You may not remember Darvin Ham the regular season player.
Despite playing nine seasons in the NBA, Ham only averaged 12.4 minutes per game over a career that saw him suit up for six different sides. And even though he won a championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2003/4, he contributed very little statistically.
But what you will remember Ham for, was his dunking ability.
This was Ham in college:
And this was the 6′ 7″ guard/forward when he entered the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest (and wrongfully didn’t make it out of the second round):
Despite bowing out of the dunk contest at the first round, it was widely felt that his trio of dunks were good enough to see him through and the only reason he didn’t progress was because he hit them too quickly for judges to appreciate. A windmill dunk, a jackknife between-the-legs dunk and a touch-the-glass-spin-in-midair-and-throw-down-a-one-handed-smash dunk are more than adequate qualifications for Ham to talk about his favourite dunks of all time and whether the dunk contest should be changed.
UK American Sports Fans: There’s been criticism of the dunk contest for the past few years with fans unhappy at the number of gimmicks and lack of stars. Do you think anything in the competition needs to change?
Darvin Ham: I think the format is pretty good. At the end of the day, it’s every player’s decision on whether or not they want to do it. It’s tough. We have Dominique (Wilkins) on our trip on our team and it was a no-brainer for him. They were so competitive – him, Michael Jordan, those guys – every opportunity they had to go against one another be it a game, play-offs, dunk contest, shooting contest, they wanted to do it. Hopefully, LeBron and those guys…winning and losing is not that important to me, giving the fans that show means everything in the world, so it would be great to see the Lebron, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee’s of the world compete at a high level (and) give the fans what they want because that’s what it’s really about.
UKASF: As you mentioned, Jordan and Dominique were trying to beat each other every time they matched up, do you think some of that mentality is missing from today’s players?
DH: They grow up together in these settings now. We’re able to pool a lot of the higher level talent at a younger age so they grow up through AAU, through the international tournaments, 18 and under, 20 and under, exhibition games – so they develop a strong relationship with one another. To me, in my mind, there’s nothing better than friendly competition. Yeah, you want to see the spit, the blood, the guts being exchanged but at the end of the day these guys are friends and the game is in a much better place and so it doesn’t bother me as much.
UKASF: What’s been your favourite all-time dunk?
DH: It might have been DeAndre Jordan’s alley-oop that he caught over Brandon Knight, man. That was INCREDIBLE! That was incredible. Hands down..I don’t usually get excited about a lot, but I got excited about that! That was incredible.
UKASF: Any others?
DH: There was a play-off game when LeBron was in Cleveland and they were playing the Celtics and it was a late game. He came down the lane and dunked it and Kevin Garnett didn’t want any piece or any part of trying to stop that dunk! It was amazing! It was funny because Kevin Harlan said ‘LeBron James with no regard for human life!’.
UKASF: And finally, what’s your favourite dunk that people might not know about?
DH: Watching Shaq. When I was early in the league, in the mid-90’s like 96-97, when I used to go work out down in Houston at a place called West Side Tennis Club and the Rockets used it as their practice facility and we used to go in there and play pick-up in the summer time. And Shaq probably dunked on a whole team one time! Guys hanging all over him. It was for game point…I mean, he almost brought the whole rim down! The amount of defenders in front of him, around him, hanging on him – it looked crazy! It looked like a giant playing with small babies and dunking on them!