BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Zach LaVine can’t predict the future, of course, but he had no problem looking into his crystal ball and seeing what was going to happen during Sprite Slam Dunk.

“The dunks I’m going to do are going to get the people on their feet,” the lanky Minnesota Timberwolves rookie said on the eve of NBA All-Star Saturday Night. 

He was right.

Once again, Sprite Slam Dunk was a high-flying celebration of out-of-the-box creativity, unparalleled athleticism and the “Wow!” factor, with the crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn expressing their amazement at the next generation of NBA leapers with “oohs,” “aahs” and incredulous looks, and involuntary jumping out of their seats.

LaVine joined Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as the stars of the 30th edition of the contest, which featured a return to the classic format where players could perform any two dunks without a time limit. 

LaVine walked – make that jumped – away with the title after a perfect score in the opening round, highlighted by his “Space Jam” dunk featuring an introduction from the Quad City DJs, and bested Oladipo in the championship round after a mind-bending, off-the-basket-stanchion-between-the-legs throwdown that earned a near-perfect score. 

“It’s a new day and age, so obviously you have to bring something into it to liven up the crowd, but you know, I like going out there and finishing my dunks and putting on a show,” LaVine said. 

The dunk is a universal symbol of basketball athleticism, so it was only fitting that this showcase took place in one of the world's premier basketball cities.

“This is the city game,” said NBA legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who served as one of the judges along with fellow hoops stars and New York legends Bernard King, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Chris Mullin and Julius “Dr. J” Erving.

“In this city, you still have people playing basketball at 60, 70 years old," Frazier added. "It’s a perfect venue to do this – New York, the mecca for everything.”



Sprite - Name That Dunk

Leading up to the event, the quartet got a chance to take part in a variety of unique opportunities designed to highlight Sprite Slam Dunk. LaVine and Plumlee spent part of the day at the BuzzFeed offices in Midtown Manhattan, where they judged an office dunk contest, took part in a celebrity draft and created some catchphrases in the spirit of the classic video game, “NBA Jam.”

“I’m very excited about the contest,” Plumlee said. “To me, being successful means you have to mix it up. I do want to include one prop, but I don’t want it to be a big show. I want it to still be about the dunk, about the creativity within the dunk itself.”

Oladipo and Antetokounmpo hung out at Complex hours before the contest, where they judged a series of viral slam dunk videos, and, in Oladipo’s case, showed off his singing voice for Valentine’s Day.

“We all have something up our sleeves that will be nice to see,” said Oladipo, who entered the floor for his first dunk singing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” “We’re going to entertain the crowd and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Dunk lovers got an extra chance to show their love for great moves during the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown, held Thursday night at the NBA House in Skylight at Moynihan Station. Amateur dunkers from across the country, who had won qualifying tournaments in their respective cities, got a chance to show their stuff in front of a judging panel that included hip-hop star Jadakiss and dunk maestro Darryl Dawkins.

And while these players may be amateurs, it was a top-flight dunk contest, featuring slams over cheerleaders, between-the-legs windmill jams and dunks off the side of the basket. In the end, San Francisco champ Young Hollywood walked away with $10,000 after picking up perfect scores.

As a sold-out stadium buzzed in the aftermath of a night of supreme slams, most agreed that this new generation of dunkers helped to return the contest to greatness, thanks in part to a teenager who floats through the air with ease.

“I’m just going out there and having fun,” LaVine said Friday. “Of course, I’m going out there to win.”

He was right again.