The fans voted John Wall of the Washington Wizards as the best dunker of the night, while the Eastern Conference thoroughly dominated the Western Conference during the NBA Slam Dunk Contest team competition.
Wall ended a lackluster event with the best dunk of the night, drawing praise from judges Magic Johnson, Dominique Wilkins and Julius Erving, via The Washington Post's Michael Lee:
John Wall drew praise from Dominique Wilkins, Magic Johnson & Dr. J. "The slam dunk contest has returned." Might be 1st #wizards dunk champ— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) February 16, 2014
This year's contest came with a new set of rules, which invoked plenty of responses such as these from Sportsnet's Holly MacKenzie and The New York Times' Scott Cacciola:
despite reading these rules numerous times and listening to them being explained, @Nat77 and I have no idea how this dunk contest works.— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) February 16, 2014
I'm breaking out my abacus so I can under the new rules to the dunk contest.— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) February 16, 2014
Tracy McGrady didn't seem too impressed with the showing:
Let's attempt to explain.
First up was the freestyle round, where the three East dunkers and three West dunkers each got 90 seconds to produce as many throwdowns as possible. In short, it was met with a mixed reaction.
On the one hand, there were innovative combinations such as this one:
Others, such as Basketball Insider's Alex Kennedy, weren't so thrilled:
This freestyle stuff is weak.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 16, 2014
ESPN's Kevin Pelton pointed out why the round lacked so much energy:
The freestyle round kills the moment where everyone stops and admires a great dunk.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) February 16, 2014
At one point, Damian Lillard threw down a between-the-legs slam, but Ben McLemore was already on his way to another solid dunk before we had any time to truly react.
Following each side's 90-second run, the three judges voted on the winner of the round. All three selected the East, who then got the opportunity to select the order of dunkers for the head-to-head battle round.
At this point, though, as the judges held up their choices on their tablets and made explanations like an episode of American Idol, it became clear that the production quality was just too far over the top.
Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports and Brian Campbell of ESPN summed it up:
Best dunk contest participants in years and the NBA is ruining it with this insipid production and needless rule changes.— Kelly Dwyer (@KDonhoops) February 16, 2014
Man, the NBA just can't help itself trying to ruin the dunk contest more. New rule changes are awful. Just let them dunk. And lose Cannon.— Brian Campbell (@BCampbellESPN) February 16, 2014
In the first head-to-head matchup, Terrence Ross of the Raptors, with the help of Toronto native Drake, beat out Lillard, which eliminated the Trail Blazers point guard from the competition.
Here's a look at the defending champ's through-the-legs dunk:
Up next, Paul George defeated Harrison Barnes fairly easily with this throwdown:
CBS Sports' Matt Moore put it simply:
I like watching Paul George dunk.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 16, 2014
McLemore was up next. The Kings rookie dunked over Shaquille O'Neal, who was sitting in a throne, but Wall responded by putting down an amazing reverse slam over the Wizards mascot to sweep the battle round for the East.
Here's a look:
After a mostly underwhelming event, Grantland's Rembert Browne probably put it best:
john wall just saved the entire weekend— Rembert Browne (@rembert) February 16, 2014
Unfortunately, following the spectacular dunk to end the mostly disappointing event, most of us were left feeling like this:
soo...who is ready for more dunks?— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) February 16, 2014
Sigh. Another year, another dunk-contest letdown.