The Splash Brothers looked like a pebble dropping into the ocean by the time Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon got done breathing new life into the Slam Dunk Contest.
LaVine, a 20-year-old leader of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Gordon, also 20 and of which there isn't much of a comparison after forcing his way into the starting lineup with the Orlando Magic, made the globe recite one sentence by the end of Saturday night: The Slam Dunk Contest is back.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson put on a show in a teammate-versus-teammate affair in the Three-Point Contest, but it wound up not even coming close to what LaVine and Gordon accomplished.
And while LaVine gets the "eventual" tag in front of his name for going on to defend his title by taking home some individual hardware, the escalating arms race created by Gordon brought back an intensity between two guys perhaps not seen since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa went at it for the home run crown.
LaVine started off strong to go ahead and show the world he'd be one of the finalists:
Gordon did much of the same, providing some Toronto-inspired flare with a between-the-legs look:
It's only right CBSSports.com's Matt Moore and others got a BSV trend going on Twitter, a way of honoring past greats such as Vince Carter but giving the nod to the future led by the finalists, LaVine and Gordon:
Hardwood Paroxysm @HPbasketball
BSV. BEST. SINCE. VINCE.2/14/2016, 3:01:44 AM
As if anyone should be surprised, the two wound up trading scores of 50 throughout the rest of the contest.
Why not? Gordon went for a between-the-legs showcase over a mascot:
LaVine went from the free-throw line off a bounce:
As one can probably imagine, most didn't want the festivities to end. The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner was one of many:
Candace Buckner @CandaceDBuckner
have them dunk until monday morning2/14/2016, 3:31:11 AM
Odd as it sounds, the two saved their best for last in the final round. LaVine went for the highest degree of difficulty possible by grabbing a ball off a bounce and getting a full rotation with seemingly as little effort as possible:
Gordon, well, defied physics:
ESPN's Arash Markazi put it best:
Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi
A human being recreated The Matrix in real life tonight. Forget the Dunk Contest. This should be front page news. https://t.co/JQ2wcPXBK62/14/2016, 4:10:03 AM
CBS Sports' Will Brinson provided some harrowing perspective:
Will Brinson @WillBrinson
Aaron Gordon's KNEES are 7 feet off the court here. https://t.co/k7nXVwBUJB2/14/2016, 3:47:27 AM
If there was one reaction that summed up the widespread feelings of the contest, it was probably one by NBC Sports' Rob Dauster:
Rob Dauster @RobDauster
This legit might be the best dunk contest dunk ever. Aaron Gordon got robbed, man. Robbed. https://t.co/Bk9OQ76KL22/14/2016, 3:36:55 AM
How did the contestants themselves react to the epic showdown?
For Gordon, who didn't seem to realize the contest could have an extended final round to decide the champion, he admitted his cohort put on the better show taking into account the entire night, according to CBSSports.com's Jared Dubin.
"It's hard to say," Gordon said. "Out of my first four dunks, I think potentially I could have won. It could have gone either way. Zach's an incredible dunker. He went through the legs from the free-throw line. That's insane. So off that dunk, you've got to give it to him. That's why the trophy's with him and not with me."
LaVine offered just as much praise for his counterpart, as captured by SLAM Magazine:
SLAM Magazine @SLAMonline
"I had to bring my A++ game." —Zach LaVine on beating Aaron Gordon. Also says they should damn near share the trophy after that performance.2/14/2016, 3:38:21 AM
Some of the best dunks of all time, young budding stars and outstanding post-contest interviews?
The Slam Dunk Contest is back, indeed.
Rest assured, these two aren't going anywhere when it comes to the contest in future years. After reeling in the usual viewers and then some with gravity-defying stunts, there is little doubt about it.
For LaVine, going for a third title in a row makes sense. For Gordon, finally sitting on the throne looks like the goal.
Charlotte awaits the historic duo next year.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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