Tucked away in the dustiest corner of the gym-class storage room, wedged in between a bundle of hockey sticks and a cart of semi-deflated basketballs, Aaron Gordon shifted uncomfortably and took another bite of his ham sandwich. As he chewed, he remembered that his water reserves had been depleted some time ago, and he had no way to wash down the dry, crusty bread. So he spit the bite of food into the basketballs and vowed to himself that there would be no more eating until after the contest.
Outside the doors of the storage closet, Aaron thought he could hear activity. However, there had been several false alarms throughout the day as gym classes used the gymnasium to which his storage room was attached, and he didn’t want to risk leaving his hiding place to peer through the gap in the door to see what was happening. If somebody came in to retrieve equipment while he was uncovered, he would surely be barred from entering the contest. So he waited.
Not for the first time, Aaron regretted not having brought his phone with him to tell time. He had figured that it would be incriminating if he were caught, given that it contained detailed plans on how to break into the high school. Later he had realized that his unexpected entry into the contest, bursting out from the PE equipment room, would be enough to at least charge him with trespassing, phone or no phone.
Having a phone would also give him something to do other than think. He could refresh Twitter for free-agency news. Or play Doodle Jump (with the sound off and the screen dimmed, of course). But there was no changing his fate now, he decided, and, besides, the contest would surely start soon.
Dimly, Aaron could hear the sounds of an amplified voice. As it began to speak, the general din of the gathered high-schoolers quieted down. Deciding that the event he was hearing was definitely a pep rally and not a gym class, Aaron extricated himself from his hiding spot and crept to the gap in the set of double doors, bringing the hockey sticks with him in case the door unexpectedly opened and he needed something to hide behind. Peering through the gap, Aaron could see hundreds of kids gathered on the bleachers and somebody, probably the school’s principal, talking into a microphone about school pride or something.
After the principal was done playing and the pep band played some songs, various sports teams were trotted out to varying levels of applause, from minimal (ultimate frisbee, dance dance revolution) to raucous (football). Aaron pushed aside his feelings of impatience as a second girl’s JV basketball team was announced. He knew that his time was coming soon.
Finally, the last team had walked off the gym floor, and a basketball was brought out, looking much more full of air than the ones that Aaron had spent ten hours next to. It was time for the dunk contest.
Aaron couldn’t help but roll his eyes as he watched the first two entrants try to dunk, repeatedly lobbing bounce-passes to themselves but barely grazing the rim with their fingers as the ball sailed wildly out of their reach. He didn’t see any judges, but was sure that if they were there, they were handing out zeroes for these pathetic attempts. Aaron knew he would have no problem executing a flawless dunk and taking home the trophy.
The ball had been given back to the principal, and one more dunker, a boy in cargo shorts who didn’t look like any kind of athlete, was walking in. Not wanting to risk the chance that this obvious dork would win by way of the support of his classmates, Aaron pushed open the doors and ran out onto the gym floor.
There were gasps of surprise, as well as a few cheers from students who recognized who Aaron was. Grabbing the ball from the stunned principal, Aaron didn’t break stride as he ran towards the basket. A simple between-the-legs 360 dunk would win him the contest, no question. So that’s what he did, effortlessly contorting his body as he floated through the air and slammed the ball through the rim.
It took a while for the shocked student body to react, but eventually the scattered laughter and applause grew into a roar. The principal was angrily storming towards him, still holding the microphone, and when she got there, Aaron ignored her admonitions as if she wasn’t there at all, instead grabbing the microphone for himself. “Thank you Adam Silver for allowing me to redeem myself at the 2019 All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest,” he said. “I will accept my rightfully-earned trophy now. Suck it, Zach LaVine. Your ACL’s are trash.”
In his mind’s eye, he could see a smiling Adam Silver handing him the dunk contest trophy. He shook hands with him and posed for the photographers, holding the trophy above his head in triumph. Even when he was tackled by two football players and their coach, the grin never left his face. He had finally won the dunk contest. The trophy was his.