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The NBA’s slam dunk contest will be low on star power but high on bounce

Obi Toppin of the Knicks is a first-time selection for the dunk contest.
Obi Toppin of the Knicks is a first-time selection for the dunk contest.Abbie Parr/Getty

The fields for the NBA’s slam dunk contest and skills challenge are finally set.

With the All-Star Game set for Sunday at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, the NBA announced Tuesday that three first-time selections will compete in the slam dunk contest: Knicks forward Obi Toppin, Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and Pacers guard Cassius Stanley.

In the skills challenge, in which players dribble, pass and shoot in a timed, obstacle-course-like environment, there will be six competitors, including five All-Stars: Luka Doncic of the Mavericks, Chris Paul of the Suns, Julius Randle of the Knicks, Domantas Sabonis of the Pacers and Nikola Vucevic of the Magic. Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington rounds out the group.

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The three-man dunk contest is the smallest pool of contestants in the event’s history and is decidedly lacking in a well-known headliner. While LaVine, a two-time winner, and New Orleans Pelicans sensation Zion Williamson were selected as All-Atars, they passed on the opportunity to compete in the dunk contest. Trail Blazers forward Derrick Jones Jr. and Magic forward Aaron Gordon — who finished first and second in last year’s event — also declined, as did Hornets forward Miles Bridges and Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, according to Yahoo Sports.

Recruiting participants for this year’s events was surely made more difficult by the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted the NBA to hold a scaled-down, single-day All-Star Weekend in a bubblelike environment and a largely empty arena. Rather than taking place on Saturday like usual, the skills contest and 3-point contest will start at 6:30 p.m. Sunday before the All-Star Game tips off at 8. The slam dunk contest will be held at halftime and will be judged by five former winners: Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, Josh Smith, Dee Brown and Jason Richardson. Wilkins, Webb and Smith claimed their crowns as members of the Atlanta Hawks.

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