The New York Knicks will have a representative in the 2021 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, set to take place on March 7 at halftime of the All-Star Game. Rookie Obi Toppin is expected to participate in the contest, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. The Knicks made Toppin the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft last November, and he has appeared in 23 games for the team so far this season.
Toppin was known for performing high-flying dunks during his time in college at Dayton, and that has carried over to the NBA. On the season, a third of all of Toppin's made shots (15-of-45) have been dunks. In addition to Toppin, Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and Indiana Pacers guard Cassius Stanley are also expected to participate, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. With those three participating, there's one more spot open, and New Orleans Pelicans All-Star forward Zion Williamson recently left the door open for an appearance.
"Who knows? That's all I can say," Williamson said about participating in the contest. "Who knows? I might. You never know."
It's safe to say that the league -- and fans -- would love to have a big-name player like Williamson headlining the annual event, which has lacked star-power in recent years. Stars like Michael Jordan (1987, 1988) and Kobe Bryant (1997) won the event in the past, and the league likely wouldn't mind adding another well-known name, like Williamson, to the list. Given his explosion and athleticism, Williamson would have a solid shot at winning the contest, should he participate.
While Williamson might participate, a former champion of the event has decided not to. Bulls guard Zach LaVine, who won the contest in 2015 and 2016, made it clear that he wouldn't be looking to reclaim the crown.
"Last year I was thinking about doing it, especially because it was in Chicago," LaVine said of the contest, via The Chicago Tribune. "But I'm a little bit past that now and we've got a lot of games left. I don't want to lose my legs."
Portland's Derrick Jones Jr. won the event last year after defeating Orlando's Aaron Gordon in epic fashion in the final round, and he'll likely want to defend the title, although he hasn't said so publicly. The full list of participants for the Slam Dunk Contest, along with the other All-Star events, should be released in the coming days.