LaVine climbs highest to repeat as Slam Dunk champion
By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves overcame Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic to repeat as the NBA Slam Dunk champion on Saturday after both impressed with gravity-defying displays of athleticism and imagination.
In one of the most riveting slam dunk contests in recent years, LaVine and Gordon went toe-to-toe in the first two rounds of the final round then needed a pair of tie-breakers, where the former sealed it with his fourth consecutive perfect 50 score.
LaVine, a 20-year-old second-year NBA player, joined Michael Jordan (1987-88), Jason Richardson (2002-03) and Nate Robinson (2009-10) as the only players to win consecutive slam dunk contests.
The streak of perfect scores from the two players ended when Gordon, who enlisted a mascot rotating on a hoverboard for one of his earlier dunks, ran along the baseline en route to a jackknife dunk that earned him 47 points.
LaVine sealed it on the next attempt when he soared into the air from a step inside the free-throw line and made a between-the-legs dunk that earned a perfect score from a panel of judges that included basketball greats Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal.
Earlier, Klay Thompson knocked off defending champion and Golden State Warriors team mate Stephen Curry and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns to win the three-point contest after capping the final round by draining his last eight shots.
Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns pulled off an upset in the Skills Challenge, an event that tests dribbling, passing, and shooting, when he became the first big man to win a competition normally dominated by guards.
Towns, the top pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, dribbled through an obstacle course, sent a pass through a target, made a layup and a three-point shot quicker than Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas in the final round of an event that included front court players for the first time.
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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