NEW YORK – Mason Plumlee’s first ever jam hardly befits the hyper-athletic big man he is today. Not unlike his meteoric rise from four-year college player and seldom-used rookie to Team USA member and Brooklyn Nets cornerstone, though, the 24 year-old has come a long, long way as a dunker. And while that might not mean he’ll beat out Zach LaVine in All-Star Saturday’s Dunk Contest, it’s certainly a testament to the show he’ll put on at Barclays Center nonetheless.
As he tells it, the first time Plumlee dunked likely seemed somewhat run of the mill for a 6-4 eighth grader – to everyone except him, of course.
“I kind of tip dunked off the rim, and I was so excited that I almost forgot to run back on defense,” Plumlee fondly recalled. “You know, after that, I think it was a good year before I dunked in a game again [laughs].”
Hard to believe.
The Duke product is one of the most acrobatic frontcourt slammers in the league, combining a quick jump and rare hang-time with body control normally reserved for players far smaller. That’s been evident throughout his two-ear career, of course, but especially on Plumlee’s signature move for American Express’ PIVOT series – an innovative digital video experience that affords basketball fans a never-before-seen perspective of he and other All-Star Weekend participants.
In addition to profiling the players’ rise to prominence, PIVOT uses nearly 50 different high-definition camera angles to capture 360-degree angles of their most notable hoops moves. Plumlee’s, unsurprisingly given the frequency of in-game aerial antics like this, is the reverse dunk.
You can check out groundbreaking PIVOT footage of Plumlee’s slam here. Needless to say, it’s extremely impressive.
But the Fort Wayne, IN native knows a jam like that won’t get it done against the Dunk Contest field. Victor Oladipo and Giannis Antetokounmpo present unique challenges to a high-flier like Plumlee; he can’t quite match aesthetic exploits of the former or otherworldly length of the latter. Either way, Plumlee’s creative flair and local fan base would make him a worthy choice to win tonight’s main event – if LaVine weren’t involved, that is.
Asked to name his stiffest Dunk Contest competition, Plumlee didn’t hesitate before fingering the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie.
“I would definitely say Zach Lavine,” Plumlee said. “He has the most athleticism and will be the toughest to go up against.”
That’s not to say Plumlee is counting himself out entirely. There’s a blueprint for him to win this event, and he knows it involves performing jams he can actually complete. It’s safe to say that Plumlee won’t be this year’s Chris “Birdman” Andersen, basically.
“I think the hang-time doesn’t show as well for big guys like me,” he said. “But there are other things I can do to take advantage of my height, too. Just like a game, you got to play to your strengths.”
“I’m confident in what I’m doing. You know, anybody can miss three times in-a-row. I know I’m doing stuff that I can make and really think it will turn out well.”
Considering how well everything else has been going for Plumlee of late, we’d also be pretty surprised if his performance tonight was anything less. As for him actually winning the Dunk Contest, though? If Plumlee says LaVine is the favorite, that only makes us more confident in our initial pick of the teenage jumping jack.
Coverage of All-Star Saturday kicks off from Barclays Center at 8:00 EST on TNT.