Lakers' Shannon Brown humbled to be in NBA dunk contest
Amid the weekend speculation that Lakers guard Shannon Brown would be part of the NBA dunk contest, he had already brainstormed ideas.
He insists he didn't practice any of them, however. Nor did he allow himself to get too carried away. After all, there are regular-season games to be played.
"From the first time people started speculating and started saying I should be in the dunk contest, my brain got to working a little bit in what I think I should do," Brown said. "I’ve been thinking about it a little bit but I’ve been trying to focus on the team also."
He showcased that delicate balancing act on Monday before the Lakers' eventual 98-92 victory over the Orlando Magic. Earlier in the day, the league officially named him one of the dunk candidates, and he had no problem chatting a full 10 minutes before the game about topics ranging from the dunk contest, his undisclosed ideas, his own development on the court and the team's upcoming eight consecutive road games. Brown followed that up with a career-high 22 points against the Magic.
"Those are some of the things that happen and responsibilities to a man who’s very diligent about his work," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "He puts in the effort and it’s paying off for him."
And to think, Brown, 24, had just joined his fourth NBA team in four years when the Lakers acquired him last season, along with Adam Morrison, for Vladimir Radmanovic. Since then, Brown has become a fan favorite for his acrobatic dunks, with the website LetShannonDunk.com documenting them, and impressing the Lakers enough to sign him to a two-year, $4.2-million contract before the season began.
There was the dunk over Denver's Chris "Birdman" Andersen in last year's Western Conference finals. There was the "posterizing" against former Golden State center Mikki Moore. And there will probably be another YouTube hit Feb. 13 at Dallas' American Airlines Center, where Brown will compete in the dunk contest All-Star weekend against New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson, Charlotte Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace and the winner of a "dunk-in" between Clippers guard Eric Gordon and Toronto Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan, a former USC standout. He already has experience to draw from, competing in the McDonald's All-American high school dunk contest in 2003 against the likes of LeBron James, Von Wafer and J.R. Giddens.
"I’m on to the drawing board now," Brown said. "I got a couple ideas in my head and I don’t want to give them away."
Brown agreed with a reporter's assessment that he is almost like a "historian" on the slam-dunk contest. He shot down the suggestion to dunk over Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard because Robinson already performed that feat last year. He ticked off memorable dunk performances, such as the classic 1988 showdown between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins, the 1997 contest featuring Kobe Bryant's between-the-legs slam and the 2000 competition featuring Vince Carter's 360-degree windmill dunk. And he said he's going to rewatch all the past dunk contests, scouring for ideas and analyzing technique.
That student-like approach to the game is why Jackson said he's willing to watch this year's contest when normally he doesn't. Jackson frequently mentioned the words "opportunity" and "maturity" when describing Brown's development.
Playing on a bench unit that's often been criticized for its inconsistency, Brown has remained the reliable option. He also led the Lakers with 19 points in last week's win against the Milwaukee Bucks, just two games after replacing a struggling Derek Fisher against the Clippers and posting 15 points. The day after Ron Artest suffered a Christmas night concussion, Brown locked in on Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans and scored 15 points in 28 minutes off the bench.
"I’m happy for him because he works extremely hard at his game," Bryant said. "We know what to expect from him. He puts in the work and it’s great to see guys get rewarded when they put the work in."
Brown hopes his career-high Monday night and his dunk contest nomination are just the beginning.
"I’m trying to get better every day. As a person. As a basketball player. As a man. As everything. I think I have a great foundation around me that’s helping me do that."
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers guard Shannon Brown was named to the NBA dunk contest. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.