When Aaron Gordon performs as he did during Sunday’s victory against the New York Knicks—posting 31 points to lead the Orlando Magic, including 20 in the first quarter—it may prompt NBA watchers to wonder whether the forward is taking the next step toward stardom.
Some casual fans of NBA basketball may use methods like “watching the basketball game” and “analyzing important data,” but we at Orlando Pinstriped Post choose to go deeper. Why use actual on-court events to judge a basketball player when we can assess his performance on a comedic news quiz show instead?
Gordon was the latest celebrity guest to be featured on NPR’s “Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!”, recorded live last week at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. During the guest segment, the subject is interviewed about their occupation before being quizzed on something that has nothing to do with that job.
Did Gordon demonstrate that he has what it takes to be an NBA superstar? Let’s comb through the highlights and determine whether Gordon is really an elite talent.
We start off with host Peter Sagal’s introduction:
SAGAL: People who visit Orlando are excited about the theme parks like Dinosaur World and Gatorland. But the people who live here are most excited about their basketball team, their Orlando Magic, and its star small forward...Aaron Gordon!
IMMEDIATE RED FLAG! Right away, we see Gordon has been misplaced into the small forward role, a position we learned long ago he cannot possibly play. Was this a mistake by a naive public radio host, or did Gordon’s PR team advise NPR on how to introduce him? Is this a power play to avoid playing as power forward???
SAGAL: You’ve got fans. I’ve got to ask you - I should admit I’m not, you know, conversant with, like, the basketball stuff - how is it that someone the size of the Statue of Liberty is a small forward?
GORDON: I would like to think of myself as a powerful small forward...
Hmmm...a close save, perhaps too close. How does Gordon regard his role as a “powerful” forward? Show participant Mo Rocca chimes in with a question:
ROCCA: Is the power forward more of a ball hog? Because it sounds like the small forward is nicer and shares the ball more.
GORDON: When it comes to rebounding, yes. A power forward can just be as ball hog-ish as he’d like to be.
You say ball-hog? I say WINNER! A true competitor competes against all nine other players, not just the five on the other team. GET THOSE REBOUNDS AG!
But what does Gordon think about the fans?
SAGAL: I’ve always wondered about this because everybody knows that sports fans get very passionate. Do you guys care as much as, like, we do about whether you win or lose?
GORDON: Oh, man. That’s a great question. You know...It’s - they’re really fanatics, you know what I mean...
They’re - I think they care about it equally if not more than we do.
NOT A WINNER. I demand bloodthirst from my superstars! If I ever heard someone say they wanted to defeat their opposition in a cordial fashion...
SAGAL: Do you ever feel like looking over at the fans and going, guys, it’s a game. Nobody died. We’re all actually friends.
GORDON: Yeah. They, like, look me in my eyes and say, I hate you.
GORDON: Whoa. I don’t think I did anything to deserve that, but, you know...I’m just going to cordially beat your team, but...
I’m going to be sick. I can’t handle this. Trade him now, get someone who’s a real winner, like Carmelo Anthony.
After a bit more banter about fandom, they move onto the subject of the dunk contest:
GORDON: It’s actually - it’s really funny because Stuff the Magic Dragon - he’s a great mascot. You know what I mean?
He’s a great mascot. He is. He’s this, like, green dragon. He has these stars on the top of his head. And, when I was practicing, I couldn’t get the grip of the ball right. So I was, like, Stuff, buddy...You might need to take the stars off your head. And he was really going to take one for the team. He was a team player.
And we did it, and I got the dunk. But I could just see the sadness in this mascot..In his body language - like he had lost a part of himself with the stars. You know, so...
GORDON: Yeah. So we were, like, OK. We put the stars back on his head. Just - I had to make it work for the sake of him.
HERO. A friend of Stuff is a friend of mine. I’m back in, renegotiate his contract to give him the max. A true champion perseveres through any challenge, including goofy mascot accessories.
At last, Gordon reaches the quiz portion of the segment, and as an Orlando Magic player, he is naturally quizzed on actual magicians. He needs to get two out of three questions right to win a prize for a lucky listener in Tampa.
SAGAL: All right. Here’s your first question. One of the great magicians of the late 19th century was Harry Kellar. How did Kellar learn to do his greatest trick, the levitating woman? Was it,
A) He was a practicing Buddhist who attained enlightenment and was given control over gravity...
B) He tied the woman to a thousand trained fleas, who flew her upward...
C) He walked up on stage while another magician was doing the trick, ran around back to see what was done and then ran away.
GORDON: I’m going to go with the latter one.
SAGAL: You’re correct.
Much like against the Knicks, Gordon is off to a hot start. Another of Kellar’s famous tricks involves borrowing six rings from audience members, so we can only take this as a sign that Gordon is focused on earning multiple championship rings himself.
SAGAL: Second question - let’s see if you do as well. Another great magician of that golden era of magic was Carter the Great, and one of his famous tricks was which of these?
A) The magical divorce, a trick in which he made his own wife disappear...
B) The disappearing theater in which the entire audience found itself in a suddenly vacant lot sitting on their butts
C) The vaguely disquieting meal in which Carter ate an ear of corn raw.
GORDON: I think I’m going to go with B.
SAGAL: You’re going with B - the disappearing theater. All of a sudden, everybody was out there sitting on their butts in a field.
GORDON: That’s the one.
SAGAL: That’s the one. He picked it. Sadly, he missed this shot. No, I’m afraid.
GORDON: Oh, dang.
Not a good sign. Clearly an entire audience can’t be teleported to the middle of a field. What other delusions does Gordon suffer from? Does he actually believe he’s Paul George? This explains much of his erratic behavior on the court.
SAGAL: Some magicians have been able to use their skills in real life such as in which of these?
A) Doug Henning, who used to skip out on dinner checks by making himself disappear during dessert...
B) Penn Jillette, who for three years has made himself look like he’s lost a hundred pounds by constantly surrounding himself with trick mirrors...
C) David Copperfield, who once made his wallet disappear while he was being mugged.
GORDON: I’m going to go with Copperfield. It’s C.
SAGAL: You’re going to go David Copperfield. That’s right, Aaron.
Look, I’m not saying a superstar has to get all the questions exactly right, but I’m pretty sure Giannis Antetokounmpo would have aced a quiz about 20th century North American magicians.
Still, winners do whatever it takes to get the W, and Gordon came out a winner. Based on his performance on “Wait Wait,” Aaron Gordon is a star in my book.