The Step Back

Zach LaVine and unhinged athleticism

For the majority of us, the first shot we ever take on a basketball hoop is a slam dunk. Our parents put miniature basketballs in our hands and have us throw it at a Little Tykes basketball hoop. After a while, we figured out that the easiest way to make a shot was to clutch the ball in both hands and drop it through the net. In no short time we were dunking at every opportunity that presented itself.

Yet the time comes when the hoop grows and we stop. Sadly, I have never personally felt the thrill of throwing down a dunk on a regulation size hoop (9-foot-5 is my all-time high). But when that rim is set anywhere between seven and nine feet do I have some fun. Twisting and turning my body to its limits, seeing how long I can stay airborne and how far I can jump from and still slam it home.

I imagine that this is what current Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine feels whenever he sets foot on a basketball court. LaVine made a name for himself by reinvigorating the NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie in a way we hadn’t seen since Vince Carter’s performance in 2000. He followed that up with one of the all-time great head-to-head competitions the following year in his repeat victory over Aaron Gordon.

Read More: D’Angelo Russell and the art of changing pace

Watching LaVine play basketball is something I would recommend to people who don’t even understand the game itself. LaVine’s craftsmanship when he takes flight is breathtaking. His silhouette graces the air before unleashing a blast of kinetic energy — sort of like Black Panther’s vibranium-enhanced suit — on to the rim and any defender unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire. Something about the way he plays makes it nearly impossible to keep your eyes off him whenever he is on the floor.

A year ago, LaVine was sidelined after tearing his ACL in early February. There were fears by many that this once in a generation athlete would be taken away from us before we had an opportunity to truly appreciate how special he was. However, when LaVine made his debut for the Bulls this season, he quickly showed that he still had the juice.

At just 23-years-old we are nowhere near seeing LaVine in his prime — a scary thought indeed. During this year’s dud of a Slam Dunk Contest (DENNIS SMITH JR. WAS ROBBED I TELL YOU, ROBBED!) LaVine was brought on to do some commentary and he didn’t totally dispel the idea that he could make a return to the event in the future.

The aforementioned Vince Carter was the last player to leave the world with their collective jaws on the ground based off his otherworldly athletic abilities. He is still in the NBA today at 41 and is still throwing down the occasional slam dunk when the opportunity presents itself. If you can promise me that we get 18 more years of LaVine, with around 10-12 of them coming within his athletic peak, I would sign on the dotted line this very second.

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