Column: Aaron Gordon Was Not Robbed in the Slam Dunk Contest

Forward Aaron Gordon (cover photo) is averaging 14.2 points–per-game for the Orlando Magic this season. Courtesy of Jose Garcia via Flickr

Brandon Heath
Sports Staff Writer

The NBA descended upon Chicago for the 2020 All-Star Weekend, with Saturday night’s festivities being capped off with the Slam Dunk Contest. This year’s contest was show-stopping, and the ending was one of the most controversial endings in history. Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Miami Heat guard Derrick Jones Jr. each put on a show, but Jones captured the victory in sudden death.

Fans, spectators and players were outraged that Gordon didn’t take home the trophy, especially since he lost another controversial sudden death showdown in the 2016 dunk contest. Gordon was the clear favorite as all but one of his dunks scored a perfect 50 out of 50 this year. However, his final dunk was what cost him the victory, as he only put up a 47, compared to Jones’ final dunk, which garnered a 48. Jones had scored 4 consecutive 50s leading up to the final sudden death round, so he was going toe-to-toe with Gordon the whole night.

So was Gordon robbed?

No he was not.

Many will argue that the judging panel was biased in favor of Jones, especially because his former teammate, Dwyane Wade, was on the panel. But, if Jones really was favored, then he would have gotten perfect scores all night long. This wasn’t the case, as his first dunk only got a 46, and his final sudden death dunk got a 48. Meanwhile, Gordon got 50s on every dunk leading up to the final sudden death dunk. If anything, Gordon was the one getting preferential treatment.

However, Gordon had two dunks that were easily beaten by Jones.

The first was in the second dunk of the second round. This is usually the final round of the contest, but because the scores were tied, the contest was extended. Jones went first and threw down a dunk that can only be described as never-before-seen. He caught a pass off of the backboard, threaded the ball between his legs and flushed down a powerful one handed slam. Not to mention, he did this while also jumping over the guy who threw the pass to him. This dunk absolutely deserved a 50 due to its complexity, perfect timing and Jones’ ability to pull this off on the first attempt.

Gordon had to respond with a 50, and he chose to do a 360 windmill off of the side of the backboard. This dunk is a tough dunk to pull off, but Gordon’s own history in the dunk contest makes this dunk far less impressive than it could have been. 

In 2016, Gordon grabbed the ball from the Orlando Magic mascot, who was spinning on a hoverboard, and slammed down a 360 windmill. This dunk is more complicated to pull off because the timing of catching a spin is harder to pull off than catching a ball coming off of the backboard. Gordon managed to hit this dunk on the first attempt. If Gordon made the 360 windmill off of the backboard on the first attempt, it would have certainly been considered an automatic 50.

Gordon missed his first attempt.

There have been plenty of dunks in the contest that have taken several attempts to complete, but the majority of them have not been awarded a perfect score. In the 2016 contest, Gordon hit an impressive between the legs dunk over the aforementioned mascot on his second attempt, and he received a 49 for his efforts because judge Shaquille O’Neal had a rule that he would not award a dunk with a perfect 10 because it took more than one attempt to complete. Even though O’Neal was not a judge this year, he set a precedent that should have been followed through. Gordon managed to get a perfect score on a dunk that would not have gotten a 50 if the panel was different. Jones deserved the perfect 50. Gordon probably shouldn’t have gotten a 50 for his.

The final round of sudden death was the most controversial round, with Jones pulling off a windmill from one step inside of the free throw line. The dunk has been done before, but when Lavine did this dunk in 2016, he took off from further back than Jones did. The judges did the right thing and only gave Jones a 48.

Gordon’s response was to bring out Boston Celtics’ rookie Tacko Fall, who is the tallest player in the NBA at 7-feet-5-inches tall. Gordon grabbed the ball from behind Tacko’s head and tried to leap over him. While being able to clear Fall would be impressive, Gordon clipped the back of Fall’s head with his leg, and hit a two-handed slam that rattled around the rim and went in.

Being able to almost clear Fall is definitely impressive, but hitting Fall’s head combined with a basic dunk that had a clunky execution earned Gordon a 47, ending the contest. Jones was able to hit his dunk with a powerful flush that was more impressive than Gordon’s dunk, which rattled around the rim before it went in. Plus, Jones did a dunk which he had never done previously, while Gordon had dunked over someone in the previous four dunks. Execution and originality was the difference that elevated Jones’ dunk over Gordon’s.

Aaron Gordon didn’t get screwed out of the dunk contest title. Derrick Jones Jr. was simply better than him.

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