SALT LAKE CITY — Jeremy Evans isn’t a well-known NBA player. In his three years in the league as a member of the Utah Jazz, Evans has played in barely half of the Jazz games (102 of 202) with only a 2.7 scoring average.
But Evans has something in common with the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard. He will always be known as an NBA slam dunk champion.
Last year in Orlando, Evans was the surprise winner, edging Chase Budinger in a vote of some 4 million fans. One of his winning dunks was a two-ball dunk over teammate Gordon Hayward.
The 6-foot-9, 194-pound stringbean from Western Kentucky will be back in the dunk contest again Saturday night, defending his title in Houston. The contest gets under way at 6:30 p.m. MST on TNT.
“I’m just excited to go down there to the All-Star Game and enjoy the activities,’’ Evans said earlier this week. “It won’t be easy — it’s obviously tough because everyone wants to win.’’
Last year, Evans got help from Hayward, who was involved in All-Star weekend for the Rising Stars rookie-sophomore game. Evans had Hayward sit in a chair just in front of the basket and throw up two balls, and Evans, after flying over Hayward, threw both balls through the hoop.
So what has Evans got up his sleeve for this year’s event?
He’s not saying, but he did acknowledge how difficult it is coming up with new material after nearly 30 years of dunk contests.
“It’s pretty hard coming up with new things after everything’s been done already,’’ he said. “I’ve tried to practice and I’ve got a couple of things in store. I’m not sure how new they are, just a couple of tricks.’’
Evans said he’s been able to “practice a little bit” on his dunk routine during some recent time off.
With no Jazz players available to help, is he going to get some assistance for his dunks like he did last year?
“Maybe so, it depends on who’s going to be down there,’’ he said. “We’ll find out when I get there.’’
Evans said he’s not feeling the pressure, but he’s going in with the attitude that he’s the man to beat as the defending champion.
“Of course you don’t want to be knocked off,’’ he said. “You gotta go in there and try to defend.’’
Evans wasn’t familiar with the new format for this year’s contest, which includes two more players than in recent years with players divided by conference. The players will compete against two others from their conference with two emerging for the finals.
The Western Conference players besides Evans are L.A. Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and Denver forward Kenneth Faried. The players from the East include Indiana’s Gerald Green, Toronto’s Terrence Ross and New York’s James White. Green is the only player who has competed before in the dunk contest, which he won in 2007 when he played for Boston.
Like last year, fans will determine the champion through voting on Twitter, text messaging or on NBA.com.
Evans said being the dunk champ has brought him some notoriety and he says he’s not offended when people like ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser say they’ve never heard of Evans, even though he won last year’s event.
“No, not at all, just because they’re not supposed to know who I am,’’ he says. “I don’t play much, but my time will come after awhile.’’
DUNK NOTES: Previously, five Jazz players have participated in the dunk contest — DeShawn Stevenson in 2001, Jamie Watson in 1995, David Benoit in 1993, Blue Edwards in 1991 and Darrell Griffith in 1984 and 1985. Stevenson did the best, finishing second behind Desmond Mason in the 2001 contest. The best dunk contest field was undoubtedly 1985, the second year of the contest when the field included Michael Jordan, Griffith, Julius Erving, Clyde Drexler and Dominque Wilkins, who edged out Jordan for the title. Miami’s Harold Miner won it twice, the first time in 1993 when the All-Star game was in Salt Lake and then again in 1995. Nate Robinson is the only three-time winner, with victories in 2006, 2009 and 2010.