One of the surprise highlights of a year lacking a lot of them for the Los Angeles Lakers has been the solid play of rookie power forward Larry Nance, Jr. The team has been better defensively with Nance, Jr. on the floor and the 27th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft has used his better than expected jumper to aid the team's offense as well. Both of those areas have been key to Nance, Jr.'s effectiveness this season, but they have not been at the center of his highlights.
Nance, Jr. has additionally lived up to the family name with his high flying dunks and seemingly boundless athleticism. His father, Larry Nance, Sr., was the champion of the NBA's inaugural Slam Dunk Contest in 1984, leaving some to hope that the younger Nance would be asked to follow in his father's footsteps, and try and become the only Lakers player to win the contest other than Kobe Bryant. According to a recent report from Baxter Holmes of ESPN, the NBA had some interest, but Nance, Jr. opted to turn down the opportunity due to an ongoing knee injury:
Although the league didn't extend an official invite -- it was more of a "feeling out" call to gauge interest, Nance told ESPN.com after practice Monday -- the Lakers' training staff ultimately advised Nance against taking part in this year's contest because of the continuous soreness in his right knee that has sidelined him for the past four games.
"That's something that I've always said I've wanted to do at some point," Nance said of the dunk contest. "With the recent [injury] in my knee and everything, I don't want to go against the training staff's advice.
"This year might not be in the cards, per [the training staff's] request, but it's still something I personally would love to do in the near future. Next year, if [the NBA] wanted me, I would love to."
While it's disappointing Nance, Jr. won't get a shot at the Slam Dunk crown, in the long run this is probably the correct decision on both his part and the part of the training staff. Besides, there will be plenty of other Lakers scattered across the weekend, with at least a couple of Lakers essentially guaranteed to participate in the Rising Stars game on All-Star Saturday night and Kobe Bryant starting in the main event on Sunday.
Until next year, just sit back and enjoy Nance, Jr.'s best dunk of the year so far: