- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Will James White participate in the dunk contest this year?
Ultimately, that's up to the NBA. The league decides who will compete for the crown.
But if Iman Shumpert had a say in it, White would make the cut.
"They should put him in, definitely," Shumpert said of his Knicks teammate. "He'd win it."
Steve Novak first saw White's exploits during warm-ups at ABCD Camp in the summer of 2001. The camp features some of the top high school players in the country. Even in that setting, White's vertical stood out. (He can reportedly leap high enough to get inches away from the top of the backboard.)
"I remember the crowds just gathering around the court and he was just going," Novak said. "He could just jump from so far away and he would dunk the ball so quick and he's a one-footed jumper, so ... it was just unreal."
White, 30, a 6-foot-7 forward from the University of Cincinnati, is in his first season with the Knicks. Previously, he made brief NBA stops with the Spurs and Rockets, and played overseas in Turkey, Russia and Italy. So his athleticism is well-known in the U.S. and Europe. (Check out this video of White's dunking exploits).
Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area, White established himself as one of the top sprinters and long jumpers in the area, in addition to being an elite basketball prospect.
"He's always been an athlete," White's father, James Sr., said.
Raymond Felton first heard of White's dunking prowess as a 12-year-old growing up in South Carolina. Felton saw it firsthand while playing against White's DC Assault team on the AAU circuit.
"I've seen him do windmills, play around in the air with the ball from the free throw line, all kinds of things. It's amazing," Felton said. "That's why we call him Flight."
Will Flight get a chance to take off in Houston on Feb. 16, during All-Star Saturday night?
Dwyane Wade, the Eastern Conference All-Star captain, has recommended White and J.R. Smith to the league for the dunk contest. The NBA will consider Wade's opinion before making a decision. The league also takes into account recommendations from the NBA Players Association.
The lineup is expected to be announced Thursday.
For what it's worth, White isn't overly concerned about making the cut; he's focused on playing strong perimeter defense for the Knicks when Mike Woodson calls his number.
But if White gets the nod, he said he'll likely try something from the free throw line, which is his signature dunk.
"If they let me in, I'm just going to have fun with it," he said. "I'll just let the fans have fun and will do my best."