Kobe Bryant, Donte Greene

Kobe says he has no active rivals left in NBA

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Dwyane Wade and LeBron James will be fired up when the Heat take on the Lakers Sunday afternoon in a nationally televised game.

Not because the Lakers are particularly threatening this season, but because of Kobe Bryant. He is the measuring stick for all the great players in the NBA right now — five-time champion, 14-time All-Star, MVP, finals MVP, one of the top scorers ever to play the game. Even at 33 playing through torn wrist ligaments (and right now a mask) he leads the league in scoring.

But while the contemporary players are trying to measure themselves against Kobe, Kobe is measuring himself against the greats.

He is thinking about his legacy and says right now his challenges do not come from contemporary players, Kobe told Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“At this point my rivals, in terms of what I have left to accomplish in my career, (left the game) when Magic (Johnson) and Michael (Jordan) retired in ’98,” Bryant said, referring to the second of Jordan’s three retirements that came after he won his sixth and final championship with the Chicago Bulls. “That’s it. In terms of what I’m looking to accomplish, that’s about it….

“What I have left to accomplish, those players retired a long time ago,” Bryant said.

He’s right in the grand sense — there is no contemporary player who right now has a legacy like Kobe. Tim Duncan is close, but as Kobe said you think of him differently because he’s a big, you compare him to different people. Kobe is the direct line with Jordan and Magic.

But to add to his legacy — to get that sixth ring like Jordan — Kobe is going to have to find a way to get past contemporary players. Specifically LeBron and Wade, who with the Heat look to be the team every other team must measure itself against for the next few years.

We’ll see how ready the Lakers are for that. We know Kobe will be ready.

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: