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LaVine appreciates slam dunk contest bond with Gordon

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DENVER --- Seven years have passed since Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon staged their second of consecutive epic slam dunk contests at the 2015 and 2016 All-Star Weekends in New York and Toronto, respectively.

And whenever they see each other, which again will be Wednesday night when LaVine and the Chicago Bulls face Gordon and the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets, it’s nothing but love.

“I’ve known Aaron from before that, just growing up and playing AAU and then him going to Arizona and me going to UCLA. We’re from the same draft class. We’ve always had a good rivalry and relationship,” LaVine said following Wednesday morning’s shootaround at Ball Arena. “I think the dunk contest made that bigger than what it was between us. It was really fun and something for the culture and the history."

Indeed, for some they forever will be linked, those jaw-dropping dunks frozen in time, flush with all their gravity-defying and reality-suspending power.

“I think the (2016) one is the best one ever as far as creativity, guys stepping up and making dunks that probably haven’t been seen before and the level of competition,” LaVine said. “It was fun. I don’t think either one of us knew what the other one had in store. How it unraveled with us going back and forth with these (perfect score) 50s and no misses, it was something to watch. Being a part of it, and going back and watching it now, is crazy.”

LaVine won both contests, confidently calling the 2015 victory in New York “a cakewalk for me” and reiterating on Wednesday what he said in the direct aftermath of the 2016 classic---that he would’ve been fine if judges declared co-winners and they shared the award.

“I think Aaron had the best dunk of the night. I really do. In fact, that is probably the best dunk in dunk contest history,” LaVine said. “But I had probably the next five best dunks.”

The dunk LaVine cited is the one that is most memorable, when Gordon jumped over Stuff the Magic Dragon, the Orlando Magic mascot, pushed the ball underneath his legs from his right hand to his left and dunk over his head with his legs tucked underneath him.

“He was sideways, almost sitting down at the rim,” LaVine said. “I remember sitting there and putting my hands on my head and going, ‘Whoa.’ I knew I had to respond.”

So LaVine did, following that second dunk from Gordon by taking off from just inside the free-throw line and throwing down a tomahawk slam that drew a high-five from future teammate DeMar DeRozan sitting courtside.

TNT broadcaster Reggie Miller advocated for the tie on the telecast after that dunk, saying to bring out two trophies. Instead, LaVine took the lone one home---but forged a forever bond with Gordon.

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