LOS ANGELES — Heading into All-Star Saturday Night, Donovan Mitchell said that the Verizon Slam Dunk contest promised to be
“I’ve been watching this since I was like, eight,” the Utah Jazz rookie phenom told
Mitchell ensured Saturday that he’ll be a part of it forever, outpointing Cleveland Cavaliers big man Larry Nance Jr. in the final round to go down in history as the winner of the NBA’s 33rd annual slam dunk contest.
In the two-round contest, participants get three tries to perform any dunk they want, with five judges scoring every dunk on a scale of six to 10. (This year’s judges were kind of an odd crew, ranging from the respectable and understandable — Hall of Famers Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Lisa Leslie — to, um, Mark Wahlberg, DJ Khaled and Chris Rock.) All four competitors got two dunks in the first round, with the two dunkers who tallied the highest combined scores advancing to the head-to-head final round
Mitchell and Nance advanced to the finals by outshining Indiana Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and rookie Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks.
Oladipo stumbled out of the gate in Round 1, attempting an ambitious off-the-bounce, two-handed reverse windmill, but missing all three of his tries to start behind the 8-ball with a 31:
He tried to make up the lost points by making a savvy pop-culture pull with his second attempt,
… before taking to the paint, cocking the ball behind his head, pumping it, swinging it around and throwing down a two-hand slam. Evidently, though, the judges weren’t swayed enough by the nod to Wakanda to ignore that he missed his first try, as Oladipo snagged just a 40, ending his night early. (Given that he’s working Sunday night this year for the first time in his career, maybe that’s for the best.)
oing with a somewhat safer double-pump reverse:”