Saturday night the prince of Dallas, Dennis Smith Jr., took the national stage in the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. Up against fellow rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz (who replaced Aaron Gordon), as well as Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers, and Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers, DSJ came in with plenty of hype, and not just from MFFLs.
Smith Jr. competed in the Rising Stars showcase Friday night as well, but all anticipation was for the main event Saturday night. Even Dirk had some words of “encouragement” for the young gun:
Good luck tonight my man @Dennis1SmithJr Lets do this. Mix in a few makes— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) February 17, 2018
Let’s get on to what went down!
So before we even get started, let’s talk about the judges. With the All-Star festivities taking place in Los Angeles, the NBA decided to really play up the Hollywood theme, and make 60 percent of the judges panel celebrities. Thank god Dr. J and Lisa Leslie were at the table, because I’m not sure I trust the judgement of Mark Wahlberg, DJ Khaled and Chris Rock on dunking ability.
Let’s just say they could have gathered a better group. I’ve made my peace.
The rookie guard from Utah, projected winner by many, went first. And he set the tone, bringing a second basket out.
Mitchell’s second dunk was a switch up after he missed his first attempt. He brought out Kevin Hart and two children, caught a pass off the side of the backboard, and dunked over them. I will say, he made all of them crouch, all noticeably short people. So in my book the dunk was a little less impressive than the broadcast was making it out to be.
Donovan Mitchell is NOT playing pic.twitter.com/jTyvySdWRA— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 18, 2018
Dipo got up, but missed on all three attempts.
His second dunk was with Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther mask. It was fine, and he at least made it on his second attempt.
Dennis Smith Jr.
DSJ missed his first attempt. But got up with a solid, if not average dunk.
DSJ’s second dunk was solid - a 360, between the legs, off hand dunk. It took him his third attempt, but it also garnered the first 50 of the night.
Larry Nance Jr.
Nance quick changed to his dad’s throwback jersey, and brought out a sweet and classic cradle dunk.
Nance got his second dunk on his first attempt, a nice windmill, that started from behind the basket. It was completely boring, but he made it on the first attempt, so it helped his score.
Cumulative scores on the two dunks meant DSJ was eliminated after the first round, and Donovan Mitchell and Larry Nance Jr. moved on to the finals.
Nance Jr. brought out Larry Nance Sr. for his first dunk. Getting the lob from his father, he had ANOTHER windmill. A dunk that gave him a 46 from the judges. Nance’s second dunk was a pretty creative double-tap lob off the backboard. A sneaky athletic dunk that notched a 50.
Mitchell’s first dunk of the final was a very powerful Russell Westbrook type hammer off the backboard. Solid, but nothing outstanding. But he did grab a 50. His second dunk was a Vince Carter tribute. A dunk that gave him a 48 and cemented the trophy.
Fitting that the rook pays tribute to Vince Carter to win the dunk contest pic.twitter.com/UAgKkb7YLR— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 18, 2018
We’ll give you Dennis Smith Jr.’s best dunk again, because it ended up being the best dunk of the night. There’s no question his athleticism and dunking ability is insane. But I think he probably needed to be a bit more of a showman. It was a sort of laid back contest overall, different than recent years. It really was there for the taking. Ultimately, that first dunk set him back enough to be the difference. At some point we’ve GOT to see what he had planned for the final round.