Derrick Jones Jr. outlasts Aaron Gordon to win NBA slam dunk contest
Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. began by celebrating his 23rd birthday with a cake before his first attempt in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
He ended it by receiving the ultimate gift.
Jones edged Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon to win the competition for the first time. Gordon fell one point short after completing a dunk many expected would push him over the top.
"Being able to get an achievement like this on a day like this, it's special for me," Jones said. "This is a day I'm going to tell my kids, just make sure they know that this is a day for me."
Jones' victory gave the Heat two titles in three of the events. Center Bam Adebayo won the Skills Challenge but forward Duncan Robinson was eliminated in the first round of the 3-point contest. Jones is the first Heat player to win the dunk contest since Harold Miner in 1995. He redeemed losing to Glenn Robinson III in the 2017 finals.
Jones and Gordon exchanged two 50s in the final before going to a dunk-off After both recorded 50s in the round, Jones scored a 48 on a windmill from just inside the free throw line.
"When I got that 48, it was tough," Jones said. "That was a dunk I was on since high school. I know that's a 50. There's no way I should've got a 48."
Gordon, who has now lost in three finals, thought he secured victory on the final dunk. He pulled Boston Celtics 7-foot-5 rookie Tacko Fall out of the crowd. Fall held the ball over his head before Gordon jumped over and completed the dunk. Several players, including Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, ran from the bench to greet him on the court. The euphoria turned into disappointment when three of the five judges scored it a nine.
"I wanted to dunk over Shaq but he wouldn't do it," Gordon said. "It was really for the people. Everybody was like, `Tacko, Tacko.' Let's do it. Tallest dude in the gym. Jumping over somebody that is 7-foot-5. Jumping over somebody 7-5 and dunking it, it's not easy feat. What I get like a 47? C'mon, man, what we doing here?"'