Thanks to a storied history that includes prestigious winners like Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is always one of the most anticipated events of All-Star weekend. This year figures to be no different.
While there isn't much name recognition in this year's competition, there are four young and hungry participants in Derrick Williams, Paul George, Chase Budinger and Jeremy Evans. All of them will certainly be looking to make a name for themselves, so we could see something spectacular.
Here are three bold predictions for Saturday night's Slam Dunk Contest.
There Will Be a Ridiculous Prop Used
Los Angeles Clippers star forward Blake Griffin set the precedent last year by jumping over a car, so now there figures to be some form of one-upsmanship this year. Griffin won the contest last year because people were enamored with him taking flight over a car, and while it certainly looked cool, it was an unnecessary gimmick. Gone are the days of superstars simply using a ball and the hoop to wow the fans as it seems like everyone needs some crazy prop.
Prior to pulling out of the competition due to a knee injury, there was talk of New York Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert jumping over a replica of Jeremy Lin's infamous couch. Everyone is so desperate to be different and cutting edge that the integrity of the competition is being lost. Somebody figures to jump over a brick wall or something of that nature, and while it may be impressive, it will further destroy a once-great event.
It Will Be Worst Dunk Contest in Quite Some Time
For a few years in the mid-2000s, the Slam Dunk Contest hit a low point as there were no big-name players willing to compete. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard restored much of the prestige a few years ago when he stole the show with his now-famous Superman dunk. This year, four players who the average fan has probably never heard of are competing. That isn't to say that the youngsters can't put on a good show, but star power helps a lot.
If a name-brand player is in the contest, then it gives the fans someone to root for. It's fair to say that the crowd is going to be indifferent during the competition unless one of the participants really captivates them. Failing that, the atmosphere isn't going to lend itself to a great event. It's a shame that somebody like Griffin or even Howard didn't choose to compete because it would make the contest much more interesting from the get-go.
Jeremy Evans Will Take Home the Crown
This year's field is obviously pretty wide open, but I like the late entrant in Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans to come out on top. Evans was a late addition to the competition due to Iman Shumpert's injury and is viewed as an elite dunker. The second-year player out of Western Kentucky may be a relative unknown who is averaging less than two points per game this season, but he has an impressive dunking resume.
I'm only half kidding when I say that he has probably had a lot of time to think of some creative dunks due to the fact that he isn't called upon to play much. Evans is definitely better known for his dunking ability than for his overall basketball skills, and that will probably always be the case. He has a great opportunity to perform on the national stage, so he'll bring his best stuff to the table on Saturday.