Who had the best slam dunk in the history of the NBA Slam Dunk contest?
If you ask Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine, the crown for the single-best dunk in the 40-plus-year history of the competition belongs to Aaron Gordon, now of the Denver Nuggets.
“I think Aaron had the best dunk of the night,” LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson ahead of the Bulls’ 117-96 win over Gordon’s Nuggets on March 8. “I really do. In fact, that is probably the best dunk in dunk contest history,” LaVine said. “But I had probably the next five best dunks.”
That aggregate is why LaVine won back-to-back Slam Dunk Contests in 2015 and 2016.
LaVine told Johnson the first victory was a “cakewalk” and that he would have been fine sharing the mantle with Gordon in 2016.
Gordon would compete in two contests only to fall short both times, the second coming against Bulls forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won it all in 2020 while with the Miami Heat. After that last defeat, Gordon vowed never to do another dunk contest after feeling as though he should have won twice already but was robbed.
He left the window open for that to change this season saying that he would have participated if he was named an All-Star which did not happen. Still, his duel with LaVine is considered to be among the best contests ever.
“I think the (2016) one is the best one ever as far as creativity, guys stepping up and making dunks that probably haven’t been seen before and the level of competition,” LaVine said. “It was fun. I don’t think either one of us knew what the other one had in store. How it unraveled with us going back and forth with these (perfect score) 50s and no misses, it was something to watch. Being a part of it, and going back and watching it now, is crazy.”
Former NBA veteran Vince Carter‘s performance in 2000 might be the only one to top it.
LaVine noted that he and Gordon had known each other from AAU ball and were members of the same draft class in 2014. Gordon was selected fourth overall by the Magic while LaVine went nine picks later to the Minnesota Timberwolves whom he represented in those dunk contests.
Gordon has the 8-6 head-to-head edge all-time but LaVine is 4-4 with the Bulls and 3-1 since Gordon joined the Nuggets.
That includes their win on Wednesday.
LaVine finished with a game-high 29 points on 66.7% shooting going 3-for-5 from deep. He added five rebounds, four assists, and a pair of steals. Gordon had 17 points, nine boards, two assists, and a block but came up short versus Lavine once again.
Zach LaVine’s Dunk Highlights Return Full Health
Since January 28 – an 18-game span – LaVine is averaging 27.5 points on 66.7% true shooting while knocking down 41.6% of his triples and sporting a plus-5.6 net rating, per NBA.com. He has returned to his All-Star form of the past two years and drove that point home with an emphatic dunk against Denver.
“In 44 games since Dec. 1, LaVine is shooting 67.6% in the restricted area on 5.4 attempts per game,” wrote NBA.com’s Rob Schaefer before LaVine’s performance against Denver adding that the mark is, “an accuracy rate which ranks third in the NBA among guards averaging five or more rim attempts in that span.”
Those numbers only went up after this win.
Winning is a Family Affair
LaVine has already been in the league for nearly a decade but will turn just 28 years old on March 10. Despite being on the road, a large contingent of the two-time All-Star’s family flew in to as a surprise and take in the game beginning the celebration a little early – the Bulls play the Houston Rockets on March 11.
It was a fitting exclamation point on the same night that he surpassed the 11,000-point mark for his career.
“When we get stops, I don’t think anybody can guard us in transition with the talent we have,” LaVine said, per Johnson. “I was able to get downhill, create. I’ve been feeling that way for a while now. Keep it going.”