Derrick Jones Jr. to Compete in 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk

by Cody Cunningham

Phoenix Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. will be one of four participants in the NBA’s signature above-the-rim showcase as he competes in 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk as part of All-Star Saturday Night at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on Feb. 18, the league announced tonight.

Competing against Jones will be Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, the LA Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Indiana’s Glenn Robinson III.

Having played the majority of this season with the Northern Arizona Suns, the Suns’ NBA Development League affiliate, Jones has earned a reputation for his dunking talent with a highlight reel of gravity-defying throwdowns. Nicknamed “Airplane Mode” for his leaping ability, Jones won the last dunk contest he participated in at the 2015 High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships in Carmel, Ind. Jones will become the first player to compete in the NBA Slam Dunk competition and play in the NBA D-League in the same season. 

Jones will become the seventh Suns player to compete in Verizon Slam Dunk on All-Star Saturday Night, joining Larry Nance (1984; 1985), Tim Perry (1989), Kenny Battle (1990), Cedric Ceballos (1992; 1993), Michael Finley (1996) and Amar’e Stoudemire (2003; 2005). Two Suns have won the event with Nance taking the crown at the NBA’s first dunk contest in 1984 and Ceballos victorious after a blindfolded jam in 1992.  

Verizon Slam Dunk is a two-round event in which the four participants can perform any dunk they choose without time limits. The players have a maximum of three attempts to complete each dunk in both the first round and the final round. Five judges score every dunk on a scale of 6 to 10, resulting in a high score of 50 and a low score of 30. All four competitors get two dunks in the first round.  The two players with the highest combined score for their two dunks advance to the head-to-head final round. The player with the highest combined score for his two dunks in the final round is crowned the champion.

Verizon Slam Dunk is part of All-Star Saturday Night, which will be televised by TNT at 6 p.m. MT on Feb. 18. In addition, the event will be broadcast on ESPN Radio.