LOS ANGELES (ABC4 Sports) – Donovan Mitchell is opening eyes and dropping jaws all across the NBA the season.
The Jazz rookie sensation channeled past great Darrell Griffith and Vince Carter to win the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Mitchell joins Jeremy Evans, who claimed the title in 2012, as the only Jazz player to win the dunk contest.
“I wanted this so badly, man,” Mitchell said. “This is one of my favorite events of All-Star Weekend, growing up as a kid watching it, not only being in it but to win it, it’s crazy.”
Mitchell needed at least a 47 on his final dunk in the championship round to defeat Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers and secured a 48 for the win.
Both players employed family members to aid their respective causes, Mitchell his little sister, along with comedian Kevin Hart and his son, for his second dunk in the first round, and Nance Jr. his father’s old uniform and dunk from the his win in the inaugural Slam Dunk contest in 1984 and later his father for an alley-oop toss that he windmilled on his first dunk in the final round.
“I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there helping me out,” Mitchell said. “He’s my favorite comedian. There’s no better city to have this All-Star Game at and to see all of these stars is awesome.”
But Mitchell closed the contest with an ode to Verizon Slam Dunk legend and the oldest player in the NBA, Vince Carter (of the Sacramento Kings), stripping off his Jazz jersey to don Carter’s old Toronto Raptors’ No. 15. He finished the reverse 360 Carter used to win the the 2000 Verizon Slam Dunk contest in Oakland,
Mitchell earned a 50 on his first dunk in the final round, throwing the ball off the glass to himself for what has become his signature dunk early on in his rookie season. He clipped Nance Jr. 98-96 in the final round.
Nance Jr. finished his night with a 50 of his own, tossing the ball off the glass as he soared towards the basket and jamming it home.
Mitchell, the rookie sensation who leads the Jazz, winners of 11 straight games, and all rookies in scoring, was a late addition to the competition, replacing 2016 Slam Dunk runner-up Aaron Gordon, who had to withdraw due to injury.
Nance Jr. had the crowd on his side just little over a week after being traded to Cleveland from the hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
Indiana Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. were eliminated after the first round. Smith, however, did earn the only other 50 of the competition, nailing a between-the-legs 360 reverse on his second dunk of the first round to impress the judges.
Hall of Famer and dunk legend Julius Erving led the star-studded but somewhat unorthodox panel of judges, a group that included former WNBA superstar and Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, a Los Angeles native, Hollywood superstars Chris Rock and Mark Wahlberg and superstar producer DJ Khaled.
The Jazz are on an 11-game winning streak, and will resume action Friday at home against Portland.