Last February, the basketball world took notice of Terrence Ross at All-Star Weekend when the Toronto Raptors rookie took home the 2013 Sprit Slam Dunk Contest Championship. After making the finals by judges scoring, he topped Utah forward Jeremy Evans in a fan vote, 58-42, for the crown.
The highlight was surely Ross sporting a Vince Carter throwback, but he had some terrific jams throughout – a 360 behind-the-back (50), a self-alley-oop 360 with his eyes at the rim (49), an alley-oop off the side of the backboard for a 360-windmill and a between-the-legs over a child that made Drake lose his cool.
After an excellent performance and with the field unset a month before the 2014 contest, many have been hoping Ross will head to New Orleans to defend his crown. Early in the season, that suggestion was met with a pretty emphatic no from the Washington product, but he’s since softened.
Defending champions don’t always defend (since 2000, four champions have declined to defend – Carter, Blake Griffin, Nate Robinson after his third victory, and Fred Jones, though probably not by choice), but the reasons to return are pretty obvious. It’s fun, for one. Second, winning a second title puts you in an elite class, as only five others have won twice and only three have won back-to-back). And, of course, as young player coming up, it can do wonders for your popularity around the league.
It’s also nice for the franchise to be represented, though the Raptors may already have representation at All-Star Weekend – Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are borderline All-Star candidates and Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross could both make whatever they’re calling the Rookie-Sophomore game now.
In any case, Raptors fans seem to want Ross to defend his title, so I broached the topic with him after Thursday’s practice (the interview was primarily about defense, but I had to sneak the dunk contest question in).
Raptors Republic: So I have to ask the question…dunk contest?
Terrence Ross: Yeah, I mean…
Raptors Republic: The people want it, man.
Terrence Ross: I know , but at the same time it’s gonna be a lot on my legs. I was thinking about trying to do the 3-point contest but I don’t know how that goes. Who knows?
Ross is shooting 41.4 percent on threes this season, 23rd among qualified shooters, and he ranks 24th with 67 made triple. So he has a case, though it’s not as obvious a case as his dunk contest candidacy.
Raptors Republic: And the defending champs tend not to do that well. (Since 2000, defending champs are 1-for-8, though they’ve made the finals six times.) Not many guys, except for Nate.
Terrence Ross: Vince, he did it once. He won and then after that (didn’t go back). That’s what I kind of want to do but at the same time, there’s a lot of pressure to try and go back into it, so…who knows, who knows?
Raptors Republic: You working on a couple dunks just in case?
Terrence Ross: Yeah, I got a couple things. I’m always thinking about stuff. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
Raptors Republic: Can you give me a scoop on any?
Terrence Ross: DeMar has some stuff for me. It might be a little similar to last year but at the same time a lot different. Who knows?
So he’s not committing, but he seems to have become more open to the idea than he was. That’s a good thing, because I have no doubt he’d be able to pull out some semi-original, hyper-athletic jams once again.
Ideally, my (realistic) dunk contest would have Ross defend against Tony Mitchell, Victor Oladipo, Quincy Miller, Giannis Antetokounmpo and maybe Miles Plumlee in the final spot. Who are your ideal six, assuming the NBA wants to go with six again (I nixed the ‘three from each conference’ thing, but forced to stick to that I’d add Terrence Jones)?
As a refresher, here are Ross’ dunks from the 2013 contest:
And here are all the dunks from the 2013 instalment of the awesome event that everyone craps on because it’s the internet and people hate fun: