This Valentine’s Day weekend, every Timberwolves fan was treated to a date with their television sets. Unlike an actual date, all fans had to do was sit back and enjoy the show. Nothing else was required.
With All-Star weekend in New York City this season, expectations were high for the players to put on a show. They delivered, and several Timberwolves stole the show – most specifically Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. It started Friday night with the Rising Stars game.
The appetizer of All-Star weekend. It’s the first event of the weekend (Celebrity game doesn’t count), and usually the least anticipated. However, with an NBA record four Timberwolves on this years rosters, as well as the likes of Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, and Nerlens Noel, among others, highlight plays were guaranteed.
A new format was introduced for the game, as the rookies and sophomores of the United States took on the World. In total, team World featured players from five continents (sorry South America and Antarctica) and nine different countries. The change in format turned the game into a battle for bragging rights, and a fun one at that.
The game consisted of two 20 minute halves with running clocks, but that didn’t stop both teams from easily reaching triple digits in the scoring column. It was also a sloppy affair, with a combined 51 turnovers and heat checks being put up regularly.
Still, highlights were everywhere, and so were Wolves.The Wolves don’t play on TNT this season, so this was Minnesota’s best opportunity to put on a show on a gigantic stage. As a whole, Minnesota’s four players (Dieng, Bazz, LaVine, Wiggins) all scored in double digits. In total, they accounted for 29% of the games points, 29% of the assists, and 23% of the rebounds. Overall, the Wolves left quite the impression on those watching.
Shabazz and Gorgui made significant contributions in the game, and there were plenty of positives to take away from that. It was the ‘The Bounce Brothers,’ though that ended up stealing the show. Both Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins provided the dazzling plays that make exhibitions fun. LaVine posted 22 points and a couple of dimes.
LaVine’s top play was a nasty transition dunk that put his speed, athleticism, and ball handling on display.
Wiggins, the other ‘Bounce Brother,’ wasn’t bad either. He displayed perfect shooting form and a great sense for the floor, going 8/11 shooting, along with 4 assists and 6 rebounds. With the World winning the game, the Canadiens strong stat line was more than enough for him to take home the MVP trophy. He became just the 2nd Wolf (Wally Szczerbiak, 2001) to be awarded with the Rising Stars MVP.
Overall, the Wolves left quite an impression on those watching, and they weren’t done yet.
LaVine came into the dunk contest as the overwhelming favorite, 46″ vertical and all. He was supposed to put the dunk contest “back on the map.” For a 19 year old rookie, those are massive expectations. He could’ve faltered. Instead, he left the crowd feeling incredulous.
Dunk #1 for LaVine was dubbed “Space Jam Dunk.” When LaVine was introduced, the Space Jam theme began playing. LaVine kept looking back into the tunnel, making sure everything was ready. Seconds later, Quad City came out to center court to rap the end of the song, and LaVine took off his Wolves jersey, choosing instead to don Jordan’s ‘Toon Squad’ jersey. LaVine seemed more worried about making sure Quad City heard their cues than he was about his own dunk.
After taking a moment to measure his dunk, LaVine took flight. Starting from the right wing, LaVine threw a slow an arcing pass that landed just outside the restricted area. With his back turned from the basket, LaVine jumped off both feet before grabbing the ball with his left hand, at which point he went between the legs and throwing down a right handed reverse. The result – a perfect score of 50.
The crowd couldn’t contain themselves. They spent the rest of the night anxiously waiting for LaVine’s turn. All that the Brooklyn crowd wanted for LaVine to continue doing the spectacular. When LaVine dunked, the masses rose to their feet, and each time LaVine’s dunk was finished, spectators were so amazed that they couldn’t control their body.
Among the crowd reactions:
Giannis and his brother had to hold themselves back, while Harden and Westbrook were riding an imaginary rollercoaster.
Baby Wolves, Russ, James Harden & Others React To Zach LaVine Dunk https://t.co/PGI8Op6qPB
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) February 15, 2015
One More – Thanasis & Giannis Antetokounmpo React To Zach LaVine's Final Dunk https://t.co/fv8v8Ux5VX
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 15, 2015
Hawks point guard Jeff Teague looked like he just took a huge whiff of New York street meat.
LaVine has put Jeff Teague in a permanent state of stinkface. https://t.co/aK2uKKhW3N
— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) February 15, 2015
Dr J, one of the greatest dunkers in history, was left speechless.
When you're in a deep K-hole pic.twitter.com/lMZrJb6c7e
— netw3rk (@netw3rk) February 15, 2015
It would’ve taken a miracle for him to lose. LaVine threw down four slams in total, and each was a masterpiece.
The only six seconds worth watching from tonight's contest were LaVine's four dunks: https://t.co/mMlw14ZPjb
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) February 15, 2015
The judges gave him a combined score of 194 out of a possible 200, and LaVine had barely even broken a sweat. The dunk that Andrew Wiggins said made him faint? LaVine decided to save it for later.
LaVine became is the first Timberwolf to win the dunk contest since 1994, when Isaiah Rider won in front of an ecstatic Target Center crowd. LaVine became the 2nd youngest dunk contest winner in history (Kobe Bryant was 18 when he won in 1997). He has firmly cemented himself as the best dunker in the league, and at only 19, he could end up being one of the best dunkers to ever walk the Earth by the time he’s done.
Minnesota has won a mere 11 games this season, yet they have been the talk of the Friday and Saturday of All-Star weekend. In the seasons to come, the rising Wolves will attempt to check Sunday off their All-Star to do list.