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Thursday, March 04, 2021

ESPN.com Rewrites Julius Erving Out of NBA Slam Dunk Contest History

ESPN.com must either stop attempting to cover NBA history, or it must hire competent writers and editors. An ESPN.com article published this morning titled "From Jordan to LeBron, our experts pick every NBA franchise's greatest dunker" includes a statement by Tim Bontemps that Julius Erving never competed in an NBA Slam Dunk Contest. 

Julius Erving finished second in the 1984 Slam Dunk Contest, the NBA's first ever Slam Dunk Contest. Just prior to his 34th birthday, he completed the free throw line dunk that he made famous en route to winning the 1976 ABA Slam Dunk Contest. Erving finished fourth in the 1985 Slam Dunk Contest.

Visual proof of these facts is easy to find. 

Here is a video featuring Erving's second place finish in 1984:

Here is a video featuring Erving in the 1985 NBA Slam Dunk Contest:


I remember a show about ESPN's SportsCenter years ago in which Stuart Scott talked about how much wide-ranging sports history knowledge a prospective candidate must have for ESPN to even consider hiring that person. Either that was self-serving propaganda by ESPN, or the hiring standards have declined dramatically since that time.

It is difficult to understand how an NBA writer fails to know basic facts and history. An NBA writer should be passionate and informed about the sport. In addition, every NBA writer has free access to a host of official NBA publications and media guides, including an All-Star Game media guide that lists every participant in the various All-Star Saturday events such as the Slam Dunk Contest and the Three Point Shootout.

There is no excuse (1) for a national NBA writer to not know basic and important facts, and (2) for a national publication to not hire a competent editing staff to proofread content before publication.

This is not the first time that a national publication butchered slam dunk history: one of the NBA's official magazines erronesouly reported that Erving's famous dunk over Michael Cooper happened in the NBA Finals. The dunk happened in a regular season game. Also, that same article incorrectly listed Erving's career blocked shots total.

* March 7, 2021 Note: The ESPN.com article has now been corrected by removing the statement that Erving did not participate in an NBA Slam Dunk Contest--but the corrected version does not mention that Erving finished second in the first NBA Slam Dunk Contest shortly before he turned 34, nor does the corrected version indicate that the originally published version contained an error; responsible journalistic practice would be to add a note like this: "The original version of this story incorrectly asserted that Julius Erving never appeared in an NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Erving participated in the first two NBA Slam Dunk Contests. ESPN.com regrets the error." ESPN.com would prefer that readers not realize the mistake that the writer made and the editor(s) overlooked.

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:01 AM

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