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VENICE BEACH, Calif. — Ever since Aaron Gordon showed up at the 2016 NBA Dunk Contest with tricks no one had ever seen before — like sweeping the ball under his legs while jumping over a mascot, or dunking with an assist by a mascot riding on a hoverboard — the world has been paying a little closer attention to everything he does. And Gordon has noticed.
“Every dunk is magnified now when I do it,” Gordon said to For The Win before his own dunk contest hosted by the Venice Beach League on Sunday afternoon.
But the 20-year-old dunking machine doesn’t mind the attention or the pressure that comes with it.
“I’m indifferent to it. I like to be myself wherever I go around as many people as I can possibly be, and spread my message,” Gordon said. “My message is coming from a place of genuine love and peace. The more that I can spread that, the better for me.”
Just days before he arrived in Southern California, he was using his platform to try spreading that message to kids. Gordon has been holding various camps this summer. The most recent city he visited was San Jose — more specifically, Archbishop Mitty High School, where he graduated from before going off to Arizona.
When asked about how much that meant to him — to be able to give back to the kids in his hometown community — Gordon replied by explaining what he hopes kids will take away from their experience at his camps.
“Every single person, every single kid is capable and has potential to do whatever they want to in this world. I chose basketball. Basketball chose me. It’s what I’m passionate about. I just want to try and light a fire under the kids and make them passionate about something,” Gordon said. “It doesn’t have to be about basketball, but I want them to be passionate about something. And if they follow that passion diligently, disciplined and persistently, then everything else will fall in line for them.”
Gordon’s enthusiasm for influencing children was on display multiple times in subtle ways at the first annual Aaron Gordon Dunk Fest at Venice Beach on Sunday. A shorter hoop was carried onto the court for a kids’ dunk contest in between rounds, and Gordon even led the entire crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” for someone’s daughter.
The day under the sun was a great one. Here are the highlights:
1. THE DUNKS. WOW. THE DUNKS.
Obviously, this is the main attraction, even if there were games going on all day that featured pros such as Metta World Peace and Glen “Big Baby” Davis. This Dunk Fest did not disappoint. I was wondering what the contestants would be able to bring that would impress a guy like Gordon.
They brought the heat. Gordon held up his “10” card multiple times.
There was tons of spinning and under-the-legs and jumping over people the entire time. It was amazing. AND two of the dunkers (Jordan “Flight” Sutherland and Chris Staples) managed to jump over a bright red convertible while Gordon himself was in the driver’s seat.
VENICE BEACH >> The Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon is no stranger to the art of elevation.
Arguably one of the most electrifying dunkers in the NBA, Gordon was in Venice Sunday afternoon for the first Venice Basketball League (VBL) Dunk Fest.
Gordon’s presence brought out a record number of 5,000 spectators for the league said VBL CEO Nick Ansom.
“This has been a spectacular day,” Ansom said. “This is the most people we’ve ever had out here for an event. Aaron (Gordon) being here brings a lot of excitement for the community, both young and old.
Leading up to the Dunk Fest’s main event, the dunk contest, Gordon ran a basketball clinic for kids on the historically famous Venice Beach basketball court, which was followed by a celebrity basketball game that starred former Lakers forward and current NBA free agent Metta World Peace.
The dunk contest did not dissappoint.
Dunker Chris Staples rose up over four children while putting the ball through his legs and spinning in a reverse-360 before dunking the ball.
But suprisingly enough, Staples’ dunk wasn’t good enough. Jordan “Flight” Sutherland’s array of air-defying dunks impressed the judges more, as he was crowned Dunk Fest champion by Gordon.
“Have to give it up for these guys,” Gordon said. “Some of the best dunks I’ve ever seen. These guys should be in the NBA dunk contest.”
The ocean’s light breeze and golden sun brought out local basketball stars as well, former UCLA-basketball players Drew Gordon and Ed O’Bannon.
“I wish I had something like this growing up,” O’Bannon said. “This is a prime example of basketball bringing people together and providing a positive atmosphere.”
The VBL doesn’t just attract the local basketball talent from Los Angeles, but all over the world. Each Sunday the league displays high-level basketball that can be watched for free.
Plus, it’s not rare to have a celebrity drop by for some of the action either.
“To see how these guys jump off the concrete is some of the most impressive display of athleticism I’ve ever seen,” said O’Bannon. “Have to respect these guys for putting on a show like this.”
VENICE, Calif. — Aaron Gordon is out here dunking in jeans.
More accurately, Aaron Gordon is out here dunking in skinny, cut-off jean shorts. And he’s not “dunking” so much as attempting to fry our planet’s natural laws atop Venice Beach’s storied public basketball courts.
The packed crowd at Sunday’s first annual Aaron Gordon Dunk Fest — much of which is decked out in bucket hats and #BlackLivesMatter shirts — shouts approval as the 6-foot-9 Orlando Magic forward steps onto the main court to join a “dunk-only” game in progress between some of the greatest dunkers on God’s green Earth.
The dunkers give up the ball immediately, and Gordon throws down two stunners in a row: a 360-degree monster that ripples the backboard and a gliding windmill that has his eyebrows flirting with the rim.
This is the man and the ability driving Dunk Fest — a day of peace, dunks and jaws hitting the floor in the heart of the weird vortex of humanity that is Los Angeles’ Venice Beach boardwalk.
Campers, NBA talent and eight of the world’s top professional dunkers all converged on the famous stretch of beach for a chance to show out in front of Gordon, the 20-year-old forward whose creativity and disregard for physics single-handedly resuscitated the flatlining NBA Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend in February.
The day started with a youth camp (Gordon taught fundamentals, and, dutifully, dunked on several children) before shifting toward men’s five-on-five games. A solemn vigil was held for recent victims of gun violence, and lastly, the main event: a world-class dunk competition with $5,000 in prize money on the line.
Some highlights from the event:
Jordan “Flight” Southerland dunking over Aaron Gordon in a Corvette