NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2021: Participants, Format, TV Schedule and Predictions

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 6, 2021

Indiana Pacers' Cassius Stanley (2) dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

A trio of youngsters are going to take flight during halftime of this year's NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night.

That's right: The Slam Dunk Contest won't be taking place Saturday as the headline event of the night as usual. This year's All-Star Weekend, which is taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic, will feature three events (Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest) on Sunday in addition to the All-Star Game at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

While the Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest will take place before the All-Star Game, the Slam Dunk Contest will occur during the halftime break.

The three participants in the contest will be New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin, Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and Indiana Pacers guard Cassius Stanley. All three are taking part in the event for the first time, and Toppin and Stanley are both rookies in the NBA this season.

Here's everything else to know about this year's unorthodox Dunk Contest.


Slam Dunk Contest Information

Date: Sunday, March 7

Start Time: Halftime of All-Star Game (which starts at 8 p.m. ET)



Preview, Prediction

Since the NBA's first Slam Dunk Contest in 1984, there's never been fewer than four dunkers taking part.

However, there will only be three participants Sunday night. Despite that, the event's format isn't going to be much different than it has been in recent years.

Each of the three competitors will perform two dunks in the first round. The five judges are former Dunk Contest champions: Dee Brown, Jason Richardson, Josh Smith, Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins. The two dunkers with the highest combined scores will advance to the final.

In the final, the two competitors will each get one dunk, and the judges will determine the winner.

Although Toppin, Simons and Stanley aren't among the NBA's top stars, they have demonstrated the ability to throw down some impressive dunks in their careers, including before they arrived in the league. And they all have potential to become big names in the future.

Toppin, who was selected by the Knicks with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, is averaging 4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds through his first 27 games. During his two-year career at Dayton, the 6'9" forward threw down some impressive dunks.

Stanley didn't get drafted until late in the second round last year, as he went to the Pacers with the No. 54 overall pick. He may only have eight games of NBA experience (having spent some time in the G League this year), but he was known for emphatic dunks during his lone season at Duke in 2019-20.

Simons has been a solid bench player for the Trail Blazers over his first three NBA seasons, and he's compiled some impressive dunk highlights. He is more than capable of winning despite arguably being the underdog.

It's possible that any of these three dunkers could emerge victorious, and they are likely all going to put on impressive shows. Toppin may be the most well known of the three, but Stanley and Simons are strong dunkers who may have some exciting tricks up their sleeves.

The competition may be wide-open, but the prediction here is that Stanley will notch the victory.

Stanley, a 6'5" guard, is on a two-way contract with the Pacers, so he may have something to prove by showcasing his dunk skills on a national stage. It also can't hurt that he's received some advice from a former Dunk Contest competitor, Indiana teammate Victor Oladipo.

"He really just told me, 'Don't wear yourself out before the Dunk contest,'" Stanley said, per Michael McCleary of the Indianapolis Star. "Obviously, you want to go in there confident knowing the dunks you can make, but also know that if you miss some dunks in practice, your adrenaline is going to be so high that you're going to jump higher."

And that will lead to the 21-year-old having one of the best moments of his young NBA career, as he will hoist the Slam Dunk Contest trophy Sunday night.

Prediction: Stanley wins