LAVINE WINS EPIC DUNK CONTEST
“He’s a freak.” It was Saturday morning — about 10 hours before the most exhilarating dunk contest in NBA history finally concluded — when DeMarcus Cousins exhaled, shook his head and declared his prediction for the night’s main event.
“Zach,” he said. “He’s a freak.”
Two years in a row, the main takeaway from NBA All-Star Weekend is that the one person everyone really wants to see isn’t even an All-Star. LaVine isn’t a household name. He’s not even 21 years old and could possibly be the worst defender at his position. But in what’s quickly morphed into one of the most anticipated annual rituals in all of professional sports, the Minnesota Timberwolves guard spends 20 minutes tantalizing millions while at the same time supplying more than any could even imagine to ask for.
Who — or what — is LaVine? Is he “only” the Steph Curry of dunking, next in line on an evolutionary flow chart that connects Connie Hawkins to Julius Erving to Michael Jordan to Vince Carter? Or does he align with Harold Miner and Gerald Green? How much is there to unpack? What else is there to discover?
On Saturday night, LaVine’s epic head-to-head showdown against Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon — who also had some of the greatest dunks in history — somehow obscured those questions while simultaneously nudging them beneath a spotlight. But before I go on to explain, here’s a brief interlude for any who’ve yet to witness one of the most magical things that’s ever happened.
What follows is basically the basketball equivalent of “Apocalypse Now” being co-directed by Spike Jonze and Kanye West, and neither has slept in five days:
Continue Reading: Zach LaVine tops Aaron Gordon in epic slam dunk contest.
Thoughts I Cannot Put Anywhere Else:
- During pre-game intros, both Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook spurn the bro-hug opp with Canadian Prime Minister Drake. Russ had the best All-Star Game entrance I’ve ever seen (at 2:15 above)
- Could NBA All-Star Weekend have been more spectacular? It was hands down the best since maybe … forever. No league does exhibition events and games better.
- Win Butler, an American who happens to be the lead singer in a Canadian band (Arcade Fire), is named MVP in Friday night’s Celebrity Game. Then he gets blocked in the postgame interview by Sage Steele (“So we’re talking about celebrity stuff, not politics.”)
- That game also featured the NBA commissioner’s brother-in-law.
- Ernie, Sir Charles, Kenny and Shaq make anything watchable. For example, the Talent Challenge. Subtract their hilarious commentary and answer this: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, what was that?
- Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine put on arguably the best dunk contest duel since Michael Jordan versus Dominique Wilkins. Gordon loses to LaVine, but his dunk will have a more lasting legacy.
- From a sentimental perspective, the Rising Stars Challenge is my favorite event. I love giving the league’s emerging talent a platform to shine. Anyone else agree?
- Vancouver Island native Steve Nash opens Sunday night’s festivities reminding all that Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian, invented the game.
- How awesome was the revamped Skills Challenge, featuring the frontcourt versus the backcourt? And the close finish between Isaiah Thomas and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns winning, took it waaaay over the top for me.
- The West scores 196 points in a 196-173 win. We are informed by Marv Albert (who works really, really well with Reggie Miller and Chris Webber) that the Air Canada Center scoreboard is not designed to put up a “2” in that spot.
- Who knew Kevin Hart, a 5-feet-4 comedian and actor, would become the NBA’s No. 1 pitchman? From commercials to coaching to competing to commentating, he was everywhere.
- I know it was Kobe Bryant’s final All-Star Game and everything, but were two video montages really necessary?
- ALSO: Why didn’t we know keeping track of how many times Kobe mentioned “trying to stay loose” would be the unofficial drinking game of the night? #OldManProbs
- Beyond stating the obvious about the All-Star Game’s halftime performance, Sting and the dancers? Nah.
- Drake’s “Farewell Mamba” leather jacket: cool or creepy? #TeamCreepy
- Back-to-back All-Star wins for Russell Westbrook (All-Star Game MVP) and Zach Lavine (Slam Dunk Contest). There’s gotta be a Drake versus Meek Mill joke in there somewhere, right?
- The Minnesota Timberwolves sure put the basketball world on notice this weekend, didn’t they? They have some serious young talent: No. 1 overall draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns, two-time Slam Dunk Contest champ Zach Lavine and 2015 Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. A bright future awaits them, and the loss of their coach Flip Saunders earlier in the season makes that incredibly bittersweet.
- During a timeout, a 6’1″ white dude in long pants, Jordan Kilganon, performs a spectacular dunk as if he were inside a bouncy house. We’re still not sure how he did it.
- Paul George scores 41 points. In the final two minutes the West seems to realize that the Indiana forward is just a bucket away from breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 54-year old All-Star Game scoring record, so Coach Pop has Draymond Green face guard him.
- Stephen Curry buries a 42-footer as time expires, but TNT/TBS cameras are too busy focusing on Kobe and miss it.
- West scores big in NBA All-Star Game – The Western Conference shattered the record for points in an NBA All-Star Game with a 196-173 victory over the East. The previous mark was 163 points, which was set by the Eastern Conference in 2014 and tied by the West last year. Interestingly, a record total of 153 points by the West stood from 1961 until it was surpassed in an overtime game in 1984, and the mark was broken only once more over the next 29 years, also in a game that went to overtime.
- George continues a recent trend, but Wilt’s mark survives again – Paul George led all players with 41 points. But like Russell Westbrook a year ago, George fell one point short of the All-Star Game record set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. Seven of the 12 highest individual point totals in the NBA All-Star Game have been attained since 2011.
- Chris Paul, Helper to the Stars – Chris Paul had 16 assists for the winning team, and he became the second player in league history to reach the 100-assist mark in NBA All-Star competition. With 106 assists, Paul trails only Magic Johnson (127). It was the seventh time in eight All-Star Games that Paul assisted on at least 10 field goals, setting a record for ASG’s with double-digit assists. Magic Johnson had six such games.
- Bryant leaves with an All-Star record – Kobe Bryant was credited with seven assists. Assuming Bryant retires following this season, that will be the highest total in the history of the All-Star Game by a player in his final season in the NBA. The previous record was five by Julius Ervingin 1987.
- Davis is nearly perfect from the field – Anthony Davis made 12 of 13 shots from the field (92%), which was the highest shooting percentage in an NBA All-Star Game by a player who made at least 10 field goals. The previous mark was 86 percent by Tim Duncan in 2000 (12-for-14), although it must be noted that Hal Greer was 8-for-8 from the floor in the 1968 All-Star Game.