Thoughts From Inside The Arena At All-Star Saturday Night

Feb 16, 2020, 10:56 AM | Updated: Feb 17, 2020, 2:00 am

CHICAGO, Illinois – All-Star Saturday night ended in controversy with Derrick Jones Jr. winning the NBA’s Dunk Contest over Aaron Gordon based on some questionable judging. Jones and Gordon exchanged incredible athletic finishes throughout the contest and both have earned their spot on the Mount Rushmore of Dunk Contest participants.

Despite the flawed finish, there are two redeeming qualities about the controversies that should help both Gordon and the dunk contest in the long run.

First, we rarely remember the also-rans in any contest, be it as important as a presidential race, or as ultimately unimportant as a dunk contest. However, the controversy surrounding the contest will allow it to live on in infamy, that’s a good thing. Saturday’s contest featured some of the best dunks in league history, especially from the players that didn’t win.

Gordon’s off the side of the backboard 360 one-handed rock the cradle windmill is a mouthful, but it might be the best dunk the contest has ever seen. It’s got everything you look for in great dunk, from multiple elements combined together flawlessly, the full rotation of Gordon’s 360, the eyes near the rim finish, and the cleanliness in which the ball goes through the hoop.

Yet, there’s an argument to be made it wasn’t even the best dunk in Saturday’s contest.

Jones reverse 360 between the legs dunk, finishing with his left hand across his body also deserves its place among the best dunks the contest has ever seen, if not the best.

Vince Carter’s epic contest performance changed the dunk contest forever, upping the expectations and showmanship we hope to see at All-Star weekend. Gordon and Jones’ performances will likely have a similar impact.

The second redeeming factor to come out of this contest is that despite Gordon getting robbed of the win, the fact that it’s the second time a controversy like this has surrounded him at the trophy presentation, he’s earned the reputation as the best dunker who never won. For this history books, that’s better than winning an unremarkable contest outright. With all respect for former Jazzman Jeremy Evans, or last year’s winner Hamidou Diallo, Gordon’s near wins have earned him a larger spot in contest lore than either previously mentioned winner will ever share.

For a full breakdown on the best dunks from All-Star Saturday night, catch the KSL Sports Live Blog in the link below.

The dunk contest was so entertaining it overshadowed two other strong contests during the evening. Not only was it a surprise that Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo won the Skills Challenge, but he also had to beat another frontcourt player in Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis to do it.

That’s not to say that Adebayo and Sabonis are the most skilled players in the league, but just the fact that they both share such varied skillsets is a testament to the modern NBA.

Additionally, the Three-Point Contest featured both terrific shooting, and compelling drama to end the night. The United Center crowd had been mostly silent through the Skills Challenge, but hometown hero Zach LaVine making all five three-point attempts on his first rack of contest lit a fire in the crowd that stuck around for the rest of the night.

With both Devin Booker and Buddy Hield adding great shooting performances, and Hield needing the final two-point money ball to drop to beat Booker as time expired was as exciting as the contest can get. Though neither finalist will be considered an all-time great shooter, the action was captivating.

The execution of the evening is better in person than it is on TV. While TNT uses the opportunity to cram in as many commercials as they can during the broadcast making the event feel rather clunky to watch, the in-arena experience felt surprisingly smooth. Between the musical performances of Queen Latifah, Damian Lillard, and Lil Wayne, there was more than enough entertainment to keep the crowd engaged.

You can follow all of the latest travels from the KSL Sports team at All-Star Weekend in Chicago on social media.

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Thoughts From Inside The Arena At All-Star Saturday Night