Zach LaVine soars to dunk contest title
New York — Stephen Curry honored a fallen fan the best way he knew how. Zach LaVine made a name for himself in a dunk contest that lacked star punch.
Curry bested Golden State Warriors teammate Klay Thompson and six others to win his first 3-point contest, and Lavine put on a spectacular aerial display to take home the dunk competition during a memorable All-Star Saturday night.
Curry paid homage to one of the three victims of the shooting in North Carolina earlier this week by writing Deah Shaddy Barakat's name on his sneakers, and he wore the shoes again during the shooting stars competition earlier Saturday night. Barakat was one of three Muslim college students killed Tuesday in Curry's home state.
"It only seemed right to honor him and his family, and hopefully they know that people are thinking about them," Curry said. "They're not alone, and hopefully it can give them some kind of peace and comfort knowing that he was a special guy. And I just did my little part to shed light toward him."
The All-Star point guard scored 27 points in the final round. Curry connected on 13 consecutive shots until missing his final attempt, bringing fans and celebrities roaring to their feet after every swish at Brookyln's Barclays Center.
Thompson, who had an opening-round best of 24, scored only 14 points in the final round. Cleveland's Kyrie Irving finished second with 17 points in the three-man final.
It was a rare year when the 3-point competition held as much — if not more — interest heading into it than the dunk contest because of the notable names who were — and weren't — participating in each.
LaVine left a lasting impression few will forget.
The 19-year-old Timberwolves rookie scored a perfect 100 in the opening round. He highlighted his scintillating start with a through-the-legs, one-handed reverse slam. He wore a white No. 23 Jordan jersey for what he dubbed the "Spash Jam" dunk.
On his second dunk of the first round, he tossed the ball up, put it behind his back in the air and threw down a powerful one-handed slam for another 50.
LaVine had a final round of 94 to overtake Orlando's Victor Oladipo, who struggled to convert his first attempt in the final and finished with a 72 in the championship round. He became the first Timberwolves player to win the dunk contest since Isaiah Rider in 1994.
Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka The Greek Freak, and Brooklyn's Mason Plumlee didn't advance past the opening round.
Oladipo, the smallest in the competition at 6-foot-4, still delivered a crowd-pleasing moment.
He missed his first two attempts in the first round before completing a 360-degree reverse dunk. He received a 50 from the Hall of Fame judges — Julius Erving, Walt Frazier, Nate Archibald, Bernard King and Chris Mullin.
Even with all the above-the-rim athleticism, the MVP frontrunner put on quite a show from long distance.
Curry, who set the NBA-record with 272 3-pointers in a season two years ago, finally took home the 3-point crown on his fourth try. He earned bragging rights over his fellow "Splash Brothers" star in the process, putting pressure on Thompson to follow his spotlight-stealing final round.
Atlanta's Kyle Korver, who is shooting a league-high 52.3 percent from beyond the arc, and defending champion Marco Belinelli of San Antonio never made it past the first round with scores of 18. Portland's Wesley Matthews finished with 22, Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick scored 17 and Houston's James Harden had 15.
LaVine became the first Timberwolves player to win the dunk contest since Isaiah Rider in 1994.
Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash won their third straight shooting stars competition earlier. Houston's Patrick Beverley won the skills competition.
Wilkins, the 55-year-old former Atlanta Hawks star, hit a half-court shot after 57.6 seconds in the final round to seal Team Bosh's three-peat. They topped Russell Westbrook, Anfernee Hardaway and Tamika Catchings in the final round, when Team Westbrook ran out of time after 90 seconds.
Beverley came from behind to beat former Piston Brandon Knight of the Milwaukee Bucks in the final round of the skills competition. The Rockets' defensive specialist, who replaced Washington's John Wall in the dribbling, passing and shooting competition, made a 3-pointer to clinch the win.