CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The highlight of Saturday night's All-Star competitions for Utah Jazz fans happened a few feet off the court.
After opting to not defend his 2018 slam dunk championship, Donovan Mitchell still played a role in the night's festivities. He joined TNT announcer Kevin Harlan and analysts Chris Webber, Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith as part of the broadcast crew for the dunk contest.
Surprisingly, Mitchell actually got a few words in during the popular event even though he was seated between Miller and Smith, two guys who are never shy to share their opinions.
Smith welcomed Mitchell to the live telecast by introducing the guard as, "Utah Jazz's should-have-been All-Star."
Before the dunkers took the court, Mitchell told the crew that he tried to prevent himself from getting "too nervous" in front of the large crowd.
"You get the first dunk to go down, I think you're in good shape," he said, adding that he then went behind the scenes to keep his nerves down while others dunked.
After touching on a couple of other topics — including the fact that, yes, he stretched before dunking and how he used a dunking coach — Mitchell admitted he was leaning toward Atlanta's John Collins and Oklahoma City's Hamidou Diallo over New York's Dennis Smith Jr., and Charlotte's Miles Bridges.
"So," he said, "I have a 1A and 1B."
Mitchell's 1B came through for him. Though each of the participants had at least one eye-popping dunk — along with some misses — the 20-year-old Diallo stole the show by leaping over 7-foot-1 Shaquille O'Neal and then unveiling a Superman logo underneath his OKC jersey while hanging onto the rim from his elbow.
"Hammy! People don't really know who Hamidou was and he really made a name for himself with those dunks," Mitchell said. "The Shaq dunk was incredible."
Though he looked unbeatable last year and has had a plethora of spectacular dunks in his first two seasons, Mitchell admitted he's lost dunk contests to the Knicks' Smith and Derrick Jones.
Nevertheless, Kenny Smith told Mitchell he hoped to see him dunking on All-Star Saturday again.
"We need you back in," Smith said.
The rest of the crew was equally positive with Mitchell. Webber patted him on the back and Miller wished him "a great second half." Harlan told him, "Good luck to the Jazz and to Donovan Mitchell" as they wrapped up an evening that also saw relatively unknown Joe Harris (Brooklyn) beat Steph Curry in the 3-point contest finals after Boston's Jayson Tatum won the Skills Challenge on a half-court shot.
Some more highlights from All-Star Saturday:
• Bridges couldn't connect on his first dunk to the chagrin of his home crowd, but he scored a 50 with his second dunk while paying homage to Larry Johnson by wearing a No. 2 Grandmama jersey and a gold tooth.
• Mitchell said he wears Size 17 shoes and joked — and bonus if he wasn't joking — that he will be 6-foot-6 in two years.
• Mitchell said Diallo deserved "nothing less than a 50!" after the Thunder guard soared over Shaq in easily the best dunk of the competition.
• Of the five things jumped over during dunks Saturday, Dwyane Wade and a replica of the Wright Bros. airplane were the only objects that don't have a rap album.
• Though he wasn't the worst passer of the night and didn't lose to Kuka — as a Mavericks blogger accidentally wrote — former Utah standout Kyle Kuzma did get eliminated in the first round of the Skills Challenge by Luka Doncic. Kuzma had a good chance to beat the Mavs' terrific rookie but the Laker missed three 3-pointers.
• The night's first competition has some critics.
• Apparently, the TV audience missed out on a spectacular show during a commercial break.
• Tatum made an otherwise forgettable Skills Challenge one to remember by hitting a shot behind the half-court line to win.
• Ouch. (And without Gordon Hayward.)
• The 3-point contest was fun, as usual, but it could have been better for Jazz fans.
• Steph Curry lit it up — and lit up Twitter — in the first round by hitting 19 of 25 3-balls.
• Defending champion Devin Booker had a good showing but not good enough to advance.
• Joe Harris (who!?) introduced himself to everybody outside of Brooklyn by upsetting Steph Curry in the finals.