In January, I interviewed 2012 NBA Slam Dunk champion Jeremy Evans for SLAM magazine. We discussed the redundancy that’s come to pervade the dunk contest and possible remedies. I proposed allowing the general public into the contest, and Evans welcomed the challenge of competing against pro streetball dunkers. Tonight, Evans will defend his title against a field of NBAers including Gerald Green and James “Flight” White, who has promised to unveil dunks never before seen by the public.
Evans, a Crossett, Ark. native, and I also touched on other subjects in the interview. Here are some highlights:
1. Evans isn’t the first “Arkansan” to win the NBA’s slam dunk contest. Fred Jones, who grew up in Malvern and moved to Oregon in middle school, won the 2004 contest.
2. Ashley County in southeast Arkansas has about 22,000 people but has produced two NBA players besides Evans. The first was Myron Jackson, a 6-3 guard who played for UALR. Jackson, a Hamburg native, played eight games with the Dallas Mavericks in 1986-87. The following season another Hamburg native, Scottie Pippen, made his NBA debut.
Evans said Pippen inspired him as a young player. Hamburg is only 15 miles from Crossett, and as a teen Evans believed “if he can make it, I can make it.” Evans twice met Pippen – at a basketball game in Hamburg and at Wal-Mart in Crossett. In Wal-Mart, Evans (who is an introvert) said his mom took him over to introduce him to Pippen. “He signed my shoes and that’s about it,” he said with a chuckle.
Pippen, by the way, participated in the 1990 NBA slam dunk contest, where he threw down a free-throw line dunk (Evans says he’s completed one of these only once – during a practice in high school).
3, Evans loves to draw. “I do everything – airbrush, portrait, oil painting, colored pencils, landscapes – just about anything you can imagine.” After his playing days end, he wants to open his own studio.
As far as he knows, he is one of the only NBA players who seriously draws. He recalls one erstwhile Oklahoma City Thunder player had a similar interest, and ultimately opened a studio in Oklahoma (he’s forgotten the player’s name).
My sportswriter friend David Harten attended Western Kentucky University with Evans in the late 2000s and told me Evans drew a portrait of CBS announcer Mike Gminski before a 2009 NCAA Tournament game. “Someone came up to me and asked me to do it,” recalled Evans, who enjoys portrait drawings the most. “I did it just because they asked me to.”
Evans’ favorite type of art is portraiture. He likes the challenge of trying to get a person’s face exactly right.
3. Jeremy Evans is one of the most well-known Arkansans to graduate from Western Kentucky. Nowadays, the most well-known connection between Arkansas and that school is Bobby Petrino, the former Arkansas football head coach who was fired there last April and hired by Western Kentucky in December.
I wondered if Evans had thought much about Petrino’s arrival, but he said he doesn’t really follow college football. “Growing up in Crossett, we really didn’t even have a team close by. The Razorbacks were like five hours away and we really didn’t even watch TV.”
He hadn’t discussed the Petrino hiring with his Western Kentucky friends, but when I pressed him for an opinion, he said: “Since Western [Kentucky] got him, I’m sure they’re looking ahead and are sure he’s gonna help the team out a lot.”
Below is an excerpt from my SLAM magazine article about Evans:
One promising idea: allow a contestant to be chosen from the public through YouTube-based voting.
YouTube already provides ideas used in recent dunk contests. Evans, for instance, found inspiration for likely his most memorable dunk in last year’s event by browsing online video clips.
The two-ball alley-oop he flushed after jumping over his seated Utah teammate Gordon Hayward came from a standing version done by pro streetball dunkers—Team Flight Brothers, as he recalls.
Evans welcomes non-NBA contestants, even if they put NBA players at a disadvantage by primarily training for dunk contests instead of games. “It would just be a bigger challenge,” he says. “They have different tricks and ideas that we’re gonna have to prepare for.”
Read more here.