Dunk competitions are free events, but a rule must be taken seriously: if you plan to use an accessory, do not break it. Atlanta Hawks striker John Collins broke the edict in Saturday's NBA Slam Dunk contest, when he tried to jump over a model of the Wright brothers. Wright Flyer and ended up breaking two large sections of the plane.
The All-Star weekend takes place in Charlotte, North Carolina, so the dunk was a nod to Kitty Hawk and the aviation tradition of the state. (Collins' homage to the escape also included men disguised as Tuskegee airmen who stood around the model aircraft.) The judges gave 42 points (out of 50), which, given inflation notes in modern dunk contests, could also have been a zero. Collins scored too low to qualify for the final round, and he seemed very upset about it.
(It should be noted that the first Collins dunk, who was was actually pretty cool, earned only 40 points from the judges for any reason.)
Whenever you dress in a sling and pilot's cap to jump over a model aircraft, you take a risk. Collins realized that many jokes were being made at his expense.
But Collins deserves congratulations, not just for his excessively misguided showmanship. Make fun of him all you want, but his dunk was a faithful portrayal of Wright's early successes in powered flight on December 17, 1903. On their last attempt of the day, Wilbur Wright was flying the plane at a the farthest he had flown – before reaching a difficult and uncontrolled landing. "The frame that supported the front rudder was badly broken," Orville said. The piece of the model airplane located closest to the hoop that Collins broke with his foot? That was the rudder.
Like Collins, the Wright brothers' experience in North Carolina was far from perfect. After this last flight attempt, a gust of wind rolled the plane "over and over" and damaged the Wright Flyer and a photographer who got entangled in the body of the plane. "The ribs on the machine surfaces were broken, the engine was injured and the chain guides were severely bent," Orville wrote. "All the possibilities of fighting with her for that year were over." If the Dunk contest judges had been present, they would have rewarded their 42 brothers for their efforts.