What Aaron Gordon's dunk contest commitment means for Zach LaVine's All-Star plans


All-Star weekend in Chicago is just over two weeks away. And when it comes to this year’s dunk contest, the ball is — proverbially and literally — in Zach LaVine’s court.

On Thursday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Aaron Gordon has committed to participate:

As Charania notes, Gordon joins a current field of the Lakers’ Dwight Howard (2008 champion) and the Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. for this year’s contest.

That competition might not have gotten a two-time champion in LaVine out of bed — and understandably so — but Gordon’s introduction into the pool could change things. LaVine and Gordon famously duked out one of the most memorable contests in All-Star history in 2016, with LaVine prevailing in a controversial three-OT decision.

Running this back in Chicago would be outrageously fun:

“I don’t have a whole lot to prove in it,” LaVine said of the contest back on Jan. 6, while not slamming the door on the possibility entirely. 

Well, maybe he does now.

But the biggest thing that could impact LaVine’s ultimate decision are the All-Star reserve announcements Thursday night. LaVine is currently a fringe candidate (though an argument can certainly be made) for a wild card spot in the East. If he were to be selected, it would be his first ever All-Star berth, and could dramatically increase the likelihood of him participating in other events.

“Obviously, I feel I’d be more inclined to do it if I’m playing in the [All-Star] game," LaVine said of whether he’d consider participating in the dunk contest back in December. “I know I still got some dunks left. If my legs are feeling good, maybe I’ll do a practice. I don’t know yet.”

LaVine added at the time that he would be open to (and might even prefer) taking part in the 3-point shootout, as well, and that it was important to him to do something to represent the Bulls over the weekend. He hasn’t spoken publicly about his thought process in a couple weeks, but you can be sure LaVine is aware that no player in NBA history has won both the dunk contest and 3-point shootout.

So, a night that was already sure to have the Bulls’ faithful on the edge of their seats just got another layer of intrigue. Your move, Zach.

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