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Kobe tells owners to “look in the mirror”

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Kobe Bryant, when he is serious, is direct. You will not confuse what he says with what he means — it is straight and plain.

Kobe was serious when talking with CBS’s Ken Berger about the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

“I think the owners need to look in the mirror,” Bryant told CBSSports.com when asked about the $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries being sought by the owners. “They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments. They’ve got to look in the mirror and decide what they want to do with the sport, and we as employees will show up and do what we’ve got to do….”

“The onus is not on us,” Bryant said. “People are trying to put that responsibility on us. It’s not our responsibility. It’s the owners’ job. This is what they do.”

It’s a simple stating of the player’s position — the owners can’t go on a massive summer spending spree then claim poverty. Revenue is going to be up this season in the NBA, if the owners are claiming massive losses then they are doing a poor job of managing their businesses.

Will the players have to give back? You bet, and they know that to a degree. Salaries may slide back a little, there will be ways for owners to get out of longer guaranteed deals that go bad.

But the real problem is not what Kobe makes, not what LeBron or Wade or Durant or Garnett makes. Those guys are the ones people pay to see play, who get people to turn on their televisions and buy jerseys. Right now, it is the middle class of NBA players that make a disproportionate amount to what they provide on the court or at the gate. Right now the big stars subsidize those guys by having limits on max deals. Kobe makes money for the Lakers, even at the $30 million a year he will make is a few years. He’s well worth the money on a purely business level. But the league’s bloated middle is an issue.

And that is on the owners. Those “bad” deals are ones they and their basketball people approved. They can’t blame the players, the owners do need to look in the mirror. They can’t ask the players to give back without much better revenue sharing and more stiff tax/fees for those who go over the cap. Level the playing field some, and maybe then those bad middle class contracts will dry up, and the owners bottom line will look better.

Watch it again: Epic dunk contest duel between Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon

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TORONTO — I am always hesitant to say a player/team/situation is one of the best of ever because the history of the NBA is filled with greats. We tend to overstate how good something current can be.  That said…

That was one of the best dunk contests ever.

Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show for the ages. Gordon had the best dunks of the night (in my opinion), but LaVine is consistently amazing, every dunk he does is flat out ridiculous.

Officially, LaVine won. In reality, we all won. Enjoy watching it one more time.

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.