The 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk competition was perhaps the most anticipated one since 2000. The popular consensus is that the contest has gone downhill ever since Vince Carter's memorable performance 15 years ago. Even though there have been some stand-out performances from dunkers like Jason Richardson and Andre Iguodala since then, no one had the impact that Vince did.
The NBA's constant attempt to change the rules of the contest may have something to do with it. The infamous "Dunk Wheel" from 2002 comes to mind, where the dunkers were told to spin a wheel of dunks from past competitions, and deliver their best imitation. It was a complete failure, making the fans watch a dunk they've seen before, also taking away the creativity from the participants. I mean, they made them literally copy a dunk that was already done. Wha's the fun in that?
More recently, last year the contest didn't even reward a score-based winner, instead having a fan-voted "Dunker of the Night". John Wall earned that title. He put on a relatively good show, but by no fault of his own, it was a forgettable competition.
Thankfully, this year the NBA returned to the classic two-round, five panel judge format. All eyes were on Minnesota Timberwolves' high-flying rookie Zach LaVine. And he did not disappoint.
Competing against LaVine included Orlando Magics' Victor Oladipo, Brooklyn Nets' Mason Plumlee, and Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Oladipo had the first impressive dunk, contorting his body with a kinda-540-two-handed-windmill-thing from the baseline. He received a perfect score, but it was the LaVine show from then on.
Coming out in a Michael Jordan "Tune-Squad" jersey for his first dunk, LaVine stunned everyone with an off-the-bounce reverse-eastbay (apparently between-the-legs dunks are called "eastbays"). Even judge and legendary dunker Dr. J was speechless.
His next dunk was somehow equally as impressive than the first, again going with the off-the-bounce, but this time putting it behind his back before finishing it. By then, we all knew he was going to win. Everyone just wanted to see what he was going to do next.
He finished the contest with two more between-the-legs slams in the second round. The first one assisted by teammate Andrew Wiggins, and the second by Shabazz Muhammad. Just as Vince did in 2000, Zach won with ease. By his last attempt, even competitors Oladipo and Antetokounmpo were getting out of their seats to cheer on the 19 year old.
In case you missed it, here are all four of his dunks crammed into six seconds:
It's slightly disappointing that LaVine didn't build up his dunks, not saving the best for last. Although, to make sure you make it to the second round, it's safe to pull out the big guns right from the start. Also, it's difficult to try and pick one of those as his "worst" dunk.
The most incredible thing about LaVine's performance, was how effortless the dunks seemed. He said he has studied the art of dunking ever since he was little, dunking on lowered rims and practicing his dunks with a medicine ball.
Let's all take a second to thank Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny for Space Jam, the movie that inspired Zach Lavine to want to play basketball as a child.
Even though a lot of his in-game dunks are dunk contest worthy, hopefully this isn't the last time we see this up-and-coming star in the Slam Dunk competition.