The Lost 1998 Dunk Contest, The 2Ball Competition, And How It Shaped Kobe Bryant

If you're like me and started watching the NBA in the early 90s, you had no reference for top NBA players actually participating in all-star Saturday. Jordan vs 'Nique in the dunk contest or Larry Bird guaranteeing a win in the 3 point shoot-out were simply myth. I grew up on Harold "Baby Jordan" Miner and bought a J.R. Rider poster after he blew my mind with a between the legs mid-air dunk. Neither player would ever reach their potential as a pro but they always had that moment of glory during all-star weekend, surpassing the always forgettable Sunday game. However, the majority of NBA fans soured on watching one too many Brent Barries taking off from the free throw line and the NBA abandoned the dunk contest in 1998.

Instead, a new all-star Saturday competition debuted in 1998 called "2ball", which was also made into a Playstation game that was given out to fans that weekend. There are now only 2 copies of this game left in existence, which leads me to believe those discs were about as popular as free AOL CD-ROMs. For those who forgot, here is how 2ball was played:

In 2ball, players alternate shooting from their choice of seven locations on the floor during the sixty second competition. Players must shoot from one of seven locations marked on the floor. Each location is worth a different point value (2-8) based on its distance from the floor. A 10 point bonus is given to the team that scores from each of the seven shooting spots. A 1 point violation is deducted when any team began before the official whistles, and a 10 point violation happens when any team finishes their 60 seconds without shooting from each position.

America had only previously witnessed this type of scoring in MTV's Rock N Jock B-Ball Jam. Bill Bellamy was a particularly good 25-point shooter which I believe was what his movie "How to be a Player" was about. Dan Cortese, on the other hand, was more of a 50-pointer specialist.

Clyde Drexler and Cynthia Cooper ended up winning the first annual competition, but the more interesting result was the team of Kobe Bryant and Lisa Leslie finishing last, and decidedly so. Kobe, still only 20 years old at the time, was probably upset that he didn't get a chance to defend his slam dunk title from a year earlier. He may have thrown the competition, foreshadowing the later instances in his career where he would refuse to take shots to prove some sort of point to his teammates or the coach, most famously in game 7 of the 2006 1st round playoff series vs the Phoenix Suns.

The 2Ball Competition ran until 2001, and would eventually be replaced by the equally banal "Haier's Shooting Stars". Vince Carter single-handedly brought the dunk contest back in 2000, until it was ruined again by the WWE antics of Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard. For the sake of dunk contest connoisseurs, let's hope Blake and company can revive it once more on Saturday, because if you thought 2ball was a bad idea, imagine what the NBA would come up with as a replacement in 2012.

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Kelly said...

I'm so tempted to put a "youtube videos that include two minutes of watching a Playstation game load" tag on this!

Dennis G. Schmuck said...

oh yea, i wouldn't recommend actually watching that video. the embedded visual is a good enough reference.

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