An e-mail from Dave:
I read your article on espn.com about Dwight Howard's dunk. It was creative, for sure, but did you see how high Green got on his first dunk? His head was above the rim. He could have slapped a sticker higher than Howard did on Howard's 12'6" dunk -- and he wasn't even going for pure height (he had to catch a rather difficult alley oop on the way). I took a freeze-frame of Green near his apex, and in Photoshop I rotated Green's left arm so it's straight and vertical, and I tinted it green so it stands out. Check it out.
The perspective tends to make his hand look a little higher than it actually would be, but on the flip side, the fact that his arm was already at an angle foreshortens it and tends to make his hand look lower than it actually would be. The two effects combine to leave the hand on the straightened arm at about the right height -- right up near the top of the backboard.
Howard's dunk was creative, but it wasn't all that difficult or impressive looking. Plus, I don't want to turn the dunk contest into something like a pole vault competition.
I suspect there are lots of people who can/have/will reach a point higher on the backboard than where Howard stuck that sticker. Quite probably he could stick it higher too. If and when others do start sticking stickers up there I will only be marginally impressed, because I don't want a pole vault competition either.
My thought is that the dunk contest is starved for innovation. I've just about had it with tribute dunks. What can you invent that's new? It is about creativity.
No joke, Bill Russell pointed out to me once that tons of players can do Julius Erving's most famous dunks. But what made Dr. J amazing was that he thought of them.
It's like paying top dollar to see, let's say, a U2 concert, and then having them come and do nothing but cover Beatles and Rolling Stones tunes. (Please note that I could used this paragraph to make fun of Wayne Newton's "old standards" pre-game performance, but I'm feeling nice. Plus, I have already made fun of him.)
To me, the reason that dunk was great was because it was surprising--which gave it a "wow" factor that has been in short supply.