This season's NBA slam dunk contest is shaping up to be quite underwhelming. The three participants -- Obi Toppin, Anfernee Simons and Cassius Stanley -- aren't exactly household names for most fans. On top of that, the contest that's normally the main event of All-Star Saturday Night will take place at halftime of Sunday's All-Star Game in an abbreviated schedule due to the ongoing pandemic.
The list of players who declined invites to the dunk contest, however, is pretty impressive. Zion Williamson, who would have made the event must-watch TV, politely refused. So did All-Star Jaylen Brown, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards -- who for the dunk of the year so far -- and Miles Bridges, who consistently throws down some of the best in-game dunks in the league.
Well, you can add one more buzzworthy name to the list of players who said "thanks, but no thanks" -- Los Angeles Lakers fan favorite Alex Caruso. According to The Athletic's Bill Oram, Caruso elected not to participate in the Dunk Contest, and previously cited his desire to rest over the All-Star break after a shortened offseason. From Oram:
"Alex Caruso was among those who declined a spot in the slam dunk contest during this weekend's All-Star Game, league sources said. Caruso said earlier this week that due to the short offseason he was 'maybe looking forward to (the break) a little bit more' than normal. Asked about his plans for the break, he said, 'I'll probably just play some golf with some buddies and leave it at that.' "
Caruso is a popular player on NBA Twitter, and has been the subject of countless viral memes, including a muscularized photoshop that may or may not have solicited a drug test from the league.
But his inclusion would be much more than a transparent attempt to get the large Lakers fan base to tune in. Caruso has some serious hops, and has thrown down several nasty dunks -- a lot of them in traffic -- earning him the nickname, "The Bald Eagle."
Given the logistics of traveling during the pandemic and the desire for rest during a condensed schedule, it's understandable that so many players declined invites to this season's Dunk Contest. That being said, some of the best dunks often come from players who aren't necessarily stars, and Toppin, Simons and Stanley are all extremely high fliers who are eager to make a name for themselves on the national stage.