Cleveland Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. recalled telling his father roughly four years ago of his desire to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest. That came to fruition on NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Staples Center, and Nance Sr. was not only in attendance but a participant.
“It was obviously a good moment for my family. Something that I’ll cherish forever,” Nance said after losing to Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell in the final round.
In the weeks leading up to the Verizon Dunk event, Nance voiced his frustration with the “showmanship” aspect that’s overtaken the contest. He nonetheless paid homage to his father by wearing an old Cavaliers uniform.
“It was good. I think it was good, at least. That’s not me,” Nance said of the entertainment value he incorporated. “I was trying to pump up the crowd and act like I’m the hot stuff. That’s totally out of my wheelhouse.”
Despite his best efforts, Nance was outclassed in that department by Mitchell. For his series of dunks, Mitchell utilized a second basket; then while wearing a Darrell Griffith jersey, Mitchell soared over his sister, actor Kevin Hart, and Hart’s son.
Then up against Nance in the championship round, Mitchell threw the ball off the backboard for a windmill dunk that earned him a second 50 on the night. “My thoughts were, ‘Man I kind of did this dunk already from out of bounds.’ But, he pulled it off great,” Nance said.
For his final act, Mitchell paid homage to Vince Carter by wearing his Toronto Raptors jersey and reprising Carter’s windmill, 360 slam dunk from 2000. Prior to that, Nance tapped into his creativity for a lob off the backboard, then second pass off the glass, before flushing it home.
The double-tap got Nance a perfect score from a panel of judges comprised of Hall of Famer Julius Erving, three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie, comedian Chris Rock, actor Mark Wahlberg and musician and entertainer DJ Khaled.
They possibly were influenced by Nance’s plea immediately after the impressive dunk. “That’s one you’ve got to look at the replay to see I tossed it off the glass, caught it, threw it back off the glass, and finished it all in the air,” he explained.
“That’s why I asked them to hold the score until they saw the replay. “(The dunk was) a little bit of Dwight Howard, a little bit of myself. It’s something we just came up with and thought it looked good.”
While he was visibly disappointed by falling short to Mitchell by two points on aggregate of their dunks in the final round, he enjoyed the experience and return to the arena he called home for nearly three full seasons.
And though participating in the Dunk Contest was a longstanding wish, Nance isn’t certain if he’ll return. “We’ll see. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling or where I’ll be at next year,” he said. “I’ll address that if it comes up.”
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