The NBA has given us the six-man field that will participate in this year's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Although absent of big names like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Paul George—three guys who would make this event a must-watch all over the planet—the NBA has provided us with a stellar field of participants sure to make the rim rock in Houston on Feb. 16.
Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, Indiana Pacers forward Gerald Green, New York Knicks forward James White, Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross and defending champion/Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans are the six participants who will square off in an East-West showdown at the event.
While chatter has already started about who the favorite for this event will be, there's plenty of good candidates. Both Green and Evans are past winners of the dunk contest, and Faried is one of the hardest-dunking guys on the planet.
It's anyone's game in Houston.
Still, we have a pretty good idea in determining which dunkers have the upper hand heading into the opening buzzer. From No. 6 to No. 1, here's a ranking of what the expected finish will be in this year's most anticipated event.
No. 6: Terrence Ross
The rookie certainly has his share of highlights in his first NBA campaign, and he has noted dunkers Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan around to give him tips in advance of the big day.
It's a testament to the field that he's only ranked sixth, as Ross has plenty of hops and has already shown in his brief NBA career that he has the ability to get way above the rim. Former Raptors like Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter could serve as inspiration, but Ross gets the end-of-the-line treatment here with five other proven guys standing in his way.
No. 5: Eric Bledsoe
We knew Lob City would send us a dunker, but it's surprising that it's Bledsoe, the shortest participant in the event at 6'1".
Bledsoe gets penalized a little bit because he's a guard, but make no mistake: He can fly. The video above proves that to the core.
Also, Bledsoe will employ the services of one of the best lob passers on the planet, Chris Paul, as a prop during his performance. That kind of help could lead to any number of dunks, perhaps even a throw from the crowd.
Bledsoe is officially the dark horse to take this thing home and follow in the footsteps of little guards like Nate Robinson and Spud Webb, but he won't get that kind of respect in the pre-match rankings until he proves that he can get out of the first round.
No. 4: Kenneth Faried
I love what Faried brings to the table in this year's dunk contest. Blake Griffin showed us two years ago that ferocious dunks are still in style with the judges and the viewers at home, and there's very few people in the entire NBA that throw the ball through the net with the tenacity of Faried.
The dunk contest does require a little bit of creativity, improvisation and creating a dunk on the fly, so I'm not sure he'll have the advantage in those departments over any of these other participants.
As a pure dunker, there are few better at getting up and throwing it down than Faried. He might break one of the rims in Houston (something sure to draw a 50), but I'm hesitant to give him the nod over two winners and one of the best-kept secrets in dunking history.
No. 3: Gerald Green
The 2007 winner impressed a lot of people that year as a young high-flier, and he's developed into a role player for a good team since then.
Many will remember his no-shoes dunk and his blow-out-the-candles dunk, as well as a couple of windmills and the occasional between-the-legs dunk to get the crowd going.
The system was different back then, and you had to do more dunks to get through to later rounds than you do now. Still, we've seen plenty of great stuff from Green over the years, but we also know he's not afraid to repeat a dunk if he thinks it is worthy of a top prize.
All that being said, only Green will keep himself from the final. As he prepares for the event, you can bet he'll draw back to 2009 for motivation, when he and fellow participant James White squared off in Russia.
No. 2: Jeremy Evans
Evans held off Chase Budinger with a series of quality dunks in the 2012 event, including a two-ball catch-and-stuff lob pass from teammate Gordon Hayward and a final dunk over a bystander as he donned a Karl Malone jersey in the process.
What's the likelihood that Evans becomes a repeat champion?
The creativity is there.
It will be interesting to see what he pulls out of his bags of trick on Feb. 16, especially considering the field is wider than ever, and there are some high leapers in this event that shouldn't be taken lightly.
Evans has been there before; he impressed enough fans to take home the trophy in 2012 and will likely have a ton of extra material up his sleeve in 2013, especially with Green and the next man on this list the two biggest jumpers on this year's roster.
No. 1: James White
You wanted him, America. He's yours now.
James "Flight" White—as he's known on YouTube and by the members and fans of the New York Knicks—has been lobbied for by the fan population for most of the season. They got their wish, and we'll get to see why White carries such a strong nickname during his first dunk.
He's clearly confident, and when looking at the library of dunks he has amassed, why shouldn't he be? SLAM Magazine had a White quote on Twitter Thursday evening, following the announcement of the participants:
"I have about five dunks where I'm absolutely certain that I will get a 50 on those." -James "Flight" White bit.ly/VKqpTt— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) February 8, 2013
Before wondering why White is ranked No. 1 on this list without ever participating in an NBA dunk contest, you should check out the video above and type in "James White dunk" on Google.
His impressive ability to both get above the rim and twist his body while doing so are well documented, and if you throw in the ability to put the ball between his legs from the free throw line, it's all over.
White is the most hyped of this year's competitors, and rightly so. Only age (30) would appear to slow the storied dunker down at this point, and we look forward to seeing what he can do in Houston's world showdown of elite rim-rockers.