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Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Needs More Fizz

Defending champion Jeremy Evans jumped over a covered canvass to deliver a nasty, left-handed jam. Next, he pulled off the black drape, revealing a painting of himself soaring with his southpaw. He then autographed the rendering for good measure in his final performance of the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

For his first dunk in the final round, Raptors forward Terrence Ross donned a vintage Vince Carter Toronto uni, and after receiving a pass off the side of the backboard from Rockets forward Terence Jones, leapt into a leaning twister.

If the former gave new meaning to the concept of life imitating art, Ross’s rise was more akin to Andre Igoudala's 2006 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest efforts, which somehow placed second to Nate Robinson that year, than Vinsanity’s Half Man, All-Amazing performance in 2000. This is meant as no disrespect to Michael Jordan, whose 50th birthday on Feb. 17 is the unofficial theme of the All-Star Weekend festivities --the last of which commissioner David Sterm will preside over -- in Houston, but Carter’s set that night in Oakland marked the greatest jam session ever.

That certainly wasn't the case on Saturday night. Jazzman Evans (starting from the right sideline, he eventually succeeded in jumping over former Utah center Mark “Mount” Eaton, who was seated on a Sprite cube holding the ball, for a one-motion reverse) and 2013 winner Ross (amazingly, he scored an opening-round 50 for a fifth-time’s-the-charm, wrap-around-the-waist slam) were among the complicit competitors, who collectively found the unprotected iron unkind far too many times -- no doubt to the dismay of Tim Brando and viewers around the world.

James White came highly hyped courtesy of YouTube clips, including a Russian contest against 2007 Sprite Slam Dunk champion and current Indiana Pacer Gerald Green (whose opening-round, head-ducking jaunt underneath the left side of the backboard may have been Saturday night’s best), extolling the journeyman’s various foul line flushes. Those have included a through-the-legs throwdown from 15 feet out.  But he now Knick essentially whited out on the big stage, managing just one dunk -- albeit a two-hander from the free throw stripe -- in two rounds. Perhaps he should have practiced in the week leading up to his too-little moment at the Toyota Center.

Green also came up empty in his second round: He cut down the net as a foil to dunk the ball with his right hand and then cram it with the other in one motion. After time had expired, he managed to complete a modified version of his goal at the goal: After dunking right-handed, he held himself up on the rim and finally got the left to go down.

During the All-Star Saturday Night postscript, TNT’s Charles Barkley perhaps said it best:"We've got to find a way for the stars of the league [to participate]...The stars have to understand they've got to give something back to the game [and participate in the Slam Dunk]. We've got to get the stars.” 

In recent years, Dwight Howard, then more Superman than today's Kryptonite version, came to dunk. Check out the reaction of best bud' Kobe Bryant (the 1997 winner) to Howard's behind-the-backboard hammer in the 2008 competition.

Where, Barkley asked, was 2011 dunk champion Blake Griffin? Where was The King? Unlike the former Lords of the Rim, Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Dr. J did multiple times, LeBron James has never participated in the event.

In other words, fans and TNT executives need today’s top-level NBA stars to jump into the event the Jumpman once ruled.