NBA Lets Shannon Dunk

The grass-roots effort worked, the popular Laker is in.

Grass roots campaigns work.

The latest proof is that Lakers backup guard Shannon Brown will be part of the NBA’s dunk contest Feb. 13 in Dallas. Brown will compete against defending champion Nate Robinson of the Knicks, high-flying Gerald Wallace of Charlotte and the winner of thee “dunk off” between the Clippers Eric Gordon and former USC Trojan (and current Toronto Raptor) DeMar DeRozan.

The biggest national names -- Dwight Howard (who won it two years ago) and LeBron James (who said last year he would compete last year) -- are out. Both chose not to enter.

Brown has developed a cult-figure popularity among Lakers fans for his amazing in-game dunks. Those have usually come in garbage time at the end of games and have sort of become a victory cigar for Lakers blowout wins. Brown gets the ball in transition and then electrifies the crown with a high-flying, acrobatic dunk.

All that led to the Let Shannon Dunk movement. Complete with its own website and twitter account. Browns dunks have become YouTube sensations. It had the feel of a grass roots campaign where fans just wanted to see the guy in the dunk contest (forget that the website was designed and the twitter account managed by Lakers staff). It was the first campaign of its kind.

And it worked -- the NBA will Let Shannon dunk.

Of course, dunking in game and dunking in the All-Star Weekend dunk contest are very different things. The former is about split-second decisions and the ability to show off athleticism with defenders around.

The dunk contest is theatrics. It is Dwight Howard putting on a Superman cape then flying through the air. It is Nate Robinson at all of 5’9” (and that is the generous official listing, which is about three inches high) leaping over Howard to dunk the ball. It is Michael Jordan from the free throw line with his tongue out. It is blindfolded dunks.

Can Shannon dunk like that? We shall see. You can bet teammates like Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant (who has won the contest in 1997 going between the legs with the ball) will have advice and suggestions.

But Lakers fans are excited. Whatever happens, they get to see their man -- Let Shannon Dunk.

Kurt Helin lives in Los Angeles where he is runs the NBA/Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold (which you can also follow in twitter).  

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