behind in NBA career performances. Additionally, I believe Williamson’s power will elevate his performance in the upcoming seasons. Morant might have shown what he is capable of, but Williamson has only started. As much as his competitor, the big man has a diverse package of dunking performances. Take for example his in-game windmill when the Pelicans played against the Warriors in November 2022. Any kind of 360 would only be a cherry on top. I think that, without a doubt, Williamson is the one to select in a potential dunk contest, regardless of Morant’s ridiculous athleticism.  

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