This year, the NBA has broken the contestants up by their conference, with the Toronto Raptors' Terence Ross, the Indiana Pacers' Gerald Green, and the New York Knicks' James White representing the East.
Reigning champion Jeremy Evans from the Utah Jazz leads the West squad, along with the Denver Nuggets' Kenneth Faried, and the Los Angeles Clippers' Eric Bledsoe.
Green formerly won the contest in 2007 in Las Vegas, and the rookie Ross has already put together a highlight reel of explosive throw downs for the Raptors. White is the oldest of all the contestants, but he has a legendary following due to a vertical leap that allows him to nearly touch the top of the backboard.
The lanky and lean Evans looks to be the fourth player to ever repeat as champion, with guards Nate Robinson, Jason Richardson, and legend Michael Jordan the only other players to pull off the feat. L.A.’s Bledsoe, standing 6-foot-1, is the shortest contender, which has given previous participants an advantage. The hustling Faried has also earned praise for his impressive put-back slams.
In 2012, Evans captured the crown, slamming home two balls at the same time, the kind of creativity that was missing from previous competitions. Green showed a similar spark before, when he blew out a candle nestled in a cupcake on the back of the rim in 2008. Like Evans, he was trying to repeat that year but fell to Dwight Howard.
Keeping with the East and West playoff format, the winner of each conference will move on to the finals to determine the 2013 champion.
Fans will then choose the champion via text, tweet or on-line voting.
The Slam Dunk competition will be the final event of the evening, after the Shooting Stars, Skills Challenge, and Three-Point Contest. The action starts at 8:30 p.m. eastern time and will be broadcast by TNT.