In what was arguably the greatest NBA slam-dunk contest ever, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine prevailed on Saturday night after a one-on-one showdown with Orlando’s Aaron Gordon left the two just about out of perfect dunks to throw down.
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We think. There’s a stadium full of people in Toronto that wouldn’t mind seeing the lights be turned back on, and another opportunity to see the guys go at it for another round.
LaVine defended his 2015 dunk contest win with yet another stirring display that was no doubt spurred on by the presence of Gordon. The Magic forward likely would have been in last year’s contest had it not been for a left foot fracture that cut out a goodly chunk of his rookie season. Gordon pushed the defending and eventual champ to his limit, resulting in a record six consecutive perfect scores.
(Denver’s Will Barton and Detroit’s Andre Drummond also participated.)
Barton’s first-round entry wasn’t bad, and we appreciate Will the Thrill’s "Thriller"-styled entry, but his night was quickly doused by a series of second-round misses:
Andre Drummond had the right idea in asking Steve Nash to kick him a lob, but 11 years removed from Nash’s soccer-styled work with Amar’e Stoudemire (not to mention Nash’s skinny jeans, bad back, and dress loafers), the pass didn’t go as planned:
With those two out of the way, let’s get back to the Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon show.
Gordon’s initial throwdown, a between-the-legs near 360 (resulting in a score of 45), was impressive enough. By the time LaVine followed it up with this …
… it appeared as if the night was just about over. In the second round, however, Gordon brought out Orlando’s mascot “Stuff,” on a hoverboard, and turned this into a competition:
That mascot stands at, what, 7-feet tall? On a hoverboard? And then the dude went between his legs?
LaVine then did us all a favor in bringing out The Greatest Lob Artist to Have Ever Lobbed in teammate Andre Miller. In a competition that is routinely chided for featuring participants who fail to come up with new dunks, the defending champ gave us the first free-throw-line dunk in contest history to come off of a pass:
Undaunted, Gordon brought his pal Stuff out yet again to stir it up!
Mascot-less, LaVine responded with a twirl of his own that also registered a 50 for his efforts, so Gordon decided to bust out the dunk of the night.
Dunk of the decade. Roll over Vince Carter, tell Dominique the news.
Pinned to the wall, LaVine came back with yet again another dunk we’ve never seen before – a windmill pitched from the free-throw line:
At this point, as the dunk contest moves into extra innings, the two co-champions were just about out of ideas, so they started to confer with teammates on the sideline. Gordon brought out Magic point guard Elfrid Payton to give us this home run:
LaVine chatted up Timberwolves Andre Miller, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins before pulling nearly his own version of the same dunk. Good Lord:
After considering a lob dunk off of the shot clock in yet another extra frame, Gordon supposedly “relented” with this throwdown …
… which was as good as any 50 the dunk contest has ever seen, but because it didn’t meet the all-timer status of some of the other dunks, it took in only a 47. An over-the-head then between-the-legs tomahawk registered only a 47. Tracy McGrady, Dikembe Mutombo and George Gervin (Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson awarded 10s) were the judges who failed to recognize such perfection.
“Only” needing a 48 to win, Zach LaVine (like Michael Jordan before him) fell back on his habit of being able to do wonderful things while jumping from about 15 feet away from the basket. In the final dunk of a historic evening, LaVine gave us the first between-the-legs (near)-free-throw dunk in contest history:
In terms of competition alone, this was at the very least on par with the 1988 dunk contest featuring Michael Jordan’s controversial win over Dominique Wilkins. In terms of individual performances, even in defeat Aaron Gordon neared Vince Carter’s exploits in 2000. It was the best of both worlds, in an evening that we foolishly thought would be dominated by the Three-Point Shootout.
You get the feeling that the invited third and fourth participants in the 2017 dunk contest, as Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon come back to square off again, might come down with a curious late hamstring pull or ankle sprain this time next year. One can only hope that the two combatants are not out of dunks.
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