BROOKLYN – The Dunk Contest wasn’t dead before Zach LaVine revived it. But his instant classic performance before an awed Barclays Center crowd brings a sense of promising longevity back to All-Star Saturday’s former main event that’s been absent for years.
Not much else needs to be said about the performance of the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie, but what speaks to the gravity of it is that Victor Oladipo’s first jam has been lost in its resulting hubbub. 10 minutes prior to LaVine taking the floor for his first offering, the Orlando Magic guard set the tone for the eventual champ’s performance.
In most dunk contests, this 540-degree double-pump beauty would be the talk of Saturday festivities:
But not on LaVine’s night. Oladipo finished second in the minds of viewers everywhere long before he fell to the teenager in the final round. Throw the scores out, too – LaVine’s masterpiece quartet deserves better than such narrow judgement.
He broke the league with his first effort:
Nearly topped it one slam later:
Used Andrew Wiggins for a lefty Eastbay:
And was aided by his teammate again for the last and most underrated jam of the night:
Maybe the most amazing thing about all of this? None of it surprised those of us lucky enough to be familiar with LaVine’s aerial work. He arguably put on a better show at the Seattle Pro-Am in July:
But the lights of All-Star are bright and LaVine is very young – to bet against him was assuming he’d collapse under the pressure. Instead, he kept rising and rising to create even more of it.
The Barclays crowd performed an accidental wave as he prepared his second offering, with fans standing in circular succession to get a best possible glimpse of the moment to come. That accidental celebration ensued on both of his dunks thereafter, too, and normally reserved league writers across the arena were seen exchanging audible and physical acts of astonishment. All-Stars on the sideline jumped for unabashed joy. LaVine elicited the kind of all-encompassing reaction from those in attendance on Saturday that every All-Star can only hope to provide.
Afterward, the raw guard from UCLA told reporters his goal was to bring excitement back to the Dunk Contest.
“Slam Dunk Contest is supposed to be the hype around All-Star Weekend,” he said. “That’s what gets the crowds. I wanted to put a jolt through the crowd and get everybody off their feet, and just have a really good time.”
And considering LaVine’s youth and obvious affinity for the event, it surely won’t be long until the competition that used to highlight All-Star Weekend relives its former glory.