NEW ORLEANS (AP) — While the NBA All-Star dunk contest had come under increasing scrutiny for a lack of originality and an increase in gimmicks, Washington's John Wall insisted some new ideas are out there, if people know where to look.
Wall said a friend sent him a YouTube video of 27 dunks that had never been performed during the marquee event of NBA All-Star Saturday.
"There's some ideas out there. It's just the dunks are very hard to do," Wall said. "You've just got to trust yourself to go out there and try, and try to master it."
The first dunk Wall saw in the online video, he liked, and used it to eliminate Sacramento's Ben McLemore and seal up the Eastern Conference's triumph in the event, which for the first time was a competition among conferences.
The winning dunk involved leaping over a mascot from behind, grabbing the ball on the way over the mascot's head, then slamming home a two-handed, double-pump reverse jam.
"It seemed hard, but for me it came out to be easy, so it worked out in my favor," Wall said.
This dunk contest was not without gimmicks, however. Defending champion Terrence Ross entered the court wearing a boxing robe. Later, McLemore dunked by leaping over a throne on which Kings minority owner Shaquille O'Neal sat, and then McLemore knelt while O'Neal placed a crown on his head.
CELEBS: As usual, All-Star Saturday night drew its share of celebrities.
They included Rappers Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Nelly and Drake; actors Chris Tucker and Kevin Hart; film maker Spike Lee, and popular New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty.
Drake even got on the court during the dunk contest, holding the ball up about chest-high to help Ross execute his jam that eliminated Portland's Damian Lillard. As Ross initiated his jump, he grabbed the ball from Drake, passed it under his legs and then threw down a windmill jam.
Meanwhile, the NBA invited current rapper Kendrick Lamar, who wore a black hooded sweatshirt, to perform after the 3-point contest, and 90s rapper Vanilla Ice, wearing a red ball-cap, red T-shirt, red shorts and red sneakers, to perform before the final round of the dunk contest.
PATIENT UNION: A year after ousting Billy Hunter as executive director of the union, NBA players still aren't ready to replace him.
Players held their All-Star weekend meeting Saturday and were introduced to the remaining candidates for Hunter's old job, but they aren't ready to make a decision, or even to say when they expect one.
"This process has been long but we're not in a rush," vice president Roger Mason Jr. of the Miami Heat said.
Working with the executive search firm Reilly Partners, players said they began with a list of more than 200 candidates, but wouldn't say how many remain or even if they should be considered finalists. Those who remained in the process were invited to the meeting Saturday and met with a group of about 30 players who attended.