ORLANDO, Fla. — All-Star Saturday Night has become more than just a preview to the main event, Sunday night's All-Star game. It's now a four-event talent showcase, highlighted by the Slam Dunk contest.
But tweaks and format changes, along with the reluctance of the game's biggest stars to participate, has made the dunk contest a shadow of its former self, back in the glory days when Julius Erving, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant competed.
Last year, Los Angeles All-Star Blake Griffin gave the competition a marquee name and brought out the prop to end all props by jumping over a car to defeat second place finisher, Wizards center JaVale McGee.
But this year's contest fell flat. Not only were the stars missing, but fan voting replaced the former dunk winners as judges.
"Just coming our here and seeing the star players, you want to be in their footsteps," said Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, who won the contest with a dunk McGee did last year, using two balls.
Evans won the contest over Chase Buddinger (Rockets), Paul George (Pacers) and Derrick Williams (Timberwolves).
"People didn't really know who I was. Hopefully, now they'll know my name," Evans said.
The two events that have never lacked for star power are the skills competition, which features the league's top point guards navigating an obstacle course, and 3-point contest, which has the game's best shooters.
John Wall participated in the skills competition for the second straight year and tied with Celtics guard Rajon Rondo in the first round, but fell in the tiebreaker. Spurs guard Tony Parker won the competition in 29.2 seconds, defeating Wall, Rondo, Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Russell Westbrook (Thunder) and Deron Williams (Nets).
"I was very confident before the competition after finishing last the first two times I did it," Parker said.
Wall couldn't advance past the first round, and it had to do with Rondo's 30-second tiebreaker pace.
"He had the best round of the day to beat me in the tie-breaker. There was no way I could beat that," Wall said. "I felt more calm than last year. Last year I was more nervous. I had fun, just relaxed. You can hear the crowd urge you on. That makes it fun."
The 3-point contest was won by Kevin Love (Timberwolves), who defeated last year's winner James Jones (Heat), Ryan Anderson (Magic), Mario Chalmers (Heat), Anthony Morrow (Nets), and Kevin Durant (Thunder). Love had 18 points in the final round.
"I knew it was going to be stiff competition," Love said. "Everybody came out in the first round and shot the ball particularly well. I was just going out there and enjoying myself."
The evening's fourth event, which opens the evening, is the "Shooting Stars" competition, which pits four regional teams against one another. The teams feature a current player, a retired player and a WNBA player. It was team New York taking the victory, with a time of 37.3 second winning over Team Texas, Team Orlando, and Team Atlanta.
The team members were:
Team New York: Allan Houston, Landry Fields and Cappie Pondexter.
Team Texas: Kenny Smith, Chandler Parsons, Sophia Young.
Team Orlando: Dennis Scott, Jameer Nelson, Marie Ferdinand-Harris.
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