HOUSTON — In advance of the main event of All-Star Saturday night, the participants had some thoughts on the overall aesthetics of the Slam Dunk Contest, and argued over who the actual favorite is to take home the trophy in 2013.
Kenneth Faried, he of the Rising Stars MVP performance on Friday, seemed to be of the opinion earlier in the day that practice wasn’t imperative, and that he would just determine what to do on the fly as the mood struck.
“I don’t know,” Faried said sincerely, when asked what we can expect from him on Saturday. “Maybe a two-hand power dunk, a behind-the-back dunk, turning a 180 or something like that. That’s it.”
Faried took to practicing for the contest on the main floor of the Toyota Center after the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, so perhaps he changed his mind.
James White is the favorite by those who determine such things, largely on the strength of his performances in dunk contests of the past. His athleticism in these events is seemingly unparalleled, with dunks from the free throw line and through the legs in his repertoire (and available on YouTube) for all the world — as well as his opponents — to see.
But White, a veteran dunk contest champion, said we might see something new from him if the conditions are just right.
“It depends, man,” he said, when asked if the fans can expect to see something different. “I mean, honestly I really don’t plan my dunks. I pretty much just go on the fly and however I feel … if I feel real good, I might try something new that pops in my head, so we’ll see.”
Even if White monotonously goes through his usual routine that opens with a dunk from the free throw line, fans who haven’t seen him perform on the biggest stage might be in awe and appreciative of his talents just the same.
“My goal is just to make it to the second round,” White said. “That’s the number one thing, and to get to the finals. And then from there we’ll see what happens. So I’m just going to come out from the beginning and do my normal thing and get to the next round.”
Despite White’s legendary dunks in the past, he disagrees that he’s the favorite going in — no matter what the oddsmakers are saying.
“I don’t think I’m the favorite, man, I’m the old guy,” he said. “Everyone out here besides me is like, 26. I’m the old guy, so I’m not the favorite.”
Gerald Green, he of the cupcake dunk in 2007, would like to beg to differ.
“Really I’m not the favorite,” Green said. “I think [James White] is. I think I’m the underdog, but I’ve been the underdog in every dunk contest I’ve been in.”
Green has had some memorable in-game dunks this season, but the dunk contest is different in that it requires creativity and showmanship to go along with those powerful finishes. He teased the fact that he may have something incredible in store for all of us.
“I’ve got a dunk that can really go down in history,” he said. “If I can complete this dunk this afternoon [in practice], this dunk can be one of the best dunks of all time.”
Of course, that’s as much information as Green was willing to give.
Regarding the use of props which has become so prevalent in the contest in recent years, all of this year’s participants seemed to be not only fine with it, but in favor of their use in the event, for a variety of reasons.
“I am in favor of props,” Green said. “I’m thinking of using this one prop, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it. If I don’t then I probably won’t use a lot of props. I’ll have to go prop-less.”
“It just depends on what you’re doing,” he continued. “I mean, if you’re doing a backflip and dunking, you obviously don’t need a prop. But sometimes, the prop that you bring out may be a crowd pleaser, so it may help you out in your favor.”
Faried echoed those feelings.
“I like the props, because it does show a little bit of ability [in terms of] how creative you were to think up certain things,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just … it helps make your dunk that much better.”
“Let’s say I go down and do a windmill, then somebody gets props involved and does a windmill,” Faried said. “Which one are you going to like more?”
And White was also alright with props being utilized in the dunk contest, never mind the fact that he’s never used one himself.
“You’ve never seen me use props,” he said proudly. “I don’t do props, man.”
“A lot of guys use it because it’s part of the entertainment, but I think it’s taken away from the dunk contest the last couple of years,” White said. “So I’m just going to bring it back to its natural state.”
One thing was certain in speaking with these guys on Friday: They all take the contest very seriously, and each has a vested interest in putting on the best show possible when they take the floor Saturday night.