The NBA Slam Dunk Contest is hours away, with the event taking place at halftime of the All-Star Game's 8 p.m. ET tipoff.
While the timing of the event is different from previous years, it's sure to provide plenty of entertainment.
It took some time for the field to come together, since a number of notable players reportedly declined the invitation to participate.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson headlined a field of worthy contenders who said they would sit this one out—rookie Anthony Edwards, Celtics star Jaylen Brown and Hornets star Miles Bridges decided to avoid the event when they were offered the chance to participate.
Players who bowed out joined players who would have deserved a nod had they not already said they weren't interested. Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine, Orlando Magic star Aaron Gordon, Portland Trail Blazers forward Derrick Jones Jr. had all said they weren't interested in participating before the invitations were handed out.
That means the field for the 2021 Slam Dunk contest will feature a pair of rookies in Obi Toppin (New York Knicks) and Cassius Stanley (Indiana Pacers) with Portland guard Anfernee Simons rounding out the group.
Slam Dunk Contest Information
Date: Sunday, March 7
Time: Halftime of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game (which begins at 8 p.m. ET)
This year's contest will be historic. The Slam Dunk Contest dates back to 1984, and it has never been held with fewer than four players.
Despite a change in the number of participants, the contest format will be similar to what has gone down in the past.
A judging panel made up of five former dunk contest winners (Dee Brown, Jason Richardson, Josh Smith, Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins) will award points for each competitor's two dunks in the opening round, and the highest combined scores will advance to the final round. The last two players standing will get one dunk to prove that they are the champion.
Before analyzing the field, let's take a look at what sportsbooks are saying about the 2021 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Stanley opened as the favorite to win the Slam Dunk Contest, with +100 odds, via DraftKings. Simons was behind him at +225 while Toppin rounded out the odds at +250.
None of the three competitors are of the same caliber as players who have headlined the event in the past, but they've had their fair share of highlight reel dunks throughout their careers.
Toppin's high-flying dunks were part of his brand at Dayton. The eventual No. 8 pick by the Knicks in this year's draft, Toppin collected 107 dunks in his final year at Dayton to lead the NCAA.
While he's still working to hit his stride at the NBA level (4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds through 12.7 minutes per game), Toppin could thrive when it's just him and the rim Sunday.
Stanley has spent most of his time in the G League since being drafted with the No. 54 pick out of Duke, but his resume from his collegiate days makes him a legit competitor in this year's halftime show.
He could put his name on the big league map when he takes the court Sunday
As for Simons, he may be the only participant with more than 27 career NBA games under his belt, but he's only dunked twice this season. A bench player, he has been productive for the Blazers this season with 8.2 points and 2.4 rebounds through 17.0 minutes per game, but it feels like he's playing from behind in the Slam Dunk Contest even if he's the most senior NBA player of the group.
Prediction: Toppin has been vocal about his participation in the contest, hinting at an appearance when he spoke to Marc Berman of the New York Post back in February. His skill combined with his comfort level as he continues to adjust the NBA stage make the Dayton product the likely winner of the 2021 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
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