When James White and Gerald Green meet at the NBA Slam Dunk contest in Houston on Saturday night, the two high-flyers will look to pick up where they left off three years ago in Moscow, Russia. That's where White and Green put on the "Best Slam Dunk Contest That America Never Saw", ultimately paving their road back to the NBA and now the Slam Dunk Contest.
Houston has a long-standing history when it comes to hosting the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, dating back to 1989 when Kenny "Skywalker" of the New York Knicks hoisted the trophy over his head. Seventeen years later another Knick, Nate Robinson, began his quest in becoming the first ever three-time Slam Dunk champion.
But when Gerald Green (Pacers), Terrence Ross (Raptors), James White (Knicks), Eric Bledsoe (Clippers), Jeremy Evans (Jazz) and Kenneth Faried (Nuggets) take center stage on Saturday night at the Toyota Center there will be an entirely different history lesson conjured up three years after a memorable dunk dual took place in Moscow, Russia on Friday, March 19, 2010.
That's when Gerald Green and James White put on an unforgettable aerial display after the third place game of the Russian Cup Final Four. Moscow still doesn't know what hit it and for those who first caught wind of the slam dunk footage once the footage went viral on YouTube, it simply became known as the "Best Slam Dunk Contest That American Never Saw".
The disclaimer: four participants were selected from the best dunkers from every Russian Cup Final Four team and the field was then rounded out by a special guest. Green was that special guest, the only NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner playing in Russia at the time after winning the 2007 dunk contest in Las Vegas as a member of the Boston Celtics and 2008 runner-up in New Orleans while the 6'8 swingman suited up for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The field was set.
Green (Lokomotiv-Kuban Krasnodar), Viatcheslav Zaitsev (BC Khimki), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (CSKA Moscow), Igor Tkachenko (UNICS Kazan) and White (Spartak St. Petersburg) and after nearly 30-minutes worth of tosses off the shot clock, between the leg throw downs and free-throw line leaps, Green and White left the arena in awe to the point where some of the 5,500-plus fans who actually witnessed the dunk contest still bring up how they were there that night when you mention the name Gerald Green or James White. And while "Flight White" added another trophy to his shelf that night at the CSKA Universal Sports Hall, the final showdown between Green and White in many ways paved the long road back to the NBA and even to Saturday night in Houston.
Their respective stories from the league to playing internationally are well documented and perhaps the most compelling part about the Green and White storyline extends beyond the fact they are both sick at finishing at the rim. Think about it - both Green and White were on the outside looking in at the NBA last year at this time.
Green was busy winning MVP of the D-League All-Star Game as a member of the Los Angeles D-Fenders and earned a 10-day contract with the New Jersey Nets, which ultimately led to the 6-foot-8 swingman signing last offseason with the Indiana Pacers. White on the other hand was about 4,200 miles away from New York playing in Italy with Scavolini Pesaro, where White -- a 6-foot-7 guard who won an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 -- led the team in scoring averaging 17.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Flash forward to 12 months later and Green is averaging 6.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 44 games with the Pacers, with White has appeared in 30 games with the Knicks (2.1 points in 7.6 minutes per game).
Guys have a tendency to grow up real fast overseas, especially once they've had a taste of life in the NBA and then find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings playing abroad. The 27-year old Green knows that story all to well after finding work in Russia with PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban and BC Krasnye Krylia before moving on to China with Foshan Dralions in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Now 30-years old, White has dunked his way around the world from the D-League to Turkey, Russia and Italy grabbing title after title, but there is only one destination that matters now.
Much like Moscow in 2010, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night comes with a disclaimer. Unfortunately, there is a one dunker per conference rule that will prevent Green and White from picking up where they left off three years ago.
Instead, Gerald Green and James White will write a whole new colorful chapter to this story.