Monday, February 24

Al Tucker, The Alley Oop, and An Idea

Al Tucker (photo via Gasoline Alley)
Al Tucker would have been 71 years old today, and if he's remembered for anything today, it's for being credited (with his brother, Gerald) with the invention of the alley oop.

I've long had a soft spot for Tucker, who, despite his meager career statistics, always seemed to be someone who could've been a more memorable NBA player and, at the very least, someone who I would've love to have spoken with. He loved poetry and the music of Sam and Dave, could shoot 3's and dunk with equal aplomb, dominated the NAIA, and made the all-rookie team.

But it is the alley-oop for which he is most known, and that leads me to an idea. If you're a basketball fan, you know how poorly received the NBA slam dunk competition has been the past, what, 20 years? At times it feels as though more words have been written about how to fix the darn thing than there have been to actually talk about it. So, if your eyes begin to roll back into your skull at the thought of yet another hare-brained scheme, well, your skepticism is well earned.

Next year's contest will be held in New York City, and one would hope the league would be able to parlay the notoriety of the world's biggest basketball stage into something more than yet another boring missed-dunkfest.

Yes, you ask, but what does Al Tucker have to do with that?

Well, how about a tribute to the alley-oop? What if, for one year only, the NBA required all entrants to dunk via alley-oops? What if, rather than ignoring its history, the league invited David Thompson and Gerald Tucker to be guest judges? Would that not be at least somewhat more interesting than the typical fare we get at the dunk contest?

And, to piggyback on that idea, how about inviting non-NBA players to participate? How exciting would it be to have two brackets - one for NBA players and one for New York streetball players, with the winners of each bracket meeting in the championship? Wouldn't you be more likely to watch a contest that featured a bunch of amateurs trying to knock off the NBA players?

Who knows, maybe these ideas will be as successful as Al Tucker's brief NBA career, but they're worth thinking about.

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