Only one word can accurately describe the performance that Zach LaVine put on in the 2015 Dunk Contest:
By coming out in a “Tune Squad” Michael Jordan jersey from Space Jam, LaVine immediately doubled, maybe even tripled the expectations of his first dunk.
He did not disappoint.
Catching the ball off the bounce and going in between his legs, LaVine absolutely stunned the crowd. The dunk left even the great Julius Erving speechless. My reaction? My mouth dropped instantly.
His second dunk was more of the same when it came to excitement. Catching the ball off the bounce once again, but this time LaVine corralled the ball and switched it over from left to right behind his back before slamming it down with authority.
His dunks can be described as effortless, precise, clean, and electric. It was clear the winner was LaVine before they even made it to the final round.
All that was left was for LaVine to do was to take home the crown. His dunks in the final round were lackluster compared to the qualifying rounds but were still very impressive. He had the opportunity to not only resurrect the Dunk Contest, which he had already done in the first round, but to cement his performance as the best ever.
What hurt his chance was the continued theme of going through the legs. Eventually, the wow-factor in the final round faltered compared to that of the first round. Three out of his four dunks included going through the legs, two coming the second round. Finishing with a combined final score of 194, LaVine was crowned the winner of the 2015 Dunk Contest.
LaVine became the second-youngest winner of the Slam Dunk Contest at 19 years old but his victory might be worth more than just a trophy. In recent years, the Dunk Contest has diminished in value, becoming a disappointing sideshow that people still watch in hopes of seeing something amazing because of past performances. The NBA knew they had a problem on their hands and continued to experiment with rule changes until we came up with the debacle from last year.
By switching back to the old format, the NBA essentially admitted that last year was a mistake. They can thank LaVine for saving the integrity of the Dunk Contest.
The bar has officially been set. However, it is not impossible to up LaVine’s performance. Although, LaVine’s performance may not be the best ever, it has to be up there with Vince Carter’s showing in 2000; being included in the same discussion as Carter should strike some kind of inspiration to the rest of the league.
There is no doubt the solution to the occasional lackluster dunk contest belongs in the hands of the players. Can someone step up and continue the trend of greatness? Now more than ever, we are seeing “freak-of-nature” type athletes in professional sports. With the growing sample size, there will be plenty of opportunity for future pros to match or outperform LaVine.
When Andrew Wiggins stepped out to assist LaVine on the third dunk, I’m sure a lot of us immediately said, “Why isn’t he competing?”
We’re right, why wasn’t he competing? Hopefully LaVine’s performance sparked a flame in Wiggins and other players as well. Is it too much to ask for NBA superstars to get back in the Dunk Contest?
We have to wait until next year to see if LaVine’s victory actually sparks a new era in the Dunk Contest, but regardless of who competes, there will be high expectations for the participants. This could be the start of a new era but for now, we have 364 days to re-watch all the LaVine highlights we want until the next competition finally arrives.
Find all of LaVine’s dunks here.