by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

Over the years, as the game’s biggest stars shied away from competing in what was once arguably All-Star Weekend’s signature event, the NBA has felt the pressure to constantly re-invent the Dunk Contest.

Unfortunately, most of the time they have failed miserably.

The latest idea isn’t any better than the previous ones. For some inexplicable reason, an impromptu dunk-off will be held the night prior to the (real) Dunk Contest, with fans voting to determine who will have the honor of competing on Saturday night. Oy.

Here’s the official explanation, via NBA.com:

This one-round slam dunk-in competition will be held during halftime of the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam on Friday, Feb. 12, and fans will determine the winner by voting via SMS text message and at NBA.com.

The participants will have two dunks each, with a two-minute time limit to complete each dunk. The player with a higher percentage of overall votes will advance to participate in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest on All-Star Saturday Night. The other three contestants in the Sprite Slam Dunk will be announced on Monday, Jan. 18.

For what it’s worth, TNT is going to announce the participants in this “Dunk-In” tonight prior to its weekly double-header broadcast.

What would have been a lot more exciting (and probably drawn more viewers) is if the NBA allowed amateur dunkers to take part in the aerial exhibition, and had fans vote in someone on the Friday night prior to the main event.

But I guess that would make far too much sense.