Zach LaVine revives dunk contest

NEW YORK -- We knew this was coming. Andrew Wiggins told us Friday night.

And yet Zach LaVine didn't just live up to all the hype. He exceeded it. LaVine's performance in the Slam Dunk Contest may not have been as transcendent as Vince Carter's 15 years ago, but the show that the 19-year-old favorite put on in front of a sold-out crowd at Barclays Center Saturday night will never be forgotten.

Just when you thought the dunk contest was dead, LaVine brought it back to life, soaring through the air with ease and doing things above the rim that didn't seem possible.

"I'm still on cloud nine," LaVine said after finishing with two perfect scores on his first two dunks and rolling to victory over the field with a combined score of 194. "I feel like I'm dreaming. Seeing all the Dunk Contests and people hoisting the trophy. I just saw myself do it and lived it."

LaVine became the second-youngest player to ever win the dunk contest. Kobe Bryant was 18 when he won in 1997. The rookie teenager, who has seen his minutes with the Timberwolves dwindle as he struggles to acclimate himself to life in the NBA, just doesn't want any comparisons to VC.

"Vince Carter is above me," LaVine said. "I don't want to get into that area right now. I'm still a rookie. Vince Carter is a future Hall of Famer."

LaVine's dunking prowess became known at the Seattle Basketball Pro-Am in 2014. And after he used a quick crossover to gain space and take flight in the Rising Stars Challenge, his rookie teammate in Minnesota, Wiggins, said he nearly fainted when he saw LaVine's routine. But LaVine didn't showcase all of his dunks during that practice session. He had more up his sleeves -- the how-the-heck-did-he-just-do-that dunks he came up with back in high school.

LaVine came out with a flourish, revealing a No. 23 Tune Squad practice jersey with the name Jordan on the back. "Space Jam" inspired him as a kid. And think about this: that movie came out in 1996. LaVine was born in 1995.

Like only Air Jordan could, LaVine started on the right wing, shot the ball up in the air, let it hit the hardwood floor and went into orbit, catching it, going between his legs and finishing a reverse jam on the other side of the rim with his head nearly hitting it. A "Space Jam Dunk," he called it. The place went absolutely nuts. The judges gave him 10s across the board. A perfect 50.

He was just getting started.

On his second attempt, LaVine started on the left wing. Then came the same setup, the ball caroming off the floor as he took off. But this time, LaVine put the ball behind his back before jamming it home with his right hand. Again, the place went nuts. Another perfect score.

"We're entertainers. We're in New York," LaVine said. "I wanted to get everybody off their feet and have a good time. I was having a ball out there. I tried to get a 50 on every dunk. It didn't happen, but I was close on all of them. I wanted to show everybody what I got."

He did. And then some. LaVine used teammates for his two dunks in the finals. First, he took the ball out of Wiggins' hand near the basket and finished a between-the-legs slam with his left hand. And finally, he caught a pass Shabazz Muhammad threw off the red piece that connects the stanchion with the backboard, went between his legs and finished emphatically with his right hand.

So what was the key?

"My confidence," LaVine replied. "I just look at all the greats: Michael Jordan was confident. Kobe Bryant is confident. LeBron James is confident. I got it instilled in me from a young age from my dad. He played professional football. If you're not confident -- have arrogance, cockiness. That's what all the greats have. You have to have confidence in your game. I know I have to work on my game a lot. If you do the hard work in the gym, you know what you can do, so I guess that's where it comes from."

To give you a gauge of how young LaVine is, Bryant was his favorite player -- and he was wearing Kobe sneakers.

Also, a reporter asked LaVine where he saw himself in 10 years. "I'm not even going to be 30 yet," he replied.

This means that we're hopefully going to be seeing more of Zach LaVine in the future.

Hopefully, he has some more dunks up his sleeve for future dunk contests to come.

"I didn't bring them all out," he said.


We want more Zach. You blew the hype out of the water. And you're welcome to wow us again anytime.