2016 NBA All-Star Saturday Recap And Highlights

Feb 13, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon competes during the dunk contest during the NBA All Star Saturday Night at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon competes during the dunk contest during the NBA All Star Saturday Night at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /
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Feb 13, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine celebrates with the trophy after winning the dunk contest during the NBA All Star Saturday Night at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Verizon Slam Dunk Contest:

The Slam Dunk Contest has come under fire in recent years, though Zach LaVine helped restore faith last year. As the defending champ, LaVine’s eventual heavyweight battle with Aaron Gordon turned into an instant classic, not only reviving the Dunk Contest, but taking it to heights the event had never been seen before.

No exaggeration: the 2016 Slam Dunk Contest may go down as the best Slam Dunk Contest of all time.

On his first dunk attempt and the first of the night, Will Barton went with a reverse between-the-legs two-handed stuff that earned him a score of 44 — a score that would have been higher if not for Magic Johnson’s disappointing score of six.

Andre Drummond’s first dunk attempt was a disappointment, with the Detroit Pistons center trying to go between the legs off the bounce from behind the basket for a reverse one-handed stuff.

But he missed his first two attempts and eventually settled for the same off the bounce dunk, only without the between-the-legs action, to earn a score of 36.

Aaron Gordon earned a score of 45 for his first dunk, a 360, between-the-legs one-handed jam. The originality didn’t particularly stand out, but the execution was pretty solid on his first try.

The defending Slam Dunk champion came out to Drake’s “Back-To-Back,” quickly building hype for his first attempt. LaVine didn’t disappoint the amped up crowd, throwing down an unreal dunk off the bounce where he put the ball behind his back, flying toward the other side of the rim and throwing down a reverse one-handed slam.

Needless to say, LaVine’s unbelievable first dunk earned a perfect score of 50 from the judges.

On Drummond’s second attempt, the disappointment continued. Though Drummond brought out Steve Nash to show off his soccer skills, it took about six tries for Nash to pass him the ball well enough with his feet to set Drummond up.

The cameo was fantastic for the Canadian crowd, but it just took too many tries for Nash to feed Drummond for the windmill alley-oop. The judges felt similarly, rewarding the dunk with a score of 39.

Barton also flamed out in the second round, earning a score of 30 after he failed to convert his 360 windmill attempts off the bounce. He missed his third attempt too, another off the bounce attempt where he cocked the ball back for the one-handed stuff but couldn’t put it down.

Gordon may have missed it on his first try, but his second dunk was a sign of things to come. The Magic sophomore brought out the team’s mascot, Stuff the Magic Dragon, on one of those handsfree electric scooters. Stuff held the ball over his head while still on the scooter, at which point Gordon leaped over him, put the ball between his legs and stuffed the one-handed dunk.

Gordon would have earned a perfect score if not for Shaquille O’Neal’s score of nine, which left him with 49 points.

LaVine brought out Andre Miller for his next dunk, with Miller throwing the lob pass as LaVine launched himself from the free throw line. He missed the first attempt, but he threw it down on his second try to earn a score of 49.

Once again, Shaq was the lone nine, citing how LaVine didn’t put it home on his first attempt. Sticklers will also note that Lavine jumped from JUUUUSST inside the free throw line.

Gordon’s next dunk was the best of the night (to that point), with Stuff the Magic Dragon spinning in circles on his hoverboard. Gordon timed his jump perfectly, cupping the ball with one hand as he leaped, putting his other hand behind his head, spinning through the air and slamming down the windmill.

Needless to say, Gordon earned a perfect score on that attempt, which came on his first try.

But LaVine quickly countered, letting the fans know he wouldn’t go down without a fight. He earned a score of 50 for a very similar dunk where he tossed the ball up in the air, cupped it with one hand off the bounce, spun and threw down a windmill of his own.

Gordon’s next dunk, however, should have been good enough for the win. On any other night, it probably would have been. With Stuff holding the ball over his head once again, Gordon leaped over the Magic mascot and somehow managed to put the ball under both of his extended legs to throw down the one-handed jam.

I REPEAT: THE MAN PUT THE BALL UNDER HIS LEGS FOR THE DUNK. It was unlike anything in Slam Dunk Contest history, and by far the most amazing spectacle of the night. He earned a perfect score of 50, though he probably deserved a 60.

However, there was no way LaVine’s next dunk deserved anything less than a 50, with the Timberwolves’ shooting guard throwing down a windmill from just inside the free throw line.

Again: LaVine threw down a windmill dunk from the free throw line, earning him a perfect score of 50 and extending the Slam Dunk Contest another round.

The unbelievable display continued with Gordon’s next dunk. Orlando point guard Elfrid Payton came out to throw a pass off the side of the backboard, which Gordon caught and turned into a spinning, reverse two-handed stuff.

The dunk earned a 50, though it was probably Gordon’s weakest attempt of the night.

LaVine wasted no time in matching Gordon’s 50, throwing the ball high into the air from under the basket. He caught the ball off the bounce, put it between his legs and somehow managed to throw down the two-handed stuff from under the rim, earning another perfect score.

Gordon’s final dunk didn’t earn the undying love of the judges, unfortunately. The dunk was probably better on slow motion replay, but Gordon managed to put the ball behind his head, drop it low between his legs, and throw home the two-handed reverse stuff.

It was tough to tell what he did in real-time, which may have ultimately hurt him. Otherwise, bringing the ball from behind his head and then down low between his legs and THEN back up for the two-handed dunk would’ve been another perfect score. The judges gave him a 47, giving LaVine just enough room for the win with another perfect dunk.

On the final dunk of the night, LaVine made sure to let the world know he deserved the win, completing a between the legs dunk from just inside the free throw line to earn a perfect score and back-to-back Slam Dunk Contest titles.

Nothing else needs to be said. Just enjoy.

There may be some discrepancy that Gordon deserved to win, and he certainly did. He had arguably the best dunk of the night, and maybe even the best two dunks of the evening, but LaVine didn’t deserve to lose either.

Either way, we’re all winners, especially if this loss prompts Gordon to return next year.

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Greatest Slam Dunk Contest of all time? I think so.