The next Grand Slam is on the house for Marcus Lewis, as the Eastern Kentucky star won the 2014 Denny's Slam Dunk Contest.
Lewis nearly didn't win, as he missed his first two attempts in the final round, finally connecting on his third with a windmill over a man identified simply as "Chuck."
The Ohio Valley Conference used this as a chance to further assert its superiority over the college basketball landscape:
Lewis just edged out Baylor's Cory Jefferson, who hit a switch-hands-behind-the back dunk.
The competition got off to a rather inauspicious start. Missed dunks littered the early part of the first round, with Chase Fieler's first attempt representing the nadir. Travis L. Brown of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tracked where it all went wrong for the Florida Gulf Coast star:
Florida Gulf Coast’s Chase Fieler goes w/ fake hammy pull to rip off shirt to show Superman shirt, to not making dunk. Drama drained clock— Travis L. Brown (@Travis_L_Brown) April 4, 2014
Fieler got a 9.0 for the effort, which is not so great when you realize the maximum score is a 40.
The first round heated up after Bradley's Walt Lemon Jr. threw down a nice jam on his first attempt, getting some help from Kaboom, the Braves' mascot. Lewis followed up with a ferocious windmill over two ball racks.
Then came the dunk of the round, courtesy of Michigan State's Adreian Payne. He threw down a great two-handed 360, in which he looked to have touched his heels with the ball. After the slam, Payne literally bowled over the competition, as he rolled the basketball into the assembled dunkers and three-point shooters and they fell over like bowling pins.
Before the dunk, Payne had Lacey Holsworth, an eight-year-old cancer patient who's befriended the Spartans star, kiss the ball for good luck, per Kevin Gehl of WLNS 6 in Lansing, Mich.:
Lacey Holsworth living that jet set lifestyle. She's in Dallas with Adreian Payne for #CollegeSlam contest. And a kiss for the ball. Sweet.— Kevin Gehl (@KevinGehlWLNS) April 4, 2014
Payne saved his best for the semifinal round, when he dunked two basketballs one right after the other. It was one of the best dunks of the night.
He was ultimately undone by his second dunk of the semifinal round, as it was merely a poorer version of his first 360 dunk. With that, Payne wasn't a threat to advance.
Still, Fear the Sword's Sam Vecenie posited that the Michigan State forward could be one of the few college guys to have ever increased his draft stock in the dunk contest:
This may be first time in NCAA dunk contest history that someone helps their draft stock. Don’t think people realized how athletic Payne is.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) April 4, 2014
With Payne out of the way, Jefferson and Lewis stole the show in the semifinal.
For his first attempt of the round, the Bears forward got an assist from teammate Brady Heslip, who lobbed the ball in from the stands. The pass was arguably better than the dunk itself.
Jefferson didn't need any help for his second dunk, taking off from the free-throw line and throwing it home.
Not to be outdone, Lewis had a nice between-the-legs slam after letting the ball bounce off the court.
Lewis was no doubt a deserving champion, as it looked physically impossible that he could've pulled off some of the dunks he did. He was an unknown before Thursday night, but his name is now on the radar of many college basketball fans.
The competition also provided more excitement than the NBA dunk contest did back in February. Those fans who decided to tune in got more than their money's worth with the performances of Lewis and also Jefferson and Payne.