Star for a Weekend
Could Jeremy Evans be the next Terence Stansbury?
by Cub Buenning / @cubbuenning
The mass of NBA humanity is currently flocking to the Magic Kingdom of Orlando, for the League’s All-Star Extravaganza. Players, agents, groupies, coaches, non-players, writers, talking heads, more groupies, television faces and everyone in between is in central Florida to take in the ridiculousness that this weekend has become. With Sunday’s game as the cherry on top of a couple days of excess, hype and oohs and aahs, this weekend has long been a proving ground on many levels. Stars are made, the undeserving are ridiculed and harsh criticism of every event will surely flow from all points of the basketball globe.
In what was once the “must-see” event, the Dunk Contest has made many changes over the past decade. Gone are the stars, instead choosing to sit courtside to cheer, tweet and prepare for the Sunday showcase. Jordan, Dr. J, Vince, ‘Nique and Drexler were not only the brightest stars in the NBA sky, but they also were front-and-center for the Saturday night showcase. These days, we get just a taste of the luminaries (see Blake Griffin last year) but there are no more guarantees in the entries we will see from year to year.
As of last week, no one knew which players would be named to this year’s field. Again, no guarantees. While I hate to go “back in the day” too much, we used to be able to set our watches on the aforementioned guys, as well as one other guy. A no-name guy who had the briefest of careers. A former player who is often forgot among those who paved the way for the current-day incarnation of the event.
That man’s name is Terence Stansbury.
The former Temple Owl played just three seasons in the League; competed in three dunk contests and oddly enough, finished third each year. The years were 1984-1987 so you can imagine which guys placed in front of the 6-5 uber-leaper.
When this year’s field was announced, the basketball world was abuzz with the usual disdain for both this year’s competition and for its long-term health as an actual important date on the NBA calendar.
No BLAKE? No KIAS? Not even JAVALE?!?!
When New York Knicks guard, Iman Shumpert (one many thought had a chance to make a splash) withdrew due to tendonitis in his knee, he was replaced by a name that 99 percent of America’s sports fans had never heard of, Utah’s Jeremy Evans. A little known player as a Hilltopper from Western Kentucky before becoming even possibly more obscure during his year and a half in Salt Lake City, Evans is far from a household name. He’s far from a name that hoop-heads want to hear with the likes of LeBron, Blake, DeAndre and Westbrook still out there as theoretical participants.
Keep in mind that this event has taken a hit over the years, with just a couple positive “blips” like the one created by Griffin, Baron Davis and a certain mid-sized sedan. Like it or not, we were all talking about last year’s Dunk Contest. There wasn’t that kind of interest, on either side of the argument, since the early 2000s (a.k.a. the Vinsanity days).
So, which of these high-flyers are going to put their stamp on our hardwood hard-drive tomorrow night? Could it be the Houston Rockets’ Chase Budinger? The SoCal-native who grew up leaping, setting and spiking on the beaches of San Diego, has proven to have lots of lift and creativity in previous prep and college competitions. The Pacers’ Paul George has a certain unknown appeal to the masses and those “in-the-know” feel he might have the most potential for the fantastic. TWolves rookie Derrick Williams will bring the power element to his dunks, but that quality rarely wows the judges and/or ardent fans.
Which brings me back to Evans and in a sense, Stansbury. The latter being a player who played at the apex of the game. A time in the history of the game when Magic, MJ and Bird owned the sporting landscape and “marqueed” the annual weekend from beginning to end. Stansbury was never one to draw any kind of national attention on a nightly basis. People didn’t talk about his exploits as a 2-guard for the Pacers or SuperSonics. But for one weekend during each of those years, he became a star. One everyone gravitated toward. One everyone was whispering about and asking “did you see that Statue of Liberty?” The one that would have lit up Twitter, had it existed.
Is Jeremy Evans the next Stansbury? I don’t know; Evans may have more game than the guy with the most illustrious three-year career in the history of the League, making his eventual tale more about his actual in-season performances and accomplishments. But becoming a name that is synonymous with something like the NBA Dunk Contest, if only for a couple years, can make you a legend of a different kind.