Gordon to Participate in 2020 Slam Dunk Contest

by John Denton

BOSTON – As he proclaimed his entry into the 2020 NBA Dunk Contest, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon also announced his imminent retirement from the premier event of All-Star Weekend.

``This is my last dunk contest ever,’’ Gordon said with a wry smile and a bit of faux exasperation. ``My heart is totally invested in it because I love the art of the dunk, but this is it. This will be it for me. This will be the last dunk contest I’ll ever have.’’

Part of Gordon’s motivation for entering the NBA Dunk Contest for a fourth time and participating a third time is to try and right what he feels was a wrong decision in the 2016 contest when he controversially finished as a runner-up to guard Zach LaVine.

``Yeah, that happens a lot,’’ Gordon said of the feedback he often gets from fans who think he should have been crowned the champion of the 2016 event after he jumped over the Magic mascot, Stuff, for a couple of dunks. ``So, I’m just going to go and make it right now.’’

On Tuesday, the NBA announced the official list of participants for the dunk contest, which will be held on Feb. 15 during NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound Gordon will compete against 2008 dunk champion Dwight Howard, Miami Heat high flyer Derrick Jones Jr. and Milwaukee Bucks guard/forward Pat Connaughton. Howard, a standout for the Magic from 2004-12, won the 2008 event in New Orleans while wearing a Superman cape over his Magic pinstripes. Howard, now 34 years old, is in his 16th NBA season.

``Oh man, it’s going to be a great event, it’s going to be fun and I’m going to enjoy the whole process,’’ said Gordon, who also participated in the 2017 dunk contest, but had to pull out in 2018 because of an injury. ``I know this is going to be my last one, so I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.’’

Gordon, 24, will compete in the event despite missing six games this season due to low extremity injuries – three games from Nov. 23-27 with a bone bruise in his right ankle; two games from Dec. 30-Jan. 1 with a sore left Achilles’ tendon; and one game on Jan. 10 with tightness in his right calf muscle. Following a performance on Monday in Charlotte in which he led the Magic (22-28) to a 112-100 win with 16 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals, Gordon is averaging 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists while shooting 42.1 percent overall and 30.1 percent from 3-point range in 44 games.

Gordon electrified the basketball world in 2016 with his jaw-dropping athleticism and outside-the-box creativity. He jumped over 7-foot mascot, Stuff, wrapped the basketball under his legs and dunked with his left hand for a perfect score. On another dunk, Gordon perfectly timed his jump as Stuff was spinning on a hoverboard and he finished the windmill dunk with authority. Ultimately, Gordon lost in a dunk-off to LaVine – a two-time dunk champion.

Gordon said he’s already started thinking of new and different dunks that will shock fans and judges in this year’s event. Again, he says that it is his last time in the event, and he plans to empty his proverbial arsenal of dunks in Chicago.

``I’ve got some things that the dunk contest has never seen before,’’ he promised.

LaVine, a standout guard now with the Bulls, reportedly declined an invitation to participate in this season’s dunk contest even though it will be in Chicago.

The NBA has already announced plans to use All-Star Weekend as a means with which to further honor the legacy of five-time champion and 18-time All-Star Kobe Bryant, who along with 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others was killed in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif., on Jan. 26.

Despite growing up just 40 miles from the Golden State Warriors’ former home in Oakland, Gordon was a Lakers fan as a teen and someone who idolized Bryant’s greatness. This past summer, Gordon worked as a counselor at Bryant’s ``Mamba Basketball Academy’’ and said he had started to develop a ``mentorship’’ with Bryant, who offered him advice on his own game.

Despite his love for the Lakers’ legend, Gordon said he will likely forgo some sort of Bryant tribute during the dunk contest.

``It just wouldn’t be right to do that,’’ Gordon said.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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