Revealing only that he has something up his sleeve, Timberwolves young star Zach LaVine isn’t giving away many secrets regarding the defense of his All-Star slam dunk contest Saturday other than start big and don’t miss any.
He achieved both in New York this time last year, when he dunked his way to worldwide fame with a runaway victory.
This time, he says he believes he has solved a dunk contest’s biggest challenge: Coming up with something new.
“That’s the hardest thing,” he said. “Back in the day, Michael Jordan could use the same dunk three times. I don’t want to do that. I could come out and use the dunks I did last year and people would be like, ‘Oh, he did last year.’ You need four or five new dunks that you haven’t done before, so it’s a little challenging but that’s what YouTube is for.”
LaVine incorporated teammates Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad into his routine last year. This time, he hints that there’s a place for Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns on the big stage at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, where he will compete against Denver’s Will Barton, Orlando’s Aaron Gordon and Detroit’s Andre Drummond.
“Andrew might be back, KAT’s goofy self might be making an appearance,” LaVine said coyly. “I’m just glad they’ll be on the sideline again this year.”
Wiggins held a ball that LaVine snatched out of his hand and Muhammad threw one at the basket stanchion that LaVine grabbed as soared toward the basket and dunked.
“I don’t know, we’ll see on Saturday what he tells us,” said Towns, who will help represent the NBA’s big men in a Saturday skills-challenge contest before LaVine competes in the slam dunk. “I think he has some very cool stuff in store.”
Towns used the words “extraterrestrial bounce” to describe one of the dunks he has seen. He watched LaVine practice Thursday night in Toronto and tweeted “OMG! Grab your popcorn cause he making a movie on Saturday.”
On Friday, Towns told NBA TV, “I went yesterday and saw what I saw with my own eyes and I still can’t believe it. It’s not from this world. Humans are not supposed to do what he does … I think we need a farther galaxy for him, for the dunks he’s got planned.”
Still, LaVine said he intends to keep things simple.
“I’m more old-school style,” LaVine said. “I don’t use a lot of props. I’m doing a couple exciting things. I just try to keep it regular, keep it to the dunks, use my athleticism and jump high. And try to get the crowd into it.”
LaVine said he consulted Vince Carter, who won the 2000 slam-dunk contest with perhaps the event’s most electrifying performance of all time but didn’t return to defend his title the next year.
“The way I won last year, it’s hard to top yourself,” LaVine said. “That’s what Vince said. I know I have some other stuff left. I like impressing people. I’m a little bit of a showoff so my boys talked me into it. I know the fans want to see me do it again. I just want to put on a good show and have fun again.”