Jones Jr wheels to be slam dunk king

CHICAGO • It took an ode to Michael Jordan at the United Centre to settle one of the best National Basketball Association (NBA) slam dunk contests in recent memory.

Thirty-two years after Chicago last hosted the All-Star Weekend, when Jordan dunked after going airborne from the free-throw line, Miami Heat's Derrick Jones Jr reprised the famous move.

Taking off about a half step closer to the basket than Jordan did, the forward's windmill dunk earned him 48 points from the judges.

Orlando Magic big man Aaron Gordon responded to the sudden-death effort by calling on the 2.26m Boston Celtics centre Tacko Fall - the tallest player in the league - as a prop just in front of the rim.

Gordon leapt off two feet and over Fall for a two-handed walk-off slam. But his sixth dunk on Saturday was good for only a 47, the first non-perfect mark for him on the night.

He told reporters after the epic duel that required overtime with two extra rounds that he would not be competing in the competition any more. He also lost in 2016 to Zach LaVine.

"It's a wrap, bro, it's a wrap," Gordon said. "I feel like I should have two trophies. It's over for that. My next goal is going to try and win the three-point contest."

The 24-year-old has the most perfect scores in dunk contest history - eight - without winning the title.

The result was not without controversy and NBA superstar LeBron James felt Gordon was hard done by.

 

"2 (trophies) should have been rewarded tonight that's for damn sure!!," the Lakers forward tweeted. "Them boys both put on a show! Professional DUNKERS".

Jones had plenty to celebrate on his birthday.

Miami's Derrick Jones Jr leaping over two "props" in the slam dunk contest during the All-Star Saturday Night at the United Centre. He beat Orlando's Aaron Gordon.
Miami's Derrick Jones Jr leaping over two "props" in the slam dunk contest during the All-Star Saturday Night at the United Centre. He beat Orlando's Aaron Gordon. PHOTO: REUTERS

"It was great, a great competition," said the 23-year-old, whose second effort - a looping 360-degree dunk - appeared to defy gravity and brought all of the judges to their feet.

But he had expected the contest to be prolonged. "(Gordon) clipped Tacko's head, so they couldn't give him a 50. I expected them to give him a 48 so we could go again."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline 'Jones Jr wheels to be slam dunk king'. Print Edition | Subscribe