Portland’s Anfernee Simons was all smiles as he became the first Trail Blazers player to win the NBA dunk contest, which took place during halftime of Sunday night’s All-Star Game in Atlanta.
Simons bested rookies Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks and Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers to bring home the trophy, which Simons called “a dream come true.”
Simons won the contest over Toppin in the final round via a new rule called the “Judge’s choice.” Simons and Toppin had one dunk each in the round, and instead of a score, the five judges selected a name, with Simons receiving three votes to Toppin’s two.
The contest was judged by five former dunk champions: Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins (1985, 1990), Spud Webb (1986), Dee Brown (1991), Jason Richardson (2002, 2003) and Josh Smith (2005).
“Having a chance to come in and be a part of it and win it, it’s surreal,” Simons said.
There was some early controversy when Stanley’s first dunk, a left-hander after he moved the ball between his legs in the air, scored only 44 points. Toppin then scored a 48 on a two-handed reverse.
On his first dunk, Simons had a mini hoop placed on the goal with a basketball on top of it. He ran from the side and grabbed the ball off the mini hoop — probably 2 feet above the rim — and dunked it, earning 46 points. His second slam — which earned a score of 49 for a spot in the final — was a tribute to Tracy McGrady; Simons donned a T-Mac jersey and went with a 360 dunk off the bounce.
“He was my hero growing up, so I wanted to honor him, as well,” Simons said of McGrady.
For his final dunk, Simons started in the corner and lobbed the ball up. As he caught it, he jumped as high as he could and blew a kiss to the rim while being as level with it as possible. Although he missed actually kissing the rim, he did show off his vertical leap.
Simons said his goal for the last dunk was to kiss the rim, but he also wanted to make sure he didn’t hit his head.
“In practice, I never actually kissed the rim, but I was like, ‘I gotta commit to it,'” Simons said. “I tried to put a mouthpiece in last-minute, but it didn’t fit in my mouth. I just scratched, and I’m just going to emphasize the smooch face so people know I’m next to the rim and trying to kiss it.”
Simons said he was going over wild ideas and actively joking about the kiss-the-rim dunk when discussing his plans for the contest, before settling on making an attempt at it.
“I was like, ‘All right, let’s actually do it this time.’ That was something nobody had ever done,” Simons said. “Just very unique and very creative to do. I think a few people can actually do [it]. I think that was going to show the judges a lot.”
Toppin also showed creativity, jumping over his father, Obadiah Toppin Sr., and teammate Julius Randle on a dunk that earned 46 points.
In the final, Toppin took off from near the free throw line, inspiring comparisons to Wilkins’ winning form while with the Atlanta Hawks.
Introduced as “Slam Dunk champion Anfernee Simons” during his post-contest media availability, Simons just smiled and said, “Nice intro.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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