NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2013: Showcasing Best Highlights from Each Contestant

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 14, 2013

NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2013: Showcasing Best Highlights from Each Contestant

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    One of the highlights of NBA All-Star weekend is indubitably the Slam Dunk Contest. The stunning, innovative aerial display continues to captivate basketball fans annually, and this year's field is loaded with talent.

    The competition has been criticized for a lack of star presence in recent years, but that gives some of the game's most sensational athletes a golden opportunity to showcase their abilities with millions of people watching eagerly.

    Although the NBA has done a great job compiling some great footage for some of the candidates, it's also worth looking at some of the individual highlights that may have fallen through the cracks.

    The following is a look at what makes each of these six contestants so special, and why they will shine in their unique, respective ways on Saturday in the Toyota Center.

Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors

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    This creative video was put together by the Raptors in an effort to raise awareness about the extremely explosive guard that GM Bryan Colangelo drafted No. 8 overall in the most recent draft.

    Ross has a somewhat wiry frame, but that should not be confused with a lack of authority once he's around the rim. His body control, spectacular leaping ability and a knack to aggressively slam the ball home makes him a strong dark horse—or even favorite—to win the contest.

    The play that most stood out was the tip-slam off of an Ed Davis miss against the Orlando Magic. Davis' shot glanced off the backboard and the front of the rim, and suddenly Ross came flying in.

    He had time to cradle the ball, clutch and slam it through the cylinder. That's incredibly impressive, and was a nice display of the time of hangtime potential Ross has.

    A close second to that jam was the one-man fast break when he flew through the air and emphatically threw it down after doing a windmill maneuver. Even if he's struggled to find a spot in Toronto's rotation, there should be no shortage of exposure on Saturday evening for Ross.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

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    The versatile Nuggets forward is a sensational rebounder and excellent leaper, which also happens to translate to the offensive end. Faried has shown a penchant for highlight reel dunks even in game situations.

    It's scary to think what he might do with nobody guarding him.

    Faried's tape above is brief, but nevertheless displays the type of above-the-rim prowess expected of a dunk contestant. It looks like a lot of two-handed paint jams, but the fact that he can get both arms up that quickly while exploding to the basket shows how much of an athlete he is.

    A plethora of powerful one-handed slams also define Faried, who can punch it through with his right arm with the best in the business.

    There is little reason to think that Faried isn't among the favorites to win despite making his debut in a field with two former champions.

Gerald Green, Indiana Pacers

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    This is a dunk that has stood out in my mind ever since I first saw it. Green has done plenty of windmill dunks throughout his career, but this one was an alley-oop windmill.

    His head is far above the rim, and he gets complete extension when he brings the ball down below his waist before jamming it home. Green leans down to bring it in mostly with his off left hand, and takes it unimaginably strong all the way around his body to finish.

    There shouldn't be any shortage of confidence in Green, who has already won this competition in 2007 when he played for the Boston Celtics.

    For a player who has bounced around different teams and not quite stuck in the pros, this is another shot to at least display the physical abilities that justified Boston using a first-round pick on him back in 2005.

Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Bledsoe may only stand at 6'1", but whatever he lacks in height he makes up for with his natural athletic ability.

    It can be more visually stunning to see a player of shorter stature rise above the rim and rip the ball down with raw emotion. But what makes Bledsoe so special is how effortless he makes it look as he elevates off the floor.

    There is no barely getting over the iron with this young man. He will get his chance to truly shine on Saturday night after playing second fiddle at point guard for the Clips to superstar Chris Paul. That's not to say Bledsoe hasn't done a fine job, either, but why wouldn't he welcome the heightened publicity?

    Typically, Paul is hooking up with All-Star starter Blake Griffin in the Lob City combo, yet the best highlight above is when Paul leaves an "oop" for Bledsoe in transition.

    From there, he rears it all the way back and viciously nails the hammer down. With that type of extension and his size, Bledsoe should at least seriously threaten the rest of his fellow competitors.

James White, New York Knicks

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    Probably the least-known player on this list, since there hasn't really been room for him in the Knicks' rotation in his first season back from a lengthy NBA hiatus.

    That's what makes White among the most exciting contestants to watch, though. There is no doubting White's outstanding efforts above the basket, but at the same time, there isn't much footage of him to work with.

    Absent many flashy moves from his days in the association, there stands to be a lot of mystery surrounding White's involvement.

    That is, until you watch the highlights from above, which occurred about two and a half years ago.

    Then it is understood why his nickname is "Flight." The mind-boggling, sustained height he gets when he rockets off the floor and soars with ease to the rim is a beautiful thing to watch. Keep in mind, he's jumping from the free throw line.

    If White can jump from that distance—or maybe even further, as it appears he could—and adds just a little bit more style to it, he could come out of nowhere to win this thing decisively.

Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz

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    The reigning champion of the dunk contest stunned audiences by dunking two balls at once through the hoop last year. As phenomenal as that was, his most impressive highlight is above, and shows just how exceptional of an athlete he is.

    Getting the lift to block a Ronny Turiaf jump shot is impressive enough, but Evans' armpit could have blocked it. That's how high off the ground he got.

    From there, Evans glides down the floor like a gazelle, and gives Turiaf the facial of all facials as he suspends himself in the air, waiting for his opponent to fly by before sending it through for two.

    As teammates celebrate the epic two-way display that Evans put on, the forward is already sprinting back down the floor. He gets there in time to deflect a pass away that would have certainly led to two points for the Clippers.

    Evans would be totally under the radar had he not won last year, as he still can't crack the Jazz's lineup consistently. As mentioned in the beginning, he will once again take advantage of this event to strut his amazing stuff—and possibly become just the fourth back-to-back champion in the event's history.