Zach LaVine called it the best dunk contest ever after the Minnesota Timberwolves’ shooting guard beat Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon in a clash to rival Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins’.
The spectacular display between the duo was a fitting finale to All-Star Saturday ahead of the All-Star Game on Sunday in Toronto, Canada, and Gordon is already up for a rematch next year.
‘In Charlotte, yeah, if they want me to come back, I probably will,’ Gordon said.
For now, it’s time to turn the attention at All-Star weekend back to where it started: Kobe Bryant and the rest of the NBA’s best. The All-Star Game tips off Sunday night and the crowd should still be buzzing over the performances LaVine and Gordon.
Minnesota Timberwolves’ Zach LaVine on his way to victory in the NBA All-Star weekend’s Slam Dunk Contest
Shooting guard LaVine beat Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon in a spectacular close to All-Star Saturday
LaVine and Gordon had to go to extra dunks after the duo kept delivering precision and power in their dunks
LaVine came out on top and declared the competition even better than ones won by the great Michael Jordan
LaVine finally won after extra dunks were needed, joining Jordan, Jason Richardson and Nate Robinson as the only back-to-back winners of the dunk title.
He knows people might still talk about Jordan or Julius Erving, great dunkers of the past. But even they didn’t pull off what LaVine and Gordon did Saturday, so LaVine was asked if it was the best.
‘Like half the dunks we did were like professional dunker dunks, and it takes them four or five times to try it and make it, and we did it on the first try,’ LaVine said. ‘It was crazy. In my opinion, yes.’
So good that people forgot about the Splash Brothers’ shootout in the three-point contest that Klay Thompson won to prevent Stephen Curry’s repeat, and the All-Star Game on Sunday night that will feature Bryant’s final appearance.
All-Star weekend so far has belonged to LaVine and the Minnesota Timberwolves, as rookie Karl-Anthony Towns showed big guys have skills, too.
The night – and the first two nights of this first All-Star weekend held outside the US – ended with a celebration for LaVine, who won the MVP award in Friday night in the Rising Stars Challenge for rookies and second-year players.
LaVine approaches the basket for one of his crowd-pleasing slam dunks on Saturday in Canada
The guard leaps from just beyond the free-throw line before employing a touch of trickery for the judges
Looking like something out of Space Jam, LaVine defies gravity while carrying out an under-the-leg move
Stuffing the ball in the basket is a formality for the 20-year-old 6ft 5in guard and back-to-back dunk champion
He outlasted Gordon in a duel that needed two overtimes and ended only when there was literally no ball to use. Curry batted it down to other end of the court after he and the other NBA stars who were as captivated as the fans and celebrities sitting courtside charged onto the court after LaVine leaped from just inside the free-throw line, put the ball between his legs in mid-air and slammed it down.
He and Gordon traded perfect scores of 50 for the previous few rounds after advancing to the final, but the Orlando Magic rookie mustered only a 47 in his last attempt.
But he may have had the most memorable dunks of the night with some help from the Magic’s mascot – aptly named Stuff the Magic Dragon.
On Stuff’s first assist, Gordon took the ball with one hand from the mascot, who was spinning around on a hoverboard, and did a 360-degree dunk. He got another assist from Stuff on the next one, leaping high to take the ball, putting it under his legs – nearly in a sitting position in mid-air – and slamming it down with his left hand.
‘Me and him are now like best friends, me and Stuff,’ Gordon said.
The only boos went to the judges, with the crowd thinking Shaquille O’Neal was a little stingy with a couple of 9s instead of perfect 10s.
‘We were kind of mind-boggled a couple times because we got 49s and they were 50s,’ LaVine said.
Aaron Gordon gave LaVine a serious run for his money with help from the Orlando Magic mascot
Gordon leapfrogs Stuff the Magic Dragon for one of the more spectacular dunks of All-Star Saturday
Gordon shows his incredible agility on the way to the basket with assistance from ‘best friend’ Stuff
There was no shortage of perfect scores from the judges at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario
Earlier in the 3-point contest, Curry wasn’t even the best on his own team after setting a final-round record last year.
This time, Thompson was so good, he had clinched it even before the final ball on his final rack. He started to walk away after making first four – then turned and made that one, anyway.
‘He definitely shot well tonight,’ Curry said. ‘I still think I can hold my own in the competition, but the way that he finished off that second round was amazing. So trust me, the pressure of knowing what number he had to hit and making five out of five was fun to watch.’
Towns beat Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas to win the Skills Challenge, further validating the evolution of the big man from a plodding post player to a playmaking force.
‘I’m glad I was able to help the bigs come out with this trophy,’ said Towns, the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft. ‘This is bigger than me. This is for all the bigs out there, with the game changing the way it is, to show that bigs can stand up with guards and skill-wise.’