Gordon Hoping Third Time's A Charm in Dunk Contest
By Dan Savage
Feb. 1, 2018
ORLANDO -- If Vince Carter revitalized the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest, then Aaron Gordon has helped take it to new heights.
He’s dunked over mascots, brought in innovative technology and even completed what many consider to be the greatest slam in contest history.
Now, he’ll look to add the only thing missing off his dunking resume; a Slam Dunk Contest victory.
The NBA announced that Gordon will participate in the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest during State Farm All-Star Saturday Night on Saturday, Feb. 17 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.
“It’s going to be incredible,” said Gordon, a San Jose native. “I spent a lot of time in L.A. growing up. My family will all be there and I’m happy my grandma gets to see me.”
It will mark the third appearance in the event for the Magic forward, who finished as a runner-up in 2016, but emerged as the people’s champion by delivering electrifying flushes in a fantastic head-to-head showing with Zach LaVine.
He followed that up with an underwhelming 2017 showing as he diverted from acts of physical prowess and by his own admission “sold out” for dunks depending on technology – some of which had sponsorship ties – making them nearly impossible to complete on a first attempt in an All-Star arena setting.
This year, he asserts that will not be an issue.
“The third time is the charm,” Gordon said with a laugh. “I let a lot of people down last year, so I can’t wait to make it up.”
Gordon will have stiff competition as he will face off against Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr., Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. and his former teammate, Pacers guard Victor Oladipo.
“All of the contestants are really bouncy, so it should be a fun show,” Gordon explained. “They’re all great, so this year is going to be a must see.”
However, A.G. knows from experience how dangerous his former Magic squad member can be in a dunk contest setting.
“Victor’s 540 was crazy,” he said of Oladipo’s performance in the 2015 Slam Dunk Contest. “He’s a beast.”
During their time together with the Magic, both A.G. and V.O. used to wow onlookers with innovative slams at the team’s practice facility.
“It’s true,” Gordon said emphatically. “After practice, we would throw the balls off the wall and do all types of dunks.”
Looking back on those squads, Oladipo marveled at how the NBA could have made a dunk contest featuring only his former teammates, with athletically gifted players like Mario Hezonja and Maurice Harkless on those squads.
“Definitely,” Oladipo said. “Unreal, it would be unreal. We were all young too, it was crazy.”
Although Oladipo has completed some fantastic flushes in his own right, there’s no hesitation when it comes to the best dunk he’s ever seen.
“When (Gordon) jumped over STUFF between both legs,” Oladipo said. “Hands down the craziest dunk ever in the dunk contest. Not even close.”
Even though A.G. had a setback in the competition last year, Oladipo expects Gordon to be at his best this time around.
“He’s going to be very tough,” Oladipo said. “Last year, he barely missed the dunk and if he made it, he would have got a ten. I don’t think he’s going to miss back home in L.A. this year.”
This contest will mark the 10th time a Magic player will be represented in the Slam Dunk Contest, and the third consecutive year for Gordon. Past participants include: Oladipo (2015), Dwight Howard (2009, 2008, 2007), Darrell Armstrong (1996), Nick Anderson (1992) and Otis Smith (1991).
“I’m just going to enjoy it and have fun,” Gordon said. “I want to put on a show and be with my family and friends in the greatest dunk contest there is.”
That’s the right mindset for Gordon, who may have been trying too hard last year to top his sensational 2016 showing. In that performance, Gordon used STUFF the Magic mascot for two dunks in the final round – once jumping over STUFF while he was spinning on a hoverboard, and the other by leaping over his furry friend, while passing the ball underneath his legs before slamming the ball home. Both dunks earned perfect scores of 50, as well as his third dunk, which was assisted by Magic point guard Elfrid Payton.
“I don’t think there’s anything that I can do that will top that first performance,” Gordon said. “That being said, I still have enough to win.”
Now the only question that remains is whether or not STUFF will join him on the floor for the third straight year?
“STUFF might be coming back,” said an especially coy Gordon. “Not sure yet.”