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Spurs, Heat lead NBA teams heading overseas for preseason games next season

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David Stern may be emeritus now but the NBA’s global ambitions are not — the NBA owners want those international dollars.

Meaning next preseason NBA teams are heading overseas again to spread the gospel of the NBA and the NBA announced the schedule Thursday.

First up Tony Parker, Tim Duncan (unless he retires) and the San Antonio Spurs will take on Alba Berlin in Germany Oct. 8, then travel to Istanbul, Turkey, to take on Fenerbahçe Ülker Istanbul Oct. 11. Gregg Popovich isn’t going to complain about this as much as you might imagine for a curmudgeon. For one thing, they make a fantastic Riesling in parts of Germany. Second, he likes travel. It’s sideline reporters that drive him nuts.

In a pre-Olympics showcase, the Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Miami Heat Oct. 11 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Even for the Heat’s usual standards that could be a good looking crowd — and you know they will be chanting all game.

The Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings will make the NBA’s annual trip to China, playing Oct. 12 in Shanghai, then Oct. 15 in Beijing.

These are the teams of two owners really pushing to make their teams bigger international brands.

“We’re thrilled to bring the Kings experience back to our fans in China,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé said in a released statement. “Over 300 million Chinese men and women play basketball so there’s huge potential to connect with new and existing fans. We’ll be volunteering in the community, as well as utilizing technology and social media to share our trip with Kings fans around the world. We look forward to playing the Brooklyn Nets, who share our philosophy that basketball is the preeminent global sport of the 21st century.”

The NBA is clear and away the premier basketball league in the world and with the worldwide popularity of the sport the NBA is positioned to tap into an international market better than any other American sport. They would be foolish not to do this. Expect to see more of it, David Stern or no.

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: