By R. Behar
During the pandemic, myself and probably many other NBA fans have reminisced about past highlights, games, playoff runs and many other NBA moments. However, no event is as memorable or as hyped as the NBA slam dunk contest during the All-Star weekend. Over the past years and decades, we’ve seen multiple hall of famers and even bench players compete to determine who possesses the most impressive, explosive and artistic dunk package. Therefore, when the 2021 all-star weekend was announced, and the slam dunk contest participants were beginning to be selected all basketball fans were looking forward to the event. However, one can properly say that the excitement building up to the contest was highly exaggerated and did not correlate to the quality of the event. The line-up of Obi Toppin, Anfernee Simons and Cassius Stanley seemed interesting however many underwhelming dunks, low scores and missed dunks led to overall disappointment. Therefore, in the spirit of nostalgia we will venture into the golden age of the 2010’s dunk contests; the 2016 NBA dunk contest.
The 2016 dunk contest is undoubtedly one of the best dunk contests in the history of all-star weekends. The line-up of Aaron Gordon, Zach Lavine, Andre Drummond and Will Barton was promising as Zach Lavine aimed to be the back-to-back dunk champion. The first round started off with average dunks by Andre Drummond and Will Barton. However, with a behind the back dunk, which sent the crowd roaring, and a free throw line alley-oop dunk, the reigning champion sealed his ticket to the second round. However, the underdog, Aaron Gordon also demonstrated glimpses of greatness. His under-leg reverse dunk and an under-leg dunk while jumping over a mascot ensured Aaron Gordon a score of 94 (of 100) thus advancing to the final round. The stage was set…
The final round of the dunk contest was the one that encapsulated all of us. With a dunk in which Aaron Gordon grabbed the ball off of the hands of his mascot, spun in mid air with one hand behind his head he sealed himself a 50, challenging Zach Lavine to beat that dunk. The reigning champion responded by throwing the ball to himself while performing the same dunk in response to Gordon. However, the absurdity of the next dunk would send the stadium into turmoil. Gordon’s under both legs dunk over the Orlando Magic mascot became an iconic dunk. The announcers and players proceeded to exclaim that “It’s over!!” But the reigning champion would not go down easily. Lavine’s resilience was proven when he leaped from the free-throw line made a windmill with the ball and then dunked it. No one had seen such a back-and-forth exchange of dunks like this before. Into the sudden death round Aaron Gordon made a windmill reverse dunk which was quickly matched by an under leg reverse dunk from under the rim by Lavine. Both players acquired perfect scores and the contest continued. As many believed we had a tie, the Orlando Magic player performed an impressive tomahawk dunk with the ball going over his head then under his legs. However, he was only given a score of 47; Lavine had his opportunity. Of course, the reigning champion guaranteed his title with a free-throw line under leg dunk which shocked the entire building. The best dunk contest of the decade was unique and truly memorable.