The Slam Dunk Contest is back, and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine is a two-time champion after defeating young Orlando Magic star Aaron Gordon in the second round of sudden death in Toronto on Saturday.
Gordon and LaVine put on a show, posting multiple 50s for an amazing finals matchup. The two high-flyers outscored Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton and Detroit Pistons All-Star center Andre Drummond.
Here's a breakdown of what happened:
|Player||Team||Round 1||Round 2||Finals||Sudden Death|
|Zach LaVine||Minnesota Timberwolves||50||49||100||100|
|Aaron Gordon||Orlando Magic||45||49||100||97|
|Will Barton||Denver Nuggets||44||30||-||-|
|Andre Drummond||Detroit Pistons||36||39||-||-|
Barton started the contest and didn't waste any time getting the crowd into it. Coming out in a Michael Jackson "Thriller" jacket, followed by cheerleaders dressed as zombies, Barton faced a lot of pressure going into his first dunk.
It took only one attempt, but Barton scored a 44 with a between-the-legs reverse dunk that looked effortless. One notable Hall of Fame point guard, however, was not impressed, per CBS Sports' Zach Harper:
Magic gave him a 6? Did he think it was Mike D’Antoni?— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) February 14, 2016
Next up was Drummond, whose first two attempts were off the mark when he attempted a lobbed between-the-legs jam from the baseline. He ended up with a first-round score of 36.
Gordon's dunk was similar to Barton's, a one-handed reverse dunk. However, he received a 45 from the judges. He may have gotten a higher score if he had taken advice from ESPN's Skip Bayless:
Aaron Gordon should've left his tux on and dunked in it.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) February 14, 2016
Nothing could top the reigning champ, who scored a 50 on his first attempt. Coming out to hometown rapper Drake's hit song "Back To Back," LaVine pulled off a lobbed behind-the-back reverse dunk that looked effortless. It was fitting that LaVine pulled off the dunk in Toronto, as CBS Sports' Matt Moore hasn't seen anyone do it better since a former Raptors superstar:
BSV.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 14, 2016
CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie replied to Moore's comment:
Forget BSV.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) February 14, 2016
Drummond began Round 2 by enlisting the help of a former All-Star point guard, Canada's own Steve Nash. The former Phoenix Suns legend passed the basketball with his feet, like a soccer ball, and Drummond finished it off with a windmill dunk, receiving a 39 from the judges.
With a chance to make a run at Gordon for a shot in the finals, Barton attempted a reverse 360 dunk but couldn't convert on any of his chances and received the minimum score of 30.
After an attempt that had a sprinkle of deja vu, Gordon redeemed himself by throwing down a between-the-legs dunk over the Magic mascot. He received a 49, with the one lone nine coming from Shaquille O'Neal.
Gerald Bourguet of Hoops Habit had this thought, which makes a lot of sense upon further review:
How come every time a #Magic big man does something cool Shaq has to bring him down?— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) February 14, 2016
ESPN's Robin Lundberg also chimed in with thoughts on Shaq's scoring:
Shaq a hater.— Robin Lundberg (@robinlundberg) February 14, 2016
Bleacher Report had this reaction:
OH, MY! GORDON! #NBAAllStarTO— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 14, 2016
But the big man's questionable scoring carried over to LaVine, who threw down a one-handed alley-oop from the free-throw line, tossed by teammate Andre Miller. It took two tries, but LaVine slammed it home with ease. He got a 49, and ESPN's Bomani Jones felt Shaq was in the wrong:
shaq ain't dr j. he's not allowed to hate like this.— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) February 14, 2016
The two best dunks of the night set up a final round between Gordon and LaVine, with both showing their creativity.
Gordon used the Orlando mascot for a second time, but this time with a little flair. With the dragon spinning in circles on a PhunkeeDuck, Gordon took the ball from his hands and threw down a 360 dunk. LaVine responded with almost the same dunk, but on a self-lob that resulted in a 50.
Then, the dunk contest got insane. Gordon jammed over the mascot again, but this time he put the ball underneath his legs and slammed it home. The judges gave him a 50. Needing a 50 to tie, LaVine pulled off a windmill dunk from the free-throw line. Sudden death was on the horizon.
ESPN's Josina Anderson shared her thoughts:
Stinky…..DAMN!— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) February 14, 2016
Overtime began with Gordon going with a different form of help, this time from his point guard, Elfrid Payton. The second-year guard threw the ball off the side of the backboard, and Gordon exploded with a double-clutch reverse, which gave him a 50.
Vecenie was quick to note the defending champion had some competition:
OKAY AARON GORDON IS REAL.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) February 14, 2016
LaVine answered with one from behind the backboard as well, but he caught it with one hand, double-clutched it and dunked it on his first attempt. The judges also scored that a 50.
Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star did not want the contest to end:
have them dunk until monday morning— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) February 14, 2016
For his final dunk, Gordon put the ball behind his head, clutched it and threw down a reverse slam that would have been a 50 at any other time, but he got a 47. LaVine finished it off with a between-the-legs dunk near the free-throw line that resulted in another 50.
The only thing missing from the contest was a dunk in honor of Vince Carter, who put on the best dunk performance of all time while with the Raptors. But LaVine and Gordon put on a show for the ages, and the only question that remains is: If LaVine decides to defend the title next year, what more can he do?
Gordon was willing to go all night if he knew sudden death was an option.
"If I knew it was going to be like that…we would have been dunking all night," Gordon said, per James Herbert of CBS Sports. "50 after 50 after 50 after 50."
Gordon pulled every possible trick out of the bag, but it wasn't until one of LaVine's final dunks that the Magic star knew he ran out of time.
"[LaVine] went through the legs from the free-throw line. That's insane," Gordon said, per Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. "That's why the trophy is with him and not with me."
LaVine dedicated his win to former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders after the contest:
As LaVine pointed out, the dunkers increased their degree of difficulty as the night went on.
"Half the dunks we did were like professional-dunker dunks, and it takes them four or five tries to make it," LaVine said, per Herbert.
Gordon said he was just pulling ideas out of thin air.
"I kinda don't really know what I just did," Gordon said, per Seerat Sohi of Rolling Stone.