* UPDATE (Feb. 5): Utah's Donovan Mitchell to replace injured Aaron Gordon
NEW YORK -- NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers, 2016 runner-up Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic and first-time participants Larry Nance Jr. of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks will display their aerial creativity in the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The 33rd Verizon Slam Dunk is part of State Farm® All-Star Saturday Night, which will air on TNT and ESPN Radio at 8 p.m. ET. All-Star Saturday Night also includes the Taco Bell Skills Challenge and the JBL Three-Point Contest.
In addition to the star-studded competitions, Daytime Emmy® Award winner and Extra host Mario Lopez will welcome fans and introduce the night, while Grammy® Award nominee Andra Day and Academy® Award winner Common will perform a special rendition of the 2018 Academy Award-nominated song “Stand Up for Something” from the movie Marshall. Part of the NBA Voices platform and in celebration of Black History Month, the performance will feature current and former NBA and WNBA players and incorporate words chosen by a handful of players that reflect black history and culture, and their collective commitment to equality and diversity.
Here is a look at the four participants for the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk:
Victor Oladipo, Pacers: A first-time All-Star this season, Oladipo ranks 13th in the NBA in scoring (career-high 23.9 ppg) while shooting career highs of 48.8 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from three-point range. This is his second Verizon Slam Dunk appearance, having finished second to Zach LaVine in 2015. At the inaugural NBA Awards last June, Oladipo won the fan-voted Dunk of the Year for the 2016-17 season. The 6-4 guard is seeking to become the second consecutive Pacer to win the event; Indiana’s Glenn Robinson III, the 2017 champion, is working his way back from ankle surgery.
Aaron Gordon, Magic: This marks the third consecutive Slam Dunk appearance for Gordon, whose runner-up finish to LaVine in 2016 included three straight perfect scores of 50. In his fourth season, the 6-9 forward is averaging career highs of 18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. He has already set a career high for three-pointers made in a season with 79. Gordon has scored at least 40 points in a game twice this season – the first Magic player to do so since Dwight Howard in the 2010-11 season.
Larry Nance Jr., Lakers: The 6-9 forward is the son of three-time NBA All-Star Larry Nance, who won the inaugural Verizon Slam Dunk in 1984 by defeating Julius Erving in the final round. Nance Jr. is posting career highs in scoring (8.8 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg) and field goal percentage (60.3) in his third season. He was a finalist for Dunk of the Year last season. Competing at his home arena, Nance is seeking to become the Lakers’ first Slam Dunk winner since Kobe Bryant in 1997.
Dennis Smith Jr., Mavericks:Renowned for his vertical leap, Smith ranks fifth among rookies in scoring (14.8 ppg) and fourth in assists (4.8 apg). The 6-3 guard registered his first triple-double on Dec. 29 against the New Orleans Pelicans, joining Jason Kidd (1994-95) as the only Dallas rookies with a triple-double. Smith, the ninth pick in NBA Draft 2017 presented by State Farm, will compete for the U.S. Team in Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars on Friday, Feb. 16 during NBA All-Star 2018.
Verizon Slam Dunk Rules
In the two-round event, participants can perform any dunk they choose. The players have a maximum of three attempts to complete each dunk in both the first round and the final round. Five judges score every dunk on a scale of 6 to 10, resulting in a high score of 50 and a low score of 30.
All four competitors get two dunks in the first round. The two players with the highest combined score for their two dunks advance to the head-to-head final round. The player with the highest combined score for his two dunks in the final round is crowned the champion. Click here for a complete explanation of the rules.
For complete list of previous winners click here.