Edina's Vinny Cronin was a hockey player in elementary school when he first watched what many fans consider one of the best NBA dunk contests ever.

Cronin remembers going outside, even in the bitter Minnesota cold, to mimic in his driveway the 2016 contest won by former Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine, who did a windmill taking off from the foul line.

"What really inspired me was when Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon faced off," Cronin said. "I would start practicing those dunks on lower hoops and raised it higher and higher. I didn't even play basketball yet."

Now a 6-6 freshman on the Edina varsity basketball team that just upset No. 3 Minnetonka, Cronin has been slamming on 10-foot hoops since the seventh grade. He's already built a reputation as one of the best dunkers in the state, but he's not alone among local highflyers wondering what happened to the NBA dunk contest.

"I feel like every dunk you could do has already been done," Breck senior Daniel Freitag said. "So, it's hard to get a good score nowadays."

Sure, NBA G Leaguer Mac McClung brought some life back by defending his title last Saturday in Indianapolis. But what used to be the highlight of All-Star weekend is nothing like the days of LaVine vs. Gordon, Vince Carter or MJ vs. the Human Highlight film Dominique Wilkins – not even close.

"I like to watch the old clips of Vince Carter and Michael Jordan in the dunk contest," said Cronin, who last summer threw down a between-the-legs dunk in a contest at Chris Paul's camp that went viral.

Maybe current Timberwolves standout Anthony Edwards could revive the dunk contest one day like LaVine did nearly a decade ago. He blew it off this year, like most All-Stars basically did with the actual game itself.

Edwards' in-game dunking during the season inspired high school players in Minnesota, though.

The springy 6-4 guard threw the ball off the backboard for a two-handed slam earlier this season against the Memphis Grizzlies. Edwards' highlight gave Freitag the idea to try a similar self-alley-oop off the glass jam vs. Rockford that has drawn hundreds of thousands of views on social media.

"I did it a week after he did it," Freitag said. "I tried to do it like Kobe did it. Ant threw it overhand, which kind of looks weird. I like the underhand toss off the board."

Freitag, a Minnesota Mr. Basketball candidate, is the leading scorer on the No. 1 team in Class 2A. Ask anyone who has seen the bouncy 6-3 Breck senior and Wisconsin recruit, and they'll say he's the top high school dunker in Minnesota. He has videos jumping over teammates very similar to the pros.

"I've worked on my dunking since the seventh grade, probably trying like 40 times a day," said Freitag, who is nursing a sore ankle. "I would go to the gym to not even work on anything but trying to dunk. It was bad [laughs]. I didn't just want to dunk – I wanted to windmill and do different things like that."

Freitag credited some of his peers on the local prep scene for also being able to fill up a highlight-reel of crowd-pleasing above-the-rim action, including Park Center's Cash Chavis, Chisago Lakes' Patrick Rowe and Eastview's Jonathan Mekonnen.

Despite being barely out of middle school, Cronin also impressed Freitag to be mentioned right up there with the best of them, too. They faced off in a dunk contest in Waconia last year, which included St. Louis Park's Micah Curtis, Benilde-St. Margaret's Jaleel Donley and Minnehaha Academy's Lorenzo Levy.

There's a debate who actually won.

"Daniel's a good dunker," Cronin said. "He beat me in that dunk contest, but there were some questionable calls from the judges."

After the dunk contest, Freitag said Cronin joked that he got robbed – and he wasn't necessarily wrong.

"He has cooler dunks, for sure," Freitag said. "But none of my dunks looked the same. He had a reverse windmill with two hands. His next one was a 360 with one hand. They looked the same, so they're not going to [judge them differently]."

Forget about this year's NBA dunk contest. Check out Cronin vs. Freitag sometime. It might not exactly be LaVine and Gordon – but it's the closest thing in Minnesota high school hoops.

Fuller's Five

Five recent Minnesota dunkers who stood out:

Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves

First-year Wolves All-Star hasn't competed in the NBA dunk contest yet, but he's been treating fans with his explosive game and scintillating slams since his high school and college days in Georgia.

Parker Fox, Gophers

The 6-8 Mahtomedi native was an All-American and elite dunker in Division II at Northern State in South Dakota three years ago. Two knee injuries robbed him of some hops, but not all of it now with the U.

Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

The former Lynx center went out in style with a breakaway slam in her final WNBA All-Star game in 2022 before retiring. She also dunked in her first All-Star game in 2009, and while playing in college at LSU.

Zach LaVine, Timberwolves

If this list wasn't in alphabetical order, LaVine would be at the top. The 6-5 sky-walking former Timberwolves and current Bulls guard helped bring excitement back to the NBA dunk contest, winning in 2015 and 2016.

Jericho Sims, New York Knicks

The former Cristo Rey and Texas leaper routinely puts his head above the rim on dunks. The 6-9 Sims' crazy vertical seems unfair at his size, but it didn't help him go that far in the 2023 NBA dunk contest.

Numbers game

51 Field goal percentage by the Gophers in Sunday's win, the highest FG% allowed in a game all season by Rutgers, which had the No. 2 defensive efficiency in the nation.

50 Points scored by Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns in last weekend's NBA All-Star game that ended with the East beating the West 211-186.

50 Combined points by Gophers freshman Grace Grocholski in back-to-back games last week on 13-for-19 three-point shooting, including a career-high 27 points with six threes in Saturday's win against Northwestern.

21 Career-high points scored by Gophers sophomore big man Pharrel Payne in Sunday's win against the Scarlet Knights, to go with 11 rebounds.

19 Points scored by former Gophers and DeLaSalle forward Jamison Battle in Ohio State's 73-69 upset win against No. 2 Purdue on Sunday in Columbus.