New York Knicks reserve center Jericho Sims shouldn’t be in Salt Lake City. He should have been basking under the sun on an island somewhere. But thanks to Ja Morant’s endorsement, Shaedon Sharpe backing out, and Obi Toppin giving way, the world is about to see Sims’ much-hyped hops and bounce.
“I am [excited],” said the 24-year-old Sims, who made his dunk 10 years ago. “I’ll just show what I can do, my athleticism, so it’s gonna be fun.”
The Knicks starting center in Mitchell Robinson’s absence, Sims is the heavy favorite to win the Slam Dunk Contest thanks to a 44.5-inch vertical leap that is higher than LeBron James (44) and Andrew Wiggins (44) and half-inch under Zion Williamson (45).
Sims said he worked out with a couple of pro dunkers and Chuck Millan, a former professional dunker and the CEO of Team Flight Brothers, to prepare for the Slam Dunk Contest.
Millan, who has worked with all four dunkers in the competition, told New York Post that Sims “has a couple of dunks that have never been done before,” confirming what Grimes teased about before he put up a shooting clinic in the Rising Stars.
Millan is a champion maker in the Slam Dunk contest, with Toppin, Donovan Mitchell, Terrence Ross, Derrick Jones, Jr., and other past champions crediting him.
Sims also has Toppin, the reigning Slam Dunk champion, in his corner.
“[Toppin] gave me some pointers and how to go about it,” Sims said.
Bidding to become the first center to win the event since Dwight Howards in 2008, Sims believes his size will not be a disadvantage in an event that has been dominated by high-flying guards and wings.
“I think to some people, it looks cooler to see shorter guys dunking, but I think I can do the same thing,” Sims said.
KJ Martin, the 6-foot-7 starting forward of the Houston Rockets, is shaping up to be Sims’ strongest rival. Former NBA Slam Dunk champion Spud Webb picks Martin to beat Sims.
The 6-foot-2 Mac McLung, once a viral sensation for his crazy dunks, is a dark horse.
Meanwhile, Sims’s teammate Julius Randle picks Trey Murphy III of the New Orleans Pelicans.
“I heard you looked pretty impressive yesterday, man. I heard you, so I’m excited to see,” Randle said when Murphy III asked him to pick who was going to win aside from Sims. “I’m going to go with you. I got you.”
True to his unassuming character, Sims continues to downplay his chances despite being the betting favorite to win the event.
“I’m not underestimating anybody, so we’ll see,” Sims said.
Sims’ dream dunk showdown is among Morant, Williamson, and Sharpe, and said he would pick the Grizzlies star to win.
But while waiting for that dream to become a reality, if ever the NBA can finally put together a star-studded cast for the All-Star Weekend side event that has been watered down in recent years, Sims is out to prove he’s more than a worthy substitute.
He’s out to make it his coming out party.
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