It’s a big week for Magic forward Aaron Gordon
He’s a restricted free agent and will make his acting debut in ‘Uncle Drew’
Aaron Gordon will make his acting debut as the cocky basketball star Casper in the movie Uncle Drew, in theaters beginning Friday. The Orlando Magic forward is best known for his memorable dunk contest performance during NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto in 2016. He has not been to the playoffs in four seasons with the Magic nor has he been an All-Star.
While dunking and acting are what Gordon is best known for, the restricted free agent believes winning will eventually supersede those accomplishments.
“Listen, all this takes a toll on your spirit,” Gordon said. “But my focus has never been clearer and my vision has never been clearer of how I am going to succeed in this league, win in this league and win championships. That has never gone away, no matter how many losses I have. I still believe there will be a point in time where I am not only competing for championships but holding a trophy.
“So, I see it and I know I have teammates around me that see it, too. I am going to help anyone else around me see that same goal so we’re all working toward a singular vision that comes true. I know there will be a time where that happens and people will recognize, respect and understand what it means to be a winner and the road that I took.”
Despite the lack of playoffs and All-Star appearances, Gordon is an elite NBA free agent this offseason due to his stellar play last season.
Gordon averaged career-highs of 17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and two 3-pointers made per game during the 2017-18 campaign. The athletic 6-foot-9-inch 220-pounder established himself as the face of a rebuilding Magic franchise. The fourth pick in the 2014 NBA draft will be a restricted free agent when the period begins July 1. The Magic can match any offer sheet he signs.
Gordon is eligible for a five-year deal paying close to $150 million that starts at $27.3 million in the first season. The former University of Arizona star is expected to have interest from the Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns despite his restricted status, a source told The Undefeated. The San Jose, California, native is open-minded about ending free agency quickly if the Magic makes a strong offer. Gordon is just 22 years old, but the Magic could be bidding against themselves by rushing.
“We have a great deal of respect for Aaron as a person and a player,” Magic general manager John Hammond said. “He has tremendous value to our organization and our hope is that he is with the Magic long term.”
Gordon said he is not stressed about free agency and is prepared to go through the process.
“I definitely need to be smart and do the due diligence,” Gordon said. “Hear teams out and understand where the best fit is for me so I can help a team win, help a team get to a championship. I got to be smart about it, take my time and make sure it is correct so I feel good about it and I’m happy. That is the biggest part about it.”
The Magic has not had a winning record nor made the playoffs since the lockout shortened 2011-12 season. Gordon was a 16-year-old playing at San Jose’s Archbishop Mitty High School at the time. The rebuilding Magic have not surpassed 35 wins since his arrival and made the mistake of trading 2018 NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo. New head coach Steve Clifford will be Gordon’s fifth with the Magic.
Gordon described the losing as “rough.” Even so, he is optimistic that Orlando is heading in the right direction.
“It’s been a heartbreaker,” Gordon said. “It really shows what you are made of. But all I am going to do is keep taking the right actions. Keep working hard. Be egoless with my teammates and the organization I’m with. Continue to work and play the right way until we get to the time where we’re ready to make steps and waves in the playoffs and win championships.
“The time will come. I have no doubt about that. It’s just a matter of being ready when it comes.”
Why is Gordon optimistic about a winning future with the struggling and rebuilding Magic? He credited the hiring of Clifford, who visited Gordon in San Jose recently. Gordon said he has been encouraged by the presence and moves of Hammond and Magic president Jeff Weltman. Gordon is also encouraged by the drafting of Texas center Mo Bamba last week and forwards Jonathan Isaac and Wesley Iwundu a year ago. He hopes that free-agent guard Mario Hezonja will be back.
“We have a young cast coming in. A lot of new talent. A lot of new faces coming around. But I definitely see opportunity in Orlando. I see it more than anybody in the world sees it,” Gordon said.
Gordon’s parents Ed and Shelly, brother Drew, sister Elise, agent Calvin Andrews and other family members and close friends were on hand for the premiere of Uncle Drew” in New York City on Tuesday night. The movie stars comedian-actor Lil Rel Howery, who is so desperate to win a cash prize at a basketball tournament that he persuades an old man named Uncle Drew, played by Boston Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving, to help him compete with his senior citizen hooping friends. Former NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber and Reggie Miller, former NBA dunk champion Nate Robinson and former WNBA star Lisa Leslie are also in the movie, along with comedian-actress Tiffany Haddish and comedian-actors Nick Kroll, Mike Epps and J.B. Smoove.
Gordon enjoyed seeing himself on the big screen as an actor rather than the television screen as an NBA player.
“It is a way different feeling,” Gordon said. “You are kind of nervous waiting to see how people are going to react to you on-screen. It was good. It was fun. I definitely played the part. It was fun. People enjoyed it. I was definitely the antagonist that people needed. I just kept cool, said the lines, trying to come off cocky and real arrogant and take shots at people.
“There were a couple acting coaches on set. It was less about the words, but the way you deliver them. Some facial expressions here and there. Try to put yourself in an emotional state. I appreciated the acting coaches that were there and helping me through it.”
Gordon said moviegoers should see Uncle Drew because it is family friendly, funny and could go down as an all-time great basketball movie.
“It is one the best basketball movies that has been done in a long time,” Gordon said. “It’s tight. The basketball is sick. Some of the plays are incredible. There are NBA legends and you get see them lace it up in another time and place. … It is definitely worth watching.”
Of all the people Gordon met at the New York premiere, he was most excited about former Rucker playground legend Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland. Kirkland is known for his scoring prowess on the blacktop and also as a drug dealer who spent time in prison before turning his life around to become a motivational speaker.
“ ’Pee Wee’ Kirkland, man,” Gordon said. “The hoop and street legend. That was the most excited I was. My pops was superexcited, too. I’ve seen videos of him in old-school streetball.”
Gordon is slated to be on hand for the premiere in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday night. Considering his appearance will be close to the start of free agency, Gordon will get questions about more than his acting skills.
“This one is going to be funny,” Gordon said.