Jonathan Kuminga

Why Kuminga is hesitant to commit to NBA Slam Dunk Contest

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Since being inserted into the starting rotation following Draymond Green’s indefinite NBA suspension, Jonathan Kuminga has been showing signs of becoming the all-around player the Warriors hoped they were getting when they drafted him with the seventh overall pick in 2021.

Before then, Kuming primarily was known for his inconsistency, as well as his trademark powerful and thunderous dunking. There are several videos on social media tracking Kuminga’s plethora of posterizing opponents dating back to his rookie 2021-22 season.

That begs the question: How would Kuminga do on a national stage, one like the NBA Slam Dunk Contest held during the week of the All-Star game.

Although invitations to the event have yet to be issued, Kuminga pondered the idea after practice Tuesday.

“It’s something where I have to sit down and just think about it,” Kuminga told NBA Sports Bay Area. “I never thought about it like that before. It’s something I have to really take my time thinking about.”

Part of the reason for Kuminga’s hesitance to embrace the idea is that he doesn’t see himself as much of a creative dunker like the ones you see competing in the dunk contest. He is more straightforward and likes to keep things as simple as possible when he goes up for a jam.

Still, his repertoire for dunks is fairly large.

There’s his patented right-hand throwdown. He has a few tomahawk dunks ala Dominique Wilkins in his arsenal, along with putback slams and a variety of other rim-rockers.

His array of dunks is so vast that someone assembled a 10-minute video capturing a multitude of JK dunks, each one as ferocious and powerful as the one before it.

Nearly every dunk – particularly those coming at Chase Center – is met with an immediate audible reaction from the crowd while Kuminga’s teammates often can be seen doubling over in laughter at the sight of the big man throwing it down.

That type of response is what really gets Kuminga’s blood racing more than if he tried to something tricky with it.

“Especially when it comes to game time, get the crowd going, get the team going, get everybody going, get myself going,” Kuminga said. “I catch a dunk and now we’re rolling. That’s the type of dunker I am. I’m not the type to go out there and put on a show, 360, windmill, things like that.”

After a put-back dunk earlier this season, one television analyst labeled Kuminga as a human helicopter.

Nearly every team in the NBA has felt the wrath of a Kuminga monster jam, several of them multiple times. The Warriors might be the one team he hasn’t dunk on, at least not in a game. Practice might be another matter, although at this point Golden State hasn’t had much time for scrimmages.

“We don’t get a lot of scrimmage time so you don’t see some of the massive dunks, but he’s obviously so powerful and athletic,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s why we drafted him because he gives us something that we otherwise don’t have or don’t have much of. The fact that he’s attacking the rim is crucial and we want him to do it more, both on and off the ball. Because once he gets the ball in there, it’s over.”

The Celtics learned that a few times during an overtime loss to the Warriors on Tuesday. The one that stood out in particular was when Kuminga got a steal in overtime then sped the length of the throw before capping the possession with a monsterous dunk that had the crowd at Chase Center roaring while many of his teammates were on the sidelines laughing.

Kuminga’s overall play has taken on greater significance lately while Green is out. Even when Green returns, odds are that JK will continue to get a lot of playing time as he has carved himself.

Kuminga has some quickness to his game, too. It’s not like he just sits in the key waiting for the ball or a rebound to dunk it. More often than not, he comes soaring down the lane or across the baseline with jaw-dropping stuff.

That’s the stuff that makes for entertainment and good showmanship, but Kuminga lately has shown that there is much more to his game.

During the final seconds in overtime against the Celtics, it was Kuminga defending Jayson Tatum on a potential game-winning shot that hit the front iron as time expired in the fourth quarter. As the Warriors headed back to their bench, Stephen Curry emphatically walked up to Kuminga, praising him for his defense on the play.

Whether he takes his dunking prowess to the All-Star game still is up in the air. He doesn’t have the name recognition that some of the other participants do, and he’s also got the up-and-down issues in his game to correct before getting the nation-wide respect.

Still, Warriors fans are well aware of how powerful he can be when going up to dunk on someone. It’s one of the things that they can consistently count on from the former first-round draft pick.

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