The Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon may have the two best dunk contest ever for a runner up, but which dunk contest was better 2016 or 2020?
Almost everyone in the building looked shocked as the judges scored Aaron Gordon’s final dunk in Saturday’s AT&T Slam Dunk Contest. Mouths dropped to the floor from about everyone in Chicago — from Tacko Fall to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The majority of the NBA world thought Aaron Gordon’s last dunk over Tacko Fall solidified him as the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner. But once again, that was not the case.
The judges had scored Gordon’s final dunk a 47 — his only dunk of the six he performed that did not garner a perfect score of 50. That left him one point shy of Derrick Jones Jr., delivering the title to the high-flying Miami Heat forward and sparking conspiracy theories all around.
The final result and the feeling of emptiness left for Gordon and NBA fans quickly reminded people of the dreadful night at then-Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank Arena) in Toronto back in 2016. Gordon put on another show and did incredible dunks that would stand the test of time and ultimately did not go home with the hardware.
That night in 2016, Gordon finished with one of the most iconic slam dunks ever in NBA history, as he jumped over the Magic’s mascot, STUFF, and went under both of his legs to throw down a monster dunk.
It was the most mind-boggling and amazing thing many fans had seen. It was undoubtedly the best dunk of the competition.
The contest winner then-Minnesota Timberwolves (now Chicago Bulls) guard Zach LaVine believe that 2016 duel between himself and Aaron Gordon was the best dunk contest of all time, outshining Michael Jordan versus Dominique Wilkins in 1988. Dominique Wilkins may not have agreed with that assessment but agreed there should have been two trophies given out to both contestants that night.
There were certainly two winners that night with two of the best dunkers in league history showing off their athleticism and creativity to the delight of all.
It takes nothing away from Lavine’s accomplishments, to end up winning the 2016 dunk contest after a performance from an opponent like Gordon is no easy feat. But nevertheless, many people from NBA circles and pundits from around the media thought Gordon should have won.
Fast forward to 2020 and Gordon ends up in a similar predicament, where the majority of fans thought the judges robbed him and he should have been the one who was hoisting up the trophy.
To add insult to injury, Jones Jr. completed a similar dunk to what Lavine did in 2016 which gave him a very win controversial win — a windmill from the free-throw line. At least LaVine’s leap from the foul line was closer to its free-throw-line target rather than a few steps in like Jones.
Gordon certainly felt like he should have had two contest trophies in his possession as he officially announced his retirement from the contest.
To many, Gordon was the “People’s Champion” in both 2016 and 2020. He was the clear pick of those in attendance and fans around the Internet even if he did not take home the ultimate prize.
Gordon, along with Wilkins, are the only players to finish runner-up in two NBA Dunk Contests. And Gordon will cement himself as one of the best to ever do it — even without the trophy.
Undoubtedly too, Gordon’s 2016 and 2020 efforts are two of the very best performances in Dunk Contest history.
But which one of Gordon’s performances was better?
In a sense, it would be hard to top Gordon’s 2016 performance with STUFF, although his 2020 performance when he completed a one-handed 360 with Markelle Fultz throwing the basketball off the left side was iconic as well.
That seemed a natural evolution from Gordon’s one-handed 360 while grabbing the ball from STUFF spinning on a hoverboard.
This year Gordon officially became the first dunker in NBA history to complete a two-handed dunk over a 7-foot-5 inch man. That dunk somehow earned Gordon a 47 from the judges.
Kenny Smith said it best on the TNT broadcast, if you can dunk over Tacko, you should win. The shock that this did not win the contest — arguably the contest’s most iconic dunk — is a bit appalling.
Gordon’s 2020 performance has to be better than the 2016 performance after putting up five straight 50’s on the scoreboard. Gordon looked like he was going to win the contest after every dunk he completed. But the agony of defeat felt different this year.
Maybe because most people in NBA circles thought this was Gordon’s year to win it all, especially with LaVine electing to not participate in the 2020 NBA Dunk Contest. Or simply that every dunk Gordon performed seemed an evolution of what he did in 2016 without the props.
There was a raw energy to everything Gordon did. It felt so much more spontaneous and less planned than his original Dunk Contest foray.
Undoubtedly, his sit-down dunk is the most iconic of his dunks and the best dunk of either contest — probably the best singular dunk of any contest in the last decade. Gordon put on a show in both 2016 and 2020 that no one will ever forget.
In 2016, Gordon left the crowd in amazement and was considered the best dunker in the NBA even after LaVine hoisted up the trophy. The same could be said for 2020.
Both contests were ones for the ages.