Former Bothell High School star Zach LaVine‘s triumph in the NBA’s annual dunk contest Saturday night continues a trend of success for high flyers with Seattle air under their feet.
A rookie with the Minnesota Timberwolves after a season at UCLA, LaVine dazzled a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan with two inventions in the semifinals that each scored perfect 50s from the five-member panel of former NBA stars.
He became the sixth player in the past 15 seasons with Seattle connections to win the All-Star Weekend exhibition.
Desmond Mason began the run in 2001 when he became the first and only Sonic to win. Five-foot-nine Nate Robinson, of Rainier Beach High and the University of Washington, is the event’s only three-time winner, claiming titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010 when he was with the New York Knicks. Former Huskies star Terrence Ross of Portland won in 2013, his rookie season with the Toronto Raptors.
LaVine was an all-state player for Bothell in 2013 and a prime target for Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, who came in second to UCLA in the recruiting battle.
“He had been coming to our camps for the longest, I think when he was like in the sixth grade,” Romar told the Seattle Times. “At a real young age. He was really small then, but continued to grow. Continued to improve. We definitely recruited. And we definitely wanted him.
“We found out a little bit later though that it was kind of a dream of his to go to UCLA. We didn’t know that at first. But we found out that was the school he wanted to go to and targeted. They offered him and there he was.”
LaVine, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who turns 20 March 10, started 23 of 48 games with the T-Wolves, but now is coming off the bench for a team, at 11-42, with the NBA’s second-worst record. But he felt fine Saturday night.
“I’m still on cloud nine. I feel like I’m dreaming,” LaVine told reporters. “Seeing all the dunk contests and people hoisting the trophy, I just saw myself do it and lived it, so it’s a dream come true. I’m glad my family is here to witness it and go through it.”
Dunk contest winners (NBA.com):