2020 NBA All-Star Saturday: Derrick Jones Jr. wins Slam Dunk Contest over Aaron Gordon in controversial finish
Jones Jr. did a windmill from the free throw line for his final slam
The Slam Dunk Contest is the most iconic All-Star Saturday Night event, and thanks to an incredible showdown between Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon in Chicago, that status has been further entrenched. After countless perfect 50s, a two-dunk dunk-off and a judging controversy, Jones defeated Gordon to lift the trophy and send Gordon to another devastating defeat.
On the final dunk of the night, Jones Jr. cleared the runway and flew to the rim for a windmill after taking off from just inside the free throw line. The judges were impressed, but not enough for a perfect 50, and instead awarded him 48 points, which opened the door for Gordon to finally take home his first trophy.
As he tried to figure out what to do, Gordon approached one of the biggest men he could find, Shaquille O'Neal, and asked him to help out. The Hall of Famer, however, was uninterested and soon the attention turned to Celtics rookie Tacko Fall. The 7-foot-6 center looked nervous, but agreed to participate, and Gordon awed the crowd by jumping over him for a slam.
It didn't awe the judges, though, and they shocked the world by awarding Gordon a ... 47. Clearly frustrated, Gordon tossed his shoes into the stands as the crowd voiced their surprise and displeasure.
Here are some key takeaways from the epic Slam Dunk Contest:
Gordon robbed again
Back in 2016, in one of the greatest Dunk Contests of all time, Gordon lost to Zach LaVine in slightly controversial fashion after a two-dunk dunk off. Four years later, he somehow suffered the same fate, this time at the hands of Jones. On his first five dunks, Gordon was perfect every single time.
He jumped over Chance the Rapper on multiple occasions, threw down a ridiculous spinning one-hander that came with an assist from Markelle Fultz and showed off his incredible athleticism and creativity on every turn. On his final slam, he cleared the tallest player in the league.
And yet, despite the fact he now has the most 50s in Slam Dunk Contest history, he doesn't have a trophy. That alone stings enough, but the fact that this loss was due to some judging drama only makes it more annoying for Gordon. According to Common, Gordon's final dunk was supposed to be a 48, which would have sent things to a third dunk-off. Instead, one of the judges gave him a 9 instead of a 10, resulting in the 47 and the loss.
Afterwards in the media room, Gordon was legitimately upset, saying he's done with the Slam Dunk Contest forever.
"No, it's a wrap, bro. It's a wrap, " Gordon said. "I feel like I should have two trophies, you know what I mean? It's over for that. My next goal is going to be trying to win the 3-Point Contest."
Hard to argue with that.
Connaughton and Howard's efforts forgotten
Even in the least-exciting Slam Dunk Contests, the efforts from contestants who fail to make it out of the first round are lost to time. But in epic events like this one, that's even more true. In fact, some of the ridiculous early slams by Jones and Gordon are even hard to keep track of in all the excitement. But it's worth going back to at least note the slams thrown down by Pat Connaughton and Dwight Howard, because they were pretty cool.
The Bucks swingman , pulling out the "White Men Can't Jump" outfit and jumping over Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich to the amusement of the crowd. Then, on his second effort, he soared over Giannis Antetokounmpo and threw down one of the more technically impressive dunks of the evening. On that one, he cleared the Greek Freak, tapped the ball on the backboard and then dunked it. In real time, it was tough to see what he did, but in slow motion it was incredible.
Howard, meanwhile, was back in the event for the first time since 2009, and also turned back the clock. Bringing out Jameer Nelson, he donned the Superman cape and soared for a throwback alley-oop that earned a 49 from the judges. It wasn't the best dunk of all time, but it was neat that he turned it into a Kobe Bryant tribute.
Jones' between-the-legs the dunk of the night
The worst part of all the drama with the scoring at the end is that it takes away from some of the actual dunks, and there were some truly jaw-dropping ones. Among all of them, however, one stood out.
In the second dunk of the final round, which should have closed the show, Jones brought out one of his friends, and had him stand a few feet in front of the backboard. Jones, meanwhile, went out behind the 3-point line, and started measuring his steps. As he took off for the rim, his friend lobbed the ball off the glass and Jones jumped over him.
Jumping over someone is a cliche at this point, but Jones added to the difficulty by catching the alley-oop off the glass, then putting the ball between his legs before crushing it through the rim. Even better was that he did it on his first try, and made it look easy.
Controversy aside, Jones was phenomenal on Saturday, and deserves plenty of credit for his performance. But in true Miami Heat fashion, he's already thinking about bigger goals ahead.
"It's great," Jones said. "I'm happy that I was able to be a part of this and just be able to go out there and showcase my talents. Just show the world that I am the best dunker in the NBA. I got that down. Now it's time to go fight so we can get that home seed in the playoffs."
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