Having won last year's Dunk Contest at the NBA's All Star weekend slew of events, it was a no brainer that Zach Lavine would compete again this year. But, Aaron Gordon, the 2nd year forward out of Arizona playing for the Orlando Magic had designs of his own. And, the fans were rewarded.
Gordon's plan for winning the dunk contest trophy was to break out 4 dunks that had never been seen before. He did. Personally, I thought the mascot spinning on a hoverboard was slightly spurious, but the hops, the precision with which he cupped the ball, the manner in which he 360 windmilled, making the dunk look as effortless as he did; it was a dunk that could not be denied.
And it wasn't even his best dunk.
And thus the stage was set for what was in my opinion, the best dunk competition in many many years. The Human Highlight Reel would agree.
The dunk contest is back!!!— Dominique Wilkins (@DWilkins21) February 14, 2016
And, he wasn't kidding. After moving beyond the early rounds of the contest, Lavine and Gordon would go back and forth, throwing down dunk after dunk, earning perfect score after perfect score. So, it was no surprise when the dunk competition moved into 'overtime.' And, the two athletes stepped up to the challenge, throwing down more and more perfect dunks.
Zach Lavine got an opportunity to move ahead when Aaron Gordon threw down a vicious dunk that earned a bevy of 10s but also a few 9s. Lavine took to the court, prowled around for a second, then took off, straight for the basket, then took off juuuuust past the free throw line then went between the legs to throw down. It was the stuff of legends.
It was curious to me, while watching from the comforts of my living room, the incredible display of athleticism, that Zach Lavine never started in his one year at UCLA. Ok, Ok, I don't want to be accused of being negative, so allow me to clarify. Zach would start ONE game, and that because two players had been suspended, pretty much forcing Steve Alford's hand. But, the point remains. I'm watching the competition, and I turn to my buddy and say, "If I've got this kid on my college team, I tell him, you have a green light to throw down one great dunk a game. Spread your wings and fly." It takes me back to one of the great criticisms of Dean Smith: "The only man to hold Jordan to under 20 points a game." And, such was Zach's lot in college life, being under utilized in Alford's notion of 'team.'
And for those of you who think Zach is just a smooth, high-flyer ... well you're wrong. He also has game and was named MVP of the Rising Stars Competition on Friday. Zach scored 30 points and contributed 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal in the game that pitted the U.S. players against the world. Take a look at game highlights and Zach's MVP acceptance.
Moving on; it was a great and spirited competition. And, like many others, I am incredibly proud and happy for Zach Lavine. I am especially happy to see how he represents himself, and by extension our university. Congratulations Zach! You are one of only four people to ever win back to back dunk contests.
For your viewing pleasure, all of Zach's dunks isolated from the rest of the competition.