2018 All-Star Saturday: Oladipo Steps into Spotlight, Represents Pacers in Dunk Contest

Editor's Note: Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss is in Los Angeles for NBA All-Star Weekend. Each day, he'll be chronicling the Pacers' contingent at All-Star Weekend with a running blog from L.A.

Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo chose to enter the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest out of respect for his injured teammate Glenn Robinson III, hoping to help GRIII defend the title he won in last year's competition in New Orleans.

But it was not to be on Saturday night at Staples Center, where Oladipo did not advance to the finals, finishing with a total score of 71 for his two dunks, putting him in fourth place after the first round behind Utah's Donovan Mitchell (98), Cleveland's Larry Nance Jr. (93), and Dallas' Dennis Smith Jr. (89).

"It was a blast," Oladipo said. "Watching those dunks, going out there competing...It was a good time."

Mitchell defeated Nance in the finals to take home the trophy.

For his first dunk, Oladipo attempted something that would have possibly gotten a perfect score if he converted it on the first attempt. He threw the ball up in the air, then tried to throw down a no-look, two-handed slam off the bounce.

Unfortunately, Oladipo could not convert the slam on any of his three attempts, though he did get impressive air, nearly hitting his head on the rim on his third attempt.

"I was too high," Oladipo said about the ill-fated dunk. "I feel like if I would have made the first dunk, I would have went a little further in the competition. But I was so upset about missing the first dunk, the second one I really didn't have enough energy for it."

The judges gave him a score of 31 for the first round, which put him behind Mitchell (48), Nance (44), and Smith 39).

Oladipo put a Hollywood touch on his second dunk of the night, getting a Black Panther mask from actor Chadwick Boseman (who stars in the title role in the recently released film). After donning the mask, Oladipo converted a two-hand, double-clutch dunk on his second attempt, earning a score of 40 from the judges.

"I'm the Black Panther," Oladipo said. "He's one of my idols. To be able to go out there and kind of send a message and show everybody how meaningful it is to me, I thought it turned out great.

"Luckily, I made that dunk."

Oladipo said it was easy to get Boseman on board to help him out.

"The power of the NBA, I'm telling you," he said. "You're able to reach out to people and people are willing to help.

"Chadwick was nothing but generous and very willing to help. It was awesome. I've seen the movie already. It was nothing short of amazing. If you haven't checked it out, you should go check it out."

Saturday was Oladipo's second Slam Dunk Contest. He also competed in 2015 in New York, where he finished as runner-up to Zach LaVine. Minutes after the competition ended, Oladipo declared that he will not be making a third appearance in the event.

"I'm done," he said. "This was my second time doing it. I'm finished. I ain't doing it no more."

He then added a self-deprecating joke: "I barely did it today, if you watched."

But this is only just the beginning for Oladipo, who figures to be a mainstay at All-Star Weekend. The 25-year-old will play in his first All-Star Game on Sunday night at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.

Oladipo Entertains at Practice, Media Day

Posted on Feb. 17 at 6:00 PM ET

Victor Oladipo is more than just a basketball player.

The 25-year-old has blossomed into an All-Star in his first season with the Indiana Pacers, but his on-court abilities are just a few of his many talents, as he showed once again on Saturday morning at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Between practice with Team LeBron and All-Star Media Day, Oladipo put together quite the performance. He danced with the Laker Girls at center court. He sang a few bars and promoted his EP, "Songs for You." He deftly fielded questions on a variety of topics from the profound to the absurd. And this was all just a precursor to the main event on Saturday night, when Oladipo will take center stage at Staples Center to vie for the Slam Dunk Contest title.

All of this led one reporter to ask Oladipo, "Do you ever feel guilty about having all the talent?"

"I can't draw, so no," Oladipo quipped.

"I was always taught if you don't share the gifts God gives you, you're wasting your time. So I'm just trying to share all the gifts I've got."

One of those gifts is a natural ability to entertain in interviews. Oladipo didn't disappoint on Saturday at Media Day, impressing reporters with his quick wit and candor for a half hour.

After showing up last night at the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game in a Domantas Sabonis World team jersey that even Sabonis didn't know how he procured, Oladipo played coy when asked about the lengths he went to to obtain the custom jersey. But he did confirm Sabonis' story that Oladipo offered his teammate popcorn during the game.

"Just to keep him going," Oladipo said. "He finished with a double-double after that."

Like he has ever since it was announced that he would take part in this year's dunk contest, Oladipo did not reveal much about his plans for Saturday's event. He did, however, acknowledge that he learned from his previous experience in the event (he finished as runner-up to Zach LaVine in New York in 2015) that he needed to prepare more dunks and promised he had plenty in his bag this time around.

"It's going to be fun," Oladipo said. "Just going out there trying to hold it down for my man (Pacers forward and reigning Slam Dunk Contest champion) Glenn Robinson, who couldn't be here (due to injury). I'm looking forward to the opportunity. Just going to go out there and jump as high as I can, see what happens."

Oladipo did reveal that he has discussed strategy with Robinson, who told him to "use my adrenaline to jump higher." He has not, however, scouted his opponents, Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr., Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, and Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr.

"I already know those guys can dunk," Oladipo said. "I've seen them dunk all year. Some of them dunked on us. I was witness to that."

Since this year's All-Star festivities take place just a few miles from Hollywood, the topic of acting came up a few times on Saturday. Oladipo frequently posts videos of himself watching movies on social media (the "Home Alone" series and "A Goofy Movie" are among his favorites) and has been vocal earlier this season about his desire to be in a Disney movie, something he doubled down on Saturday.

"Hopefully they see this and they're like, 'Yeah, we need him in a Disney movie,'" Oladipo said. "Whenever they're ready, I'm ready, Disney."

Asked later about the script for a movie of his life, Oladipo said it would be called "The Feathery Life" (after his personal catchphrase/mantra) and it "would be an all-of-the-above movie," with equal parts drama, comedy, and action.

While he was up for the jokes and gimmicks typical of an All-Star Media Day (among other topics, Oladipo named his best four-man bobsled team and learned a couple of Japanese phrases), the Pacers guard and former Indiana University All-American was just as thoughtful when discussing more serious topics, like what it means to him to be an All-Star for the first time in his fifth NBA season.

"It's a blessing," Oladipo said. "It's definitely been really cool to come out here and experience this with these guys, some of the best our league has to offer. I'm looking forward to making this an everyday thing."

For Oladipo, it is especially important for him to be able to share this moment with his family, including his parents — both Nigerian immigrants — and his three sisters.

"It's just crazy because they saw me when I was five years old and I was just a kid with a dream," he said. "They've been along the journey, the tough roads.

"Getting traded twice in a year. Not having any college offers until my senior year. Only having one to Indiana. Not being great the first couple years (in college) and kind of just surprising everybody my third year. Then the journey in the NBA. They probably sit back and they're probably just as amazed as anybody else."

This weekend is also a temporary reunion for Oladipo and reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, who were running mates last season in Oklahoma City. The duo will be teammates once again in Sunday's All-Star Game on Team LeBron and they shared a few laughs together at Saturday's practice.

Oladipo said the practice "brings back a lot of memories" and praised Westbrook's influence on his career, calling it "a blessing" to learn firsthand from one of the NBA's best all-around guards.

"I think the biggest thing I took from Westbrook was just his mentality and his approach to every day," Oladipo said.

Perhaps the most poignant moment on Saturday came when Oladipo was asked about the recent criticism of LeBron James and Kevin Durant by a news anchor, who said they should "shut up and dribble" rather than weigh in on serious matters like politics. Like many of his fellow All-Stars, Oladipo vehemently disagreed with the nature of those comments, expressing his dissent in an eloquent response that lasted nearly two minutes.

"It's like as athletes we can't do anything but play basketball," Oladipo said. "...It doesn't really make any sense to me."

In fact, Oladipo is one of the best examples of the diverse talents NBA stars possess on and off the court. There is seemingly no limit to what he can accomplish.

"Anything is possible," Oladipo said. "It might sound cliché, but I'm living proof of that...I've been proving people wrong all of my life.

"I'm just getting started."