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NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2018 recap: Donovan Mitchell tops Larry Nance Jr.

DUNKS DUNKS DUNKS. But ... this was a little underwhelming.

Donovan Mitchell is your 2018 Slam Dunk Contest winner, topping Larry Nance in the Finals. It was an average dunk contest with a few decent slams and a lot of stuff we’ve seen before, especially Nance’s homages to his dad. (Those have a cool backstory, at least.) Mitchell had a few polarizing dunks, and for his last one, he broke out a Vince Carter jersey. That’s bold — probably too bold, for the dunk he ended up pulling off.

Here’s our live blog from the contest.

10:30 p.m. — Parting thoughts: we were all robbed from not getting Dennis Smith in the second round. I don’t even care which one of the finalists he replaces, but he should’ve been in there over one of them. The NBA doesn’t want us to prosper, and that’s a travesty.

10:22 p.m. — Here’s Mitchell’s winning dunk.

10:18 p.m. — Donovan Mitchell put on Vince Carter’s jersey and threw down a not-good-enough-for-a-Vince-Carter-jersey dunk. If it’s not clear, I’m extremely mad online. But whatever. It’s official: Donovan Mitchell is your Slam Dunk Contest winner.

10:15 p.m. — I like Larry Nance’s double-tap dunk. Cool dunk. I approve.

10:14 p.m. — Mitchell got another 50 and I’m extremely mad at these judges who have possibly never seen an actual dunk in their lives and thus cannot be expected to judiciously assign proper scores.

10:12 p.m. — This is boring.

10:10 p.m. — It’s Nance and Mitchell in the final round. Again, I believe it is a travesty and a farce that Dennis Smith isn’t in the final two, but what can we do?

10:08 p.m. — Donovan Mitchell’s dunk was the worst 50 I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Retire the dunk contest. Hang it up. It’s wack now.

But hey, he took some pictures with Kevin Hart’s kids, though.

10:05 p.m. — Larry Nance is going to win this, I’m telling you. NBA wants him to win. There’s no way his impressive windmill should’ve been a 49. It was impressive! It was still just a windmill. (Once again, DJ Khaled saves the score from being a total disaster.)

10:02 p.m. — DENNIS SMITH PERFECT 50

Dennis Smith Jr.

And here’s the scoring:

9:59 p.m. — Victor Oladipo broke out the Black Panther mask.

Good bit. Not a good enough dunk. His windmill didn’t quite windmill enough! Ah well.

9:56 p.m. — First round scoring:

9:54 p.m. — Honestly, I only agree with DJ Khaled’s scoring so far. Everyone else is adding one too many points to this scoring, I’m telling you.

9:53 p.m. — Nance’s actual dunk was an homage to his dad, of course.

9:52 p.m. — Larry Nance Jr. does a quick change, the famous halftime entertainment duo, but it’s not the quickest change I’ve ever seen ........ just sayin’. Like such:

This NBA has rigged this for Nance, I’m telling you.

9:51 p.m. — Dennis Smith Jr. should’ve stuck with his first dunk attempt. It was fire. His second one was good, but it’s not gonna win anything.

9:50 p.m. — Victor Oladipo misses all three dunks, but man, if he had thrown it down ...

9:48 p.m. — Donovan Mitchell brought out another rim to ... throw an alley oop off it? That’s interesting. I like the idea, but it’s sort of overwhelming to bring out a whole dang extra backboard to only to a pass off it.

9:45 p.m. — Dennis Smith is going to win. Sorry for the spoilers, but that’s just what’s happening.

Before the contest

Glenn Robinson III won the 2017 NBA Slam Dunk Contest with a handful of powerful jams — including one where he jumped over two people, stacked one atop the other like a pair of 12-year-olds sneaking into an R-rated movie, before finishing with an emphatic slam. He won’t be back to defend his title in 2018, but he set a high standard for a talented field.

Robinson’s Dunk Contest title was the crown jewel in a career year in 2016-17, but ankle surgery has prevented him from playing a single minute thus far in 2017-18. That leaves his crown available for a new field of young stars — including a pair of rookies — to add to their legacy at All-Star Weekend.

For Victor Oladipo, it would be a precedent to the Most Improved Player award he’s likely to win at the end of the season. For Larry Nance Jr., it’s a chance to show off the athleticism he’s brought to his new team in Cleveland. For Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell, it’s an opportunity for two potential stars to make a statement in front of a national audience.

Participants

Victor Oladipo, guard, Indiana Pacers

Oladipo has unlocked the potential that made him the No. 2 overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft after being traded to Indiana. The Pacers have given him the reins of their offense and he’s rewarded that boldness. Through 51 games, he’s averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding, assists, and shooting percentage. His tremendous play has put Indiana in the thick of the playoff race just months removed from trading away All-NBA superstar Paul George.

Larry Nance Jr., forward, Cleveland Cavaliers

Nance has a dunking pedigree. His father won the inaugural NBA Slam Dunk contest in 1984, setting the stage for a stellar 13-year career in which he was a three-time All-Star. The younger Nance is still growing into his role in the NBA, but the Cavs felt strongly enough about him to ship Isaiah Thomas out of town for a package that included Nance and point guard Jordan Clarkson. At 6’9, he’ll be the largest competitor in Saturday’s field.

Donovan Mitchell, guard, Utah Jazz

Mitchell, an athletic shooting guard, is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate after emerging as the Jazz’s leading scorer. He’s averaging just under 20 points per game thanks to his ability to score from behind the arc as well as slice to the rim and detonate the net with tremor-inducing dunks.

His 36.5-inch standing vertical leap was tops at 2017’s NBA draft scouting combine.

Dennis Smith Jr., guard, Dallas Mavericks

Smith is another electric rookie who looks like a foundation piece of the Mavericks’ rebuilding effort. He’s averaging nearly 15 points per game, albeit at an inefficient 39.4 percent shooting rate. He may be the best leaper in the NBA — he reportedly showed off a 48-inch running vertical jump in the lead up to the 2017 draft.

Rules

The league returned to its traditional dunk contest format in the past three seasons after experimenting in 2014.

All four competitors will get two dunks in the first round. The two players with the highest combined score for the dunks advance to the finals. The finalists then get two more chances to impress the judges — and the highest score wins.

How to watch the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

  • Time: Saturday, Feb. 17. 8 p.m. ET
  • Place: Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • TV: TNT
  • Streaming: Watch TNT

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