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Zach LaVine was just what the Dunk Contest needed

Coming in, the talk was about the three-point contest. Zach LaVine changed that in a matter of four dunks.

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NEW YORK -- The Slam Dunk Contest is all about the reactions, and two stood out above the others.

There was Suns big man Miles Plumlee turning away from his brother and fellow participant Mason Plumlee to face his friend and mouth "wow" as his eyes bulged. A round later, there was Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks wunderkid and fellow contestant, holding both hands on his head with his mouth ajar, looking like he just learned Santa Claus doesn't exist.

They had a stake in the game, but they couldn't help themselves after seeing Zach LaVine's first two dunks. Nobody could. The last person to grab everyone's attention so overwhelmingly did it 15 years ago while wearing a Toronto Raptors jersey. While TNT's Kenny Smith refused to repeat the signature "IT'S OVER" line he made famous during Vince Carter's rampage, everyone knew the truth: It was over.

"I just wanted to put a jolt through the crowd and get everybody off their feet," LaVine said.

That he did, quickly. Fans stood before each LaVine dunk because they didn't want to miss him try to top himself. Antetokounmpo and Plumlee, long defeated, stood too.

And while LaVine's final two dunks didn't quite reach his lofty standard, they were enough to get finalist Victor Oladipo to stretch himself too far to keep up. On his last dunk, Oladipo tried to bounce the ball high, catch with one hand and spin 360 degrees, all in one motion. But after failing three times, he had to settle for a lesser dunk involving teammate Elfrid Payton. Upon completion, Oladipo snatched the ball off the ricochet, slammed it against his head and tossed it aside, frustrated he didn't match an opponent who couldn't be matched.

"The balls were a little too inflated, so it was bouncing just a little too high for me," Oladipo said.

Oladipo is competitive, but even he had to know slightly deflated balls weren't making any difference. He was a worthy adversary, delighting fans with a beautiful Frank Sinatra karaoke before completing a reverse 420 (it's between a 360 and 540) on his third try. That energized a crowd underwhelmed by Plumlee and Antetokounmpo, but it only served to pump Lavine up further.

The scariest part: LaVine left his best dunk in the hopper, the one that almost caused teammate Andrew Wiggins to faint. (Best guess: it was the windmill from the free-throw line that LaVine pulled off at the Seattle Pro-Am. But that's just a guess.)

"The funny thing is I didn't do that one," LaVine said. "I've still got some tricks in the bag."

Maybe he'll use those next year in Toronto and convince Wiggins to join him. Wiggins adamantly refused to be a part of this year's festivities, but perhaps the combination of a return to his home country and relentless trash talk from his teammate (LaVine said it's coming) will change his mind.

Until then, let's remember how the 19-year-old LaVine punctuated a bounce-back year for the dunk contest after last year's format disaster. With two dunks, LaVine created a highlight reel for life and virtually posterized those who suggested the Three-Point Contest was becoming All-Star Saturday's marquee event. Stephen Curry hit 13 threes in a row in a thrilling victory over fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson -- and quickly became an afterthought.

That's how it's supposed to work. That's how it does work when the dunk contest format is simple and an emerging young talent makes the crowd go crazy.

"That was one of the greatest dunking performances I've ever seen," Mason Plumlee said. "All four of them were above and beyond."