The Slam Dunk Contest used to be one of All-Star Weekend’s most enthralling showcases, but lost its charm somewhere along the way. It was infiltrated by gimmicks, the dunks were watered down and the stars began to desert the contest that once wrote legends. After watching Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz win the 2012 Dunk Contest with a mediocre leap over Kevin Hart, the eulogies were written. The Dunk Contest was dead. Speculation grew that it could be scrapped in 2013, or at least that is should be. But of course, it’s back. And for the first time in years, maybe we should be excited.
The list, as announced by the NBA last Thursday reads as follows:
- Jeremy Evans (Utah Jazz)
- James White (New York Knicks)
- Gerald Green (Indiana Pacers)
- Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
- Terrence Ross (Toronto Raptors)
- Eric Bledsoe (Los Angeles Clippers)
Although the list lacks the star power of old (notable omissions including Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James) this is by far the best line-up the contest has seen in years. Evans returns for his customary title defense, and will have to up his game from last year if he wants to retain the crown. Kenneth Faried and Eric Bledsoe are both surprising picks, but it’ll be interesting to see what they can pull out.
The three to take note of and get excited about all belong to the Eastern Conference – James White, Terrence Ross and Gerald Green. All three are men with a devastating ability to throw down a dunk and should provide ample entertainment in Houston.
Gerald Green, the 2007 champion, returns this time for the Pacers. He won in 2007 wearing Celtic green, hammering home an alley-oop off of the glass in the final round to take out the crown before following up in 2008 as a Timberwolf only to fall short to Dwight Howard in the final round. His experience in the dunk contest and the theatrics that go along with it, coupled with his still deadly bounce should make him one of the most feared competitors in the contest this year.
Green’s conference mate Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors is only a rookie, but he’s already proving to be electric in transition. The former Huskie is the first Toronto Dunk Contest participant since DeMar DeRozan’s back-to-back attempts in the Contest and he aims to be the first Raptor to win since Vince Carter’s memorable performance in 2000; a year that the Raptors took out the top three places with Carter beating out teammates Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady in the Finals. In his short time in the league, Ross has already taken the time to let Jason Smith know just how hard he puts it down and he’s ready to follow in the footsteps of Josh Smith, Nate Robinson, Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant as rookies who have won the Dunk Contest.
And finally the main draw of the Dunk Contest, James “Flight” White. Back in the NBA for his third stint after fleeting appearances with the Spurs in 2006 and Houston and Denver in 2009, White is in the middle of a one year deal with Knicks. It’s his first time appearing the NBA Dunk Contest, but his resumé contains the most experience out of all his peers, if not the entire league. In 2010, White triumphed over the same Gerald Green in the Russian Cup Dunk Contest. ‘Flight’ also came runner-up in the 2001 McDonald’s High School Slam Dunk Contest against future Warrior David Lee and against David Noel of NC in 2006 NCAA Dunk Contest. He has showcased his skills in the 2012 All Star Serie A Italian Dunk Contest, 2009 NBA D-League Dunk Contest, 2010 Nike Dunk Contest, among others. With a dazzling array of dunks and a wealth of experience, watching this Flight take off will be essential viewing.
The NBA Slam Dunk Contest, in recent installments, has been the most uninspired and underwhelming All-Star event in American sports since the NFL Pro Bowl. It needs a strong year to silence the doubters. That means inventive dunks, ditching the props and losing the gimmicks. The league can’t control what the players choose to do, and they can’t make the reluctant stars want to dunk; but at least they’ve finally picked the right men for the job. The ball’s in your court, dunkers. Show us what you’ve got.