On the eve of the Slam Dunk Contest, Dominique Wilkins, one of the greatest dunkers in the history of the competition, joined The Jim Rome Show and talked about how much the games changed.The Human Highlight film, who spent 15 years in the Association, talked about the friendlier competition between stars today.
“It’s a different time, we were looking for an edge against one another,” Wilkins said. “[Larry] Bird and I have talked about it several times, and he showed me the utmost respect as a player but we were looking for an edge against that other great player so we weren’t looking to be anybody’s friend.”
Wilkins shared a story from his rookie season in the NBA, when Wilkins offered a pregame handshake and the Celtics icon kept his hands behind his back, telling Wilkins, “you don’t belong in this league, homes.”
“I wasn’t mad because he hit the three I was mad he called me homes,” Wilkins laughed. “I was so mad. I came down off the left side and they pitched me the ball and he was back pedaling and I jumped and he jumped and I banged it on him, and he fouled me and I’m pointing and I’m pointing and he said ‘I like you rook, you know, you got heart…but I’m still getting 38.’
“Back in those days you had to earn those veterans like that’s respect, there’s a lot of guys who didn’t shake your hands. I mean Karl Malone, who he and I to this day we are best friends, but as competitors we never shook hands, we never talked.”
Wilkins shared his thoughts on former league MVP Kevin Durant joining a record-setting Golden State Warriors team in his prime, the former forward said it wouldn’t fly during his time.
“In that time we wouldn’t have done it. That’s not something we did,” Wilkins said. “I guess because a lot of times we didn’t like each other in a sense, we wanted to beat each other, so we didn’t want to play with each other, that’s a different era. Times have changed. It’s just different because you’re able to move a lot more freely than we were able to in our era, we just didn’t have the ability a lot of times to move that feely, but times have changed.”
The nine-time All-Star will be a judge in this year’s Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. Wilkins talked about what he was looking for from this year’s competitors— Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, Phoenix’s Derrick Jones Jr., and Indiana’s Glenn Robinson III.
“I look at what type of creativity is going to come out. We already know what Aaron Gordon’s going to bring because what he did last year was amazing, actually I thought he won last year, Wilkins said. “DeAndre Jordan is kind of the one I think is the wild card in there, because the guy is seven-foot, but a very, very creative jumper, I mean this guy gets up off the floor, so I think he may do something that surprises everybody.”
Of course if Wilkins was going to weigh in on Slam Dunk competitions, there’s the 1988 contest, where he lost a controversial decision to Michael Jordan. The two-time dunk champion didn’t hesitate when asked if he thought he won that competition in Jordan’s hometown of Chicago.
“Of course I thought I won, and Michael thought he won,” Wilkins said. “And that’s just the way it was, we were fierce competitors. But and I say this all the time, at the end of it all fans got their money’s worth.”