Due to COVID-19, the entire NBA All-Star Weekend was condensed into a one-night event on Sunday in Atlanta. Pre-game we saw Domantas Sabonis represent the big men by winning the Skills Challenge and Steph Curry remind everyone of his greatness with a brilliant 3-Point Contest performance.
At halftime, it was the Dunk Contest's chance to take center stage. Unlike most years, there were only three contestants: Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers, Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks and Anfernee Simons of the Portland Trail Blazers. Also, new this year, the final round was decided by a simple judges' choice rather than the typical scoring.
Perhaps that was a wise move considering the judges' suspect scoring in the first round overshadowed most of the actual dunks. Stanley's first effort was arguably the best dunk of the first round, yet he received just a 44 and was soon eliminated. At one point, Dwyane Wade even joked on the television broadcast that Dee Brown's eyes were still closed -- a reference to his famous dunk from the 1991 Dunk Contest.
In the end, the final came down to Simons vs. Toppin, and the judges chose Simons by a 3-2 vote to make him the first Trail Blazer to win the Slam Dunk Contest. His winning dunk was a self-lob where he attempted to kiss the rim but didn't quite reach his target. Still, it was an impressive athletic display as he showed off his incredible vertical.
Toppin, for his part, went between his legs from just inside the free throw line. Likewise, it was a remarkable show of athleticism, however, it wasn't the most original effort of all time.
Here's a look at some of the best efforts from the earlier rounds:
Stanley starts things off with a bang
The Pacers guard hasn't thrown down a dunk in an NBA game yet, but he didn't show any nerves on Sunday. He was first up and only needed one attempt to go between the legs off the self-lob. This might have been the best dunk all night, but he only got a 44.
Simons soars to the top of the square
Simons was easily the most consistent and creative performer of the night. In the first round, he set the ball up on a little platform at the top of the square on the backboard. Then he soared all the way up, grabbed the ball and threw it down. The only downside was he didn't do it with much authority.
Toppin clears Randle and his dad
Jumping over other people is a staple of every Dunk Contest, and that's because it rarely disappoints. It's just plain cool to watch a player fly up and over another person. Toppin chose to bring out his teammate, Julius Randle, as well as his father, and then threw down a powerful righty jam.
Overall, this wasn't the most exciting Dunk Contest we've ever seen, but that was always likely to be the case given the limited field and an empty arena. Of all the All-Star Weekend events, the Dunk Contest feeds off the energy of the fans the most. Plus, it's just simply not possible for every edition to be a classic like last year or 2016.