Obi Toppin still hasn’t earned the big minutes he has been seeking with the Knicks, but the 2020 lottery pick shined on the league’s national stage Saturday night in Cleveland.
Toppin took home the trophy in his second try at representing the Knicks at the Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend, defeating the Warriors’ Juan Toscano-Anderson in the finals despite no perfect scores of 50 from any of the four competitors.
“There’s been a lot of legends who have won the dunk contest, so for my name to be a part of that, I don’t take that for granted,” Toppin said. “We wanted to do some dunks that have never been seen before or done at the dunk contest, so for me t win it, I knew I had to come back with my revenge from last year and I’m glad I came out with the ‘W.’ ”
Toppin had fallen short in the finals to the Trail Blazers’ Anfernee Simons as a rookie last year in Indiana, but the Brooklyn native made good on his vow earlier Saturday to “represent New York” in what otherwise has been a disappointing season for the Knicks. His victory marked the fifth time a Knicks player won the Slam Dunk title, joining Kenny Walker in 1989 and three-time winner Nate Robinson in 2006, 2009 and 2010.
Toppin received scores of 45 and a 47 on his two successful dunks in the finals from judges Dominique Wilkins, Isiah Thomas, Clyde Drexler, David Robinson and Julius Erving. Toscano-Anderson missed all three attempts on his final dunk, essentially giving Toppin the title before he completed his victory by putting the ball between his legs and pressing it against the glass before flushing it through the hoop.
“I wanted to get that one on my third dunk, but I ended up missing it,” Toppin said. “I knew going back to the last one, I was gonna pull it out on the first try and I’m glad I made it that time.”
Because of COVID-19 issues, the dunk competition was switched to halftime of the All-Star Game one year ago, but it returned to the Saturday night showcase this year alongside the 3-Point Contest and the Skills Competition.
Toppin, the eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft, and the other first-year and second-year players on the Knicks were bypassed for the Rising Stars showcase that took place Friday night.
The former Dayton star is averaging 7.3 points over 15.1 minutes per game for the Knicks this season, up slightly from his numbers (4.1 in 11.0 per appearance) as a rookie. But the 6-foot-9 forward has often electrified the Garden with a series of acrobatic dunks, including a couple he threw down after shuffling the ball between his legs earlier this season.
Toppin’s father, Obadiah, was nicknamed “Dunkers Delight” as a street-ball player from Brooklyn who played at such legendary New York City spots as Dyckman Court, West 4th Street and Rucker Park. He also spent time playing in the defunct USBL. Toppin’s brother, Jacob, currently is a junior forward at Kentucky.
Toppin earned a 44 from the five judges for his first dunk of the opening round, putting the ball between his legs as he jumped over a male friend for a right-handed jam. Toscano-Anderson received the same score for a windmill dunk over 6-foot-7 Warriors teammate Andrew Wiggins.
The Magic’s Cole Anthony, the son of former Knicks guard Greg Anthony, had his father bring out Timberland boots and one of his old No. 50 Knicks jersey to wear for his first dunk. The 21-year-old Anthony grabbed the ball out of his father’s outstretched hand for a lefty windmill dunk and a score of 40, but he and the Rockets’ Jalen Green were eliminated after the first round.
All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves captured the 3-Point crown over finalists Luke Kennard (Clippers) and Trae Young (Hawks), with Patty Mills of the Nets finishing fourth.
The Skills Competition was won by the hometown Cavaliers trio of All-Stars Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland and rookie Evan Mobley.