Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Three-time NBA Dunk Contest champion Nate Robinson dishes on dunks and the modern game

Nate Robinson is the NBA’s only three-time slam dunk champion, and he knows exactly what he wants to see from contestants this year. The former point guard will be bringing fans behind the scenes this weekend as the AT&T Chief Dunk Officer.

“You just gotta tap into your creativity bag,” Robinson told CBS Sports. “You gotta be spontaneous, you gotta catch people off guard and try something that has never been done. You can pay homage to the greats before you, that’s always a good idea to do, can’t go wrong with that. You just gotta add some swag, some Ric Flair to your dunks.”

Robinson said bounce is the most important thing, which he definitely saw from the G League’s Mac McClung last year when he “put on a show” and won the title. 

He hopes to see the same energy from McClung this weekend, but also has high hopes for the other contestants: the CelticsJaylen Brown, Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. and the KnicksJacob Toppin

The biggest piece of advice he has for everyone is to have fun but also come in well-prepared.

“Find that inner child, imagine yourself in the gym by yourself trying dunks,” he explained. “Bring that swag and be ready to entertain all the greats that are there watching you do your thing. Definitely make your dunk and definitely have a game plan going in. Don’t just wing it, have your dunks ready to go.”

Coming up with something creative and executing is not always easy because there is always the possibility to mess up and that could live forever on the internet. But that’s not the way Robinson likes to approach it. He said you have to go all in with every attempt. 

Was Robinson ever nervous he would mess up?

“Of course, but I did it anyway. In the dunk contest it’s not really a fail, it’s just a missed attempt,” he said. “And sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. But you still get the opportunity to go out and dunk in front of millions of fans and you get the opportunity to get new fans. It’s always fun doing the dunk contest, win or lose.”

His favorite dunk he ever did, which did not happen in a dunk contest, was off the glass between the legs. When it comes to other dunk contestants he has watched, there are a few that come to mind. 

One of them was Zach Lavine’s between the legs from the free throw line. Another he will never forget is Aaron Gordon’s under-the-legs, over the Orlando Magic mascot dunk in 2016.

“That was pretty cool,” Robinson said. “That was awesome as a matter of fact.”

Robinson was drafted 21st overall in the 2005 NBA Draft and spent the majority of his career with the New York Knicks. He also played with the Celtics, Thunder, Warriors, Bulls, Nuggets, Clippers and Pelicans. His last game in the NBA was in the 2015-16 season, and a lot has changed since then. 

“When I played back in the day a lot of people focused on defense. Now it’s like it has shifted. It’s offense and no defense,” Robinson remarked. 

“I would’ve probably had a lot more fun playing in today’s era now because being a showman and scoring points is what I did,” Robinson said “… But I’m happy with how everything unfolded in my career. I was in the NBA at a great time. Played against Kobe, LeBron, Iverson, so many [greats].”

Although he is no longer playing, Robinson is still enjoying the game today. He is “a big fan” of Kyrie Irving and thinks Victor Wembanyama doesn’t look human compared to his competition. 

“You got Luka Doncic cooking it up,” he added. “Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Ant-Man – he is doing a pretty decent job. Everybody in the league, it’s just fun to watch.”

The 2024 AT&T Slam Dunk contest is set for tonight on TNT. Click here for a full schedule of the 2024 NBA All-Star weekend.

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