NEW ORLEANS (AP) – John Wall soared over his mascot, and the East stomped on the West in the slam dunk contest.
Wall’s sensational slam finished off a clean sweep for the Washington star, Paul George and Terrence Ross in the contest’s new battle format, helping the Eastern Conference earn a 2-2 tie against the West on All-Star Saturday night.
Answering Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore’s dunk in which he leaped over Shaquille O’Neal seated in a king’s throne, Wall took the ball from Wizards mascot G-Man, who held it above his head, then brought it down between his legs and slammed down a reverse dunk.
Judges Dominique Wilkins, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving all gave the victory to Wall in his matchup, after previously picking George over Harrison Barnes, and defending champion Ross over Damian Lillard.
San Antonio’s Marco Belinelli won the 3-point contest, and Lillard and Utah rookie Trey Burke won the skills challenge for the West’s two victories. Miami’s Chris Bosh, Wilkins and WNBA star Swin Cash won the night’s first event for the East, the shooting stars.
The league tried to jazz up All-Star Saturday for its return to New Orleans, with a number of tweaks to the format.
The biggest was in the dunk contest, which was broken into two parts. The first was the freestyle portion, where the teams had 90 seconds to execute as many dunks as they could, before the three 1-on-1 matchups in the battle format.
The East had already clinched that part by winning the first two, but Wall made it a resounding shutout.
McLemore came out wearing a king’s robe and trailed by O’Neal, who unveiled a “Shaq-Lemore” jersey. He made it over O’Neal’s throne on his second attempt, and O’Neal presented him with a crown.
But moments later, Wall was the real king.
“The slam dunk has returned,” said Erving, one of the NBA’s most famed dunkers.
Before that, the new format was confusing to fans and the West players themselves. The East had it all figured out, winning the first format with a passing and dunking display straight out the Harlem Globetrotters, capped a three-man dunk where Ross threw if off the backboard to Wall, who lobbed it off the overhead shot clock for George to race in and slam it down.