HOUSTON – Terrence Ross had to settle his nerves at the start of the All-Star dunk contest. By the end, he was calming down a ball boy he needed as a prop for his winning slam.
The 6-foot-6 Toronto Raptors rookie leapfrogged Michael Costolo, the son of Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, whipped the ball between his legs and hammered home a one-handed dunk to beat defending champion Jeremy Evans in the climax to All-Star Saturday.
“I told him the day before that I was going to jump over him, but I never told him I was going to go through the legs,” Ross said. “He was kind of nervous. When I first grabbed him, he said, ‘You’re not going to hit me, right?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not going to hit you.’”
Earlier, Ross donned a Vince Carter jersey, took a lob from high-school teammate Terrence Jones off the edge of the backboard, spun in the air, and then slammed home another one-hander. Carter, previously been the only Raptor to win the event, had put on a memorable performance in 2000.
Ross seemed to be unsure of himself in the beginning, botching his first three dunk attempts in the first round. The crowd exploded when he finally pulled it off — flicking the ball behind his back on the way up and hammering home a one-handed dunk.
He earned a perfect 50 and immediately relaxed.
“This is honestly my first really big dunk contest, so I was nervous,” said Ross, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft out of Washington. “And not making a dunk didn’t make it easy. I had to get myself together.”
Ross earned 58 per cent of the fan vote in the championship round, outdoing Evans’ prop-filled display. Evans leaped over a painted portrait of himself and former Jazz giant Mark Eaton, who sat on a box and held up the ball for Evans to swipe on his way to the rim.
Kenneth Faried, James White, 2007 dunk champion Gerald Green and Eric Bledsoe also were in the field, while Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade were among the All-Stars taking in the show.
Green started if off by taking a lob from Indiana teammate Lance Stephenson off the side of the backboard and soaring in for a reverse slam. White played off his “Flight White” nickname when he split two columns of cheerleaders dressed as flight attendants for a powerful two-handed dunk.
Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Julius Erving, singer Alicia Keys, rapper Drake, director Spike Lee and comedian Chris Tucker were among those sitting courtside. Keys is performing at halftime of Sunday’s All-Star game.
Earlier, Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving beat San Antonio’s Matt Bonner to win the 3-point contest. Irving, who will play in his first All-Star game on Sunday, hit his first seven attempts and 20 of 25 overall in the final round to finish with 23 points, two shy of the record held by Craig Hodges and Jason Kapono.
Irving also played in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, scoring 32 points. He came into the weekend with the goal of making a big splash.
“Yeah, this weekend was just basically about earning everybody’s respect, and getting a chance for people to see me that don’t usually see me,” Irving said. “We’re not nationally televised. This weekend is to show my face to the fans and get everybody acclimated to my face in the league.”
Portland rookie Damian Lillard beat Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday to win the Skills Competition. Players navigated through a dribbling circuit, had to make a jumper from the top of the key and hit passing targets. Lillard finished the course in 29.8 seconds. Holiday’s time was 35.6 seconds.
“I think the biggest thing for me was to try not to be too cool and speed through it,” Lillard said, “but take my time with the passes and shots.”
Houston point guard Jeremy Lin and defending champion Tony Parker also were in the field, but didn’t come close to qualifying for the championship round.
In the first competition of the night, the trio of Miami’s Chris Bosh, WNBA star Swin Cash and Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins won the Shooting Stars competition, beating a team of Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, WNBA star Maya Moore and former Houston Rocket Robert Horry.
Each team had two minutes to make shots from six locations on the floor, including one from half-court. Wilkins sank a half-court shot for a team time of 1 minute, 29 seconds. Westbrook rimmed out several half-court tries and time ran out before he and his teammates could make one.
The NBA tweaked the scoring format for this year’s All-Star skills exhibitions, with teams representing the East and West competing for charities. The Western Conference defeated the East 140-125. The West earned $350,000 for charity and the East earned $150,000.