Sure, there’s a natural tendency to live in the moment at the expense of real perspective. SuperBowl 50? The Worst ever. Connor McDavid? Best rookie to lace ‘em up. Walk the Moon? Most thrilling live musical act at any sporting event. (…Ok, maybe not that last one).
But in all seriousness, start to finish, Toronto just hosted the NBA’s best All-Star Saturday Night on record.
First there was Karl-Anthony Town’s feel-good victory in the first ever Bigs vs. Guards skills competition, followed by the league’s fiercest sibling rivalry taking centre stage in a dramatic three-point shootout between Splash Brothers Steph Curry and eventual champ Klay Thompson.
But it was the main event, the Slam Dunk Contest, that officially sealed the deal. While it took awhile for the crowd to get into it, by the time defending and eventual champ Zach LaVine squared off against Aaron Gordon in the final round a new benchmark had been set. 50 after 50 after 50— a record 8 perfect scores in total— and a tie-breaking overtime dunk-off, the two 20 year-old sophomores put on a show like we’ve never seen before. So without further ado, here is the definitive* rankings of the 13 best dunks from Saturday night:
13. Andre Drummond's under the basket 180 self-oop (Judges score: 36):
He hurt himself by attempting the between-the-legs version of this dunk twice before settling with this. But judged on its own? Pretty good. Pretty, pretty good
12. Aaron Gordon’s dunk contest debut (Judges score: 45):
You knew Gordon had something special in store given this was his ‘safe’ dunk.
11. Aaron Gordon’s ‘Vince tribute’ (Judges score: 49):
He missed his first attempt, so Shaq docked him a point when he finally nailed this dunk, a pseudo-version of Carter’s teammate dunk with Tracy McGrady back in 2000.
10. Aaron Gordon off the side of the backboard reverse (Judges score: 50)
His showing in the first OT round, Gordon twists his body around in mid-air before finishing things off with power.
9. Will Barton’s between-the-legs reverse two-hander (Judges score: 44)
I still don’t understand the virtual dead silence following this slam, which was super-impressive.
8. Aaron Gordon tomahawk-turned-pump-reveres (Judges score: 47)
Similar to Vince Carter’s iconic elbow dunk in that this was 1000X more impressive upon replay. That it barely cracks the top 10 on this list is a testament to the calibre of dunks we saw on Saturday.
7. Zach LaVine baseline behind-the-back off the bounce (Judges score: 50):
On his first dunk, LaVine started picked up from where he left off last year with what’s become his signature dunk by displaying his stunningly smooth and seemingly effortless athleticism. This was the guy—not Gordon— everyone was clamouring to see on Saturday, and he showed why right away.
6. Zach LaVine’s 'Vince tribute' (Judges score: 50):
…At least that’s what the broadcast panel was expecting when LaVine set up behind the basket a la Carter’s second dunk in 2000. But alas, LaVine put his own stamp on it, going between-the-legs with a crazy reverse finish.
5. Zach LaVine between-the-legs from a step inside the line (Judges score: 50)
One of the cooler dunks of the night when viewed in super-slo mo. Again, the fact that this isn’t even in the top-3 is a testament to how nutso Saturday was.
4. Zach LaVine’s windmill from the free-throw line (Judges score: 50)
So smooth. So ridiculous. LaVine is just gliding in mid-air for what seems like forever.
3. Zach LaVine free-throw line oop (Judges score: 49)
Shaq docked a point because it took two tries. Whatever. In order to fully appreciate this one you need to remember how difficult—and rare—it is for even the greatest dunkers to pull off a genuine free-throw line dunk. To simultaneously catch an alley-oop in mid-air and finish with flair? That’s why LaVine is a once-in-a-generation contest dunker.
2. Aaron Gordon takes a seat (Judges score: 50):
We’ve seen this before in non-NBA dunk contests, but never on the biggest stage in hoops, and never quite as impressive. Such an incredible dunk, and captured beautifully by the “3D cam”.
1. Aaron Gordon carousel dunk w/ Stuff the Magic Dragon (Judges score: 50)
The best contest dunks are those that blend hops, power, agility, and creativity. And that’s exactly what Gordon brought with his third dunk of the night. Most seem to be backing the under-both-legs dunk over the mascot as the most impressive on Saturday. But I’ll take this one. Nailing the timing on this is hard enough, but to do the Karl Malone salute while going 360 windmill(ish) after grabbing the ball? Again, wow.
*Disagree with this list? Let us know why in the comments below.