Dominique Wilkins. Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. Vince Carter. Dwight Howard. The world is waiting for Blake Griffin to join the list of the NBA’s dunk contest kings, the (now rare) superstar who descends from the League’s upper echelon to make its All-Star Saturday Night showcase his own personal playground.
After putting together a collection of facials Peter North would be proud of in the first half of the season, Griffin warmed the L.A. crowd up in last night’s Rookie Challenge, and tonight takes center stage at the Slam Dunk contest, which he is expected to win. Looking to spoil the coronation are JaVale McGee, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka.
Before the dunkers do their thing, though, the rest of All-Star Saturday Night gets underway:
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* It never fails: All-Star Weekend, and Charles Barkley‘s voice is shot. That’s what happens when you’re getting it in at the club until the morning and not getting any sleep. Barkley sounds like one of the Muppet Babies’ old, domino-playing uncles. Maybe he’s Rolf‘s dad.
* In the Dime office the other day, someone asked why Kenny Smith is accepted as a dunking expert. Personally, I know he was in more than one NBA dunk contest, but I really only remember ONE dunk he did — the backwards, bounce between the legs from the free throw line dunk. Did that get a 50 at the time? So I just looked it up, and Kenny placed 2nd in the 1990 contest (behind ‘Nique); 4th in the 1991 contest (behind Dee Brown, Shawn Kemp and Rex Chapman); and 5th in the 1993 contest (behind Harold Miner, Clarence Weatherspoon, Cedric Ceballos and David Benoit). So he has the credentials, but dude just goes overboard too often. What is it gonna take for TNT to pry ‘Nique from the Atlanta Hawks’ announce booth and on the air as their all-everything dunk expert?
* Spotted in the crowd: Spike Lee, Chris Tucker, Cam Newton, Mark Wahlberg, Andy Garcia, Diddy, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Legend, Terrell Owens, D-Wade, KG, Shaq, Kevin Love..
* It’s Team Texas (Dirk Nowitzki, Kenny, Roneeka Hodges) defending its title against Team L.A. (Pau Gasol, Tina Thompson, Rick Fox), Team Chicago (Taj Gibson, Steve Kerr, Catherine Kraayeveld) and Team Atlanta (Al Horford, Steve Smith, Coco Miller). Is anyone surprised that Fox is doing this? He’s worse than the Kardashians.
* Horford knocks down the halfcourt shot for Atlanta, then Chicago takes forever as Kerr has some close misses from halfcourt, and Taj is either over the backboard or five feet short on his heaves. Kraayeveld finally hits one. Or maybe it was Kerr. Who really cares?
* Is that the same uniform Fox wore when he was playing? Did he have it at his house? He hits the halfcourt shot for L.A. to eliminate Team Chicago.
* Texas finishes the (first round) job in a smoking 31 seconds, capped by Kenny’s halfcourt shot. So it says here that Roneeka Hodges averaged 7.7 points and hit 30% of her threes last WNBA season. That’s really the best “shooting star” they could get?
* Team Atlanta wins. I haven’t seen Horford this happy since he was winning championships at Florida. And surely this will be an important part of Hot Chocolate: The Coco Miller Story starring Hillary Swank. Anyway, why are we keeping this around instead of adding two more guys to the dunk contest?
* I’m sorry, I just can’t listen to Cee-Lo Green. It’s too weird seeing him all weird and Hollywood after I discovered him in the early days with Goodie MOB.
* Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul. The intros may have been the first time I’ve ever seen Westbrook smile on the court. Each guy is representing a local kid for … something … and the “kid” teamed with Wall is taller than at least three of the point guards here.
* Tweet from @HomerJSimpson: “The real slam dunk contest is going on between my donut and my beer. Mmm, soggy.”
* Curry tears through the first couple stations, then just as Reggie Miller says, “This kid is on fire,” surprisingly he bricks two straight jumpers. Then has trouble with the next pass. He still finishes in 34 seconds.
* Westbrook takes 30 seconds, Wall goes 39.3, Rose goes 35.7 (impressive considering he’s got 11 Bulls on his back), and CP3 finishes in 42.7 after missing the opening layup. Westbrook and Curry are going to the finals.
* Tweet from Dime’s @SEANesweeney: “Love how all these dudes are going half-ass with college scholarships on the line.” I think $30,000 is worth like a semester at Stanford nowadays. Nah, I’m sure CP3 will pick up that little girl’s tuition. Right? Hello?
* Curry goes through in 28.2 seconds, and Westbrook doesn’t even challenge him with a 44.2 mark. You can’t blame Westbrook for having trouble with any part that resembled an entry pass. Who on the Thunder is he going to in the post?
* Why is Charles Barkley singing on stage in a bedazzled green track suit? Oh wait, that’s Cee-Lo … I’m wondering what T-Mo, Kujo and Gipp are doing right now.
* Shooting it out will be James Jones, Daniel Gibson, Ray Allen (big pop from the crowd), Kevin Durant (not as loud as Ray’s), Dorell Wright and Paul Pierce (loud boos). The Truth seems almost genuinely hurt that his hometown crowd didn’t show him love.
* Pierce: “I don’t understand how they can boo me and not boo Ray?” David Stern just fined Pierce $10,000 for making a Boo-Ray reference.
* I think I just saw Amir Johnson in uniform. Why would DeRozan have him be his alley-oop guy, unless he plans to jump over him?
* Tweet from Anthony Morrow (@BlackBoiPachino): “I’m on the way to the 3pt contest right now in some true religion jeans, gucci shoes and a wife beater, I’m just gonna shoot last lol”
* James Jones scores 16, Gibson scores 7, Ray drops 20. Ray’s mom went OD on the jersey-jewelry tonight, and KG stands up after Ray’s round and mean-mugs everybody in sight. I think he’s in the finals.
* So who else would have done better than Boobie? J.J. Redick, Matt Bonner, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Shannon Brown, Carlos Delfino, Danilo Gallinari, Jimmer Fredette, Austin Rivers, Rick Barry, J-Mac …
* … And then Kevin Durant does WORSE than Gibson, putting up 6 points. It was funny because the whole time he was shooting, the announcers were talking about how he’s perhaps the best player in the world, while KD was just bricking and bricking. If somebody who didn’t watch the NBA tuned in just to see that, they would never watch the NBA again.
* I think Ron Artest‘s ghost haunted damn near everybody in the field. Pierce knocks down three in a row to squeak into the finals with 12, where he’ll face Ray and my main man James Jones.
* Tweet from @206Hoops: “#bringbackthesonics #bringbackthesonics #bringbackthesonics #bringbackthesonics #bringbackthesonics”
* If you haven’t heard yet, JaVale McGee has FIVE pairs of shoes ready to go for the dunk contest. This is gonna be like Dee Brown‘s 1991 Pumps performance, but more ridiculous.
* Pierce is clutch even when it doesn’t matter. After a slow start, he goes HAM on the last three racks to put up 18 in the finals.
* Jones puts up 20, and looks pissed that he didn’t get 30. Ray finishes with 15, giving James Jones the championship. And the Miami Heat finally get a W over the Celtics.
SLAM DUNK CONTEST
* Far East Movement is performing. You know you’re at risk of being a one-hit wonder when your second single includes a reference to your first single. Like you’re reminding everybody, “Hey, remember us? We did that other song you like.” And that’s a real bad look for this group when Lupe Fiasco by himself is cooler than the four of them.
* You know the lineup: DeRozan, Ibaka, McGee, Griffin. As if the League wasn’t trying to stack the deck enough in Blake’s favor, I just realized he has the only coach who’s ever been in an NBA dunk contest.
* If Vince McMahon were promoting this, right before Griffin and DeRozan began the finals, Gerald Green would crash the court demanding a Triple Threat match.
* The judges: Clyde Drexler, James Worthy, Brent Barry, Dominique Wilkins and Julius Erving.
* Darryl Dawkins describes his suit as “Kisses from 1,000 Artesian princesses.” Why isn’t he on NBA TV every week?
* DeRozan has Amir Johnson throw it off the basket support, comes in from the corner and goes between the legs. It would have blown the roof off if he didn’t have to take eight tries, but pretty sick. He gets a 44.
* Ibaka brings out girls carrying “NBA Africa” flags, to which Reggie says, “Win the crowd, you win your freedom.” Really, Reggie? Anyway, he takes off the from the free throw line and dunks it. And his foot was behind the line. I don’t care if he’s 6-10, that’s dope. He got a 45.
* McGee brings out another hoop and has two basketballs. I have no idea what he’s trying to do … OK, he’s trying to dunk it with his left hand on one hoop and in the same motion dunk it with his right hand on the other hoop. After several tries, he gets them down. “A” for creativity. He gets a 50.
* Griffin does a 360 two-hander that was originally gonna have a windmill element to it but was still crazy. He gets a 49. Had he included the windmill, he would have gotten a 51.
* Tweet from @lilduval: “I wanna see a n**** disappear then reappear on the rim……that’s the only dunk that will impress me.”
* For Blake’s last dunk, they should find a way to mess with the rim so it will come off on his hands.
* Announcers are claiming that was the best first round in dunk contest history. SETTLE DOWN. How about 2000, with Vince, Francis and T-Mac?
* DeRozan goes off the bounce baseline, catches it in a cuff and glides to the other side … I can’t even describe it correctly. It was basically a cross between J-Rich and Jordan and it got a 50.
* Ibaka brings out one of the kids from Future Funk (my favorite dance duo since Kid N Play), who asks Serge to please get his toy for him, which is hanging on the front of the rim. Ibaka goes behind the backboard, snatches the stuffed animal with his mouth … but misses the dunk. “Now what?” Reggie asks. Great question. They set it back up, and Ibaka completes the dunk. He gets a 45.
* After years with a front-row seat, Jerome Williams appears to have been kicked to the third row.
* Griffin and Baron Davis try a side-backboard lob and go through a bunch of different versions before settling on a windmill. He gets a 46.
* McGee’s mom (Pam McGee, former pro ballplayer) brings out a secured box, which has an ABA ball inside. He’s trying to dunk two balls in the same hoop, then catch a lob on the third ball from John Wall. Again, it takes him several tries, but he does it. The judges get on him for holding onto the rim, which wasn’t my issue as much as he didn’t really dunk the first ball, he laid it in. He gets a 49.
* Tweet from @richeisen: “Forget the slam dunks. Let’s be honest: the perfect 10 is the one sitting next to @JohnLegend.” And I don’t want to make anybody mad, but Pam McGee ain’t bad-looking either.
* I understand Barkley’s theory on Blake having a “redshirt” year and not being a “pure” rookie, but then to say Landry Fields is the best rookie in he League? Ummm, John Wall? DeMarcus Cousins? Remember them?
* Finals are set: Blake vs. JaVale. They’re having the fans pick the winner via text. In other words, there’s absolutely no way JaVale is going to win.
* Griffin goes off-glass and sticks his elbow in the rim.
* JaVale wears mismatched shoes. “His swag is on a million right now,” Dwight says. “Light-skinned brothas are coming back.” JaVale does the reverse cuff rock-the-cradle on the baseline, so he has to duck the backboard. I liked that one better than Blake’s.
* Griffin brings out a car. Like a KIA, an actual car, and parks it in front of the rim. And then he brings out a church choir. Great job by TNT to almost miss the actual dunk, but Baron Davis tosses a lob from the sun roof and Blake jumps over the hood to finish with two hands.
* Tweet from @MrMichaelLee: “No matter what JaVale McGee does, he has no shot. Unless he brings in Kirk Franklin & Yolando Adams & dunks over an Escalade.”
* McGee saved his worst for last — botching a Vince reverse windmill and settling for a simple one-hander off the glass. Might as well give it to Blake, which is exactly how we all thought the night would end anyway.
* Can somebody tell Dwight to turn his mic off if he’s gonna be talking to random people in the crowd? He actually plays the role of Magic Johnson this year, telling us, “The dunk contest is back.”
* Griffin is handed the trophy. His performance was impressive. Not all-time great, but still great. (This is of course me talking as if I’ve ever dunked in my life.) The two-hand 360, the windmill off the side-backboard, the elbow dunk, and the car were all sick. It’s just that all of them except one were missing that one element that would have made them iconic.