Derrick Jones Jr. has already been here before, he’s been in the Dunk Contest and been a part of the madness that is All-Star Weekend. In 2017, Jones Jr. was the Dunk Contest’s runner-up behind Glenn Robinson III.
Easily one of the highest flyers and best in-game dunker across the Association, expectations are high for the Miami Heat guard, but that will be no small task as this year’s field consists of two big-name dunkers in Aaron Gordon and Dwight Howard. That far from phases Jones Jr., he is as confident as ever, “No matter what I know I’m going to get the judges to give me that 50.”
Jones has some major sneaker plans for tonight, as he says he plans to bring eight pairs to the arena. Odds are one of choices in his rotation will be a pair of Kobes. Jones frequently wears the Mamba’s signature line in-game, and he laced up a pair of “Pale Horse” Kobe XIs three years ago in the Dunk Contest.
Ahead of this year’s Slam Dunk Contest, we sat down with Derrick Jones Jr. at All-Star Weekend in Chicago to discuss sneakers, Kobe Bryant’s legacy, this year’s contest, and more. Check out the full interview below.
You’ve stepped your sneaker game up quite a bit this season, do you have anything major planned for the Dunk Contest?
When I was in Phoenix I had a great vet in PJ Tucker. He’s been the sneaker king for the past couple of years, so I want it to be one of those ‘pass the torch’ type things. He showed me the ropes and I’m doing it now. When it’s his time to go, it’s my time to shine.
What tips have he given you?
He’s always just told me to wear what I’m comfortable with. Once I find that shoe that’s comfortable, there’s always going to be multiple colorways of that shoe. All the colorways of the shoes that I have are fire, there’s no color restrictions in the league anymore so I can go as loud or as quiet as I want. I rock a lot of Kobe IVs, KD IVs, KD Vs, KD VIs, those are the shoes I feel comfortable in and I feel like I have damn near every colorway of them.
What’s your favorite shoe to hoop in?
I’d say some Kobe IVs are my favorite. Right now, I’ve been trying the Puma Hardwoods and those are comfortable, I fuck with them.
Can you speak a bit on the impact and legacy that Kobe has had on the world of basketball sneakers specifically?
I probably have almost every Kobe release to ever come out. All the shoes at my house back at home, I probably have almost every one. I don’t plan on letting them go, once I get my shoes back home from storage from my parents, it’s going to be crazy.
When you think of the Dunk Contest, what is the first pair of shoes that comes to mind?
When I was a kid thinking of being in the dunk contest, winning, and just being a leaper, it's different. I remember when Gerald Green took his shoes off and put them on the table and the judge pushed them off, that was hilarious.
During the 2017 Dunk Contest you wore Kobes and then changed into Gold Suptempos, how many different pairs can we expect this year?
I have about eight or nine. I never know what I’m gonna wear until it’s time to go. I never know what I’m gonna put on until it’s time to go out on that court.
What goes into the thought process of deciding what shoe to wear?
It’s just how I feel that day. Any day I’m going in for a game day, I have my shoes lined up. I got all my shoes at my locker, I’m looking at my shoes and it’s just whatever fits me best that day, my mood, how I’m feeling, how I feel about my shoes that day, that all tie in together.
Can you give us any insight on what your plans are for the Dunk Contest?
It’s just a whole lot of things people ain’t seen before. You haven’t seen half the dunks in the dunk contest that I’m about to do, once they see them y’all going to know it’s special.
What do you think about your competition?
There’s a lot of competition out there. The competition is alway going to be the top, when we are out there we’re competing. We’re there to put a show on for the crowd and when we’re out there, they hype us up. It’s an experience, you just have to have fun with it.
What are your thoughts on all the pageantry that goes along with the dunk contest?
At the end of the day, you have to do whatever you can to get the crowd hype. Gerald Green blowing out that candle, I know it made the crowd hype because the candle is sitting there on top of the rim, that shows how high his head is above the rim. Dwight putting on a cape, it’s showing that he can fly like Superman. I feel like it’s kind of big, but if you go out there and do a flashy dunk, you’re going to get a 50. No way the judges are going to sit up there and not give him a 50 if you get the crowd hype. If the dunk is 50 worthy, you’re going to get that 50. No matter what, I’m going to get the crowd hype with my dunks, but no matter what I know I’m going to get the judges to give me that 50 because I just flew with that dunk. You’re going to see something special.