From start-to-finish, tonight was the most entertaining Saturday night of the NBA All-Star festivities since the Vince Carter and Jason Richardson Slam Dunk contest days.
Sure, the Dwight Howard and Nate Robertson years were fun, but tonight, each contestant had a legit case of winning the Slam Dunk championship, but thanks to Blake Griffin's Los Angeles roots, it was too much to overcome.
Derrick Rose (Skills Challenge) and Taj Gibson (Shooting Stars) represented the Chicago Bulls tonight, but neither experienced much success at all.
Rose, who won the Skills Challenge in 2009, was respectable, but as predicted, was nonchalant, and went through the motions.
In the Shooting Stars competition, Gibson and Team Chicago finished with a time of 1:06, which would have been enough to win in the final round, but it took them 16 tries to make the half-court shot. Gibson in particular was brutal; he was either too long or way too short.
Nonetheless, it was an entertaining night filled with plenty of showmanship from the NBA.
Let's take a closer look at the night's festivities and more:
Haier Shooting Stars Competition -- Predicted Winner: Team Texas; Winner: Team Atlanta
Team Texas clearly had the best shooters of the bunch, with Dirk Nowitzki, Roneeka Hodges, and Kenny Smith, but they simply couldn't hit the half-court shot at the end after getting off to a hot start, thus leading to Team Atlanta's win.
Atlanta won it with a less than impressive 1:10 mark, but thanks to Texas' horrendous 1:20 score, they prevailed with the win.
Sometimes you win when the other team fails, case in point tonight with the Shooting Stars competition.
Skills Challenge -- Predicted Winner: Russell Westbrook; Winner: Stephen Curry
Coming in, Westbrook seemed like the man to pick because of his bad performance last season. He got off to a great start, and faced Curry in the finals, but Curry wanted it more than him and showed it.
Chris Paul and Rose each seemed too relaxed, and as TNT analyst Reggie Miller pointed out, in a competition like this, players can't afford to play it "cool".
Rookie John Wall tried, but the passing sections slowed him down a bit, and he didn't hit the jump shot until his third or fourth try.
Stephen Curry started off the finals with a great time, 28.2, and Westbrook looked like he was going to match or top that, but he missed a few jumpers and had troubles with the outlet pass section and that led to his downfall and brutal time, 44.2.
On a side -- or in this case funny -- note, Paul had the "Not top 10 play" of the night with a missed layup. He was laughing about it, too, and boy, it was brutal.
Three-point shootout -- Predicted Winner: Ray Allen; Winner: James Jones
Usually when you think of the three-point shootout, it's the best shooters in the game. That's not the case if you watched tonight.
Paul Pierce, Allen, and Jones were the only ones who shot well tonight; with Dorell Wright, Kevin Durant, and Daniel Gibson each struggling mightily.
Pierce, Allen, and Jones were in the finals, and Jones got the crown as Pierce finished with a score of 18 and Allen with 17.
Allen was the predicted winner, but Jones really showed why he's starting on a team with three stars -- plenty of open shots, that he knocks down. Reminiscent of ex-HEAT Jason Kapono, who was a two-time 3-point shootout winner.
Slam Dunk Contest -- Predicted Winner: Blake Griffin; Winner: Blake Griffin
Ding, ding, ding! Finally got one prediction right.
First things first, give Serge Ibaka, DeMar DeRozan, and JaVale McGee credit, they did all they could to win tonight's event, but seriously, when it's in Los Angeles, did they even have a shot?
Blake Griffin had some nasty dunks, like his 360 behind the head dunk and the dunk of the hood of a car. Baron Davis was inside the car and gave Griffin a lob to which Griffin dunked down with two hands.
What won Griffin the Slam Dunk contest was his showmanship; the presentation was flawless.
Griffin's dunk over the hood of a car was a good dunk, but it wasn't that impressive. If he did it over the roof, it would have been THE best dunk ever.
McGee had the dunk of the night with his two-ball dunk with two rims, one at the standard NBA height and the other at around 12 feet.
DeRozan had a couple wicked dunks, as did Ibaka, who dunked from behind
the free-throw line. Yes, behind it. Go back to the footage, Michael
Jordan didn't do it, neither did Julius 'Dr. J' Erving.
Ibaka, DeRozan, and McGee each can make a case tonight that they should be the 2011 Slam Dunk champion, but really, it was Griffin's to lose coming in, and there was a better chance of the Chicago Cubs winning the world series than him losing on his home court.
Griffin is to McGee as Michael Jordan is to Dominique Wilkins. Some argue Wilkins was robbed in the 1988 dunk contest when Jordan won. By the way, the '88 contest was also held in the winners' home city, in Jordan's case, Chicago.
Final thoughts, top-five dunks of the night
Kevin Durant and Daniel Gibson are above average shooters, but it was a big mistake for the NBA that the Bulls didn't get one more participant in the festivities, as Kyle Korver should have made an appearance in the three-point shootout.
Here's my top-five dunks from tonight's Slam Dunk contest:
1) McGee's two-ball, two rims (one at standard height, the other at nearly 12 feet) dunk. Simply nasty.
2) Ibaka's dunk from BEHIND the free-throw line. He's a seven-footer, but nonetheless, it's very, very impressive.
3) Blake Griffin's dunk over the hood of a car. Nice dunk, but not better than 1 or 2, and it's not like he did it over the roof, which would have been insanity.
4) DeRozan's first dunk: East Bay Funk Remix. Amir Johnson passed it off the side (green portion) of the backboard, and DeRozan reverse-slammed it.
5) McGee's three-ball, one rim dunk. Another dunk that took great hand-eye coordination.
Honorable Mention: Ibaka helps the boy: Ibaka's second dunk was also good; he grabbed a toy with his mouth and dunked it down -- all in one motion. It not only took great athleticism, but also great hand-eye coordination.
Filed under: NBA All-Star Festivities 2011
Tags: Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Daniel Gibson, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Rose, Dorell Wright, Haier Shooting Stars, James Jones, JaVale McGee, John Wall, Kevin Durant, NBA, NBA All-Star Festivities, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Skills Challenge, Slam Dunk Contest, Stephen Curry, Taj Gibson, Three-point Shootout