Full disclosure: I am a student at Indiana University. Therefore, I had trouble maintaining my journalistic impartiality during the Sprite Slam Dunk as I watched Victor Oladipo, whose tremendous athleticism I had the pleasure of witnessing live for two seasons, attempt to put the Orlando Magic on the map for the first time since Dwight Howard booked a ticket to Los Angeles.
‘Dipo didn’t win, but even the IU fan in me had no problem with the outcome. Rookie Zach LaVine posted a total score of 194 for his five dunks and took the crown over the former Hoosier in the final.
Despite judge Julius Erving’s statement earlier this week that mascots have ruined the dunk contest because players can’t measure up, the 2015 contest was entertaining throughout and showcased some of the league’s most promising youngsters. With that in mind, let’s hand out some awards.
Dunk of the Night
Although Oladipo didn’t win, I have to give him his due for his first dunk of the night. The 22-year old raised the stakes on the traditional 360 with an extra double clutch that left his back to the basket and necessitated a blind finish over his shoulder. LaVine was consistently great, but for this one dunk, Oladipo reached Human Highlight Blu-Ray status.
In the end, his mistake was in not saving his signature dunk for the finals, which he probably could have reached regardless due to the relative blandness of both Giannis Antetokounmpo’s and Mason Plumlee’s dunks in the first round.
One final note: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take Oladipo’s singing into account for this award. Part of a good dunk at the Dunk Contest is getting the crowd involved; the Magic guard did just that with his rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” beforehand. His singing wasn’t on Sinatra’s level but Rihanna seemed impressed at least, so props to you, Victor.
With all due respect to Oladipo’s pipes, the best pre-dunk song came on LaVine’s first dunk, which was arguably his best of the night as well. The 19-year old came out in a Tune Squad jersey with “Jordan” on the back as the Space Jam theme song played over the stadium’s speakers. As someone who was obsessed with Space Jam as a child, LaVine has now made a fan of me for life (who am I kidding, I’m still obsessed with Space Jam).
LaVine didn’t disappoint after all that buildup either. His between-the-legs throwdown was only a wagging tongue short of producing a perfect MJ imitation. He obviously downed plenty of His Airness’ “secret stuff” before his dunk.
LaVine’s Tune Squad jersey was cool, but the night’s premier dud’s came not from the competitors but from the judging table. For those of you who missed the contest and only saw the highlights, you missed one of the craziest suits I have ever seen from Walt Frazier. Frazier is known for his snazzy attire but last night’s suit that was something similar to cheetah print was outlandish even for him.
Clyde was the king of New York in the seventies and clearly still has more style in one finger than the rest of us do in our whole body. Now if only he could learn to use a tablet.
Photo Credit: Getty