NBA All-Star Saturday Night’s signature events are, without question, the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout and the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Dime Magazine was in Houston to check out the action live and have grades on the performances of each participant in both events (we can’t be the only other ones who nearly slept through the Shooting Stars and the Skills Competition). Be forewarned: this isn’t exactly a fair grading scale. Expectations played a role in their grades. Remember one of the worst things in the world is wasted talent – at least that’s what they say in the movie A Bronx Tale.
*** *** ***
Curry was one of my personal favorites to win, especially being one of the leaders in three-pointers made coming into the midseason break. He started off slow but got hot on the final two racks in the first round to finish with 17. Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to advance.
I spoke to Ryan Anderson before the contest on Friday and he was pretty confident and admitted to practicing different techniques to make him more effective. He struggled on the center rack, only connecting on the money ball and finished with an 18 in the first round. Grade: B+
The Red Mamba cleaned out the first rack and was hot until tired legs got the best of him in round one. Still, he finished with a 19 to advance to represent the West in the finals of the competition. He then faced Kyrie Irving and had the advantage of knowing what score he had to beat but came up a bit short with a 20. His 20 was the second highest output of the evening and it landed him second place… tough way to go out.
I didn’t expect much from George coming in, but he still managed to disappoint me a little. I figured he’d get a 13 or 14 but he was only able to manage a 10 and didn’t even finish the last rack.
Watching Novak shoot was like watching a great artist paint or sculpt. The form and release on his shot looked crisp and effortless. Nonetheless he struggled on the center rack and finished with 17. His form gets an A+ but his overall performance does not.
After a mediocre start, Irving got warmed up on the center rack and hit four out of five on the final two racks giving him a total of 18, good enough to get him to the finals against Matt Bonner. In round two, Irving was lights out. He was perfect on his opening rack and center rack and made at least three shots on every other rack to bring home the title with a 23. Incidentally, his score was just two points away from the all-time record of 25 shared by Craig Hodges and Jason Kapono (remember him?). Irving continues his assault on the league, gaining fans and notoriety along the way.
SLAM DUNK CONTEST
He opened the contest with a spectacular reverse dunk after throwing the ball off the side of the backboard, earning a perfect 50. His second dunk attempt where he cut out the net of the hoop trying to double dunk the ball never really panned out in the allotted 90 seconds. Instead, he settled for a meager one hander earning just a 32. No finals for Green in his final dunk contest, a unexpectedly average homecoming for the Houston native.
Cult favorite James White said he wouldn’t have any props or gimmicks, and yet on his first dunk, he brought out a team of stewardesses to form a runway. So much for no gimmicks. He was unable to perform his original intended dunk but still managed to throw down a gliding two-handed windmill from just inside the free throw line, earning a 45. No one in the building (or probably watching on TV) was pleased with that low score. His second attempt saw him sprint from the other side of the arena and jump from a spot that was nearly foul line extended. But his dunk tries never connected, even after switching it up and going for a windmill from the foul line. The judges gave him a 32 for effort I suppose.
One of the most underrated dunks of the evening was the Manimal’s first flush, which was a 360 off the glass. He got a 39 on that even though James White would get a 32 for missing a dunk just one round later. Head scratching. Faried’s second dunk was nasty, going between the legs for an emphatic throwdown (cue my Marv Albert voice) and it was every bit deserving of a 50. The judges perplexing first round scoring kept the Manimal from advancing to the finals.
Little guys in dunk contests can sometimes be a mixed bag and Bledsoe fit the bill. His first dunk was a lazy throwdown as he just tried to get something in after missing multiple misses on a more difficult attempt. He got a 39. But dunk two… now that was something special. He threw down a reverse dunk that would have made lesser men lose their spines mid-air. Great torque and contortion got him a 50.
The defending champion didn’t waste time in the opening round and brought out Mark Eaton to help him with his first dunk. Eaton is a very large man, even while seated, and Evans got one to go over him after several attempts, bringing in a first round score of 47. His second dunk again took multiple tries to complete but eventually he dunked two balls and earned a yawning 43 which pushed him into the finals.
Evan’s first dunk in the finals was pretty creative, but he needs to work on his sales pitch. He placed a covered painting in front of the rim that looked pretty tall and jumped over it to dunk with his left hand. He then unveiled the portrait, predictably a painting of the dunk he just completed. For his last hurrah, Evans jumped over seated Dahntay Jones, who threw the alley for Evans’ flush. The key to the dunk was the extended hang time he displayed before throwing it down.
With Toronto native Drake on his side, Ross had a high degree of difficulty and was crowd pleasing on a tough first dunk. But I didn’t agree with it getting a 50 after so many failed attempts. C’est La Vie. In round two, Ross seemed to know he just needed to put one down after Green and White failed in their attempts. Judges were kind and seemed to award him a 49 simply for not making them watch failed attempt after failed attempt.
Ross definitely saved his best for last with his final two dunks. In what might have been the dunk of the night, Ross was assisted by high school teammate Terrence Jones and threw down a crazy 360 after the ball was thrown off the side of the backboard. His final dunk was over a ball boy who I don’t think planned to be in the contest. Nonetheless, the child came out unscathed as Ross soared over his back. The fans texted and tweeted and gave Ross the win while Drake rejoiced on the court with nobody to celebrate with.
Who were your winners and losers from last night?
Follow Warren on Twitter at @ShawSports.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.