Eric Bledsoe: Slam Dunk Contest a Culmination of Rapid Rise to Near-Stardom

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIFebruary 14, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Eric Bledsoe #12 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Entering the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the average fan knew Eric Bledsoe as John Wall's backup at the University of Kentucky. Those with a deeper knowledge knew Bledsoe to be a defensive dynamo that shined in the 2012 NBA postseason.

Bledsoe's nomination to the 2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contest is the culmination of his rapid rise to near-stardom in 2012-13.

Despite playing an average of just 21.9 minutes per game, Bledsoe has been superb. He's currently posting a player efficiency rating of 18.99 and ranks second in the NBA in steals per 48 minutes.

If that's not enough for you, Bledsoe is posting a slash line of .451/.429/.798, all of which are career bests.

Furthermore, Bledsoe has managed to accumulate an average of 0.9 blocks per game. This comes with Bledsoe standing at 6'1" and, again, playing just 21.9 minutes per contest.

Per, no player that is shorter than 6'3" has ever averaged at least 1.0 block per game.

With all of this coming together, Bledsoe has become a cult favorite amongst NBA fanatics. Some have labeled him "mini-LeBron," while others refer to Bledsoe as one of the most promising point guards of tomorrow.

No matter which end of the spectrum you find yourself on, the Slam Dunk Contest will do nothing short of affirm Bledsoe's status as a star in the making. That is, if his time with Chris Paul out of the lineup hadn't already.

Just check the numbers.


Performing without Paul

Form Jan. 14 to Feb. 6, Chris Paul missed 12 of the Los Angeles Clippers' 14 games. In that time, Eric Bledsoe was inserted into the starting lineup.

He couldn't have fared any better.

Bledsoe posted averages of 14.2 points, 5.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He led the Clippers to a record of 6-6, helping the team keep their head above water with CP3, Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford or Blake Griffin all missing time.

Now that they've returned, Bledsoe has returned to his role as a reserve.

Fortunately, there is an opportunity for the youngster to shine and create his legend on a national stage. That, of course, is the famed Slam Dunk Contest.

At 6'1", Bledsoe could join Nate Robinson as the only point guards to win the contest since Spud Webb won in 1986.

For those who fear Bledsoe doesn't have it in him to shock the world, think again. The video provided above is just one of E.B.'s numerous high-flying finishes.



Slam Dunk Contest

The NBA Slam Dunk Contest is a unique competition in the sense of what is rewarded to the winner. Outside of bragging rights and a trophy, the individual who wins instantly becomes a fan favorite.

Something that has more of a monetary impact than one might believe.

Should Bledsoe take home the gold, he'd inevitably appear on talk shows and in commercials. As a result, the legend of "Lob City" would be led by more than just Blake Griffin.

It would be Bledsoe, as well.

Paired with his breakout regular season, Bledsoe is on pace to become one of the fastest-rising stars in the NBA. All he has to do now is win the Slam Dunk Contest and maintain his absurdly productive season.

You know, the easy things in life.