LOS ANGELES, Feb. 14 --
A powerful, one-handed dunk lifted Indiana's Fred Jones
to the 2004 Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk title over two-time champion Jason Richardson
. But in the end it was Jones' final, missed dunk that was the talk of the night.
After taking the lead in the final round with a very impressive one-handed, off-the-floor slam, the 6-2 guard decided to try something different heading into his final dunk. So he tossed the ball into the stands to a fan wearing a No. 20 Jones jersey.
It turns out that the fan in question was Jones' former high-school and summer-league teammate, Brandon Brooks. With a spotlight shining on him, and the anticipation building, Brooks tossed the ball up into the air from roughly five rows back. The ball then bounced high off of the hardwood, where his old teammate rose up to receive it and, ostensibly, throw it down.
Fred Jones used an array of powerful dunks to seal his first dunk title.
The first pass hit the bottom of the backboard. Try again. The second pass also went awry. But that didn't stifle the anticipation building in the arena. The crowd started cheering loudly before the third attempt. Brooks calmly tossed it to the court, and the pass appeared to be on target. But the ball went off of Jones' fingertips, up off of the backboard, and then through the rim. While Jones didn't actually dunk the ball, it wound up counting because it was a successful field goal. Jones received a 36. The crowd urged the judges to give the combo another try at their inventive dunk, but it wasn't to be.
Jones wound up winning despite the 36, and the talk after the event was mostly of the missed attempt.
"The idea actually came from high school," explained Brooks. "In high-school gyms, there's usually a back wall. Fred used to throw it off the back wall and dunk it that way, but in NBA arenas, there aren't any back walls. So we tried it this way."
The longtime friends were creating their memorable moment on the fly, only deciding to try the dunk upon entering the arena.
"I just wanted to catch the ball wherever he put it, and maybe cock it to the side before dunking it," explained Fred.
Jones almost lost the competition to Richardson on the Golden State guard's final dunk of the night, but Richardson missed an off-the-floor, elbow-through-the-rim dunk in the last overall attempt of the night. The Pacers guard was crowned champion by virtue of his first dunk in the final round, an impressive flush that Jones seemed to lose control of in mid-air, only to reel it back in and throw it home.
"I wanted it as far away as possible to be able to extend for a little more flair," said Jones of his second 50-point dunk of the night. He also received a 50 in the first round for a powerful one-handed, off-the-floor dunk.
Richardson, who badly wanted to become the first player to win three straight dunk titles, conceded that Jones' final missed attempt was the most exciting play of the night.
"Too bad I didn't use that one," said Richardson afterwards.
Richardson finished second in the contest, placing ahead of Denver's Chris Andersen, whom Richardson believed should have received much higher scores.
"(Andersen) got cheated; he was the only one who got cheated," said Richardson. "That first dunk he did should have been a 50."
Andersen's first dunk was impressive, indeed, as the 6-10 forward flew from the left elbow, pivoted in mid-air, and drove home a two-handed reverse windmill.
"Everybody has their opinions, but I could tell by the crowd reaction that it was a good dunk," said Andersen, who received just a 42 for the dunk. "Hopefully I'll have a chance to try again next year."
Andersen finished third, ahead of the Celtics' Ricky Davis, but his dunking was nearly upstaged by his wild hairdo. His blonde hair teased into long spikes, Andersen received some ribbing from none other than STAPLES staple Jack Nicholson before his first dunk.
"On special occasions, sometimes I throw my hair up," explained Andersen afterwards.
Still, the night ultimately belonged to Jones, who has now won six of seven dunk contests in his life, dating back to his days as an amateur baller.
"I think I've had better dunk contests," Jones admitted afterwards.
Still, his performance on this night was good enough to give him the win. And a little help from a friend was enough to make it a memorable competition overall.