NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2021: Top Contenders, Predictions for Exciting EventMarch 4, 2021
NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2021: Top Contenders, Predictions for Exciting Event
NBA All-Star Weekend is when possibly the most anticipated annual exhibition game in professional sports takes place. Additionally, the league hosts several competitions that have become staples for hardcore and casual hoops fans alike. For many of us, the Slam Dunk Contest has become the most memorable and easily accessible event of the weekend.
This year, the NBA has condensed all of the All-Star festivities into one day: Sunday. Nevertheless, the Slam Dunk Contest will still take place. The 36th edition of the competition will lack some of the star power and pomp and circumstance that made it so popular, but it could be a star-making vehicle for an up-and-comer.
As of Thursday morning, only three participants have entered the contest. Reigning champion Derrick Jones Jr. won't defend his title in Atlanta. Instead, these new faces will battle it out for the chance to become the next top showman. Let's take a look at the contestants and rate their chances of winning the event.
Obi Toppin, New York Knicks
Rookie New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin is probably the most high-profile participant this year. The Dayton product has already proved he is an explosive in-game dunker, creating several highlight-reel finishes.
The 23-year-old is at a bit of a disadvantage because smaller players usually fare better in the competition. Standing at 6'9", he will have to showcase some creativity if he wants to secure the win. But Toppin has a good chance of making a splash Sunday thanks to his sound arsenal of flashy dunks, including windmills.
If Toppin wins the two-round event, he would be the first Knicks player to bring the trophy to the Big Apple in 11 years. The most recent winner from New York was three-time champion Nate Robinson, who still holds the record the most wins following his consecutive victories in 2009 and 2010.
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers
Anfernee Simons is the only participant in this year's competition who isn't a rookie. The Portland Trail Blazers guard is an exciting player with jaw-dropping hops, and like Toppin, he is an excellent dunker on fast breaks. The 21-year-old has also delivered some devastating jams off the dribble in half-court sets.
Simons has to be an early favorite because of his impressive 41 ½-inch vertical leap and the ferocity of his dunks for his size. As noted, small guards and forwards usually excel in the dunk contest. So this 6'3" third-year player's gravity-defying finishes at the basket look even more eye-catching.
Some advice from his last year's winner, his teammate Jones, and an assist from Damian Lillard could add to his winning formula. Even if he doesn't win Sunday, Simons will more than likely make a lot of new fans.
Cassius Stanley, Indiana Pacers
Cassius Stanley is a dark horse in this year's Slam Dunk Contest. We haven't seen much of the Indiana Pacers guard because he has only played in eight games, but he posted impressive numbers at the 2020 NBA Draft Combine.
Stanley tied for the third-highest mark since 2000 with a max vertical leap of 44 inches. That all but ensures he will put on a show this weekend. His ability to jump out of the gym means he can pull off the outrageous feats of athleticism that put the event on the map, and it could be enough to put him ahead of the pack in this year's slim field.
During his time with Duke, the 21-year-old delivered some tremendous slams, and he also competed in an amateur dunk contest in 2018. Stanley has the chance to shine and raise his profile. In fact, it wouldn't be hard to imagine him winning this year's event. Heading into Sunday, he's our pick to raise the trophy.