This is my 18th edition of Kings of Command (or at least some form of it, though the title has changed over the years), and in those 18 seasons, pitching trends have endured quite the roller-coaster ride.
This analysis began in the steroid era, progressed through a pitching-rich era in the early 2010s, and has now returned to a homer-happy era. Along the way, the league’s strikeout rate has risen monumentally. In 2001, the first year for which I published a list like the one you’ll read below, the average major league strikeout rate was 17.3 percent. Last season, it was a record-high 21.6 percent, and in fact, 2017 was the 10th consecutive season in which a new major league record in the category was set.
Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten earned a bronze medal in Sochi, but he couldn’t follow up that performance here with only a 70.12 score. Ten didn’t even qualify for the final round when all was said and done.
Vincent Zhou is the first American up, skating to Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. He got off to a hot start by landing his historic quad lutz, but the triple toe followup was less than perfect. Otherwise, it was a solid Olympic debut, earning a personal-best score of 84.53.
But as time went on from 1984 when the contest began, fans watched players perform the same dunks over and over again. It got bland to the point where stars no longer wished to compete.
That’s how we were left with the lifeless, subpar battle between rookies Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen, Michael Finley and three What’s His Names? (Chris Carr, Bob Sura and Darvin Ham).
The contest featured extremely basic and already seen dunks, including an Allen double-pump fake — which LeBron James has done regularly in real games before — and a Bryant through-the-legs dunk that was executed worse than when it debuted three years earlier.
Starting in 1998, the NBA introduced the 2Ball competition to replace the dunk contest. It lasted three seasons (a lockout canceled the entire 1999 All-Star Weekend) until 2001.