At the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night in New Orleans, Glenn Robinson III had the Smoothie King Center glowing with an array of awe-inspiring slams and became the first Pacers player since Fred Jones to be crowned Slam Dunk Champion.
After a head-to-head showdown with Derrick Jones Jr. of the Phoenix Suns, Robinson III's repertoire of slams proved to be too much for the competition, as the Pacers' soaring swingman executed at each turn to be crowned the 2017 Slam Dunk Champ.
"My whole career, my whole life, I've been an underdog," said Glenn Robinson III at the podium, with his trophy sitting next to him. "I'm okay with that. I'm a relaxed, chill guy. I stay out of the way. But when it's time to shine, I think that I definitely want to come with it."
The Slam Dunk Contest, which is comprised of two rounds, featured Robinson III, Clippers All-Star DeAndre Jordan, Magic forward Aaron Gordon, and Suns high-flyer Derrick Jones Jr. The players had a maximum of three attempts to complete each dunk in both the first round and the final round. The slams were graded by five judges on a scale of 6 to 10, resulting in a high score of 50 and a low score of 30. In the first round, each player was given a chance to complete two dunks and the two players with the highest combined score advanced to the head-to-head final.
In the opening round, Robinson III soared over two people, one of which was sitting on the other's shoulders, lifting the ball off the top and slamming it down on his first attempt. The dunk sent the Smoothie King Center into a frenzy and elicited the first perfect 50 of the night, as the judges — NBA legends Gary Payton, David Robinson, Dominique Wilkins, Alonzo Mourning, and Chris Webber — were struck by the athleticism of the dunk.
After the three other competitors had completed their opening dunks, Robinson was ahead of the field.
On his second dunk attempt of the opening round, Robinson III completed a 360-jam in which he dabbed on the finish (lifted his for arm in front of his face, for those unfamiliar with the dab), and was awarded a 41 by the judges, sending him and Jones Jr. of the Suns to the finals.
In a surprise, Gordon of the Magic was unable to advance to the final round, while Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, despite leaping over rapper DJ Khaled, did not accumulate enough points to make it to the head-to-head round.
Robinson III opened up the show in the final round, getting a hand from Pacers All-Star Paul George. With George holding the ball over his head, Robinson III leapt over the 6-foot, 9-inch George, finishing the dunk with a windmill. The slam, which Robinson took three runups to complete, earned him a 44 from the panel of NBA legends.
His opponent, Jones Jr., struggled to complete the first of his two slams in the final round, paving the way for GR3 to jam his way to the finish.
Needing a 44 or better to win, Robinson III brought PG back on the floor to assist, as well as Boomer and Pacemate Kayla. GR3 flew over all three and dunked with two hands, sending the crowd into a final frenzy and earning him another 50 from the judges to seal the deal.
"I couldn't dunk until my sophomore year in high school, and now not even a decade later, I won an NBA Dunk Contest," Robinson III told reporters after he had won. "Going into this, I hadn't really practiced any trick dunks. I hadn't really got time. I focused on playing. I focused on starting and playing to the best of my ability. When they gave me this chance, it took me a week to come up with some things that nobody's ever seen in the NBA dunk contest."
Prior to the Dunk Contest, Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, and Eric Gordon of Houston Rockets (and North Central High School in Indianapolis) was crowned champion of the JBL Three Point Contest. All of which set the stage for the night's main event, the Slam Dunk Contest. From there, Robinson III showed what he had been working on for weeks, unveiling a series of acrobatic slams to bring the Slam Dunk trophy back to Indiana for the first time since 2004.
"The shoes I had today, maize and blue, Pacers colors. I'm an Indiana kid," GR3 explained. "To be playing for Indiana and representing the state means a lot to me, and the fans and everybody wanted to see me do great."