Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season just keeps getting better.
And that’s officially 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk champion Donovan Mitchell of the surging Utah Jazz, who claimed the crown on friends, family and throwback All-Star Saturday night at Staples Center.
Mitchell needed at least a 47 on his final dunk in the championship round to defeat Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers and secured a 48 for the win.
Both players employed family members to aid their respective causes. Mitchell brought up his little sister, along with comedian Kevin Hart and his son, for his second dunk in the first round. Nance Jr. used his father’s old uniform and dunk from Nance Sr.'s win in the inaugural Slam Dunk contest in 1984 and later had his father toss an alley-oop that he windmilled on his first dunk in the final round.
But Mitchell closed the contest with an ode to Verizon Slam Dunk legend and the oldest player in the NBA, Vince Carter (of the Sacramento Kings), stripping off his Jazz jersey to don Carter’s old Toronto Raptors’ No. 15. He finished the reverse 360 Carter used to win the 2000 Verizon Slam Dunk contest in Oakland.
Mitchell earned a 50 on his first dunk in the final round, throwing the ball off the glass to himself for what has become his signature dunk early on in his rookie season. He clipped Nance Jr. 98-96 in the final round.
Nance Jr. finished his night with a 50 of his own, tossing the ball off the glass as he soared towards the basket and jamming it home.
Mitchell, the rookie sensation who leads the Jazz, winners of 11 straight games, and all rookies in scoring, was a late addition to the competition, replacing 2016 Slam Dunk runner-up Aaron Gordon, who had to withdraw due to injury.
Nance Jr. had the crowd on his side just a little over a week after being traded to hometown Cleveland from Los Angeles.
Indiana Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. were eliminated after the first round. Smith, however, did earn the only other 50 of the competition, nailing a between-the-legs 360 reverse on his second dunk of the first round to impress the judges.
Hall of Famer and dunk legend Julius Erving led the star-studded but somewhat unorthodox panel of judges, a group that included former WNBA superstar and Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, a Los Angeles native, Hollywood superstars Chris Rock and Mark Wahlberg and superstar producer DJ Khaled.
2017 Verizon Slam Dunk champion Glenn Robinson III of Indiana is working his way back from ankle surgery was not able to defend his title.