The NBA Slam Dunk Contest has a new gold standard.
Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves outdueled the Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon in arguably the most legendary contest in the history of the event.
The 1988 Slam Dunk Contest, which was highlighted by Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins, was previously considered the greatest battle in contest history. In 2013, Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver ranked Jordan vs. Wilkins at No. 1 in an in-depth breakdown of the contest.
But during the TV broadcast on TNT, analyst and former dunk contest participant Kenny Smith made the bold statement of calling the 2016 competition the greatest of all time because of the three-round dunk-off that resulted in the victory for LaVine.
Gordon and LaVine reached the finals after knocking off Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons and Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets. The two stars of the All-Star Saturday Night matched 50-point dunks in the finals before heading into an impromptu dunk-off to decide the winner.
After Gordon and LaVine matched perfect 50s on their first two dunk-off performances, LaVine finally took home the trophy with his sixth dunk of the night.
As ESPN's Kevin Pelton pointed out, LaVine finished the night just one point shy of a perfect score:
Zach LaVine scored 299 out of a possible 300 points.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) February 14, 2016
To put those legendary 50-point dunks into context, consider the fact that prior to LaVine posting two 50s last year, no one had performed multiple 50-point dunks in the same contest in the previous five years, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
LaVine finished the night with a remarkable five 50-point dunks, with Gordon adding three of his own.
Here's a look at what proved to be the winning slam for LaVine:
The impact of his performance certainly wasn't lost on LaVine, who, according to ESPN's J.A. Adande, called it the greatest contest of all time:
Zach Lavine calls it the best dunk contest ever. "Half the dunks we did were like professional dunker dunks."— J.A. Adande (@jadande) February 14, 2016
LaVine certainly isn't alone in that sentiment, as many other NBA stars in attendance on Saturday night were quick to chime in with similar thoughts:
Best dunk contest I've ever seen in my life !— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) February 14, 2016
Best Dunk contest. Ever!!!— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) February 14, 2016
That was a historic event.........— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummondd) February 14, 2016
Skeptics may be wondering whether the current NBA stars are simply caught up in the moment or perhaps too young to remember the legendary Wilkins-Jordan showdown. But Hall of Famer James Worthy, who was in attendance as an All-Star in 1988, is among those crowning 2016 the greatest contest of all time:
Best Dunk Contest in NBA history!#NBAAllStarWeekend— James Worthy (@JamesWorthy42) February 14, 2016
One of the aspects of the dunk contest that makes it such a popular event is the debate that follows, which is precisely why this year's contest will go down in history.
We may never officially settle the argument over which contest reigns supreme, but the question is sure to be brought up for years to come—as will the highlights from LaVine and Gordon's legendary dunk-off.
Let's just hope both LaVine and Gordon stay healthy and grant us a rematch next February.
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