What if I told you that in 2010, Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes won a slam dunk contest in Lithuania? Yes, the same Baynes who has been the victim of countless posters himself. The same Baynes who prides himself on defense and rim protection. The same Baynes who has an NBA Graveyard named after him on NBA Twitter. I’m here to tell you that 8 years ago, the LKL’s best dunker was a 6-10 Australian center.
The LKL is Lithuania’s top professional basketball league, which received plenty of attention earlier this year thanks to LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball’s brief stint in the city of Prienai. The league’s all-star festivities operate a little differently than the NBA’s. Instead of a full weekend of events, the LKL hosts “All-Star Day” each spring, a compressed version of the NBA’s All Star Weekend where the dunk contest and three-point shootout lead up to the day’s main event.
In 2010, All-Star Day was held at Cido Arena in Panevėžys, Lithuania. Cido isn’t too big with a capacity of just 5,950 for basketball events, but it does include a cycling track that surrounds the court, so it still sounds pretty cool.
Baynes was the only non-Lithuanian to participate in the dunk contest, but the Celtics’ center still managed to downplay the event when I spoke to him earlier this week. “It was fun,” said Baynes. “Just ran around, enjoyed a day out there.” That day included jumping over people and hanging on a ten foot rim by his elbow, VC-style. Let’s go through each of his dunks in gif form:
Best part about these clips is that he’s listed as “Aronas Baynesas”. Hopefully Weird Celtics Twitter can run with that one.
Baynesas with the nice windmill alley-oop here. Imagine the reaction at TD Garden if he broke this out on a fast break.
Now he’s jumping over Lithuanians!!
There it is. The Australian Vince Carter! When asked if he could still do this dunk eight years later, Baynes confidently confirmed. “I definitely can do that, but I’m not going risk it right now, no need to do it mid-season.” All business as usual for All of Australia.
And finally, one last Baynesas windmill for good measure. The Celtics center said he didn’t have much preparation for the contest, but had some help from his point guard at the time. “My point guard from the team I was playing on was up there at the same time. So we talked about a couple things right before and that was it.”
Baynes, being the modest, hard-working big man that he’s been since arriving in Boston, enjoyed talking about his victory, but doesn’t think he’d fair too well if he had to face his current teammates. “I don’t know about that,” said Baynes. “I’ve seen some of these guys. They’ve got those young fresh legs out there. Every single day they’re trying some new stuff, so I’ll leave it to them.”
Perez, now of The Action Network, has gained a massive online following through social media. If something occurs around the league, chances are you’ll see the highlight moments later on Wob’s feed. Those highlights oftentimes consist of posterizing dunks, many of which see Baynes as the victim. His fearless defending has become such a regular occurrence over the last few years, that there is now a YouTube video titled “Aron Baynes, The Human Poster.” Naturally, Baynes was the last person Perez expected to see win a dunk contest.
“Zero (idea this happened),” said Perez. “I figured he would’ve won a getting-dunked-on contest.” When NBA players get dunked on, they are added into Perez’s NBA Graveyard where every poster victim is memorialized with his own tombstone. When Joel Embiid violently dunked on Baynes in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Perez decided it was time to trade in the 31-year-old’s grave for a mausoleum and hold a dedication ceremony.
So what’s the deal here? Can there be an Aron Baynes Memorial NBA Graveyard even though he’s a dunk contest champion? Perez says the Lithuanian victory won’t change anything about the “dunkyard.”
“As much as I make fun of Aron Baynes for getting dunked on – he’s always on the wrong end of a viral poster dunk of some kind,” said Perez. “I do need to say, that’s the first guy you want to play with, that you want on your team, the guy that’s willing to sacrifice his internet reputation for the sake of the team. That guy can play for me any damn time.”
In a modern NBA where defense has all but vanished, Baynes sticks to a traditional defensive-oriented approach. It doesn’t matter who’s coming into the lane, the Aussie is going to go at them. By exposing him, Perez might realize and admire that aspect more than anyone.
“When I get yelled at for always exposing Aron Baynes, listen, he got dunked on, I’m not making it up, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the only guys out there that’s willing to put his body on the line at the rim because defense has completely evaporated from across the league, as far as I can see.”
Next time you see Baynes get put on a poster by Giannis Antetokounmpo, think about the defensive mentality that put him in that position, and in the back of your mind, know that he once wowed a Lithuanian crowd with Vince Carter’s elbow dunk. Human poster or not, Aronas Baynesas is forever an International Dunk Contest champion, and that’s what matters most.