Ex-champ Vince Carter still dunk contest fan

It’s been a dozen years since Vince Carter won the NBA’s slam dunk contest. He can still morph into Half Man, Half Amazing at moments -- just ask New Orleans big man Emeka Okafor, Carter’s recent YouTube victim -- but the 35-year-old can’t envision himself as a participant in the featured event of All-Star Saturday ever again.

“I don’t think so,” Carter said, laughing. “I don’t know. I’d have to have an epiphany.”

You can count on Carter watching Saturday’s dunk contest that features four first-time participants: Minnesota’s Derrick Williams, Indiana’s Paul George, Utah’s Jeremy Evans and Houston’s Chase Budinger. He doesn’t like the changed format -- “endurance dunking,” he calls it -- but Carter will always be a dunk aficionado.

“I used to tape all the dunk contests and watch them over and over and analyze them,” Carter said. “I like to see just like a judge in gymnastics. I say gymnastics because I’ve been to a lot of my daughter’s gymnastics meets. They always look at body control, all the technical stuff, and that’s how I’ve always been with the dunk contest.”

Carter lists Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and J.R. Rider as his favorite dunk showmen. You can see their influence in his spectacular routine during the 2000 contest.

He borrowed from Dr. J and Jordan with a variation of the free-throw line jam, taking off from a step inside the line but throwing it down with two hands. He also did a Jordan-esque side-leaning tomahawk, adding flair by hanging from the rim with his elbow.

Carter enhanced Rider’s between-the-legs jam by doing it after catch a bounce pass from teammate Tracy McGrady. And he delved into Dominque’s genre with two nasty windmills -- one a 360, the other a 180 after taking off from behind the basket.

In Carter’s opinion, it’s the details that make a contest dunk.

“I like to see guys do the windmill,” Carter said. “I always wanted to do a windmill with the arm straight, straight down. Not half-cocked. If you half-cock it, your arm is bent.”

Of course, it helps to have a 40-plus inch vertical.