Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon is eager to make the All-Star Game for the first time in his career and is trying to use his prowess as a dunker as leverage to get there. “If I’m in the All-Star Game,” Gordon said in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, “I’ll do the dunk contest.”
Gordon is a Slam Dunk Contest legend, despite the fact that he’s never won the event. He lost in controversial fashion to Zach LaVine in 2016 in what is widely regarded as one of the best-ever editions of the event and then came in second again to Derrick Jones Jr. in 2020 in what was another modern classic. During his Slam Dunk Contest career, he’s thrown down an all-time record of eight perfect dunks — more than even Michael Jordan — and claimed in a song he released in 2020 that even NBA commissioner Adam Silver told him he should have won that year.
Since Gordon’s last appearance, the Slam Dunk Contest has taken a major downturn. In fact, it was so bad last year that many commentators wondered if it was time to scrap it for a while, just like the league did in the late 1990s. With less than a month to go until this year’s competition, the field is still not full and they’ve already had to call up Mac McClung from the G League to participate.
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Gordon sees all of this just like we do, and knows that if he were to take part it would be a massive coup for the league. If you have something that someone wants, you may as well try to get something in return, so fair play to Gordon for trying to put some pressure on the league here. Unfortunately for him, it’s hard to imagine the league would want to get into that sort of business, even as desperate as they are for an entertaining Slam Dunk Contest.
On actual merit, Gordon isn’t far off, but again, it’s hard to see it happening. Averaging 16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game on 58.8 percent shooting from the field, while playing terrific defense, he is having one of the best seasons of his career and has been a major factor in the Nuggets’ strong first half that has them in first place in the Western Conference at 32-13.
Those don’t scream All-Star numbers, however, and there are only so many frontcourt spots to go around. LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and one of Anthony Davis or Zion Williamson will finish top three in the fan vote and some combination thereof figures to be the starting frontcourt. Then there are the likes of Paul George, Draymond Green, Jaren Jackson Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Domantas Sabonis to consider, as well as Kawhi Leonard despite his injuries.
Gordon is in the mix, but will likely once again fall painstakingly short.