Jason Richardson participated in three straight Slam Dunk contests beginning with his rookie year. He became the only person other than Michael Jordan to win back-to-back championships. He sat down with warriors.com for this exclusive interview to look back at those three contests.
Kenny Smith said this dunk was so sick "it had the flu." This dunk capped off a great day for J-Rich, who not only won the Dunk Contest but also the Rookie Challenge MVP hours earlier.
I really wanted to win the dunk contest. It was something I had been dreaming about since I was a little kid. To actually be there and having to do the “Spin the Wheel” thing, I was hoping that it landed on the Dominique Wilkins dunk because I knew all of them and I could do all of them. I got lucky…I think there was one more pin and it would have landed on someone else’s dunk, but it ended up staying on Dominique Wilkins dunk.
(warriors.com): With the Spin the Wheel that year, you had to match Gerald Wallace with the extended Dr. J from the free throw line dunk. This meant you had to take off on one foot. What do you remember about that one?
I had a little trouble with that. I knew if I could just get the ball near the rim I would be alright. I tried to do my best job at it, but I ended up jumping from the dotted line instead of the free throw line.
(warriors.com): This was also dunk contest which featured the use of a partner. What made you choose Gilbert?
Gilbert helped out both years because he gave me dunks that I used in the Finals of the contests. The Atlanta dunk in 2002 was one he thought of. He is very creative. He always had these different types of dunks that he thought of but could never do himself. So he would give me the inside on them.
Needing a 49 to top Mason, J-Rich manages to top it by flushing this dunk behind his head after going between his legs. This one even gets the All-Stars out of their seats.
In 2003 I knew it was going to be tough because I was the reigning dunk champion and guys were going to be going after me to win it. Gilbert gave me a dunk to do and it was my first time ever doing it. Well, it was my second time because the first time I attempted it I missed it. He watched me in practice and said he knew I could make it in the contest. So we never tried it again except for in the contest in 2003 and it actually was really the first time I ever really made it.
(warriors.com): Going into this year, if you won the contest you would become the only player besides Michael Jordan to win back-to-back dunk contests. Some of the judges that year were some of the great champions from previous years. Your idol Dominique was there, Jordan was there, Spud Webb. Was that extra special to be able to perform in front of them?
It was great having those guys that were former dunk champions there. Especially Jordan and Dominique. Those were guys I looked up to growing up as a kid. It was honor to be in that dunk contest. Even if I didn’t win it, it was still such a special dunk contest for me to be there with those guys.
(warriors.com): The dunk to get you do the Finals was still a pretty impressive dunk. It was a windmill off a bounce. Do you think that was even a better dunk than the one that won the contest for you?
No, I think the second one was better because that was one that nobody had ever seen before. The first one was just something that I had to do to get the judges on my side. You know Dominique was windmill guy and Jordan was kind of a windmill guy. So I had to come out strong with the first one.
(warriors.com): Going into the Finals, Desmond Mason had a pretty spectacular dunk himself. What were you thinking sitting there watching his dunk?
The first dunk he had, he went between the legs and took off from pretty far out to get the crowd behind him. He got them on his side after that one.
Right. I knew I needed to do the dunk that me and Gilbert had talked about. That was my only chance to win. When I first got the ball it wasn’t bouncy enough. I threw it up and I didn’t like the air it was getting, so I asked for a different ball.
(warriors.com): The announcers at the time were saying that a bounce type of dunk wasn’t going to do it for you. But you knew you had something a little different with the bounce?
Yeah. I knew the bounce was really going to work for me because I get up higher when I bounce it.
(warriors.com): You threw your arms up as soon as you came down like you knew you had it….
Yeah, I knew I had it. I knew I had my 50. I knew I had done something that nobody had ever seen and nobody had ever done before. That’s what the dunk contest is all about. Guys do different dunks nobody has ever done before and something that is really difficult.
(warriors.com): Something you really don’t notice until you slow it down and watch the replay is that you went back-to-forward between your legs instead of forward-to-back.
It’s a really difficult dunk. You have to throw the ball up and catch it with both hands and you have to take it with your right hand and go underneath your legs. Then bring it up with your left to dunk it. It’s a very difficult dunk.
Kenny: "That is the most incredible dunk I've ever seen!" Charles: "You say that every year." The Jet may be right, as J-Rich goes between his legs ... after catching it off the glass.
(warriors.com): Was this your best dunk of all-time?
It might be. It’s between that one and the reverse, between-the-legs from 2003.
(warriors.com): Did you practice this one?
Yeah, I practiced it once and I had done it once. It was one of those things that I knew if I tried it again I could do it. It’s a pretty good dunk. Again, it’s one of those ones that nobody has ever done before. You have to try and be creative in these things.
(warriors.com): You did this one in the first round. Was there any thought of saving it for the Finals?
Well my first dunk wasn’t as strong as I thought it was going to be. It was something to get out there and get some points. I came off the baseline for a reverse dunk and I knew I had to come up with something hard to get me to the Finals.
(warriors.com): Did you feel like you wasted your best dunk?
No, I had the other one that I was trying to do in the Finals which was a between the legs 360. It was tough, I was getting tired. My legs were getting tired and my body was getting tired.
It would have meant a lot to me. But it didn’t happen that way. In the Finals I actually had the opportunity to win the contest with a simple dunk, but that’s not who I am. I want to win the contest with a dunk that sends a message. I tried to do the 360 with an arm in the rim. I could have had it, but I was so tired by that point by dunking so many times.
(warriors.com): You said it’s a tie for your best dunk between the one in ’03 and the one in ’04. If you had to choose one, which one would it be?
I think 2003 was probably my best just because it helped me win the dunk contest. ’04 was just a pretty good dunk that got me to the Finals.
(warriors.com): Have you ever done one in practice that we’ve never seen in one of these contests?
Of course the one that I tried in 2004 and didn’t finish…the 360 between the legs. I’ve have tried it one other time in my life and completed it. I don’t think I could do it again though.
(warriors.com): What’s it going to be like not competing in the dunk contest for the first time in your career?
It’s going to be weird because I’m used to being at All Star Weekend for the past three years doing the Rookie Challenge and the Dunk Contest. But it’s going to be nice to just relax and enjoy watching it on TV and getting away from it.
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