Zach Lavine

The NBA All Star break couldn’t come soon enough for Bulls fans (Pau Gasol just missed a layup as I write this), drugstore but for those whose teams are rolling this time of year, a weekend of outlandish events, more focused on Kevin Hart and over the top fashion than basketball, is not always welcome.  Lucky for them, despite taking the game north of the border to -8 degree Toronto temperatures, All-Star Saturday night delivered for everyone.  The big stars were still missing from the court, but Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon almost made us forget about the team dunk format of 2014 by putting on a true dunk contest reminiscent of the old school battles that featured the likes of Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.

In the last 5 years, the dunk contest has lost the luster of those late 80s battles and the nostalgia of Vince Carter‘s prolific performances by serving up sub par dunks from role players while the All-Stars sat in the stands with their kids stealing most of the attention.  But this year,  Minnesota’s LaVine and Orlando’s Gordon took the NBA’s ultimate power move to new heights by pushing each other to perfect scores, round after round, forcing dunks even they had never seen or tried before.  LaVine and Gordon went beyond high flying dunks and 360s to new and improved moves like grabbing the ball from Stuff the Magic mascot while he spun on a hover board.

While LaVine came out victorious after perfect scores forced a bonus round, the most reality-defying dunk of the night came from Gordon when he leaped over Stuff (my second favorite mascot to Benny the Bull), grabbing the ball off of the pink wings on the side of his head, tucked his legs to a fully seated position and pulled the ball under them before slamming it down.

It’s hard to believe that didn’t seal the deal, but LaVine finally ended the night and took home the trophy with a spur of the moment decision to try a windmill dunk from the free throw line that he’d never even seen himself do.

The 2016 All-Star Weekend was a major stop of the Kobe Bryant retirement tour, with Saturday’s dunk contest coming 19 years after Kobe won the event in 1997.  Earlier in All-Star Saturday, Bryant expressed displeasure with the state of the contest, longing for the days when the NBA’s biggest stars participated.  And he wasn’t wrong, with the last All-Star caliber player to participate in a true dunk contest (disregarding whatever the NBA tried to do with the team format in 2014) being Blake Griffin in 2011 who won amid controversy that the league rigged the event to allow him and Kia, a major NBA sponsor, to win when he jumped over the hood of the automaker’s sedan.  And don’t ever forget that Lebron James has never shown his face on the court in the Dunk Contest for fear of injury or failure.

Nevertheless, the big stars weren’t necessary on Saturday, just the best dunkers, who were dedicated to bringing back an NBA tent-pole event by paying homage to those who brought it to prestige in the first place.  Zach LaVine said he came back in 2016 to defend his 2015 Slam Dunk title as a nod to the days when stars like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins would compete year after year.  Aaron Gordon, born in 1995, still managed to throw it back to a staple Wilkins move from the late 80s, with a between the legs reverse dunk in an early round.

Dominique Wilkins has been another outspoken critic of the dunk contest in recent years, so if he says it, it goes…

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NBA Christmas is almost upon us, viagra and that means the return of All Star fan voting. The NBA is one of, if not the most digitally savvy professional sports league, and this year is no different than those in the past with new digital and social avenues to vote to see your favorite players in Toronto in February. This year, for the first time, you can vote simply through google search. Just google “NBA VOTE ALL STAR” or “NBA VOTE TEAM NAME” to cast your votes. For example, you’d type in NBA VOTE 76ERS and check the photo of Nik Stauskas to see the Canadian guard on the court at tip off in the All Star Game.

That wasn’t serious. Please don’t do that.

In addition to Google search voting, you can also vote on NBA.com/vote, the NBA App, by posting with a players first and last name along with #NBAVOTE on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or by taking it real old school and texting a player’s last name to 69622 (MYNBA). All current NBA players are eligible, but the voting ends January 18th at 11:59pm ET. The starters will be announced January 21st on TNT.

Fans can vote for 10 unique players every day and on each voting platform, so with a very large voting pool, the most deserving players will likely end up with the start, and if they don’t, they’ll be selected by the head coaches in their conference as All Star reserves.

I’ll definitely be casting a few ballots. An all Bulls, all Wolverines, all Chicago area, etc. But for my first votes, I was inspired by the years that Yao Ming led All Star voting because of his passionate fans in China, so I decided to cast my first ballot via google search for players that I’m passionate about after a quarter of the season:

  1. Jahlil Okafor – For being not the first or last 7 ft tall NBA player who will attempt to use a fake ID 7 months removed from hoisting a trophy amid mass national attention.
  2. Lance Stephenson – For having a brother named Lantz and all of the rap videos.
  3. Jamal Crawford – For general perfection at any age.
  4. Russell Westbrook – For buying the Lord’s house.
  5. Kobe Bryant – For not being able to or caring to try to name the Pistons player who wanted to shake his hand.
  6. DeMarcus Cousins – For notching at least one expletive-laden rant before the quarter mark of the season.
  7. Zach Lavine – Because I heard him on a podcast once, and he seemed cool.
  8. Draymond Green – For starting a Twitter fight with a beat reporter, probably for good reason.
  9. Kristaps Porzingis – Because this photo.
  10. Joakim Noah – Because he’s a top 3 NBA human. Juliet Litman said it, therefore, it’s bible.

Happy All Star voting everyone!

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