HOUSTON — When Terrence Ross was in college at Washington, his profile picture on Twitter was an illustration of himself dunking the moon.
Overkill, maybe, but you know what they say you’re supposed to shoot for.
Ross, of the Toronto Raptors, did not need to dunk the moon in order to win the NBA Slam-Dunk Contest Saturday night at Toyota Center in Houston. He defeated Jeremy Evans in the finals with an off-the-side-of-the-glass, windmill alley-oop from former high school teammate Terrence Jones. It reminded most people of another former Raptor, Vince Carter. His second dunk in the finals was a relatively standard between-the-legs dunk accented mainly by the on-court presence of a small child who Ross identified as the son of the owner of Twitter.
And so it was that Terrence Ross, in a way, went from dunking on Twitter to . . . dunking on Twitter.
“I feel blessed,” he said. “But it’s still overwhelming.”
The event, which followed the 3-point contest won by Kyrie Irving, has lost a lot of its gravitas over the years. Ross said he watched the dunk contest every year, studying the greats.
But the greats don’t participate anymore, which is part of the problem. LeBron James and many other All-Stars were in street clothes. As the dunks have gotten more complicated the event itself has lost something, but this still meant a lot to Ross. He seemed he was being earnest when said he was overwhelmed, and he was definitely not lying when he said he was nervous.
On Ross’ first pass, he missed five consecutive dunks before finally getting one down as his time expired.
For this the judges — Houston Rockets greats Rudy Tomjanovich, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Clyde Drexler and Yao Ming — awarded him a perfect score of 50.
The ruse was on.
The upshot was that we did finally find out the minimum number of points it is possible to score on a single dunk. Logically, the number assigned to complete failure would be zero, but that was proven not to be the case Saturday.
In the second round, James White exhausted his time without making a dunk of any kind and was awarded 32 points. Immediately following White was Gerald Green, who attempted a dunk never before seen by mankind. He began by ceremonially clipping the net, for a reason that would soon become obvious. The idea was to dunk the ball through with the right hand, catch it with the left and quickly flush it with that hand too. A net would have made this impossible.
Maybe Green deserved some credit, as he flawlessly executed the right-handed portion of the dunk each time. But it was only after his time expired that he completed the whole thing. The judges gave him 32 points for that.
Ross advanced to the finals having gone 2 for 7 on his dunks in the first two rounds.
Evans was only a little more successful. His first-round attempt was an ordeal in which former Jazz center Mark Eaton sat in a chair in the paint and held a ball over his head. Evans would jump over Eaton’s head, grab the ball, and flush it. He missed the first two and made No. 3, earning 47 points.
In round two Evans did the “dunk two balls at once” thing, which is a dunk older than Jeremy Evans himself. He was the night’s most creative performer, and may have deserved the trophy if artistic merit were an official category. For his first dunk in the finals, he set up what looked like a large easel in the paint. It was covered with a black sheet. So he dunked over the mystery contraption, then pulled the sheet to reveal an oil painting depicting him doing the exact dunk he had just done. The emcee hollered something about “dunking on the future.”
His second dunk was less creative, but more majestic. It is safe to say that nobody got higher and dunked with more grace than Evans did on his second attempt in the finals.
But the finals are judged by fan voting, and it could have been that the rapper Drake swayed the votes a little. A Canadian, Drake was pulling for the Raptor, and after Ross’ first attempt went stomping across the floor to congratulate him. He made a big show of it, the way rappers do.
“It was my favorite event to watch every year, since I was a small child,” Ross said. “But actually winning it, I never thought I’d do it.”
So the whole episode was nearly over, and then it happened. Someone took it too seriously. Someone asked Ross if winning the dunk contest validated his decision to leave Washington despite having not exhausted his NCAA eligibility.
“I don’t know if it’s validation,” he said. “But it definitely feels good.”