The NBA’s All-Star Weekend was held over the weekend in Salt Lake City. Unlike last year when Jae’Sean Tate was a participant in the Rising Stars Challenge, no former Ohio State Buckeyes were involved in any of this year’s festivities in Utah. We still have no idea how Malaki Branham was playing in the Rising Stars Challenge, especially with how he has been playing over the last month for San Antonio. If Branham continues his upward trajectory, it will be impossible for the NBA to keep him out of the game next season.
Even though it doesn’t have quite as much notoriety as it used to, the Slam Dunk Contest is always a highlight of NBA All-Star Weekend. Gone are the days when we saw some of the best players in the NBA take part in the dunk contest, and instead we get some role players and end-of-the-bench guys trying to make a name for themselves by winning the crown. Honestly, how many people had heard of Mac McClung before Saturday?
While Ohio State has been a part of pretty much every part of All-Star Weekend over the years, there has never been a former Buckeye in the dunk contest. Even though he never played in the league, the NBA missed the boat by not letting Sam Thompson participate. There have been a number of other Buckeyes over the years who should have been in the contest, but hopefully in the future an Ohio State hooper will be tabbed to be a part of the annual event.
Today we aren’t going to ask what former Ohio State basketball player should have been a dunk contest participant. If you remember back in 2017, there was a dunk contest held by the football team that ended up being more riveting than the actual NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Since there are plenty of phenomenal Buckeye athletes, we want to know what present or former Ohio State athlete you’d most like to see in a dunk contest.
Today’s question: Which Ohio State athlete, past or present, would you like to see in a dunk contest?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Jeff Okudah
My initial thought when we came up with this question was Dawand Jones. Even though the future NFL offensive lineman is a mountain of a man, the dunk contest isn’t usually kind to big guys. Aside from Dwight Howard, it’s pretty rare to see notable big men do well in this type of contest because their smaller opponents can wow crowds more. Now if Dawand can start hitting three-pointers on a regular basis, I’d be all for seeing him participate in a three-point contest.
While creativity is important in a dunk contest, it also helps to have a crazy vertical. Former Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah posted a 41-inch vertical jump at the NFL Combine in 2020. Okudah’s dunks would pop almost as much as McClung’s did, since even though McClung’s vertical is a couple inches higher, Okudah is an inch shorter than McClung. Any current or former cornerbacks or wide receivers are going to have a huge advantage in a dunk contest over their teammates since they are asked to go up for the football more than anyone else on the field.
I know there are a ton of other great athletes playing other sports at Ohio State, but it just feels like the skills of football players translate the easiest onto the basketball court. It’s hard to see a hockey player, baseball player, or swimmer creating as much buzz in a dunk contest as a football player. Not that I’m trying to slight those that can’t, especially since I would be a complete failure in a dunk contest, there just seems to be more football players that are successful on the basketball court than any other sports.
Meredith’s answer: Marvin Harrison Jr.
Wide receivers probably have a natural advantage when it comes to dunking contests. They’ve got the hops and the ball skills. They also have practice dunking over goal posts after touchdowns. We saw this skill in action with some elite wide outs on the hardcourt at the NBA’s All-Star weekend when Calvin Johnson and DK Metcalf played in the celebrity game.
When it comes to Ohio State players who would be thrilling to watch in a dunk contest, we have to go no further than Marvin Harrison Jr. Standing at 6-foot-4, 205-pounds, Harrison has a size advantage over current NBA dunk champion, Mac McLung. That size, combined with his athleticism in going vertical, would be a natural advantage to being able to dunk.
But the dunk contest isn’t about getting to the rim — it’s about getting there with style. Even beyond Harrison’s Louis Vuitton cleats, his ball skills are just extra. How can we forget that catch against Indiana?
That style, grace and flexibility get called into action when Harrison is matched up against defensive backs because he is a wizard who can manage to catch the ball even in the most pressing of coverages. In other words, when he has to go high, low or to the side so he can complete the catch, Harrison makes it fancy. Just imagine what he could do with an open court and no defender.