San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7

LeBron James named MVP of the 2013 NBA Finals

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MIAMI — With the Heat repeating as champions thanks to a thrilling Game 7 win over the Spurs, there was no question who would be named the Finals MVP if Miami was the one hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy before the night was through.

LeBron James finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals, and was every bit the deciding game’s most valuable player.

It wasn’t surprising that James was able to perform on the biggest stage, under the brightest lights, and with the most at stake. But the way he took to shooting midrange jumpers and three-pointers with confidence and accuracy was a little bit different than the attacking, driving style of play that had been his hallmark to this point in the series.

James hit four shots from between 15 and 22 feet out, and five from three-point distance. The shot that will define this game — and for now, mark his legacy — was an 18-footer with under 30 seconds to play that made it a two-possession game, and kicked off the celebration for the fans in attendance.

“You’re always happy for guys when they’re so dedicated, and we all know his work ethic,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward, when asked about how James has grown as a shooter. “It’s probably unique for a guy who has been the best in the game since he was in seventh grade; usually you wouldn’t have the type of work ethic that would match that type of talent. But as the series went on, he realized that was probably the shot that was going to be open, and in the biggest game, the biggest moment, those are the shots that he hit. And those were the difference tonight.”

James talked about how he’s improved as a player, specifically in reference to his shooting. But most important to him seems to be the responsibility he has as the leader of his team and its best player — which is perhaps what ultimately motivates him to perform at the level of the game’s most valuable.

“I mean, I said before the series that I was a better player than I was last time I faced the Spurs,” James said. “Didn’t look that way the first couple of games, but I stuck with it. Through all that adversity and throughout, I guess, the rhythm that I was in at that point, I just kept going. Just trusted all the work that I put into my game. And to be able to come through for your teammates, for me, I think ‑‑ you know more than anybody how much I care about my teammates and hate letting my teammates down. To be able to come through for my teammates in the biggest moment on the biggest stage makes me more satisfied than anything in the world.”

 

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: