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Miss five times and still get to win dunk contest

HOUSTON—Only in the made-for-TV concoction that is the National Basketball Association (NBA) Slam Dunk Contest can five misses equal perfection.

But for former Washington Husky Terrence Ross, that was the formula that propelled him to the 2013 Slam Dunk championship on All-Star on Saturday night here at the Toyota Center.

Ross, now in his rookie season with the Toronto Raptors, missed five times on his first attempt, in which he circled the ball behind his back while executing a 360, before finally making it. The judges, a group of former Houston Rockets players that included Clyde Drexler, gave him a perfect score of 50 once he did pull it off.

That was good enough to get him to the two-man final against Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, who won the title in 2012.

Once in the finals, Ross used a dunk in which he leapt over a young ball boy to secure the title.

“It’s still overwhelming,” said Ross, who became the second former UW player to win the title. Nate Robinson won it in 2006, 2009 and 2010 to become the only three-time winner. The combined four titles of Robinson and Ross give UW the most of any school in an event that was first held in 1984.

Ross said he knew all about Robinson’s slam-dunk history.

“It was my favorite event to watch every year, since I was a small child,” said Ross, a 6-6, 195-pound shooting guard. “But actually winning it, I never thought I’d do it.”

His prospects didn’t look great when he struggled early.

“This is honestly like really my first big dunk contest so I was nervous,” he said. “And not making a dunk didn’t make it easy. I had to get myself together.”

Once he made it, however, he was pretty much flawless.

In the final round, Ross first ripped off his warm-ups to reveal an old jersey of Vince Carter, the only previous member of the Raptors to win it in 2000. For that dunk, he then called on Terrence Jones, a former teammate at Jefferson High in Portland now with the Rockets, to help him out. Jones tossed the ball off the side of the backboard and Ross caught it in midair and dunked while doing a 360.

For his final dunk, he settled on jumping over a ballboy and dunking after passing the ball through his legs. Ross referred to the ballboy as the son of the “owner of Twitter” and the boy was confirmed to be the son of Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. Ross said his agent got the two together.

“I told him the day before that I was going to jump over him,” Ross said. “But I never told him I was going to go through the legs. He was kind of nervous. When I first grabbed him, he said ‘you’re going to hit me, right?’ I said ‘no, I’m not going to hit you.’”

A year ago, Ross was finishing up his sophomore season at UW, a little later making the decision to turn pro and being taken as the eighth pick of the first round. Like Robinson, he won the dunk title in his first year after leaving Washington.

“I don’t know if this is validation [of the decision to leave],” said Ross, who is averaging 6.4 points for the Raptors. “But it definitely feels good.”

And for now, he’s not saying if he’ll try to match Robinson’s multiple wins, saying he doesn’t know if he’ll compete again next year.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “This took a lot out of me.”

Rookie guard Damian Lilliard of Portland, meanwhile, won the skills contest, a variety of shots and passes, beating Jrue Holiday of the 76ers in the final round, while Kyrie Irving of Cleveland won the Three-Point Contest, defeating Matt Bonner of San Antonio in the final round, 23-20.


In Photo: Hang time for Toronto rookie Terrence Ross. (AP)


 

 

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