HOUSTON — Earlier this week, Terrence Ross told Ball Don't Lie that he thought he had a chance to surprise some people on All-Star Saturday Night, because he didn't think many people knew what he was capable of. Well, they sure do now, after the Toronto Raptors rookie won the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest in a stunning display at the Toyota Center on Saturday.
"This feels unbelievable," Ross said as he held the competition trophy over his head after defeating 2012 contest champion Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz in the championship round.
Ross received 58 percent of the fan vote for the final round, compared to 42 percent for Evans.
Ross outlasted the heavily favored duo of 2007 champion/2008 runner-up Gerald Green of the Indiana Pacers and legendary dunker James White of the New York Knicks to earn the Eastern Conference's slot in the final round. Evans, who said Friday he felt he wasn't getting the respect he deserved as the defending champion in this event, outshined Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried to represent the West in the finals before finishing as the runner-up.
The competition began with a bang, as Green opened, assisted by Pacers teammate Lance Stephenson. With Green trailing him, Stephenson ran along the baseline toward the basket and threw a pass off the side of the backboard, which Green caught for a reverse double-pump jam on the first try, reminiscent of his first dunk in the '07 contest, aided by Boston Celtics teammate Paul Pierce. The dunk electrified the crowd, earning a perfect 50 from the panel of judges — former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich and former Rockets stars Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. (The East received an extra 10 points toward their overall tally in the night's East vs. West competition for charity as a result of the perfect score.)
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The Knicks' White — whose nickname is "Flight," which seems relevant — brought out a crew of flight attendants to create a runway for him to do one of the famed free-throw line dunks he's performed in dunk contests all over the world. He backed up all the way to the far side of the court, ran all the way to the free-throw line and took off ... but his attempt went a bit long, slamming off the back rim. He regrouped, ran back to the far corner, then made the full-court run again and took off, finishing with a thunderous two-hand jam. However, he leapt from one foot inside the free-throw line — gasp! — and the combination of that and the miss earned him a 45.
After the two heavy favorites made their first attempts, rookie Ross was up, attempting a difficult and acrobatic jam — running in from the right wing, jumping, spinning to his right, putting the ball behind his back and finishing with a right-hand windmill. He missed five times, creating a bit of nervous energy in the Toyota Center, but he made it on the sixth try, and the judges loved it, granting Ross the East's second perfect 50 of the opening round.
First up for the West was Faried, who went off the backboard, jumped off one foot outside the restricted area, spun in mid-air, caught the ball and finished a one-handed hammer. It was an impressive feat of athleticism from the 6-foot-8, 230-pound big man, but the finish didn't pack much power, earning him a 39. For his opening effort, Bledsoe tried to come in from the right wing, jump, spin 180 degrees, put the ball through his legs and finish, which, given his 6-foot-1 frame, would have been a pretty amazing feat. But after missing several attempts, he decided just to go with something safe to get on the board — running up from the left wing, elevating, kissing the ball off the glass with two hands, then spinning for a two-handed jam. He, too, received a 39.
For his first dunk, defending champion Evans brought out 7-foot-4 Jazz legend Mark Eaton from the front row and had him sit on a box in the paint and hold the ball up in the air over his head. Evans' plan: Run in from the right sideline, leap over Eaton's head, grab the ball in the process and reverse dunk it, all in one motion. He missed several times — which seemed to give Eaton some pause — but when he did put it down, the crowd erupted, and Evans got a West-leading 47 after one round.
With the lowest score for the East in Round 1, White kicked off Round 2, and he went back to the full-court bag. He ran from the right side, taking off just inside the free-throw line with the ball in his right hand and switching it to the left hand for an attempted tomahawk. He missed it three times, before switching over to the left side, where he took off the first round. He ran and took off from the free-throw line with a right-hand windmill ... which he missed another three times, owing in part, it seemed, to being gassed from running the length of the court so many times. He didn't complete a dunk in his 1:30 allotted, and received one more untimed opportunity; he missed that, too. The judges had to give him a score, so they gave him a 32.
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For his second attempt, Green brought out a ladder and scissors, and cut the net off of the rim, then took off from the right wing and attempted to dunk the ball twice — dunking it with his right hand, catching it through the open rim with his left hand, grabbing the rim with his right hand, and dunking it again. Unfortunately, he could never get the left-hand slam down; he finished the full 90 seconds and one last untimed attempt without a completed dunk, too. He finished with a 32, also ... and then, of course, made it in a doesn't-count try after he'd run out of chances. Alas.
Needing only to complete a half-decent dunk to move on to the finals, Ross quickly took care of business, throwing the ball to himself off the bounce from the right wing, jumping, catching, and performing a 360 and one-hand hammer for a 49 that gave him 99 out of a possible 100 total points to send him on to the finals.
With the ball back in the West's court, Faried went back to the backboard to start the second round, throwing the ball off the glass, catching it, going through his legs and throwing it down with his right hand with authority — and again, he's 6-foot-8, 230 pounds. That combination of facts and execution earned a perfect 50. For his part, Bledsoe went to the bounce on try No. 2, shooting the ball up from near the arc, waiting for it to bounce off the floor, catching it up over his head and turning 180 degrees before bringing the ball all the way down, up and around to finish with a thunderous two-handed reverse. Another 50 and another 10 points for the West, leveling the East's first-round output.
Evans came out for Round 2 with two balls in his hands, as he did in his final-round dunk to win the 2012 competition. This time, though, rather than jumping over teammate Gordon Hayward and dunking them both at once, he attempted to run in from the 3-point line, take off from just outside the restricted area, do a 360 and dunk both balls, first with his left hand and then with the right. After several misses, he connected; it was acrobatic and athletic, but it only earned a 43.
Still, that 43 was enough to give him a total of 90, advancing him to the championship round to face off against Ross. It also gave the West a total of 268 points compared to 258 for the East, giving the West a win in the contest and 70 points in the overall event.
In the finals, Evans brought out a covered easel and set it up at the edge of the restricted area, then ran in, took off, leapt over it and threw down a left-hand windmill jam. After finishing the dunk, he took the cover off the painting ... unveiling a painting that Evans, himself an artist, had made depicting him dunking over the painting. (Very meta.) He autographed the painting as judge Dikembe Mutombo smiled. That must have felt nice.
Ross, who had chided Evans for using props, decided to pull out a little bit of a costume-change of his own, donning a purple Vince Carter throwback No. 15 jersey and enlisting the help of Houston Rockets rookie and former high school teammate Terrence Jones, who threw the ball off the side of the backboard, where Ross caught it in mid-spin, finished a 360, cocked all the way back with his right hand and hammered it home. People looooooooved this.
For his second dunk of the finals, Evans brought out Dallas Mavericks guard Dahntay Jones, had him sit on the box formerly occupied by Eaton under the rim and asked him to throw a ball up as he leapt. Evans caught it in his right hand — insanely high — and threw it down all in one motion. For his final dunk, Ross brought out a ball boy, stationed him just outside the restricted area, and had him lean forward. Ross then backed up behind him, ran from out of bounds, leapt over him and went through his legs, finishing with a huge right-hand slam.
And with that, the fans took over, voting via text messages, Twitter, the NBA All-Star App and on NBA.com; when all was said and done, Ross had come out on top.
In all, captain Chris Paul's Western Conference team defeated Dwyane Wade's East, 140-125. As a result, his charities of choice — Boys & Girls Club of America and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign — will receive $350,000 in charitable donations from NBA Cares and State Farm. Wade's charities, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Make-A-Wish America, will receive $150,000 as part of the $500,000 total purse. After the competition, Paul also announced that he would give $5,000 to the charity of choice of each member of his winning West squad.
Lead video via Beyond the Buzzer.
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