Portland’s Simons wins NBA Slam-Dunk contest

Published March 8, 2021, 12:10 PM

by Agence-France-Presse

Anfernee Simons of the Portland Trail Blazers competes in the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest during the 70th NBA All-Star Game at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia on March 7, 2021. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

Portland guard Anfernee Simons won the NBA Slam-Dunk contest Sunday, the first Trail Blazer to win the high-flying competition that is part of the annual All-Star festivities.

On his lone final-round dunk, Simons soared to snag a high-bounced ball and jam in a one-handed dunk, leaning his face toward the basket as if to kiss it on the way down.

He got the nod from three of five judges over final-round foe Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks, who leapt from just inside the foul line and passed the ball between his legs for a right-handed jam.

“Pretty nervous coming in,” admitted Simons, who has just two dunks this season and 15 in his career. “But a lot of people didn’t know that I can jump pretty high. So I kind of calmed down and just showed my talents.”

The contest, usually the highlight on Saturday night of All-Star weekend, was compressed this year and held during halftime of the All-Star Game itself as festivities were limited to one day amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Toppin led the way in the two-dunk first round, opening with a dunk in which he bounced the ball between his legs on the way to a reverse slam.

On his second effort Toppin got some help from his father, Obadiah Toppin Sr., and teammate Julius Randle, leapfrogging over them with a little push off of Randle’s back.

Simons opened the first round by having the ball placed in a small plastic hoop attached to the backboard more than a foot above the rim.

He leapt to grab it with both hands and dunked it in a smooth move.

For his second dunk, Simons donned a Tracy McGrady jersey and delivering a spinning dunk McGrady made in the 2000 contest.

Indiana’s Cassius Stanley was eliminated in the first round, although he opened the event in scintillating style with a between-the-legs left-handed slam.