The NBA slam dunk contest is an event that millions of basketball fans look forward to watching during the NBA All-Star weekend every February. This year, Derrick Jones, Jr. will be competing in the dunk contest and despite not being very well known in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns small forward is a shoo-in to win the whole thing.
After a few down years, the event has been reborn with two-time dunk champion Zach Lavine winning in dramatic fashion in back-to-back years. Last year, Lavine and Aaron Gordon put on an epic showdown for the ages when the two had to perform a dunk-off to determine the winner. Even though Lavine won, it was Gordon that stole the show when he jumped over his mascot’s head tucked the ball under his legs and slammed it home. It will go down as one of the greatest dunks in contest history because of the difficulty and sheer athletic ability required to pull it off.
Aaron Gordon is participating in the Verizon Slam Dunk contest once again this year and is the heavy favorite to win it all. Despite the odds being in his favor, there is a darkhorse candidate in the competition this year who just might steal the show and the crown.
“Just being able to one-up myself, that’s what I’m looking to do,” Gordon told reporters Friday in New Orleans. “I’m not looking to play it safe nor maintain. I’m looking to excite and get a whole bunch of 10s on my dunks. It would be nice to come back the second straight year and show people I have more. The dunk contest was getting dull. People were starting to count it out. They were actually talking about putting the 3-point contest at the end of the night instead of the dunk contest at the end of the night because there were so many great shooters. There’s no more talk about that.”
Derrick Jones, Jr., a rookie for the Phoenix Suns, is looking to make his mark in the contest even though he has yet to make his mark on the league yet. He only has a grand total of 23 NBA minutes under his belt after spending the majority of the season in the NBA’s developmental league, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. That hasn’t stopped the young high flyer from being extremely confident in his abilities to wow the crowd during the Saturday night festivities.
“Not a lot of people know who I am,” Jones, Jr. told NBA.com’s Lang Whitaker during a NBA Hang Time podcast this week. “This is my rookie year in the NBA, but as soon as I get on that floor, they’re going to know who I am.”
The 6-foot-7-inch, 20-year-old from UNLV is tailor-made for the slam dunk contest. His body is in the same type of mold as dunking legends Vince Carter and Dominique Wilkins, and he also has the athletic ability to boot. He has become a YouTube sensation for his dunking abilities, and it’s hard to deny after watching him do amazing things like this:
Jones has stated that he has never lost a dunk contest and it becomes extremely clear after watching his highlight video the reason why. He’s one of those special athletes that only come around once in a blue moon. Aaron Gordon is a tremendous athlete, but Derrick Jones, Jr. is an absolute freak of nature. Even if Jones, Jr. does not have a successful NBA career, he will always be known for his dunking, ala Harold Miner.
This is why this year’s Verizon Slam Dunk competition should be very entertaining and sure to be filled with never before seen stuff. The field of competition consists of Gordon, Jones, Jr., DeAndre Jordan, and Glenn Robinson III. When the dust settles expect to see Jones, Jr. standing alone with trophy in hand because he was built for this. This is his time to shine.
[Featured Image by John Locher/AP Images]