Dunk Contest Field Announced: Event will have new format for 2014

by Feb 6, 8:31 PM

Terrence Ross will defend his Slam Dunk Contest title on Feb. 15 against five other dunkers, as the NBA announced on Thursday.

However, it appears he may be the last Slam Dunk Contest Champion, regardless of the results in New Orleans.

In a pretty strange - but possibly exciting - move, the NBA has announced a format change for the 2014 edition of the Dunk Contest. From NBA.com:

This year's event will feature the participants competing as a team -- three players representing the Eastern Conference and three players representing the Western Conference -- in an above-the-rim two-round format. In a significant first in the event's history, the competition will tip off with a Freestyle Round where the dunkers for each conference will have 90 seconds to showcase as many dunks as they want. At the conclusion of the Freestyle Round, the panel of judges will then choose a winner by voting "East" or "West." The winning conference will earn the advantage of deciding whether its dunkers will dunk first or second in the head-to-head battles that take place in the Battle Round.

The Battle Round will feature head-to-head matchups pitting East dunkers vs. West dunkers, with the judges choosing a winner for each battle. Upon losing a head-to-head battle, that dunker is then eliminated from the competition. The first team to win three battles will win the competition and be crowned 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk champions. Complete rules for the 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night can be found on mediacentral.nba.com.

This seems unnecessarily complicated.

In short, the first round will see each dunker dunk as much as they want for 90 seconds, with one conference being voted the winner. In the next round, there will be head-to-head battles, with the conference that wins three first winning the event.

So, will there be a champion? Kind of, but not really:

After the competition, fans will also have the opportunity to vote for the player of their choice as "Dunker of the Night" through SMS, Twitter, NBA.com and the NBA GameTime app.

So fans will select their favorite dunker at the end.

If the format seems a bit contrived, remember: this is the first time since 1988 there are three All-Stars in the event, Ross put on a good show in 2013, and this all but guarantees a higher quantity of dunks.

We're still excited.

Read more about the participants and view some of their best dunks in the storyline below. Keep up with all the NBA All-Star action here.

Feb 15, 11:27 PM

VIDEO: East wins Slam Dunk Contest, Wall named Dunker of the Night

by Feb 15, 11:27 PM

The main event did not disappoint on NBA All-Star Saturday Night, as Kendrick Lamar killed it in his live performance between the 3-Point Contest and the Slam Dunk Contest, looking fresh to death in the new Yeezy II Red Octobers.

Oh, the Slam Dunk Contest was the main event? Well, that was okay, too, kind of.

Following a new format (read more about it in the storyline below), the weekend's marquee event was a little different and the early reaction seems to be unanimous that the new structure was not a success. We got a few cool dunks, at least.

Here's how it broke down, starting with the "Freestyle Round," where each team of three dunkers had 90 seconds to throw down as many dunks as possible. The judges were Dominique Wilkins, Magic Johnson and Dr. J.

Eastern Conference
Terrence Ross, Paul George and John Wall teamed up to secure votes from all three judges. Highlights included a pair of John Wall self-alley-oops, a tic-tac-toe alley-oop that ended with a big Ross one-hander and a Ross-to-backboard-to-Wall-to-backboard-off-ground-to-George sequence for a one-handed flush.

Western Conference
Ben McLemore, Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes teamed up for a grand total of zero votes. They started off with a series of misses, getting too creative off the start, but rebounded with some decent individual slams. The highlight may have been McLemore corralling a bad self-alley-oop to make a dunk more impressive and a Lillard between-the-legs jam.

Then in the "Battle Round," conference dunkers battled in a head-to-head, single-elimination, best-of-five team dunk-off. It was as contrived as it sounds. The East got to choose the match-ups, having won the team round. 

But first, they decided to suck the energy out of the crowd with a Vanilla Ice performance. No, seriously, they did. We won't do you the disservice of providing detail.

Anyway, on to the Battle Round where each dunker gets one dunk (and three attempts):

Match 1 - Damian Lillard v. Terrence Ross

  • Lillard missed a self-alley-oop 360 but nailed it, with a pump, on the second try.
  • Ross came out in a boxing robe with Drake, carrying the 2013 Slam Dunk Championship. While Drake held the ball out, Ross took it in the air to go between-the-legs. On the third try, but still nice.
  • Ross defeated Lillard, two votes to one. 1-0 East.

Match 2 - Harrison Barnes v. Paul George

  • Barnes tried to bring the ball to the rim and then windmill it, finally managing on the third try. That's a warm-up dunk, though, a tough choice in a single-dunk match-up.
  • George tried a 360 between-the-legs but, like each dunker before him, failed at first. Then he failed again. Then he nailed it, and it was probably the second best dunk of the contest to this point
  • George defeated Barnes, three votes to zero. 2-0 East.

Match 3 - Ben McLemore v. John Wall

  • McLemore emerged in a king's robe, alongside Shaq and a proclaimer, who read off a scroll that "The realm of Shaqramento will henceforth be known as the realm of Shaq-Lemore." McLemore then tried to jump over Shaq sitting on a throne but, you guessed it, he missed a dunk, too. He nailed it on the second try, however, with some serious height. Shaq then put a crown on McLemore.
  • Wall had the team mascot, G-Man, hold the ball over his head beneath the basket. Wall jumped over the mascot, grabbing the ball and reversing it for the dunk of the night.
  • All three judges gave it to the East, giving them the 3-0 series sweep.

So, the Eastern Conference wins the Dunk Contest, technically and emphatically.

But we all know everyone wants to crown one player the Dunk Contest Champion. The NBA allowed fans to vote on a "Dunker of the Night," which will have to do.

So congratulations to John Wall, your "Slam Dunker of the Night."

Aside: The author is an enormous Dunk Contest fan who tried to remain positive ahead of Saturday night despite all indications that the new format would be terrible. The author is upset.

Keep up with all the NBA All-Star action here.

Feb 13, 9:40 PM

The best dunks from this year's dunk contest participants

by Feb 13, 9:40 PM

This year's slam dunk contest is going to be quite different, as the marquee event of All-Star Saturday night has been turned into a team event, with fans then voting on a 'dunker of the night.'

It goes against tradition, the crowning of a dunk champion won't feel the same and the freestyle round that gives each participant 90 seconds to do as many dunks as they want could get sloppy. But the dunk contest hasn't been what it used to be in terms of quality for some time now, and one of its most cited criticisms is a lack of star power.

With Paul George, Damian Lillard, John Wall, defending champion Terrence Ross, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore, however, that won't be as much of an issue this year.

On that note, here's a little of what the six participants are going to bring to the table next Saturday:

Terrence Ross

Ross' winning combination in last year's dunk contest was probably a little underrated because of the overall quality of the competition, and he'll likely have to do more to impress this season with bigger name stars joining in. The sophomore appears to be up to the challenge, however. Just ask Kenneth Faried.

***

Paul George

Best part about the call on George's in-game 360 windmill - Quinn Buckner's hilarious "ohhh yeaahhhhh!" or his confession that he hopes George doesn't take part in the dunk contest for fear of being worn out?

Somebody give Quinn the bad news. And ask him what he thinks about Damian Lillard taking part in five events that weekend while you're at it.

***

Damian Lillard

Lillard didn't exactly wow the crowd when he won a high school dunk contest back in 2008, and his big in-game dunks have all been of the more straightforward, poster variety, so whether he can execute creative jams on Saturday night remains to be seen.

***

John Wall

The ease with which Wall went up for that behind the back dunk in the Rookie/Sophomore game a couple of years ago seems like a pretty good indicator of his dunk contest ability.

***

Harrison Barnes

With the amount of height and hang time Barnes gets on his jams, he should be able to come up with something pretty creative up there. Plus, did you see that reverse in the playoffs?

***

Ben McLemore

McLemore is definitely the wild card in this competition and the guy with the least star appeal, but his high school dunk contest performance was a heck of a lot more impressive than Lillard's.

***

In recent years we've usually been left at least a little disappointed by the dunk contest. Maybe this season, with a change of format and a change of pace that has most of us skeptically scratching our heads, these six youngsters will finally leave us pleasantly surprised.

Feb 6, 7:53 PM

NBA reveals six participants for 2014 Slam Dunk Contest

by Feb 6, 7:53 PM

The NBA announced the six participants for the 2014 Slam Dunk Contest on Thursday night, confirming the field of six that had been leaked earlier in the day.

The participants are as follows:

Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors (Defending Champion)
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
John Wall, Washington Wizards
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

That's a pretty good mix of youngsters and established stars, a mix the league always tries to maintain to draw eyes to the event and create new stars. It's also a really exciting group, and you can view some of their dunk credentials in the storyline below.

Feb 6, 2:54 PM

Report: George, Wall, Lillard to participate in Dunk Contest

by Feb 6, 2:54 PM

The six participants in the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest have been set according to a report by ESPN's Marc Stein.  

Defending champion and Raptors shooting guard Terrence Ross will defend his crown against Pacers small forward Paul George, Wizards point guard John Wall, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes and Kings rookie shooting guard Ben McLemore. 

Here's a taste of what this year's reported contestants have to offer.

Terrence Ross

Paul George

John Wall 

Damian Lillard

 Ben McLemore

Harrison Barnes

Should be fun. 

Feb 6, 11:47 AM

Report: George, Wall and Ross may join Lillard as Dunk Contest participants

by Feb 6, 11:47 AM

In what would be a compilation of some of the NBA's best young high-flyers, ESPN's Marc Stein released a few potential names that could take part in the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest. 

The showcase has been criticized in recent seasons for a lack of star power but this young crop could put on quite a show. 

While Comcast Sportsnet's Chris Haynes confirmed Wednesday that Lillard has accepted an invitation, Ross, George and Wall have yet to make anything official. 

Last week, Wall said that he would consider taking part "if the competition involved superstars," while word on George has been quiet since he said he was unlikely to take part back in mid-January. Ross, the reigning champion, is expected to take part. 

The NBA plans to release the official participants Thursday with the Slam Dunk Contest taking part Feb. 15.