For years the NBA Slam Dunk Contest was labeled as stale and lacking in creativity. What it was really missing was Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon.
After an incredible back-and-forth loaded with superb athleticism and style, Minnesota Timberwolves guard LaVine defended his title and claimed a second straight dunk contest Saturday night in Toronto.
LaVine and Orlando forward Gordon traded jaw-dropping dunks in the finals, but LaVine became the fifth player to win the contest twice, and fourth to sew up two straight crowns. The 20-year-old wrapped up a very successful All-Star Weekend, after also claiming the Rising Stars Challenge MVP on Friday.
LaVine also thwarted the efforts of Pistons center Andre Drummond and Nuggets forward Will Barton.
LaVine unleashed some of his behind the back moves from last year, but rolled out some new ones too, including an alley-oop while taking off from the free throw line and he even went between the legs from the same distance.
Gordon flashed the skills of an Olympic high jumper by soaring over Magic mascot Stuff the Magic Dragon twice.
Perking up a crowd that was rather lethargic after the first three dunks from the other contestants, LaVine picked up right where he left off last year by tossing a lob to himself and catching the bounce for a behind the back twisting, one-handed slam and a perfect 50 to start.
Gordon picked up 45 points on his first dunk and followed up with some help from the Magic’s mascot, Stuff the Magic Dragon. Gordon placed Stuff right in front of the basket, proceeded to leap and completely clear his head and achieved enough hangtime to put the ball between his legs and throw it down with one hand.
LaVine countered by taking off from the free throw line with a little assist.
Gordon countered by again employing Stuff, having the mascot spin on a hoverboard while he perfectly timed the rotation, lept, spun, and cupped the ball for perhaps the night's most impressive dunk.
Barton opened the event with a solid between-the-legs, two-handed reverse that stirred the crowd in the first round, and he served as LaVine’s biggest creative threat on the night.
However, Barton couldn't convert on several attempts to land his second dunk in the first round, and earned 30 points, the lowest possible score.