NEW ORLEANS (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Credit the assist to Paul George. Indiana Pacers guard Glenn Robinson III won the Verizon Slam Dunk title over Suns rookie forward Derrick Jones Jr. on Saturday night by leaping over his 3-inches-taller teammate, the Pacers mascot and a Pacers dance team member for a reverse slam that merited a perfect 50 in the final round of the All-Star Weekend premier skills event.
In the final round, consisting of two dunks, Robinson faced off against the Phoenix rookie, who also advanced from the original four-man competition. The Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and the Magic’s Aaron Gordon were eliminated in the earlier rounds.
Jones essentially lost the final round with a poor first dunk attempt, which merited him only 37 points. Even though Jones scored a 50 on his second dunk for a two-dunk total of 87, Robinson needed only 44 points on his second dunk of the finals to win the title.
He did it with flair. George set up near the basket, placing the ball behind his head. In front of George were the Pacers mascot — Boomer the Panther — and a member of the Pacers dance squad named Kayla.
Robinson came in from the right wing, grabbed the ball, leaped over the three people, ducked his head so that it wouldn’t hit the rim and completed a spectacular reverse slam.
The perfect 50 gave him a two-dunk total of 94, easily eclipsing Jones.
“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd went crazy.”
Robinson said he first dunked the ball when he was a high school sophomore seven years ago, and he said it was hard to imagine that he was now holding the trophy once made famous by Michael Jordan and Dwight Howard.
“My head was at the rim,” Robinson said. “I’m an explosive player.”
Robinson took the first-round lead with a perfect score of 50 from the five judges — Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, David Robinson, Dominique Wilkins and Chris Webber.
He came in from the right wing and leaped over two persons — a man with a boy on his shoulders — grabbed the ball in mid-air and slammed home a left-handed dunk.
Robinson’s perfect score put him ahead of Jones (45), Jordan (41) and Gordon (38).
Jones probably had room for argument for his 45, because he actually leaped over four teammates to slam home a left-handed dunk, but he got only 9s from all five judges.
Jones got a perfect 50 in the second round with an assist from teammate Devin Booker, who bounced the ball off the side of the backboard. Jones caught the ball
in mid-air, wrapped it between his legs and finished with a left-handed slam.
— Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon, the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter this season, defeated Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving in the overtime round of the JBL 3-Point Contest, scoring 21 points to Irving’s 18 in the extra period.
Although Gordon heard scattered boos from the Smoothie King Center crowd — he played four seasons for the New Orleans Pelicans before signing as a free agent with the Rockets in the offseason — he nailed several important jumpers, including a final shot in the second round to send the game into overtime.
“It’s all about getting hot,” Gordon said. “All of us know, as shooters, anybody can get hot on any given night. Tonight was my night. As shooters, it’s all about being consistent.”
The 3-Point Contest went to overtime after Gordon and Irving scored 20 points each in the second round, eliminating the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker, who had 17.
The shocker in the first round of the 3-Point Contest was that Golden State guard Klay Thompson, the reigning champion, was knocked out after scoring just 18 points.
The top three of the eight contenders advanced to the final. Despite the scattered boos, Gordon led all performers with 24 points in the first round, followed by Irving (20) and Walker (19).
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Nick Young (18), Thompson (18), the Dallas Mavericks’ Wesley Matthews (11), the Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry (11) and the Portland Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum (10) were knocked out.
— New York Knicks 7-foot-3 center Kristaps Porzingis won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge by defeating Utah Jazz 6-foot-8 forward Gordon Hayward in the final. Porzingis won by nailing a 3-pointer from the left side of the key on his first attempt.
“Before we started doing it, while I was doing the walk through, I knew that the pass and the shot on the 3-pointer was the most important parts of that,” Porzingis said. “And I was able to make the pass on the first try all three times. And then in the final, that last shot just went in. So just a little bit of luck.”
NOTES: In his annual “State of the NBA” press conference, commissioner Adam Silver said he hopes the U.S. will not impose a broad ban on global travel because any restrictions could affect the international scope of the league. While Silver said he does not have access to security briefings that would justify a travel ban, he said, “We are a business based on global mobility. Twenty-five percent of our players were born outside the United States. We do a tremendous amount of business outside the United States. The NBA stands for the very best coming together to perform at the highest level.” … Silver said two NBA players were born in the Sudan, one of the countries on the restricted travel list. (The travel ban was struck down by a federal appeals court and currently is on hold.) … The number of NBA players born outside the U.S. grew from 20 percent last year to nearly 25 percent this year, Silver said, adding that nearly half the players selected in the two rounds of the 2016 draft were born outside of the country. … Silver said in the newly named Gatorade League (G League), which will replace the D League, each team will have two positions for players with no current NBA affiliation. Those players can be paid more money than other developmental players, which means more international players may want to hone their games in the U.S. … Silver said reducing the preseason and increasing the regular season by one week beginning with the 2017-18 season will cut down on the number of back-to-back games and the necessity of teams playing four games in five nights. … The NBA still is in favor of moving the minimum player age from 19 to 20, but the Players Association favors lowering the age minimum from 19 to 18. Silver said that issue would continue to be studied “outside the bright lights of collective bargaining.” … Asked if he, like Cleveland G Kyrie Irving, thinks the earth is flat, Silver said, smiling: “Kyrie and I went to the same college (Duke). He may have taken some different courses than I did. In all seriousness, as he made clear today, he was trying to be provocative, and I think he was effective. Personally, I think the world is round.” … The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame named 14 finalists Saturday to be considered for election in 2017: referee Hugh Evans, Rebecca Lobo, Kim Mulkey, former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, Tracy McGrady, Sidney Moncrief, Rudy Tomjanovich, Chris Webber, Tim Hardaway, coach Bill Self, high school coach Robert Hughes, coach Muffet McGraw, coach Bo Ryan and AAU champions Wayland Baptist University. The class will be announced April 3. Candidates need 18 of 24 votes from the Hall of Fame selection committee to gain induction