Fernández Brings Spanish Flavor to Dunk Comp • Latino Sports

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Fernández Brings Spanish Flavor to Dunk Comp

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PHOENIX – Portland Trail Blazers rookie guard Rudy Fernández made history when he was announced last month as the first-ever international participant in the NBA’s All-Star slam dunk contest.

 

But the question Saturday night will be whether history translates into victory – and furthermore, whether Fernández, one of Spain’s top players now playing in the NBA, could become the first international standout to win the event.   

“I think it’s very popular (in Spain),” Fernández explained of the dunk contest. “A lot of people wake up (at) four o'clock in the morning, I remember when I was younger, I woke up (at) four o'clock to watch the slam dunk. Only the slam dunk.

“Now, I’m 23 years old and playing in the NBA. I have an opportunity to play, and it’s great.”

Fernández won a fan vote to compete in the contest in Phoenix. For the first time, the NBA opened a slot in the contest for a rookie, who would be chosen by a fan vote. Fernández won the voting over Milwaukee's Joe Alexander and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook. He received 251,868 of the more than 500,000 votes cast on nba.com.

The Spaniard, who won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics, will compete against reigning dunk champion Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, as well as New York Knick and former champion Nate Robinson, and Denver swingman J.R. Smith, who replaces injured Memphis forward Rudy Gay in the competition. The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest kicks off at 8 p.m. E.T.  

Although Fernández is known for his nifty passing and long-range shooting, one of the biggest highlights of his career to date is his emphatic slam over Howard in last summer’s gold medal game, referenced by some as “the dunk seen ’round the world.”

Word is that Fernández is set to incorporate some very creative moves into the competition – skills stemming from his “futbol” background growing up in Spain. One of the moves Fernández has lined up for the contest was apparently inspired by Djalminha, the Brazilian midfielder who spent seven years showboating at RC Deportivo de La Coruña in the ’90s and early ’00s. Fernández basically does a rainbow/sombrero (one of Djalminha’s signature moves) followed by a dunk.

“I’m really excited to participate in the NBA All Star Weekend,” said Fernández, who scored 14 points and dished out three assists for the rookies in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam Friday night as the sophomores edged the newcomers, 122-116. “I always asked myself how it would feel to be able to participate in an event like this, a reunion of the best players in the world. To be in Phoenix is a dream come true for me.”

Western Conference All-Star reserve Pau Gasol, Fernandez’ teammate on Spain’s national team, talked about the popularity of the event and what it means to his native country to see the up-and-coming Fernández take part. “It’s always been one of the main things people want to watch,” said Gasol, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. “It’s real spectacular and a big part of the weekend. Obviously, with Rudy participating, I’m pretty sure that Spain will be really into it, following it and watching it.”

About William Gerena-Rochet

William Gerena Rochet, is the former Latino Sports baseball editor. He is a retired NYC teacher who divides his time living between New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He started writing for Latino Sports during the inaugural World Baseball Classic when a series was played in Puerto Rico in 2006. On of his favorite moments was covering the 2006 MLB All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. During his time with Latino Sports, he covered several divisional and League championship series games and the 2009 World Series. He also covered the last game at the old Yankee stadium and the first game of the current one. In closing, William has covered multiples Latino Sports MVP Awards ceremonies and Spanish Language Press Conferences including the Jorge Posada retirement one. Now a contributor, Willie will occasionally cover the Yankees.