The Atlanta Hawks have not built a history worth bragging about, so you take what you can get. And tonight, during the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest, Hawks fans have a chance to enjoy a little national relevance. The dunk contest is the highlight of NBA All-Star Weekend, but it might not have gotten off the ground if not for Atlanta players.
Take a look at the list of past contest champions. The Hawks have won the dunk contest four times, which was more than any other team until the New York Knicks reached four last year. More critically for the contest's viability, a pair of feuds in the 1980s boosted it from a sideshow to the main event, and both of those involved Hawks.
In 1986, five-foot-seven Spud Webb challenged teammate Dominique Wilkins, the defending champion, in the contest's final round. The crowd turned strongly in Webb's favor, grumbling at a Wilkins 360 earning the same score as a Webb one-hander. Webb beat Wilkins, and is still the shortest player to ever win the contest.
Nique would bounce back to reclaim his title after the best duel in dunk contest history. Michael Jordan avenged his 1985 loss by topping Wilkins in 1987 and 1988, then retired from the event. Wilkins won in 1990, beating Scottie Pippen, whom Jordan was shown coaching in the art "doing it backwards."
Josh Smith competed in two dunk contests, in 2005 and 2006. In '05 he beat Amare Stoudemire's off-the-backboard soccer header from Steve Nash with my favorite dunk of all time, a Nique tribute windmill while wearing a Hawks throwback with a very surprised Wilkins in attendance.
2006 champ Nate Robinson learned the lesson: always use former Hawks as props. The second-shortest champ dunked over a standing Spud Webb to bring home his first title.