Skip to main content
Publish date:

Zach LaVine dominates Slam Dunk Contest: Dunk-by-dunk grades

Miss the Dunk Contest? Want to watch it again? We grade every dunk from Saturday night's showcase.

NEW YORK -- It took Zach LaVine just one try to knock out the rest of the Slam Dunk Contest field. His second dunk vaulted the Timberwolves' rookie guard into the conversation for the best Dunk Contest performance since Vince Carter in 2000. When the event was over, LaVine had thrown down four of the night's top five slams, obliterating the competition, bringing the Barclays Center crowd to its feet, and drawing immediate calls for him to defend his title next year in Toronto.

Credit the 19-year-old LaVine for rising to the occasion on the Big Apple stage, becoming the second-youngest champion in the history of the contest. The UCLA product and 2014 lottery pick told reporters that he would "hopefully" participate in future contests, while also paying respect to a number of future Hall of Famers who had inspired him, including Carter, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

When asked to compare his performance to Carter's sensational show in Oakland in 2000, LaVine smartly deflected.

"Vince Carter is above me," he said. "I don't want to get in that area."'s 2015 NBA All-Star coverage

That was a smart thing to say, and it was also accurate, in part because LaVine seemed to play it safe in the championship round once his fellow finalist, Victor Oladipo, couldn't complete a dunk on his first try. Indeed, LaVine said that he kept a few dunks in his pocket, including one that left fellow Timberwolves rookie Andrew Wiggins speechless earlier this week.

Of course, there's plenty of time to worry about next year, and LaVine was clearly soaking in the moment.  

"I'm stoked," he said. "I feel like I'm dreaming. ... It was a dream come true."

Here's a dunk-by-dunk look -- including SI's grades -- at how the 2015 Slam Dunk Contest was won.

Mason Plumlee: Round 1, Dunk 1

Nets center Mason Plumlee looked nervous after the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, and he readily admitted at the time that he really wasn't going to be able to keep up with LaVine. Those concerns were confirmed early, when Plumlee missed his first two attempts at a dunk set up by fellow Duke product Kyrie Irving. The set-up was fairly simple: Irving pitched an alley-oop off the side of the backboard and Plumlee caught the pass with both hands, ducking his head under the rim and finishing with a reverse dunk on the opposite side. 

The two initial misses took some of the luster off of this one, and the effort was undercut by the fact that Plumlee's height and length seemed to diminish the degree of difficulty. The judges were right on with their rating. 

Official Score: 40 out of 50

SI Score: 40 out of 50 

• MORE NBA: Five storylines to watch in 2015 NBA All-Star Game

Giannis Antetokounmpo: Round 1, Dunk 1

SI Recommends

Well, Milwaukee's sensational sophomore Giannis Antetokounmpo went from boom to bust in record time. After taking the court with a Greek flag and a host of young ladies in togas bearing what looked like oversized grape leaves, Antetokounmpo simply couldn't complete his first attempt despite ample cheering from the crowd. Antetokounmpo wanted to spike a right-handed dunk off a self alley-oop, but the rim just wouldn't comply. He went 0-for-3 and took the mandatory minimum score of 30.

Official Score: 30 out of 50

SI Score: 30 out of 50

Victor Oladipo: Round 1, Dunk 1

As predicted, Victor Oladipo made full use of his singing voice, taking the court in a tuxedo shirt and a top hat while singing Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York." He followed up that grand entrance with a very, very strong dunk, completing a two-handed, double-clutch, counter-clockwise 360 degree reverse dunk. LaVine was so impressed that he labeled it a "professional dunk" afterwards. Top marks for precision, creativity and bounce.

All told, this was the third best overall dunk and the best non-LaVine dunk of the night. Minor points deducted for needing three tries.

Official Score: 50 out of 50

SI Score: 48 out of 50

Zach LaVine: Round 1, Dunk 1

As Jay-Z might say, "Grand opening, grand closing." This was the Slam Dunk Contest's version of a one-hitter quitter. 

Kevin Durant: Players — not media — should be voting on NBA awards

LaVine took the court with the Quad City DJ's, who performed the theme to "Space Jam" -- the famous Jordan-centric Looney Tunes movie from the mid-1990s. Once on the court, he revealed a Space Jam jersey and proceeded with his first try, a self alley-oop that involved passing the ball through his legs left-to-right while scissor-kicking for style and ducking to avoid the rim. The jaw-dropping slam left Julius "Dr. J" Erving stunned and rightfully earned a perfect score.

"I just wanted to come out with a bang," LaVine said. "I wanted to get a 50 on every dunk."

Official Score: 50 out of 50

SI Score: 50 out of 50

Giannis Antetokounmpo: Round 1, Dunk 2

It sured looked like Antetokounmpo was trying to exit stage left as quickly as possible following LaVine's show-stopper. Taking a pass from his brother, Thanasis, the Greek Freak double-clutched and threw down a two-handed reverse dunk. It wasn't any more impressive than Plumlee's first dunk and qualified as a bit of a letdown given Antetokounmpo's insane wingspan and deep catalog of in-game slams.

Official Score: 35 out of 50 

SI Score: 34 out of 50

•​ MORE NBA: Currry wins Three-Point Contest | Skills Challenge results

Mason Plumlee: Round 1, Dunk 2

The ripple effects of LaVine's monster slam continued to haunt his competition, as Plumlee couldn't convert multiple efforts at his first dunk and decided to just bail on the idea. His back-up plan was to jump over his brother -- Miles, a 6-foot-10 center for the Suns -- and he made the dunk, but not before pushing off to clear Miles and contacting his brother's back with his right leg. Not particularly original, not particularly clean, not particularly worthy of a good score. The judges saw straight through this one.

Official Score: 36 out of 50

SI Score: 35 out of 50

Victor Oladipo: Round 1, Dunk 2

Oladipo looked for some help for his second effort, getting an autograph on the basketball from Hakeem Olajuwon and enlisting teammate Elfrid Payton as a lob-tosser. Payton threw the ball off the side of the backboard and Oladipo caught the pass while completing a 360 revolution. Although he made the dunk, he didn't do so cleanly. The catch on the rim took away from the impact of the effort, and it requires a fairly steep deduction. Still, Oladipo's first effort was more than enough to send him on to the final round compared to Plumlee and Antetokounmpo.

Official Score: 39 out of 50

SI Score: 36 out of 50

Zach LaVine: Round 1, Dunk 2

LaVine wasted no time building on his awesome start. His second effort involved a self alley-oop that saw him slip the ball from his left hand to his right hand while in mid air, cuffing it briefly before finishing a powerful right-handed slam. LaVine's smooth operating drew plenty of approval from the crowd, and his lift off the court was simply ridiculous.

• MORE NBA: Kanye, adidas release Yeezy shoes | Sneaker hub

This was fully worthy of a perfect score and it will go down as the best dunk of the night. LaVine and Oladipo officially advanced to the final round; formally crowning the champion already looked like a total formality.

Official Score: 50 out of 50

SI Score: 50 out of 50

First round official final score: LaVine and Oladipo advance

LaVine: 100 out of 100
Oladipo: 89 out of 100
Plumlee: 76 out of 100
Antetokounmpo: 65 out of 100

SI's First round official final score: LaVine and Oladipo advance

LaVine: 100 out of 100
Oladipo: 78 out of 100
Plumlee: 75 out of 100
Antetokounmpo​: 64 out of 100

Victor Oladipo: Round 2, Dunk 1

Oladipo again enlisted Payton's help, placing Orlando's rookie point guard in a chair in the paint while holding the ball above his head with both hands. The plan was for Oladipo to leap over Payton, take possession of the ball, and complete a left-handed dunk while passing the ball through his legs. This had all the makings of another very high score due to its creativity and intricacy, but he just couldn't pull it up. After Oladipo went 0-for-3 on his attempts, the judges gave him the minimum score (plus one generous extra point for good effort).

Official Score: 31 out of 50

SI Score: 30 out of 50

Zach LaVine: Round 2, Dunk 1

This time, it was LaVine's turn to seek assistance. Wiggins held the ball in the air, allowing LaVine to get a running start as he approached from the right side of the court. Taking control of the ball, LaVine passed it under his right leg -- looking almost like a skateboarder when he levitated with his head at rim level -- before cleanly finishing a left-handed dunk.

The only word for this one is "pretty." It took two tries, but otherwise it was a standout effort that deserved just a little more love from the judges.

Official Score: 45 out of 50

SI Score: 46 out of 50


Victor Oladipo: Round 2, Dunk 2

After missing his first dunk of the final round and watching LaVine's onslaught continue, Oladipo's final effort was more or less meaningless. He attempted a self alley-oop from the top of key, but he just didn't have the legs and hang time to complete the full 360 spin to set up his right-handed dunk. After a few botched tosses and aborted efforts, Oladipo went to a back-up plan: Payton threw an alley-oop off the back of the backboard which Oladipo finished cleanly for a right-handed windmill. Not bad... but not quite enough to get the pulse rate going considering the competition.

Official Score: 41 out of 50

SI Score: 42 out of 50

• MORE NBA: Celebrity Game: Semi-serious diary for semi-serious game

Zach LaVine: Round 2, Dunk 2

LaVine completed the night with a straightforward effort. Wolves teammate Shabazz Muhammad tossed a simple pass off the side of the stanchion, setting up LaVine for another through-the-legs dunk that ended with a right-handed finish. The high bar set by his earlier dunks made this feel like a semi-dud, and it wasn't quite the insane flourish that the standing Barclays Center crowd was hoping for. Nevertheless, it was more than enough to carry LaVine past Oladipo to claim the Dunk Contest title.

Please, come back next year.

Official Score: 49 out of 50

SI Score: 44 out of 50


Official final score: LaVine wins

LaVine: 94 out of 100
Oladipo: 72 out of 100

SI's final score: LaVine wins

LaVine: 90 out of 100
Oladipo: 72 out of 100