Connaughton finishes third in epic Slam Dunk Contest

CHICAGO (AP) — Aaron Gordon lost another epic dunk contest. And it was by a couple of inches — namely, the top of Tacko Fall’s head.

Derrick Jones Jr. finally got his long-awaited dunk contest title as an exclamation point to an epic All-Star Saturday Night, both for him and the Miami Heat. Jones Jr. and Gordon needed two extra dunks apiece in the final round before deciding a winner, Jones Jr. prevailing 48-47 in the one that determined who left with the trophy.

Miami’s Bam Adebayo won the skills title as well, and Sacramento’s Buddy Hield took the 3-point crown. Their wins were absolute, there was no ambiguity: the ball going in told the tale. The dunk contest — much like the one between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in Chicago 32 years earlier — came down to the judges’ call.

Dwyane Wade was one of the judges and he said he wanted to have co-dunk contest winners but that the judges were told they had to pick a winner.

And when Gordon, the Orlando forward who fell to Zach LaVine in an unforgettable dunk contest at Toronto four years ago, picked the 7-foot-5 Fall to come out for his last dunk — Fall played college basketball in Orlando at UCF — it was the ultimate risk-reward moment.

Gordon, who wanted to jump over the slightly shorter-than-Fall Shaquille O’Neal but got his invitation declined, decided to bring Fall out and needed a 49 to win. But he didn’t totally clear Fall, and the judges gave him a 47. Just like that, Jones was the champion.

“Tallest dude in the gym.” Gordon said. “Jumping over somebody 7-5 and dunking it, it’s no easy feat. What’d I get, a 47? Come on, man. What are we doing?”

The first round was full of props: Jones Jr. — celebrating his 23rd birthday — had a birthday cake and Adebayo on the court for his first dunk, Gordon went over Chicago native Chance The Rapper for a slam, Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton leaped over Bucks teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo and kissed the ball off the glass before his second dunk, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard brought back his Superman dunk from years ago as well.

Jones Jr. and Gordon emerged as the two finalists. Gordon was perfect on every dunk until his last one, going over Chance The Rapper a few times as well to the delight of the Chicago crowd.

But in the end, Jones proved prophetic.

“I said I would do it,” Jones said.

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