The Dallas Morning News
Perfection not enough
Smith shows off with one spectacular dunk but finishes third
LOS ANGELES — Truthfully, the only loser Saturday night was gravity. Dennis Smith Jr. didn’t win the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest, even though he did his best impression of a human flotation device on perhaps the night’s single best slam.
A jaw-dropping procession of throw-downs by Smith, Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. and winner Donovan Mitchell of Utah provided plenty of fun, but Smith left only with a third-place finish after his first dunk was judged too low to let his outrageous perfect-score second dunk to make up for it.
“I did some dunks,” Smith said in his best aw-shucks voice. “They didn’t get scored the way I thought they would.”
Smith had to settle for third with 89 combined points on his two dunks in the first round. Mitchell had 98 combined points and Nance had 93 after the first round. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo was
fourth with 71 points.
Smith’s first dunk got him a score of 39 and left him in third place going into the second round. Smith had tried to do a 360, but banged it hard off the back of the rim.
He then went for a reverse that he double-clutched from between the legs. It was good, but not good enough to get him into the top two, who advanced to the finals.
“It’s like, after you try something one time, the second time, it usually ain’t as spectacular,” Smith said. “So I went away from it and went with a little double-up.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell had come up with a dazzling dunk on his first try. Going first in the first round, he brought in a second basketball standard, which was positioned to the right and behind the main backboard. He tossed the ball off the secondary backboard and hammered it home on the main goal
Smith’s night ended up being doomed by the first dunk, because the second slam was nothing short of spectacular.
Smith slipped the ball between his legs from right hand to left and then rammed it home.
It earned the perfect 50 that he had said he had “up his sleeve” coming into the night.
“It’s pretty difficult, I ain’t going to lie to you,” Smith said of the second dunk. “But there were a lot of good dunks out there tonight.”
That much was certain. In the finals, Nance and Mitchell both had one perfect 50, but it was Mitchell’s first-round dunks that got the most attention. He not only had the two-backboard dunk, but jumped over his sister, comedian Kevin Hart and Hart’s son. The final score was 98-96 for Mitchell.
In all, it was a very representative dunk contest.
And while he didn’t take home any hardware, it capped a great All-Star weekend experience for Smith, who planned to relax after the hectic three days.
“I had a good time,” Smith said. “I enjoyed it. There were a lot of people out here showing love and just being out here around the other All-Stars, it’s pretty good company to be around.”
Smith has nixed a trip that he had planned back to North Carolina. The logistics of it simply make it too taxing. The Mavericks have to be back in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon for their first post-AllStar practice.
“It’s a five-hour flight,” Smith said. “I thought about it. Five hours, for two days, I ain’t in for that.”
When he was done, Smith said he hasn’t thought about anything other than relaxing for a few days.
As for future dunk contests? “Next year, it’s in Charlotte,” he said. “That’s near my home. So we’ll see. It depends on how my body feels. It’s a little extra incentive.” Guru meets dunker: Smith met somebody he considers sort of a guru Saturday.
His name: Bone Collector. Or at least, that’s his street-ball name. Larry Williams is his real name and he possesses what is widely considered to be the most lethal crossovers, hesitations and ankle-break moves on the planet.
OK, maybe not.
But he’s a playground legend on YouTube. And Smith got a chance to meet him Saturday morning at his hotel next to the Staples Center, where Smith got the ultimate compliment.
“The move that I use a lot when people talk about the first step is the little hesitation move,” Smith said. “I got it from Bone Collector.”
“And I just met him in the hotel today. And he told me I’m the only person in the world that can successfully do his move. I got it from watching him on YouTube.”
Another little technological miracle.