LOS ANGELES (AP) — Blake Griffin leaped over a car and threw down a two-handed dunk to the accompaniment of a gospel choir, winning the slam dunk contest in iconic style before his hometown fans on All-Star Saturday.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ rookie caught a pass out of the sunroof from teammate Baron Davis and easily cleared the 2011 Kia Optima’s hood while the Crenshaw Select Choir sang “I Believe I Can Fly” at midcourt.READ MORE: In Advance Of Omicron's Arrival, New York City Children Flock To Vaccine Pop-Up Sites, Report Few, If Any, Problems
The inventive slam drove home the obvious point of the All-Star weekend’s silly Saturday: Griffin has both the raw athleticism and the showtime flair to be the NBA’s next big star.
With an entire building solidly behind Griffin, finalist Javale McGee of Washington and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan really didn’t stand a chance despite their own creative dunks at Staples Center.
Earlier, Miami’s James Jones held off Boston teammates Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to win his first 3-point shootout, and Golden State’s Stephen Curry won the Skills Challenge.
But All-Star Saturday was a showcase for Griffin, who started the contest with an irresistibly 360-degree spin dunk before converting a bounce pass off the side of the backboard in the first round.
The first rookie All-Star in eight years then brought back an impossibly difficult favorite with his first dunk of the final, sticking his arm into the hoop and hanging from it by his elbow, just as Vince Carter did while winning the 2000 contest.
And when fans saw the car driving out of the arena tunnel, this contest already seemed to be over.
Griffin is in the midst of the busiest All-Star weekend in the NBA’s recent history. He scored 14 points in the Rookie Challenge, and he stayed in the dunk contest even after getting chosen for the West squad in Sunday’s main event.READ MORE: Omicron Variant Was In Europe Before South Africa Sounded Alarm
The forward from Oklahoma is averaging 22.8 points and 12.6 rebounds as the strong rookie of the year favorite for the Clippers, but he’s best known around the world for his astonishing dunking skills, combining the hops of a guard with a center’s raw strength.
All four dunkers distinguished themselves in Hollywood, showing planning and invention in what’s sometimes a slapdash event — but Griffin was the overwhelming favorite for nearly every All-Star gathered at Staples Center, and he didn’t disappoint.
After DeRozan opened the contest by catching a pass off the backboard and putting it between his legs for a slick one-handed jam, Serge Ibaka took the court amid several banners for NBA Africa and promptly threw down a Dr. J-style long-jump dunk from the free throw line.
McGee then got creative, ordering a second basket standard attached to a forklift and placed right next to the hoop. After several misses, he managed to throw down a left-handed dunk while tossing the other ball off the backboard to himself for a right-handed jam, earning a perfect 50.
After several misses on his second attempt, Griffin caught a pass off the side of the backboard from Davis for a one-handed jam that was enough to send him into the second round.
McGee joined him after dunking three balls on the same leap, slapping home a pass for the third jam. DeRozan couldn’t make the final round despite an impressive second dunk in which he threw a pass to himself off the backboard for a windmill reverse jam.
After Griffin’s elbow dunk in the final, McGee floated underneath the rim and threw down an impossibly twisting jam from the other side.
That’s when Griffin rolled out his wheels.MORE NEWS: 4 Firefighters Injured In Ceiling Collapse Battling Upper East Side Restaurant Fire
McGee made another difficult dunk in his final attempt, but Griffin received 68 percent of the fan voting that determines the final result.