Isaiah “JR” Rider was different from the outset. After being drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1993 draft, Rider confidently told hoops analyst Craig Sager, (Before the bizarre and suit combinations apparently…) “If I get in the Slam Dunk Contest, I guarantee I’m taking it. I’m telling everybody right now.” An impertinent statement for a rook, but consider this: JR was a seasoned veteran and tireless competitor on the turbulent asphalt in Oakland, California. After two seasons at a junior college, Rider was plucked from relative obscurity by Tark “The Shark”, becoming one of the many legendary playground imports to lend support to the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels blacktop brigade.
Coincidentally enough, the 1994 NBA-All Star Weekend was held in Isaiah’s newest home, Minneapolis’ immense Target Center so it was only natural that he participated. Backed by a legion of T’Wolves fans, Rider rode the momentum to become the Sprite NBA Slam Dunk Champ Celeb with an assortment of dips that sent onlookers into a state of euphoria. In the second round, the 6’5” forward tossed the rock high up into the air, let it bounce once, chased it down, and tenaciously rocked the rim from the lane line extended. But it was his closing act that’s nestled in the annals of Sprite Slam Dunk Contest history. Rider positioned himself out of bounds left of the basket, approached the hoop, sliced around the backboard, went betwixt the legs and threw it down one-handed. Charles Barkley mentioned, “That might be the best dunk I’ve ever seen!” The legend of the East Bay Funk Dunk was born and solidified—in one night! To learn more about the NBA Slam Dunk Contest Trendsetters Series (presented by Sprite) and yesterday’s #10 pick, Harold Miner, simply click the link!