It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … DeMar DeRozan?
Not quite. But for this weekend, he will have to do.
But on Saturday night, DeMar DeRozan will have me watching the slam dunk competition during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
Most of America probably circled Feb. 13 on their calendars after LeBron James declared last year that he was putting his hat in the ring for the 2010 dunk competition.
Those same people reached for the White-Out when he took his hat out of the ring. The dream lineup of James, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter was gone.
Instead, a ho-hum cast of characters will dunk in Jerry World, Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium.
Hometown hero Nate Robinson (hometown meaning New York) has had some epic battles over the last couple of years. It’s been fun to watch Krypto-Nate versus Super Dwight.
But with no Dwight Howard at the 2010 competition, the conflict isn’t there. And neither is a compelling story.
Lakers backup guard Shannon Brown isn’t exactly a major attraction. Neither is Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace, even if he is having a great year.
And if Clippers guard Eric Gordon wins the dunk-off? Forget about it. Television off.
DeRozan is the only reason to watch the dunk contest Saturday night.
His growth from the start of the season to now has been noticeable. His minutes-per-game average has increased with each passing month, and his scoring has followed suit.
He has shown some flashes of brilliance, including four straight double-digit scoring performances in early December and a spectacular put-back dunk a couple of nights ago.
And if he wins, he’ll make history.
DeRozan would become the second Trojan to win the slam dunk contest since Harold Miner did it in 1993 and 1995.
USC would then become only the second school to have multiple slam dunk contest winners, joining North Carolina (Michael Jordan and Carter).
And the Pac-10 would have its fifth different competition winner, joining Miner, Nate Robinson (UW), Fred Jones (Oregon) and Brent Barry (Oregon State). That would give the conference one more winner than the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Yes, a Robinson victory would make him the competition’s first three-time winner. But wouldn’t it be nice to see USC exact a measure of revenge against Washington?
DeRozan’s bid to win the competition also brings up another question: Where does he rank among the best Trojan dunkers to come through the Galen Center?
It would be impossible to place him above Miner, but, in the Galen Center era, the competition is wide open.
O.J. Mayo? In his one year at USC, he seemed to prefer breakaway layups and finger rolls to high-flying dunks.
Taj Gibson? He threw down some emphatic dunks as a Trojan, but none of the spectacular, free-throw-line-takeoff variety.
Davon Jefferson? He also electrified the Galen Center crowd, but his dunks weren’t pieces of art.
The only real competition DeRozan has in this department comes from senior forward Marcus Johnson.
In fact, give me Johnson to win it all.
DeRozan can dunk, but Johnson can flat out fly. No one will ever forget his posterization of California’s Jorge Gutierrez last year at Galen. And the alley-oop this season against Washington?
Now that was a piece of art.
Johnson said after the game: “Sometimes there’s no eye contact, I just happen to see the ball in the air. Tonight, it was no eye contact. [Mike Gerrity] just threw the ball as I was running.”
Wait, what? He didn’t even see the point guard throw the pass? And he still threw it down in emphatic fashion?
DeRozan will have to pull something spectacular tomorrow night to keep up with Johnson.
If he can’t, the contest won’t be worth watching.
“Thrilla on Manilla Paper” runs every other Friday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Grant at email@example.com.