BLEDSOE EARNS PERFECT SCORE ON SECOND DUNK
HOUSTON – Fall Out Boy, 2 Chainz, flashing lights and fireworks greeted the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk contestants Saturday night at Toyota Center.
About 30 minutes later, Eric Bledsoe proved worthy of the grand introduction.
Despite being eliminated after two dunks in the premier event of All-Star Saturday, the Clippers young guard put together two of the more explosive and creative dunks of the opening round, scoring a perfect 50 on his second slam of the night.
“It was my first dunk contest, so to get a 50 in it is a great feeling,” Bledsoe said as he sat at a round table in the post-contest mixed zone.
Bledsoe scored a 39 on his first dunk, which came after four attempts at a 360-degree slam between his legs.
“I just couldn’t make the first dunk, came with my backup plan and that’s the score I got,” Bledsoe said. “I’ve made it plenty of times, but I just tried to dunk it too hard.”
That dunk was widely considered his go-to attempt by his Clippers teammates. His backup plan consisted of slapping the ball off the backboard, contorting his body back towards the rim and dunking with his right hand.
“I started getting a little fatigued after a couple tries,” Bledsoe said. “You know, I’m short, so you try too many times, you’re not going to have your wind or nothing. I just tried to make the most of it.”
And the 6-foot Bledsoe did just that. His second dunk of the first round electrified a crowd that Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried said helped build suspense and momentum as the contest progressed.
Bledsoe lobbed the ball in the air, caught it off the bounce, whipped it below his waist and dunked it backwards with two hands. The slam earned Bledsoe the fourth perfect score of the opening round, which consisted of three dunkers from each conference getting two slams each. The top individual scorer from the West and top from the East would advance to a final round to be decided by fan vote.
“I loved E-Bled’s (Bledsoe) windmill,” Chris Paul said. “He laid out and did that. I don’t do that stuff.”
Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors, who became the first Raptors player since Vince Carter in 2000 to win the contest, faced off with Jeremy Evans in the finals.
Evans surpassed Bledsoe by one point to earn the right to face Ross. The Jazz forward and defending dunk champion scored a 43 when he dunked two basketballs on the same attempt.
“[People on the sideline were saying,] if I would have completed the first dunk, I probably would have made it to the championship,” Bledsoe said. “A lot of guys on the sidelines, especially on the West were cheering me on.”
Ross stole the show in the finals which included an iconic dunk off the side of the backboard while wearing a vintage Carter jersey. Still, there was plenty of talk about Bledsoe afterwards.
“He’s a small guy and he’s really explosive,” Faried said. “But I knew this already, way before tonight. I knew this when he was at Kentucky when we used to play against each other.”
Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, who was one of five judges affiliated with the hometown Houston Rockets, said, “I thought Bledsoe was strong and looked pretty good. For a little guy to do what he was doing…”
Afterwards, Bledsoe couldn’t help but smile as he was talking to the media while wearing his home white Clippers uniform with a Sprite Slam Dunk patch on the right shoulder. He had never been in a dunk contest before and seemed proud of his showing, and ability to overcome nervousness on such a large stage.
“When I left out of my hotel room, the nerves started then,” Bledsoe said. “[They went away] when I got up. When it was time for me to do my dunk they kind of went away.”
The experience may even cause him to do it again.
“Hopefully, if the time presents itself, I’d think about it,” Bledsoe said. “But this has been a great experience for me, just to be in this weekend. A lot of people don’t get an opportunity to get to do this and it’s a great feeling.”