Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter praise Zach LaVine-Aaron Gordon dunk contest

K.C. Johnson
NBC Sports Chicago

Fans aren't the only ones who would've enjoyed seeing Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon reprise their epic 2016 slam dunk contest final at the United Center on All-Star Saturday night.

"That was a great dunk contest, really good," Hall of Famer and two-time champion Dominique Wilkins said.

"When you're talking about great battles over the history of the contest, that goes up there with it," 2000 champion Vince Carter said.

"Those were incredible dunks, very creative," 1986 champion Spud Webb said.

Yes, LaVine's decision to forgo the dunk contest and try to become the first person in history to win both that and the 3-point shootout disappointed many.

It's an understandable decision. As a two-time winner in 2015 and 2016, LaVine has little left to prove. He has rehabilitated back from a torn ACL suffered in 2017. And he felt snubbed from not making Sunday's All-Star game, which would've increased his chances of participating.

But the fact the LaVine-Gordon final from 2016 resonated with such legendary dunkers underscores how epic the competition truly was.

"They actually brought the dunk contest back," Wilkins said. "It was down for a long time where it was hard to watch. There were too many props. It was too theatrical and not enough imagination from the individuals themselves. Those two guys brought it back in a big way."

Webb agreed.

"I kind of stopped watching them because I have this old-school mentality. I wasn't into the props," he said. "As a pure dunker, you want to see people do dunks that are incredible. And (Gordon vs. LaVine) is when I started back watching."

LaVine is proud that the contest is in the conversation for best-ever final. Wilkins versus Michael Jordan in 1988 is in that same conversation, as is any dunk contest involving Carter and Julius Erving and David Thompson from the old American Basketball Association.

"It's hard to compare eras," LaVine said. "At the time (in 1988), (Wilkins and Jordan) were doing stuff never seen before and out of this world. They compare that one to me and Aaron (Gordon) because some people think both won."

There's no disputing who won in 2000. That's the year Carter put on a show for the ages in Oakland, Calif.

"It's a great feeling. You think about some of the great contests and the history of All-Star Saturday. That's talked about. When my name is thrown around in that, it don't get no better than that," Carter said. "Especially because of the respect I have for dunkers and what they have done and can do in the air and what they did for me as far as watching.

"I thought about when I'm standing out there on the court about to do my dunk. There are millions and millions of kids who are going to try to emulate it, critique it, whatever. Because that was me watching those guys before me do that. Try to figure out how I can take some of the things that these guys did but make it my own. That's what is happening today. You see great dunks of the past and try to take it to the next level. That was my goal.

"It was an honor to be out there in the dunk contest and win it and be a champion. When you look at the list of champions in history, it's some pretty good names."

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Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter praise Zach LaVine-Aaron Gordon dunk contest originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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