In what may have been one of the most ho-hum faceoffs in recent memory, the Portland Trailblazers’ Anfernee Simons won the 2021 NBA Slam Contest, defeating the New York Knicks’ Obi Toppin in the final round. While it may not have been as plodding as the sad 1997 contest, it also did not have had the spectacular fanfare of Vince Carter’s or Blake Griffin’s outings. And nor did it provide any kind of drama or tension, like Aaron Gordon’s purported robberies, to make this year’s contest stand out in any special way.
Perhaps in response to past outcries that only qualified individuals should score the event, all of last night’s judges were former slam dunk champions: Dee Brown, Jason Richardson, Josh Smith, Spud Webb, and Dominique Wilkins.
Indiana Pacers guard Cassius Stanley, the hyped contestant whose 44-inch vertical leap made him the favorite to win, was quickly eliminated in the second round after he missed his first attempt and landed a pedestrian dunk on his second attempt, for a score of 37 out of a possible 50. The Knicks forward Obi Toppin also missed his first try of the second round when he sought to clear his father, Obi Toppin, Sr., and teammate Julius Randle for a jam. But he was successful with the second attempt, nailing a windmill throwdown and earning a score of 46 from the judges.
Simons had the winning dunk of the night, though. He paid homage to T-Mac’s 2000 contest run for his second-round performance by donning a Tracy McGrady Raptors’ jersey, throwing the ball up to himself, and nailing a 360-degree two-handed slam for a score of 49 points and the win.
However, the other events of the night proved to be somewhat more entertaining. The Indiana Pacers center Domantis Sabonis won the Skills challenge, which, at 6’11, made him the fifth big man to win the contest in the past six years. Also, the 3x champion Steph Curry, who currently ranks as No. 2 all-time for the most career NBA 3-pointers, fittingly won the 2021 Three-Point Contest, defeating Mike Conley. And Team Lebron trounced Team Durant to close out the evening, 170-150.