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LOS ANGELES — Donovan Mitchell didn't come to Los Angeles expecting to win the 2018 Slam Dunk Contest, and told reporters and friends alike that he couldn't jump as high as the other dunkers.
But he did come with a plan.
"Believe it or not, I've been preparing for this since I was a kid. 'What am I going to do?'" Mitchell said after the contest.
On All-Star Saturday Night, Mitchell showed off what he's been scheming for years. He threw down four scintillating dunks which won the respect of the celebrity judges, moving him through the two-round, four-dunk competition and ultimately sending him home with the trophy.
Mitchell's first dunk brought out an extra backboard, set behind and to the right of the standard storied Staples Center stanchion. He threw the ball off the back "wall," caught it, and finished it with a windmill flurry.
Donovan Mitchell's first dunk: pic.twitter.com/pKQx1ISLTL — Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 18, 2018
"I've been doing that since high school," Mitchell explained. "Just acted as if there's a wall behind the basket."
The dunk earned a score of 48, and after his competitors struggled to finish their dunks on the first attempt, Mitchell needed only a 42 to continue on to the second round. He revealed a purple Darrell Griffith jersey, honoring the former Jazzman and Louisville star. But after one attempt, he wasn't feeling good about completing his planned second dunk, so he improvised.
Mitchell brought his sister, Jordan, along with comedian Kevin Hart and his son onto the court. They crouched down, and Chase Skinkis of Team Flight Brothers threw the pass off the side of the backboard, leading to the scissor-legs finish.
Donovan Mitchell's second dunk: pic.twitter.com/orwm2Of0bO — Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 18, 2018
"(Jordan) didn't like it at first, because I've never jumped over her," Mitchell said. "But I've jumped over people taller than her, so I was like 'I can definitely jump over you.' But she didn't feel confident with it, so I said 'Scooch down a little bit if you feel confident in doing that.' Then it was my idea to add Kevin Hart in there."
That dunk finished with a 50, the highest possible score, and moved Mitchell into a matchup against Larry Nance Jr. for the trophy.
That's when Mitchell went back to basics: an alley-oop one-handed jam that he cocked way back, then finished with panache. It was Mitchell's second 50 score of the night.
Donovan Mitchell's third dunk: pic.twitter.com/IfiZIWwavT — Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 18, 2018
"If you look at my face, I kind of bite my lip and look really happy or really angry. It's just me trying to dunk the ball as hard as I can," Mitchell said.
Nance's two dunks left him with a combined score of 96, so Mitchell's final dunk needed a 46 or higher to clinch the trophy. And Mitchell's final dunk, a tribute to Vince Carter's windmill 360, earned a 48.
Donovan Mitchell's fourth dunk: pic.twitter.com/1OZa0yeJW2 — Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 18, 2018
"I figured at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk," Mitchell said, comparing his 6-foot-3 height to Carter's listed 6-foot-6 stature. "And actually, funny story is I haven't made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn't make it. Tried it last night, didn't make it. So to be able to make it was why I was so excited."
After years of planning, and some dunk contest adrenaline, Mitchell was able to come home with the trophy he dreamed of.