Heat's Derrick Jones Jr. enters dunk contest full of confidence

Shandel Richardson

When it comes to dunking, Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. has never lacked confidence.

He has long proclaimed himself as the team's best leaper. Now, his self-assurance is transferring to Saturday's slam dunk contest during NBA All-Star Weekend at United Center in Chicago.

Jones is among a four-competitor field that includes Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic), Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers) and Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks). In Jones' eyes, he's the favorite.

"Dunk one, when it goes through the rim, that's a 50," Jones said of the expected perfect scoring on his first attempt. "Dunk two, it's a 50. Three and four, going to be a 50. And anything after that, if I need it, it's going to be a 50."

This is the second time Jones has participated in the event. In 2017, he lost in the finals to Glenn Robinson III of the Indiana Pacers.

For the past two years, Jones has earned a reputation as one of the league's best dunkers. Several called his alley-oop slam last March against the Toronto Raptors the dunk of the year. Earlier this season, he slammed over Raptors center Jonas Valančiūnas with a one-handed dunk. Jones was given the nickname "Airplane Mode" for good reason.

"They [teammates] look at me and they ask me to dunk," Jones said. "When we're at that game in warmups, at about the three- or four-minute mark before the game starts, they always ask me to dunk.They always ask me to clear the runway and dunk. It's special for me."

Jones also hopes to have a built-in advantage. Former Heat teammate Dwyane Wade is one of the judges for the dunk contest.

"Since D-Wade is one of the judges, hopefully he's a little nicer to me," Jones said. "But I doubt it. He's got to judge it fairly. Hopefully, he's on my side a little bit."