Why has LeBron James never been in an NBA Dunk Contest? Pressure to win among reasons for star’s absence

LeBron James has built up quite the legacy in the NBA: Four-time NBA champion, four-time NBA Finals MVP, four-time NBA MVP, 20-time All-Star, and all-time NBA points leader. 

While all of his accolades are extremely impressive, King James is going to end his career without one notable distinction on his resume — NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion. 

The Lakers forward has consistently skipped out on the All-Star event, and that is not changing in 2024. Despite the interest from basketball fanatics, James won’t put his hat in the ring to show off his arsenal of dunks. 

Here is more on why James has never been in an NBA dunk contest.

MORE: Who is in the Dunk Contest? Full lineup and participants for NBA All-Star event in 2024

Why has LeBron James never been in an NBA Dunk Contest?

In the 21 years James has been in the NBA, he has never participated in a dunk contest during All-Star Weekend. Despite having immense star power and a thunderous one-hander, the four-time champion has evaded the competition. 

While James occasionally flirted with the idea of tossing his hat into the ring early in his career — going so far as to publicly say he’s “preliminary putting [his] name in the 2010 dunk contest” — he will eventually retire without making an appearance during All-Star Saturday Night. 

James was asked by the “Inside the NBA” crew on TNT during his rookie season about participating in a future dunk contest, and he said he likes “dunking in the moment of the game” and “it seems kinda hard when I gotta think about a dunk and, you know, enter a dunk contest.” When pressed further about the possibility of participating, he said, “I’ma put everyone on their heels, you know, I’ma leave the door a little cracked.”

[embedded content]

In 2015, Dwyane Wade asked LeBron why he’s never entered a dunk contest, and the King had a similar response: “It’s just never been something of my flavor…I’m an in-game dunker.” He followed that up by saying he was “mad at himself” for not participating some years because he believes “it would have been great.”

[embedded content]

James was also quoted as saying more than a decade ago, “If I decided to do it then I would have to win. Otherwise, it would be a waste of my Saturday night.”

Before he joined the professional ranks, though, James won the 2003 McDonald’s All-American Game Slam Dunk Contest as a high school senior.

Coming into the contest, James was considered the main attraction. He possessed incredible athleticism and strength for an 18-year-old, showcasing his ability to make jaw-dropping dunks on his opponents during games. 

While James did end up leaving the event with the first-place trophy, he did not quite dazzle as much as expected. He won the contest thanks to his superb vertical jumps, not necessarily the creativity he put behind his attempts. 

[embedded content]

James even acknowledged later that he definitely got some assistance from the hometown crowd, as he was a local kid from Akron, Ohio.

“I was the home favorite,” James said in 2012. “They gave me the nod.”

While fans may be clamoring to see James in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend, it’s not going to happen. The future Hall of Famer is content with saving his best jams for in-game action, leaving the adventures to his younger peers. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *