SAN DIEGO — With two dribbles, one giant leap and infinite confidence in his athleticism, Lakers rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. created lasting memories.
Nance Jr. stood at the perimeter. He then dribbled into the lane. Then Nance Jr. took one giant leap for mankind by posterizing Golden State’s Festus Ezeli with a one-handed dunk. The Lakers’ 85-70 “victory” over the Warriors on Saturday may have ended with boos among the 14,100 at Valley View Casino Center for the game being called with 2:16 left in the third quarter because of frequent wet spots on the court. But those same fans went wild only three minutes earlier.
“I get hyped if I see the team get hyped,” Nance Jr. said afterwards. “The bench is going crazy. It was something that if it sparks the team, that’s something I love to do.”
It sounds like Nance Jr. takes after his old man. Larry Nance Sr. played 13 NBA seasons and was the first winner of the 1984 Slam Dunk Contest where he earned the nickname, “the High-Ayatolla of Slamola.” Will Nance Jr’s dunk make his father proud?
“I’m sure when I call him, he will say, “I had one that is better than that,'” Nance Jr. said, laughing. “Me and him go back and forth all the time.”
No worries. At least the Lakers were more complimentary.
Lakers forward Metta World Peace praised Nance Jr. for throwing down “an amazing dunk.” Lakers coach Byron Scott called the dunk “pretty impressive” and also raved about Nance Jr posting eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, two rebounds and two steals in only 12 minutes off the bench.
“He was good. He made some great plays on the offensive end,” Scott said of Nance Jr. “He gets better each day. That’s the one thing about Larry. He’s a workaholic. He’s in the gym and wants to get better and be a great basketball player.”
The Lakers drafted Nance Jr. 27th overall after starring four years at the University of Wyoming for that very reason. Earlier this year, Nance Jr. threw down a dunk over San Diego State center Skylar Spencer, the Mountain West’s defensive player of the year.
But Nance Jr. called his latest dunk “my favorite because it was the first in the NBA.” After he checked that off his bucket list, Nance Jr. offered an incredulous look that Ezeli would give him that much space to end up on a poster.
“I knew once I got my two-steps down, there’s not a lot of people who can jump with me,” Nance Jr. said. “I tried it and sure enough it paid off.”