CHICAGO – Giannis Antetokounmpo’s reaction following Aaron Gordon’s dunk over 7-foot-5 center and former University of Central Florida star Tacko Fall said it all.
It was a facial expression shared by seemingly everyone in the building, too. Total shock, disbelief and confusion.
Despite falling short in the dunk contest for the second time in his career – this time against Miami’s Derrick Jones. Jr. in a sudden death dunk-off – the Orlando Magic forward will now be recognized by many as the league’s greatest dunker of all time.
Gordon became the first player in the history of the competition to receive five consecutive perfect scores – all of which came before the jam over Fall, which the judges gave a 47. All of his contorting in the air, going between the legs, 360-ing, jumping over Chance the Rapper and the rest of his creativity and originality was unparalleled to anything we’ve seen before in this contest.
The dunk over Fall, an attempt that came on spontaneously after the other NBA stars watching from the sidelines egged him on to do it, appeared to be the icing on the cake.
That’s not to diminish what Jones displayed, though, which like Gordon's showing was extraordinary. He, too, did not receive a 50 on his final attempt. His was given a 48.
Even though he was not given the trophy – which was his sole goal returning to the contest for the third time – the Magic’s 6-foot-8, 235-pounder says he will not participate in another dunk contest again.
“It’s a wrap,” he told reporters afterwards. “I feel like I should have two trophies.”
Somehow, someway, this year’s duel between Jones and Gordon surpassed Zach LaVine and Gordon’s battle from four years ago – as amazing as that was too.
The entire competition this year, as a matter of fact, was not like anything we’ve really seen before. Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton in many other years would have easily won the contest. Even Dwight Howard, who won the dunk contest in 2008 while with the Magic, was really good, receiving a 49 on his final dunk that featured former Orlando teammate Jameer Nelson and paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.
Although it ended in controversy, the showdown between Jones and Gordon will go down as one of the sport’s greatest spectacles. It was that good, that unprecedented and that entertaining.
Similar to the battle Gordon and LaVine had, what made this back-and-forth face-off between Gordon and Jones so special was that the two completed their dunks on the first try nearly every time. There were almost no hiccups. It was so smooth and looked so effortless that much of it looked inhuman.
This took place in the same city where Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins had their epic duel 32 years ago. Although those were two of the greatest players ever going toe to toe, their clash pales in comparison to what Gordon and Jones did on Saturday night in the Windy City.