Zach Lavine: the Instant Classic

Photo Credit: NBA
Photo Credit: NBA

Since the genesis of the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest we have witnessed awe-inspiring leaps from the greatest players to ever exist on the basketball court. Dominique Wilkins did it, so did Kobe Bryant and arguably no one did it better than “your airness”, Michael Jordan. But different from all the others, the most recent winner of the contest, Zach LaVine, flew under the radar.

When it was announced that NBA’s All-Star weekend would host the Foot Locker 3-point shooting contest that bolstered the most prolific marksmen in the game, it was clear that this was the main attraction. The anticipation of the moment was unlike any other contest in recent years and likely, ever.

The line-up was incredible, of course it was impossible that the splash brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, would not disappoint. As anticipated, Curry went onto win the competition and solidified the second best shooting streak in the contest history with 13 shots.

Of course the night was still not yet done. One more event remained and the enthusiasm could not have been more exhausted.

Moments after the 3-point competition was done, ESPN’s Skip Bayless tweeted: “I can’t remember being less excited about a Slam Dunk Contest.”

At the time, echoing the emotions of viewers, but throughout the following moments the ESPN columnist’s opinion transformed in hasty fashion.

From the second Victor Oladipo stepped onto the floor — to begin a dunk contest which will be forever etched into the NBA history — it was evident that we were not watching what he had expected to see. Oladipo, shooting guard for the Orlando Magic, took flight on what was said to be a 540-degree-spinning-dunk on-air by commentator Reggie Miller, on his initial turn. The dunk was actually a 360-degree turn, however regardless of that fact the dunk registered a perfect score and set the tone for the night’s final event.

Enter Zach LaVine, a skinny unassuming young man, yet so incredibly aerodynamic you would think he had the calf muscle strength of two men. Witnessing LaVine launch himself through the air was truly one of the most artistic moments of the entire weekend of basketball events. Aside from Stephen Curry’s dominant performance in his skill event, LaVine may have been the highlight of the weekend.

LaVine scored perfectly in his first two turns – nearly capturing a perfect score in all rounds – with dunks from the baseline, between the legs and behind the back. LaVine rose to the occasion in a position where not many thought there would be potential.

Graduating from dud to stud, the dunk contest was one of the better competitions–not only in recent memory, but stretching back to its origin in the 1980’s.

LaVine and Oladipo dueled for the night’s crown but eventually the winner was determined and LaVine was unanimously victorious. The instant classic, that was the Sprite Dunk Contest, raises the bar for what will be considered All-Star Weekend for the NBA. For this generation, the standard that Zach LaVine and Victor Oladipo set will remain archived as a benchmark.



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