Unless you are a fan of watching Chris Bosh drain multiple half-court shots, the highlight of the 2014 All-Star Saturday Night was the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
John Wall, Paul George and Terrence Ross of the Eastern Conference defeated Ben McLemore, Harrison Barnes and Damian Lillard of the Western Conference in New Orleans. Wall was voted as the “Dunker of the Night” by the fans who watched.
Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins and Magic Johnson were the judges and had the privilege of determining which conference and player won in each round. There were not the typical 1-to-10 marks that have been given out in years past.
Dwain Price, a Dallas Mavericks beat writer, was one of many who were not exactly thrilled with the new format:
Despite the less-than-stellar reviews on the format, there were a number of memorable highlights, including the East’s effort in the “Freestyle” round. Ross and Wall combined to pass the ball off the backboard and then off the shot clock before George flushed it down.
The team effort was not George’s only impressive effort.
He thrilled the crowd with a 360-degree dunk that included him moving the ball through his legs and windmilling before finishing the dunk.
George’s Eastern Conference teammate Wall defeated McLemore in the “Battle” round of the contest by leaping over the Washington Wizards’ mascot, who was holding the ball over his head, and throwing down a double-clutch reverse slam.
Good luck trying to figure out what that mascot actually is because it’s certainly not a Wizard.
Wall commented to reporters on his experience as "Dunker of the Night" in quotes that were passed along by Michael Lee of The Washington Post:
It’s a humbling experience for me, a great opportunity. It was a big moment for me…Why not go out there and have fun? I think it was a great opportunity for me to be in my first all-star to out there and show what I can do.
The East swept the West in the “Battle” round, with Ross getting some help from Drake and George handling Barnes.
The Wizards mascot and Drake weren’t the only props.
McLemore got some help from Shaquille O’Neal, who sat on a throne that was clearly paying homage to the Sacramento Kings’ royal moniker.
Perhaps the most disappointing fact of the night is the reality that the three Eastern Conference competitors, who were clearly better than their Western Conference counterparts, did not get a chance to compete against each other in the new format.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on the dunk contest going forward—it wouldn’t be surprising if the format is tweaked once again to something resembling past contests where a clear-cut individual champion emerges.
This year’s contest came to an abrupt end after Wall was finished, which probably won’t happen in the future if the NBA listens to the criticism the new rules received.
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