How Bulls' Zach LaVine Became Elder Statesman of NBA All-Star Dunk Contest

LaVine's legacy looms over All-Star dunk contest originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

First, Cassius Stanley stopped by for a word. Obi Toppin soon followed. Anfernee Simons kept asking and asking.

Zach LaVine's All-Star dunking days may be behind him. But that doesn't mean he hasn't become an elder statesman at the ripe, young age of 25, sitting courtside as if he's on high, offering sage advice to anyone who seeks it.

That's what happens when you win two of the most memorable Slam Dunk Contests in All-Star weekend history, as LaVine did while with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2015 and 2016.

"It was cool, man, to have them come over and be like, 'Hey, what should I do?'" LaVine said Sunday night, after making his All-Star debut with 13 points in Team Durant's loss to Team LeBron. "Obi Toppin said, 'I'm trying to do the free-throw line dunk like you.' It's kind of cool seeing I'm in that position now."

Toppin's first dunk actually looked similar to one that LaVine unveiled in pregame layup lines before the first-half finale, a victory at the New Orleans Pelicans. On the TNT broadcast, Kenny Smith said: "That's a 10 if Zach LaVine didn't do it last week in the layup line."

Toppin received a 48 for his first-round dunk. Dunking before Toppin, Stanley, the Indiana Pacers' rookie, received a controversial 44 on a well-crafted jam.

"I thought Obi Toppin's first dunk and Cassius Stanley's first dunk were really good," LaVine said. "Cassius Stanley is the guy I thought was going to win because he dunks like me a little bit. But he missed his second one."

That left Toppin versus Simons, the eventual champion, in the final. Simons prevailed on a dunk in which he puckered up and pretended to kiss the rim, showing off his prodigious vertical jump. Simons had consulted with LaVine at several points during the contest.

"I was just going to him seeing like, ’Was that worthy?’" Simons said. "He’s a guy that is arguably a part of the greatest dunk contest of all-time. So he knows when he sees a great dunk and a dunk that’s worth 48, 50 even. I was going to him like, ‘How was that? Should I do something else?’"

Sitting courtside, wearing a mask and his warmups over his uniform as he relaxed before the second half, LaVine soaked it all up. He looked like he could have joined the judges panel that featured all former champions, including Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins. That's how strong LaVine's dunking legacy is.

"Anfernee Simons put it away," LaVine said. "He, like, kissed the rim. I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' The replay looked better than I thought it was."

For the second straight year, LaVine flamed out in the first round of the 3-point shootout. He is trying to become the first player in NBA history to win both the Slam Dunk and 3-Point Contest titles.

Simply put, he has nothing left to prove when it comes to dunking. Only advice to dole out to whoever seeks it.

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