George readies for dunk contest; Dr. Dunk weighs in
For the second time in three years, Paul George will look to show off his athleticism and finishes at the rim at the annual Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend.
“I’m gonna take it home,” George proclaimed on the television broadcast of the Celebrity Game Friday night. “I feel like I got to redeem myself for 2012 so that’s what tomorrow night is going to be about.”
George tied for third during his participation in 2012, when he dunked over Roy Hibbert and former teammate Dahntay Jones, and wore a glow-in-the-dark uniform. At this point, he was still trying to get his name and his brand out there.
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On Wednesday, George wouldn’t tip his hand as to what we he might try.
“I have nothing for you,” he said with a grin. “You’ll just got to wait and see Saturday.”
Since, he practiced on Friday in New Orleans and has finalized his plans. The ever-popular dunk contest has new rules this year, with three Eastern Conference players battling three Western Conference representatives. Still, a “Dunk of the Night,” as voted on by the fans, will be handed it. With George’s growing popularity and status, in addition to his high-flying skills, he’s the favorite to take home the top spot.
Darnell Hillman played for the Pacers from 1971-77 and won the 1977 dunk contest.
I talked with him on Friday about his experience and what George is facing.
“I hope that these guys take the challenge and look at it like, ‘Here’s a chance for me to leave my brand,’ so don’t come out and be half-hearted about it,” said Hillman, whose nickname is Dr. Dunk. “Figure out something and try some things that you might not make but work on it, develop it, and looking at what he’s done in the past, I think he has a great opportunity to win the thing.
“You got to be a fan favorite, I think, and you better have a dunk that grabs their attention right now and they go, ‘OH!’ and they don’t want to leave you until you’re done. Having been in the dunk contest myself, I didn’t learn that until I went up against Kareem [Abdul Jabbar] at the All-Star break. We had a coin toss and I won it. We were in his hometown of Milwaukee at the time where he was playing at and I’m thinking, ‘If I’m going to win this thing, I’ve got to get the fans on my side. So I can’t go off first and do what it is I do and then have him come behind me because he’s the favorite.’
“When I won the coin toss, I elected to have him go first. He came out with a couple of dunks that were like, ‘Whoa! The big fella has got stuff that I didn’t realize he could do.’ My best dunk was called, ‘Rock the Cradle,’ and I always pulled that one out last. I thought, “I got to get these folks right now’ so I went off with my best dunk first, after Kareem was done, and I got the fan’s attention and from there I went though my other four dunks and was able to come out ahead and win that.”