Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell tops Larry Nance Jr. In Verizon Slam Dunk Contest
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 18, 2018 12:11 PM
Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell leaps over his sister, actor Kevin Hart and his son during the NBA All-Star basketball Slam Dunk contest, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Los Angeles. Mitchell won the event. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season just keeps getting better.
And that’s officially 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk champion Donovan Mitchell of the surging Utah Jazz, who claimed on All-Star Saturday night at Staples Center.
Mitchell needed at least a 47 on his final dunk in the championship round to defeat Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He wound up earning a 48 for the win.
Both players employed family members to aid their respective causes, Mitchell his little sister, along with comedian Kevin Hart and his son, for his second dunk in the first round, while donned Nance Jr. his father’s old uniform and emulated his dunk from Sr.'s win in the inaugural Slam Dunk contest in 1984. He later had his father dish an alley-oop toss that he windmilled on his first dunk in the final round,
But Mitchell closed the contest with an ode to Slam Dunk legend and the oldest player in the NBA, Vince Carter (of the Sacramento Kings), stripping off his Jazz jersey to don Carter’s old Toronto Raptors’ No. 15. He did an ode to the reverse 360 Carter used to win the the 2000 Slam Dunk contest in Oakland,
Mitchell earned a 50 on his first dunk in the final round, throwing the ball off the glass of a second backboard to himself for what has become his signature dunk early on in his rookie season. He clipped Nance Jr. 98-96 in the final round.
Nance Jr. finished his night with a 50 of his own, double-tapping the ball off the glass as he soared towards the basket, before jamming it home.
Mitchell, the rookie sensation who leads the Jazz, winners of 11 straight games, and all rookies in scoring, was a late addition to the competition, replacing 2016 Slam Dunk runner-up Aaron Gordon, who had to withdraw due to injury.
Nance Jr. had the crowd on his side just little over a week after being traded to Cleveland from the hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
Indiana Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. were eliminated after the first round. Smith, however, did earn the only other 50 of the competition, nailing a between-the-legs 360 reverse on his second dunk of the first round to impress the judges.
Hall of Famer and dunk legend Julius Erving led the star-studded but somewhat unorthodox panel of judges, a group that included former WNBA superstar and Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, a Los Angeles native, Hollywood superstars Chris Rock and Mark Wahlberg and superstar producer DJ Khaled.
2017 Slam Dunk champion Glenn Robinson III of Indiana is working his way back from ankle surgery was not able to defend his title.