The Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday night is regularly one of the most anticipated events of the All-Star weekend.
There was a time when the NBA All-Star Game was a one-day event held in the middle of the week without much of a buildup or hype. However, when the American Basketball Association was the NBA's rival in the late 1960s and '70s, it had to do whatever it could to get attention from the mainstream media.
That league featured some of the game's most brilliant individual players, and when the ABA's higher-ups decided to show off the dunking talents of the league's biggest stars, it turned into an immediate hit.
The first All-Star dunk contest was held in 1976 at McNichols Arena in Denver, the home of the ABA's Denver Nuggets. The contest featured Julius "Dr. J" Erving, David Thompson, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin and Larry Kenon, and it was a spectacular success.
The incredible leaping of Erving and Thompson turned the event into a classic, and Erving capped things off by using a running start and taking off from the foul line before dunking the ball down in front of a roaring crowd.
Since that time, the dunk contest was eventually adopted by the NBA and has become a staple of the midseason event.
This year's event will be held at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET. It will be televised on TNT and live-streamed on Watch TNT.
|Zach LaVine||Minnesota Timberwolves||-300||Second|
|Aaron Gordon||Orlando Magic||+400||Third|
|Will Barton||Denver Nuggets||+550||Fourth|
|Andre Drummond||Detroit Pistons||+850||First|
Odds Shark; Silverman selection
Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves won the event last year, and he will be back to defend his title against Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons, Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic.
The format of the event will be the same as last year. The four participants will have up to three attempts to complete their dunk. A panel of five judges will score the dunk, on a scale of six to 10. The two dunkers with the highest score will advance to the championship round. Those two finalists will compete in another round of dunks, and the player with the highest combined score will earn the championship.
LaVine is not only the defending champion, he is the clear favorite. LaVine comes into the event at minus-300, according to Odds Shark. An individual who wants to wager on LaVine must risk $300 to gain a $100 profit.
What insanity will Zach Lavine break out tonight at the NBA Dunk Contest? pic.twitter.com/nd9ek4Q3Ed— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) February 13, 2016
Gordon is the second choice at plus-400, followed by Barton at plus-550, and Drummond is the outsider at plus-850.
While LaVine put on a tremendous show in winning last year and is an explosive leaper and dunker, it is difficult for a handicapper to place a wager on him since the risk is so high.
All three of his challengers offer the potential for huge payoffs, with Drummond offering the biggest profit potential.
Drummond is a huge and powerful competitor at 6'11" and 279 pounds, and he is enjoying the best season of his four-year career because he is averaging 17.0 points per game and 14.9 rebounds per night.
Big men are usually not involved in the dunk contest, so it's easy to look past him and think that he doesn't have a chance.
That's not true in this case because Drummond has creative skills and leaping ability. It's going to be tough to get by LaVine, who won the MVP in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night after scoring 30 points.
But we are going to recommend backing Drummond with a small play.
Drummond getting warmed up for the dunk contest 😳https://t.co/qug54vkf5I— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 5, 2016
Drummond's teammate Stanley Johnson told David Mayo of Mlive.com that he has seen the big center do a side-of-the-backboard, between-the-legs reverse dunk.
If Drummond can accomplish such a move Saturday night, it might be enough to steal the crown from LaVine, or at least make him sweat before he earns his second award of the weekend.
Prediction: 1. Drummond; 2. LaVine; 3. Gordon; 4. Barton