The NBA and its players had prepared for this moment: the arrival of James "Flight" White on Saturday night.
But the Knicks forward, who was the Vegas odds' favorite to win the All-Star dunk contest, had a surprisingly early exit.
When White was first announced to the crowd as the second participant, the Toyota Center's speakers played a recording of a flight attendant addressing passengers before a flight, and then the MC said, "I think he is cleared for take off."
Then, when White received the ball before his first dunk, he walked towards the opposite end line, and that got everyone in the arena cheering -- and the All-Stars sitting courtside out of their seats -- as they envisioned what he would do: attempt something from the foul line.
While he missed his first attempt, he connected on the second one -- a two-handed, cock-back dunk from just inside the charity stripe. The result from the judges, featuring Clyde Drexler, Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo, Hakeem Olajuwon and Rudy Tomjanovich, was a 45 -- to the displeasure of White. He spent a minute or two talking to the Hall of Famers, looking confused with his arms out. But the score would remain.
White was still in the contest in the second round. After he applied some Court Grip, looking to gain more traction on the court, he still couldn't make a single dunk after six attempts, many of which consisted of trying to do a windmill from the foul line. The judges gave him a 32, and he was done for the night. His challengers, Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Evans, Kenneth Faried, Gerald Green and Terrence Ross, continued on. Ross, of the Raptors, was the winner with 58 percent of the votes.
While White couldn't convert on the biggest basketball stage, perhaps the 30-year-old's legs didn't have enough lift-off to compete with all the other young guys tonight.
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