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Trail Blazers in the NBA dunk contest

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Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, James Robinson, Rudy Fernandez, and Damian Lillard

A Trail Blazer has never won the NBA Dunk Contest, but several have participated. Let’s take a moment to look back on the franchise’s history in All-Star weekend’s marquee event.

Clyde Drexler

Clyde the Glide participated in the dunk contest in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1989. His five showings are more than any other Blazer in the contest’s history. But Clyde never actually won the trophy, giving him the dubious distinction of the most appearances without a championship.

Clyde’s two most memorable moments came in ‘87 and ‘89. The first being this gorgeous photo from the ‘87 contest in Seattle:

And the second is his only appearance in the contest finals, ultimately losing to Kenny “Sky” Walker:

Jerome Kersey

Kersey appeared in the dunk contest for four consecutive years from 1986-89. In contrast to Drexler’s smooth and understated style, Kersey preferred to attack the rim and hammer his jams. Unfortunately, he still had no more luck with the judges than Drexler, losing all four years and reaching the finals only once (‘87). Here’s the video from ‘87 — his third dunk at 0:15 receives a max score 50:

Jerome lost to Michael Jordan that year, but wasn’t shying about suggesting that MJ might have received some generous scoring form the judges:

Did you feel like you got robbed when you came in 2nd to jordan in the 87 slam dunk contest?

That year I think I did. The thing about that is they said we couldn’t repeat dunks and Jordan ended up repeating the same dunks. It was a good match but actually I think Terence Stansbury should have ended up in the finals against myself.

James Robinson

James “Hollywood” Robinson underwhelmed as a Blazer — that one buzzer beater against the Lakers excepted, of course — so it’s probably appropriate that he underwhelmed in the 1994 dunk contest too. Keep an eye out for Alonzo Mourning’s impatient boredom at about 1:12:

Can’t argue with you, ‘Zo.

But, hey, Hollywood’s all-red shoes were pretty exciting for 1994 (you had to be there, I guess).

Rudy Fernandez

Rudy Fernandez qualified for the 2009 contest via fan vote as a replacement for Rudy Gay. Unfortunately, the production crew didn’t seem to take Rudy seriously.

After Fernandez revealed a tribute jersey to Fernando Martin under his own uniform, the color commentators made cracks about LaRue Martin and Ricky Martin (seriously?) while a poorly timed full-screen graphic obscured the run-up to Rudy’s first attempt. The announcers retroactively dubbed it a “great tribute” after learning that Martin, a 2007 hall of fame inductee, was the first Spanish player in NBA history and had died in a car accident in 1989. Cringe-y does not begin to describe it.

Fernandez didn’t do himself any favors on the second dunk attempt, choosing Pau Gasol from the Lakers(!!!) rather than a Blazer teammate to throw a lob pass. Boo.

Here’s the video if you really want to see it:

Damian Lillard

Lillard’s only dunk contest appearance came in 2014 as part of the bizarre team freestyle format:

I don’t even know what to say. Let’s just get out of here.

Odds and ends

  • Isaiah Rider (1994) and Gresham’s own Fred Jones (2004) are the two Blazer alums to win the dunk contest while playing for other teams.
  • Former Blazers radio announcer Antonio Harvey is often cited as one of the worst dunk contest participants ever. Fortunately Bird Man came along and took that crown in 2005, hopefully never to be relinquished.
  • A forgotten piece of NBA dunk contest history connected to Portland: The NBA held its first dunk contest in 1977 — one of many creative ideas “borrowed” from the defunct ABA.

The season-long tournament featured individual match-ups aired at half time of games televised by CBS. The final head-to-head match was broadcast live from Portland during halftime of Game 6 of the ‘77 Finals. It featured Larry McNeil from the Warriors and Darnell Hillman from ...Indiana’s Bottle Shoppe city league softball team?! I am not joking.