THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ORLANDO, Fla. — His nickname is the Human Pogo Stick and Utah’s Jeremy Evans set out to put some bounce back into the Slam Dunk Contest.
Evans endeared himself to the fans with a mix of props and creativity, and they voted him the winner of one of the marquee events of the NBA’s All-Star Saturday festivities.
Evans, who got into the competition as a replacement for injured New York guard Iman Shumpert, earned 29 per cent of the 3 million votes cast. He beat out Houston’s Chase Budinger, Indiana’s Paul George and Minnesota’s Derrick Williams for the Jazz’s first-ever trophy in the contest.
In a departure from past dunk competitions, fans were given complete voting power and cast their ballots by text message after each of the four participants competed in three one-dunk rounds.
Evans dunked with a camera on his head, slammed two basketballs while jumping over a seated assistant and donned a Karl Malone jersey to dunk over mailman-dressed comedian Kevin Hart.
Evans said the Jazz didn’t have any input in the Malone-themed idea.
"Not at all," he said. "I was just thanking the Jazz fans. You want to do something to get them in it. So I felt that was a good way. And Dwight Howard, he helped me big time. That was huge."
Budinger got just as many cheers from the Amway Center fans as Evans, and some in the celebrity-filled crowd sighed when the winner was announced.
Budinger got his biggest reaction when he donned a Cedric Ceballos jersey and imitated his 1992 blindfolded dunk, completing it with a reverse slam.
"I’ve very happy with my performance. I went out there, I had a plan and I executed the plan and the fans voted and I didn’t win and that happens sometimes," Budinger said. "But I had great dunks and they’re going to be great memories as well."
Kevin Love knows something about dunking. He does most of his dirty work inside for Minnesota, but he got to show off his outside touch on Saturday night.
Love beat out Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant to win the 3-Point Shootout. The former UCLA star was consistent throughout, but had to survive a tiebreaker in the first round and sweat out the last few shots from Durant to pull out the 17-14 victory in the final.
Love is in the middle for a breakout year for Minnesota, averaging 25 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. But he also has connected on 49 of 141 3-point attempts for the Timberwolves.
"You know, I’m a guy that loves to rebound the ball, a guy that loves to play inside, really a physical player," Love said. "But for me, coming into the league, I was told not to shoot 3-point shots, so to be where I am now and continue to work on my game; I think this definitely speaks to my versatility. I think I’ll just continue to improve year in and year out."
Celebrities lined the court for the appetizer before Sunday’s NBA All-Star game, and the first event saw the continuation of the good vibes that New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin has brought to the Big Apple recently
With Knicks super fan Spike Lee looking on, Team New York had the touch from the outside and won the Shooting Stars event. Former Knicks star Allan Houston nailed his third attempt at a half-court shot to give his team consisting of current Knicks guard Landry Fields and Cappie Pondexter of the WNBA’s New York Liberty the victory.
San Antonio point guard Tony Parker then won the Skills Competition. Parker was the only one of six participants to break 30 seconds in the first round (29.2) and this time of 32.8 in the final run on the obstacle course was better than Boston’s Rajon Rondo (34.6) and New Jersey’s Deron Williams (41.4).
Love was tied for third after the opening round of the Shootout and beat Miami’s Mario Chalmers 5-4 in a tiebreaker. Defending champion James Jones led all shooters in the opening round with 22 and Durant was next with 20.
Orlando’s Ryan Anderson just missed eliminating both Love and Chalmers, totalling 17 after missing his final 2-point money ball.
Love and Durant both had 16 in Round 2 to advance to the finals, with Jones posting 12.
Houston, Fields and Pondexter completed the shooting course in 37.3 seconds in the final round. It was better than the 47.6 posted by the Team Texas trio of former Houston Rockets star and TNT analyst Kenny Smith, current Rocket Chandler Parsons and Sophia Young of the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Team Orlando and Atlanta posted the slowest times of Round 1 and were eliminated.
The speedy Parker put together an impressive display on the skills obstacle course, which involves participants moving through a dribbling circuit, successfully throwing chest passes through a hanging tire and driving for a layup.
Williams, the 2008 winner, holds the record for the skills’ course at 25 seconds, but had trouble completing a pass in the final round on Saturday.