The dunk contest is back.
The last few fields have been rather lackluster, but 2014 is bucking that trend with the inclusion of three players who will also compete in the actual All-Star Game: Paul George, Damian Lillard and John Wall.
And it's not like the rest of the field is going to be too shabby. SportsCenter has the details on Twitter:
NBA Dunk Contest field: Paul George John Wall Damian Lillard Terrence Ross Harrison Barnes Ben McLemore (via @ESPNSteinLine & media reports)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 6, 2014
But stars are the ones who make the contest exciting, and it's hard to deny the aforementioned trio that status.
George has been a supremely impressive two-way threat for the Indiana Pacers, quickly developing into one of the few players in the league who seems capable of eventually challenging Kevin Durant and LeBron James for ultimate supremacy. Lillard, meanwhile, has been thriving as one of the league's top point guards on the upstart Portland Trail Blazers.
As for Wall, he's quickly becoming an elite floor general for the Washington Wizards thanks to his dynamic offensive contributions. Jumper or no jumper, he can't be kept away from the rim.
And they can all get up to throw it down.
George, one of the few players in the world who can do that now (Vince Carter could back in the day), told Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star, "Exactly, I don't want to add to it by doing extra stuff."
By "it", George meant the All-Star game, and by "extra stuff", he meant competitions like the dunk contest. That came back in January, but fortunately, his stance has since changed, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears:
Pacers @Paul_George24 will be participating in the NBA Slam Dunk contest, sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 6, 2014
Now that George is on board, it's hard not to view him as the favorite. His rise to prominence has quickly made him one of the more popular players in the league, and he's regaled us with plenty of in-game highlights. That Carter-channeling dunk was but one of his many ridiculous throw-downs.
The Indiana swingman might have lost his previous foray into the dunk contest, but he's learned from his mistakes. The lights won't be turned off again, unless he does something so ridiculous that he shuts down New Orleans.
With all that said, George shouldn't be the heavy favorite, because this field is rife with talent. For instance, he will be joined by a man who can do this:
So, three unquestioned stars and three of the NBA's youngest highflyers?
Grade the field.
Terrence Ross is the defending champion, and both Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore have provided plenty of highlights during their short time in professional basketball. There is no weak link in this field, even if its sadly missing the presence of a certain LeBron James.
But let's not focus on the negative, especially when there's so much to like about this field.
Again, the dunk contest is back.