Note: Rashad Mobley is in Los Angeles for the 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend festivities following the entertaining activities of John Wall and JaVale McGee as they put their great individual talent on display to the world. He covered the Rookie-Sophomore Game, the All-Star practice, and last night, the Skills Competition and the Dunk Contest…
When John Wall set the NBA Rookie-Sophomore game record with 22 assists on Friday night, he gave NBA viewers all over the world a glimpse of his limitless potential. JaVale McGee had that same opportunity on Saturday night and he showed NBA fans some creative dunks that had not been seen in quite some time, and in a couple cases, ever.
First up was Wall and his brief Skills competition appearance. Earlier in the weekend, Wall informed Washington Post writer Michael Lee that he expected the passes to be a problem for him, and that turned out to be a prophetic statement. His initial chest pass rattled in and then back out, and Wall had to run back and try again. After hitting the jumper on his second attempt (where I fully expected him to struggle), Wall then took two attempts to complete the outlet pass. His time of 39.3 seconds in the first round was not good enough to advance — however, it was good enough to beat last place Chris Paul, who finger-rolled and missed a point blank layup. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors ended up defeating Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the final with a time of 28.2 seconds.
Next it was JaVale’s turn to shine, and he seized his moment and then some. For his first round dunk, he aligned two baskets right next to each other, and dunked on them both in with two separate balls. It took him several tries to get it right, but once he did, he was awarded with a perfect score of 50.
In the second round, JaVale enlisted the help of Wall and his mother Pamela McGee. First, Pam brought an extra ball through the crowd, wearing a modified version of her old LA Sparks WNBA warm-up, and surrounded by “security” guards dwarfed by her and her son (Pam also made sure to greet each dunk contest judge with a kiss on the cheek). Wall’s task was simply to toss up a basic alley-oop pass for McGee to dunk, which was easy enough to convert. But then there was the fact that McGee also dunked the other two balls he was carrying in his hands for an unprecedented three-ball dunk, which propelled him into the finals against Blake Griffin.
In the finals, McGee did a modified Rock-The-Cradle dunk with a high degree of difficulty. Unfortunately for him, it could really only be appreciated in slow-motion on a large HD screen. He started in one corner, cradled the ball as he ran to jump, cocked his head way to the side so he wouldn’t hit his neck on the backboard, contorted his body and swung his arm in a manner that seemed impossible, and finally dunked on the other side of the rim.
With the scene set by TNT’s Kenny Smith (the showman selected to work with Blake Griffin; McGee had Chris Webber on his side), Griffin one-upped McGee and then some by bringing out a choir and then dunking over a car he brought out as a prop (although he did not jump over the tallest part of the car, only the hood). Afterward, McGee had a look of defeat on his face, and ended the competition with a lengthy one-hand toss and dunk, clearly his weakest of the night.
The final vote was left up to the fans, and McGee only won 32-percent to Griffin’s 68-percent. Still, based on the discussion on Twitter and the conversations being had in the media area, McGee gained a tremendous amount of respect for his creativity.
On a humorous note, as I left the media portion of the Staples Center, I saw John Wall and Dwight Howard hugging and discussing what they were going to do this evening. As they broke the hug off, Charles Barkley, who was lagging a bit behind them, tried to extend his hand to greet Wall, but Wall did not see him and kept on walking. I looked at Barkley left handing and offered my hand instead, but he laughed and said, “Nah I’m good.” The lesson here? Even off the court in plain clothes, Wall is a hard man to catch.
After the event, I was lucky enough to catchup with Wall, JaVale and even Pam McGee, to discuss the night’s events: