Denver Nuggets: The Slam Dunk Contest misses Aaron Gordon

Denver Nuggets: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic competes in the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest at Smoothie King Center on 18 Feb. 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic competes in the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest at Smoothie King Center on 18 Feb. 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest might not get any sweeter than what we witnessed when Aaron Gordon took on Zach LaVine in the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend. LaVine would walk away with the crown but the crowd would walk away with their minds blown and a standard would be set in the competition for years to come.

It’s no surprise that the following contests, including this one in 2022, have been disappointing. The unreal raw talent that LaVine and Gordon displayed in their back-and-forth battle may never be duplicated in the dunk contest ever again.

Gordon showed the ability to take a seat in mid-air, looking down at Orlando Magic mascot Stuff the Magic Dragon as he scooped the basketball underneath his legs and slammed it into the hoop, electrifying the judges and the crowd. LaVine seemed to have springs on his shoes, bouncing from behind the free throw line and into permanent slam dunk royalty as the controversial winner.

The Denver Nuggets were happy to acquire Gordon at the trade deadline last year, and he has been nothing short of fantastic alongside MVP Nikola Jokic as the Nuggets hammer out a hopeful top-six seed in the Western Conference, but something has been missing from the dunk contest since Gordon stepped off the court.

It makes one wonder if the bar was simply set too high after seeing what Gordon and LaVine could do. Now it will require a combination of the world’s most wild ideas and athletic ability to think up, create and execute a dunk that would shock those that already witnessed Gordon’s creative slams six years ago.

Challengers are now coming out of the woodwork, but you’ve got to appreciate the show Gordon and LaVine were able to put on and wonder how a show-stopper like that can be topped. Gordon is magical in the air and shows the ability to adjust and contort his body to get the basket when most would fall, turn the ball over or injure themselves attempting what Gordon makes look easy.

Time will tell if anyone can step up to the hoop and provide the sort of jaw-dropping skills guys like Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine, Nate Robinson, Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins flashed in the past, and it’s possible things will never be the same.

Current Orlando Magic star Cole Anthony threw on some Timberlands and threw down to the joy of those in attendance in Cleveland, and New York Knicks long-limbed freak athlete Obi Toppin took home the 2022 NBA Slam Dunk title with a combination of behind-the-back and between-the-legs moves with a backboard tap sprinkled in for good measure, but the thirst for more grows from a restless and insatiable dunk contest fan-base.

The NBA has tried everything to entice star LeBron James to enter the contest ever since he entered the league in 2003, but James has yet to accept the invitation, even when NBA All-Star weekend is held in Cleveland, Ohio where James carries a huge following from his time with the Cavs.

James is having another stellar year in 2022, and might not want to jeopardize that with a possible injury in the dunk contest, but something seems to be missing from the competition that James seemingly could provide.

The world awaits the next big name to enter the Slam Dunk Contest like a James or Ja Morant, but for now, fans will have to settle for the memory of Aaron Gordon going at it with LaVine and Jordan going toe-to-toe with Wilkins. Who knows if it will ever get as good, but Nuggets fans surely appreciate the high-flying abilities Gordon has brought since joining the team. Maybe there is a round two in the works for the future, but only time will tell.

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