To understand the controversy surrounding this year’s dunk contest at NBA All-Star Weekend, you just need to watch the very end. The Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. and the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon had been trading haymakers all night, pushing their head-to-head matchup into double-overtime. First, Jones unleashed a windmill from just inside the foul line.
Majestic, sure, but it was only enough to earn a 48 out of 50 from the panel of judges. Gordon, who was the runner-up to Zach LaVine in 2016’s contest (which also went into extra time), played what should have been an unbeatable hand. He jumped over Tacko Fall, the Boston Celtics’ 7-foot-5 rookie.
Amazingly, the dunk wasn’t pre-planned, and Fall said afterwards that he feared for his life. Forcing an innocent bystander to confront his mortality is exactly what this contest is all about. If a dunk ever deserved a perfect score, this was it.
The judges gave it a 47. Gordon lost. What the hell happened?
The Action Network’s Rob Perez tweeted a comprehensive breakdown of Saturday’s intrigue, and the evidence strongly suggests that Heat legend Dwyane Wade pulled some shenanigans in order to hand the trophy to a Miami player.
It’s an entirely convincing investigation, one that centers on Wade’s premature removal of his earpiece. However, the case against Wade is missing one key piece: a confession.
On Saturday night, Wade defended the mark he give Gordon’s final dunk, telling Complex Sports that the scoring “wasn’t biased.”
While he’s correct in saying that both Chadwick Boseman and Scottie Pippen gave Gordon the same score, that doesn’t dispel rumors that a conspiracy was afoot. As Common told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, “We thought it was going to be tied. We were like, ‘This is a tie!’ But somebody didn’t do it right. I don’t know who it is.”
Likewise, Candace Parker alluded to foul play. While she seems to know who’s to blame, she refuses to point any fingers.
The judges, it seems, all discussed their scores in advance and believed Gordon was going to receive a 48, sending the dunk contest to a third overtime round. Who went rogue and tilted the scoring in Jones’ favor?
We can dismiss Common and Parker, because they each gave Gordon a 10. That leaves three suspects. Do we have three motives?
Scottie Pippen. Pippen appeared in the 1990 slam dunk contest but didn’t make it out of the first round partly because the judges were relatively unimpressed by his show-stopper: a dunk from the foul line. Could it be that Pippen rigged the 2020 event to award Jones’ foul-line slam and make his own dunk seem better in retrospect?
Chadwick Boseman. As many people pointed out on Saturday, the Black Panther star gave a rather unenthusiastic Wakanda salute after the P.A. announcer introduced him as a denizen of the fictional land. The Marvel movie came out two full years ago, but Boseman still can’t appear in public without someone asking him to perform his character’s famous move. “If I don’t want to do it, I have to not leave the house, pretty much,” he told Jimmy Kimmel. “I’ve been chased in cars.”
Had Boseman given Gordon a 10, the dunk contest would’ve continued and he would’ve been further exposed to “Wakanda Forever” requests. Mercifully, this didn’t happen. Does he have Wade to thank, or does the credit belong closer to home?
Dwyane Wade. Wade is the most beloved player in Miami Heat history, and a dunk contest win for Jones is a victory for the franchise. It’s obvious. Maybe a little too obvious.
What if Wade was set up? Perhaps by the person he’d least expect…
Common. The only reason we know there was an agreement between the judges is because Common blabbed about it. By being so forthright, he established an alibi. But what if that was the plan all along?
Common was everywhere during All-Star weekend. Besides judging Saturday’s festivities, he played in Friday’s celebrity game and was in charge of player intros on Sunday. He was clearly overworked and needed to end the dunk contest to get some sleep. That’s the motive. He could have given Gordon a 9 and called it a night, but that would have made him a suspect. What’s more, anything besides a 10 for that dunk would have destroyed his image as a positive dude who strives to lift up everyone around him.
Common would have known that Wade, forever loyal to the Heat, was bound to change his score at the last second. Sure, he looked shocked, but acting is one of Common’s many talents. (He was in Suicide Squad.)
Was it entrapment? Did Common engineer this scenario so he could get to bed early without facing blame for the great dunk contest heist of 2020?
Nope. I’m still pretty sure it was Dwyane Wade.