LaVine, Gordon bring buzz back to dunk contest

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Aaron Gordon dunks over Stuff the Orlando Magic mascot on Saturday night on Toronto.

Toronto — The capacity crowd at Air Canada Centre yearned for more.

And Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon gave it to them, well beyond regulation and into extra rounds of Saturday night’s Slam-Dunk Contest.

There were no losers in the NBA's All-Star Saturday events, especially the Slam-Dunk Contest.

But LaVine, the defending champion, prevailed on the fourth dunk — the second overtime of the final round — after he and Gordon had perfect scores on their first three dunks. On his winning dunk, LaVine glided from the free-throw line and executed a windmill dunk, earning his fifth perfect score of the competition.

On Gordon’s final dunk, he took off from the baseline, pumped it behind his head, back down through his legs, andoback over his head, for a powerful reverse finish. But that garnered only a 47 from the judges, opening the door for LaVine.

“I think we should share the trophy — because (Gordon) did some stuff I’ve never seen before,” LaVine said during the trophy presentation. “He brought the best out of me; I had to bring my A-plus game.”

It was theater that hadn’t been seen in years, in what had been the crown jewel of the NBA’s All-Star Saturday, but has since taken a back seat to the 3-Point Contest, thanks to Steph Curry.

Not. Any. More.

After Curry, the defending champ, put on a show but was outlasted by teammate Klay Thompson in the 3-point final, the dunkers took center stage.

Pistons center Andre Drummond and Will Barton were casualties of the opening round, setting up the final that will go down as one of the classics in the contest’s history.

LaVine appears to have breathed new blood into what was a fledgling exhibition. But the potential rivalry between him and Gordon is reminiscent of that between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins, who Tweeted his own assessment of the matchup: “The dunk contest is back!!!”

Gordon relied on the Orlando Magic mascot to help with some of the dunks — including holding the ball while rotating on a Hoverboard, as Gordon ran, grabbed the ball and dunked it. LaVine mainly relied on his own creativity and gravity-defying athleticism.

At 6-foot-9, Gordon erased some of the doubt about big men being able to excel in the dunk contest, with flexibility and power, including one dunk on which his legs were parallel to the floor and he tucked the ball under his legs and over his head, for a two-handed, reverse slam.

Should Gordon have won the contest?

“It’s hard to say. It’s hard to say. Out of my first four dunks, I think potentially I could have won. It could have gone either way,” he said. “Zach’s an incredible dunker; he went through the legs from the free-throw line. That is 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.”

The back-and-forth between LaVine and Gordon and the buzz the fans left Air Canada Centre will last well beyond Sunday’s All-Star Game. It will give the dunk contest the boost that it needs to again be the must-see event of the weekend.

Ask another former champion.