The 2017 NBA Slam Dunk Competition is now a little less awesome.
Zach LaVine, the two-time reigning champion, will not be participating in the festivities, according to Basketball Insiders’ Michael Scott:
Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine won't compete in the 2017 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, sources told Basketball Insiders.
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) January 25, 2017
So much for a rematch of the epic battle that took place between LaVine and Aaron Gordon last year.
On the bright side, though, Gordon is slated to partake once more, per ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes:
Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon will compete in 2017 NBA Slam Dunk Contest in New Orleans, league sources tell ESPN. Runner-up last year.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) January 25, 2017
Good for him. Gordon could use a little joy in his life, what with playing for the Orlando Magic as a small forward and sometime-shooting guard when he should really be a power forward or even center.
LaVine declining an invite is probably a nod to two things. First, he’s more well-known in his third season. He doesn’t need to use the dunk contest as a personal springboard. At this point, it might almost damage his brand, not unlike the way it did for Blake Griffin, when everyone considered him just a dunker. LaVine, like Griffin, is much more than that.
There’s also the chance LaVine just doesn’t have anything new in the tank for this year. I mean, how is he supposed to top last February’s performance? He’s entered LeBron James territory in this sense, where he can’t participate—or, in this case, return—because whatever he does is most likely going to be a letdown. The dunk contest, or even the prospect of the dunk contest, has outlived its usefulness to him.
Here’s hoping Gordon has some new tricks up his sleeve to rescue us from dunk-contest monotony.