Debating all-star weekend
The Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon stood inches from the three-point line at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont.
Bouncing on his toes, Gordon exhaled and took half-a-dozen powerful steps before exploding towards the rim. It was the fifth round of the 2016 version of the NBA dunk competition and Gordon was locked in a heated dunk off with defending champion Zachary Lavine.
Awaiting Gordon in front of the rim was Stuff The Magic Dragon - the Magic’s acid trip of a mascot - who held a basketball over its head. Coming from the right side, Gordon collected himself and leapt for all he was worth.
Using the baseball glove he calls a right hand, the forward grabbed the ball and pushed it under both his legs before taking it in his left hand and jamming it through the hoop. The reaction to the slam dunk earned Gordon a score of 50 and set the capacity crowd into a frenzy.
He had done something no one before him had done. Some called it the best slam dunk in the history of the competition. Gordon practically went over the mascot in a sitting motion.
He got so high he would’ve won an Olympic bronze medal in the high jump at the 2012 London Games.
It was an eye-opening display of athleticism and a true measure of the excitement the dunk competition can bring to the NBA’s All-Star Saturday night.
His counterpart, Lavine, used three dunks from the free throw line — the closest man can come to flying — to pick up the controversial win.
Gordon’s dunk is one that he probably won’t noticeably feel for a couple of years. However, he’ll start to feel them soon enough. The same goes for Lavine.
Soon, his body will ache at the thought of rising up and cramming the ball over the heads of opponents. It’ll come in bursts later in his career, but it won’t be as common as it was when he was younger.
Such is the life of the dunker. Such is the life of the supremely athletic player who keeps pushing his body to new heights.
It’s why the dunk contest is cyclical. For a long time, it was the main event of the all-star weekend. People set their calendars around the competition.
The best dunkers squared off with the best dunkers for years. It wowed crowds across the nation.
Then, the best dunkers stopped doing it. They stopped putting their bodies on the line.
The dunk competition got stale. Vince Carter revived it in 2000, but he hasn’t competed since.
LeBron James has never competed. Nor has Kevin Durant, Rus- sell Westbrook or Dwayne Wade.
Amazing dunkers come along every couple of years. They compete for the crown and then they remove themselves from the show.
It’s been like this since 2000. Lavine and Gordon will carry the competition for the next few years and then it could suffer before another leaping saviour is found.
Moments before Lavine and Gordon put on a show for the ages, some on the broadcast wondered whether the three-point competition should be given main event status. There’s an argument to be made there.
The contest routinely features the top marksmen in the game. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and J.J. Redick have all put their talents on the line. As have young blood like Devin Booker and C.J. McCollum.
It just seems like every year, the bridesmaid to the dunk competition’s bride attracts the top stars in its discipline.
This year’s field had all of the above shooters, plus Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton and James Harden. It was a great field that was still without Jared Dudley, Anthony Morrow and Kawhi Leonard, who are all in the top-15 league-wide in three-point percentage.
It just seems like the contest consistently brings out the stars. It also reflects where the league finds itself. The NBA is a nightly three-point competition. Fans love it and so do the players.
And, it’s less stressful on the body.
The three-point competition has its merits and can get exciting when players are rolling, but there is nothing like the slam dunk competition.
It’s ferocity, creativity and athleticism are second-to-none.
It’s why we watch basketball for anyway.