NEW ORLEANS -- There's no silver medal in the slam-dunk contest, but Aaron Gordon deserved some shiny object for his participation in last year's faceoff with Zach LaVine, which, recency bias be damned, instantly entered the pantheon of the competition's 32-year run.
"The dunk contest was getting dull," Gordon said Friday. "People were starting to count it out. They were actually talking about putting the 3-point contest at the end of the night instead of the dunk contest at the end of the night because there were so many great shooters. There's no more talk about that."
With LaVine opting not to defend his back-to-back titles long before his season was cut short because of a torn ACL, this year's contest was expected to be Gordon's victory lap a year in the making for his contributions.
The Orlando Magic forward entered the night packing a repertoire he hoped would match, if not surpass, the lofty bar set in Toronto.
"Just being able to one-up myself, that's what I'm looking to do," he said. "I'm not looking to play it safe nor maintain. I'm looking to excite and get a whole bunch of 10s on my dunks. It would be nice to come back the second straight year and show people I have more."
Unfortunately, both Gordon and dunk fans might have gotten too far ahead of themselves.
Gordon went back to the future in his first attempt of the evening, receiving an assist overhead from a Stuff the Magic Dragon-controlled drone as the theme from Star Wars blared over the loudspeakers. After missing his first three attempts, Gordon brought the ball between his legs for a successful, forceful jam.
But the judges awarded it only 38 points.
His next attempt earned only 34.
After two dunks, the presumptive favorite was out. As was DeAndre Jordan, by far the most popular name of the field.
Derrick Jones Jr., the undrafted rookie who had spent most of his season in the D-League, seemed poised to make good on the hype he received after circulating YouTube clips positioned him as the dark horse.
But after perhaps the two best dunks of the night -- a leap over four Phoenix Suns teammates positioned in a row (worth 45 points, per judges), and a between-the-legs lefty jam following an assist off the side of the backboard from Devin Booker -- he, too, would ultimately falter.
Jones failed to connect on his first dunk of the final round, allowing Glenn Robinson III an easy route to victory based on good ol' consistency.
"I thought I was going to have to go up against Derrick in the finals," Robinson said. "I've seen the things that he can do. That guy can jump. Sometimes this competition is tough. It's tough to stay loose, things like that. But man, when your adrenaline is going, there's no other feeling."
Robinson punctuated his win with one of the better moves of this All-Star Saturday nightcap: He hopped over Paul George, the Pacers' mascot and a cheerleader lined up in a row and threw down a reverse jam.
But with the trophy assured as long as he scored a 44 or higher -- which he had done on two of his three dunks already -- even his best move felt more like an inevitable conclusion rather than a grand finale.
The dunk contest is indeed not dead, despite the league's increasing love of the long ball threatening to upend the dunk's place as the premier event of All-Star Weekend. But on this night, it wasn't exactly alive, either.