Kevin Durant joins the big time, named to All-NBA First Team

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Thumbnail image for Durant_dunk.jpgThis season at a Clippers/Thunder game, my media row seat was next to two advanced scouts checking out the Thunder for upcoming games for their teams.

Three times during the game, Kevin Durant did something that had these scouts — jaded guys who have seen more basketball than you and I ever will — look at each other and just shake their heads. After a play one of them just muttered, “How are my guys supposed to defend that?”

It may be just dawning on the casual basketball fan just how good Kevin Durant is — his play in the first round against the Lakers probably helped that — but people around the game know. They get it. He’s a superstar on the rise.

And that is how Durant joined top vote getters LeBron James and Dwight Howard on the All-NBA First Team, which was announced today (as voted on by the media).

Here is how the voting broke out:

All-NBA First Team:

Forward     LeBron James, Cleveland
Forward     Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
Center       Dwight Howard, Orlando
Guard        Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
Guard        Dwyane Wade, Miami

All-NBA Second Team

Forward    Carmelo Anthony, Denver
Forward    Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
Center       Amar’e Stoudemire, Phoenix
Guard        Steve Nash, Phoenix
Guard        Deron Williams, Utah

All-NBA Third Team

Forward    Tim Duncan, San Antonio
Forward    Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
Center      Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee
Guard       Joe Johnson, Atlanta
Guard       Brandon Roy, Portland

A few thoughts:

* No Chris Bosh? Those are six very good forwards listed here, but I’d have Bosh in front of a couple (Nowitzki, Duncan). He did receive the most votes of anyone not on the list. That may not be any consolation, but the max contract he is about to get will make up for it.

* Stoudemire keeps getting listed as a center — it was that way on the All-Star ballot — but he has played the four most of the year.

* Chris Kaman’s strong first half got him on the All-Star team. Bogut and the Buck’s strong finish got him on the third team. Life’s not fair that way.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: