Lakers' Dwight Howard, All Participants Revealed for 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2020

Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, right, shoots over Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Orlando won 112-100. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Nell Redmond/Associated Press

Aaron Gordon, Dwight Howard, Pat Connaughton and Derrick Jones Jr. were officially named the four participants in the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest on Tuesday.


The #ATTSlamDunk field at #NBAAllStar #StateFarmSaturday! @pconnaughton @Double0AG @DwightHoward @TheRea1DJones https://t.co/XOwTGNccsl

All four players were previously reported, so the announcement simply serves as a confirmation from the league office.

Gordon, Howard and Jones are returning participants, with each having varying levels of success. Gordon was part of one of the best head-to-head battles in dunk contest history in 2016 with Zach LaVine but returned a year later and finished last. Jones made the finals in 2017 before losing to Glenn Robinson III.

Howard's Superman dunk in 2008 turned him into a household name, and his battle with Nate Robinson a year later was a marketing goldmine for both players. But he's won just one of the three contests in which he's participated. 

Howard's entry raised the most eyebrows given the fact it's been over a decade since he participated and will become the oldest dunk contest competitor in history at age 34. The eight-time All-Star, who has had a reputation-cleansing season so far with the Los Angeles Lakers, said he reached out to the NBA to express his interest in competing.

"I reached out myself and told them I wanted to be in it, so it was like, 'Oh, really?' I was like, 'Yeah,'" Howard told reporters. "So here it is. I think I'm the oldest dunker in the dunk contest ever."

"I just felt like I'm in the best shape I've been in my whole career," Howard continued. "So why not go out there and give it, give it 135 percent, and see what happens?"

Gordon has been talking up his participation in the Feb. 15 event for months and even publicly tried to coax LaVine into competing. The Chicago Bulls guard declined the NBA's invitation because he was not an All-Star selection.

Connaughton, the lone first-time participant, has been angling to participate in the event so he can prove stereotypes about his athleticism are incorrect.

"I actually like the stereotypes, because I can disprove them. In today's day and age, political correctness and stereotypes are kind of unspoken truths, if you will," Connaughton told Martenzie Johnson of The Undefeated. "From time to time, people don't want to talk about them and they're not always true, but they're just kind of the way it is. So to be able to be a part of, you know, a small group that can disprove a stereotype like 'White men can't jump,' I think is pretty cool.

"If you do work hard, it doesn't really matter who you are, where you're from, what box people try to place you in. You can kind of get out of that box. You can accomplish what you want to with some hard work, with some dedication."

Recent history is on Connaughton's side. Each of the last three dunk contest winners was participating in the event for the first time.