The NBA’s slam dunk contest is one of the league’s most iconic traditions and has produced some great moments over the years. From Vince Carter bursting on to the scene in 2000 to Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins duelling it out back in 1988, the contest epitomizes what we all love about the All-Star weekend, and the NBA.
However, in recent years the dunk contest has lost its lustre. Cheap gimmicks have replaced the pure athleticism and wow factor of the golden age of the dunk contest. DeAndre Jordan leaping over DJ Khaled’s decks or Aaron Gordon’s use of a drone last year are perfect examples of how the contest has lost its way in recent years.
Thankfully, this year's edition was a throwback to the best dunk contests in memory with rookie Donovan Mitchell and Larry Nance Jr. fighting out in a dunk duel which showcased all that is great about NBA All-Star weekend. Both Nance Jr. and Mitchell incorporated nods to the past in their routines. Nance Jr. replicated his father’s winning dunk from the 1984 contest whilst Mitchell stripped down to reveal a retro Vince Carter Jersey before throwing down Carter’s famous elbow dunk from 2000.
A nod to Zach Lavine
Whilst Mitchell’s winning performance was impressive the king of the dunk contest in recent years has without a doubt been Zach Lavine. The winner of back-to-back dunk contests in 2015 and 2016, Lavine’s performances stood out against a background of dunks which relied heavily on props or dunks which took an agonizing number of attempts, killing the atmosphere in the arena.
From the moment he entered the arena in 2015, to the theme tune from Space Jam, to when he threw down his first dunk, a between the legs reverse flush whilst wearing a Jordan Space Jam jersey, it was clear we were witnessing something special. Lavine had a languid athleticism and easy swagger which made his dunks look effortless. The reaction from NBA stars in attendance confirmed that the Minnesota rookie was built for this.
Lavine saw of competition from Victor Oladipo, Mason Plumlee and Giannis Antetokounmpo to take home the crown in 2015. Capping of his insane debut with a super-smooth effort of the stanchion to seal the victory.