Appreciating the commentary in NBA 2K13's All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest, a first for the franchise, requires a little breaking of the fourth wall. Play-by-play man Kevin Harlan and analysts Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr—Steve Kerr? Commenting on dunks? Really?—had to sit in a recording booth and imagine all kinds of bombastic dunks, and humiliating misses, and be still be conversational in appraising their quality—or lack thereof. And they do it very, very well.
For example: Bill Russell is one of the NBA's greatest players and arguably its greatest center ever, but he wasn't known for dunking—not by modern standards, at least. He retired seven years before the first contest, first held in another league. So I took Russell and landed a very soft-by-modern-standards one-handed throwdown—something that would still scandalize every white sports writer in the 1960s. And Kellogg didn't blink. "That's a nice dunk, that's a good dunk if it's a dunk with other people on the court," he deadpanned, patronizingly. "But if you're dunking against nobody, like in a dunk contest, it's not so good."
I was dying on the couch. Then Russell tried another basic dunk, like he's flying through the air, and we're treated to a wicked-witch-of-the-west sound effect as Harlan, Kellogg and Kerr fail to stifle their laughter, like ninth-graders in study hall.
The All-Star Weekend festivities, which appear to be on-the-disc DLC, were granted by download code to anyone who preordered NBA 2K13 (through any retailer). It appears that after the NBA's All-Star Weekend happens in February 2013, regular consumers will get everything. The Slam Dunk contest differs from the notoriously tough dunk contest in the game's Blacktop mode, but it's still very, very hard. The dunks are performed Rock Band, style, with the key inputs coming at you on a note highway. Some require holds and multiple key presses. Others require winding motions on the analog sticks. It is tough unless you know the precise key sequence, which will take some practice.
Here's a dunk contest among Russell, my MyPlayer player Gordon "Silk" Gartrelle (yes, named for the shirt designer coveted by Theo Huxtable on The Cosby Show), the Denver Nuggets' lovable JaVale McGee, and the pride of N.C. State, Spud Webb, the 5-foot-7 dunk contest champion of 1986. I controlled every dunker and tried to pick some hard-level dunks for all of them to showcase the Statler-and-Waldorf quality of NBA 2K13's commentary. Enjoy.