After almost every night the Orlando Magic play, a Vine pops up showing Aaron Gordon throwing down the type of dunk that makes even opposing players turn their heads to hide their reactions. Case in point: last night, Gordon caught a pass at the free-throw line on a fast break and wound up for a filthy windmill dunk that shut down the Staples Center.
Gordon has been an obscene leaper his whole career, but the platform that his performance at the 2016 NBA Slam Dunk Contest gave him turned his home arena in Orlando into Madison Square Garden. Now everyone is paying attention to Gordon—like they did to Blake Griffin a few years ago, when it felt like you couldn’t miss a Los Angeles Clippers game for fear of missing the Dunk of the Century.
So how did Gordon’s hops get so extreme? It turns out he’s been working on his lower body since he was a kid. When he was only 11 years old, he tore his ACL; but according to a recent piece on ESPN, dreams of playing in the NBA were already rolling around in his head. For his rehab, he strapped on a weighted vest and performed plyometrics with his older brother Drew. Whether he knew it or not, he was building a base of strength.
When he arrived at the University of Arizona, Gordon boasted just 3 percent body fat, according to Sports Illustrated. To get there, he worked out six days a week for five hours a day. One of the strangest, and craziest, exercises he performed is the Underwater Pool Walk With Kettlebells. He grabbed what he calls a “giant” kettlebell and walked across the bottom of a 12-foot pool, so he was completely submerged.
“It helps with mental toughness and overall body strength,” Gordon said.
He’s also a big fan of Deadlifting and Pilates, and he hits the cryotherapy chamber for recovery, after immediately downing a gallon—yes, a gallon—of water.
So if you’re interested in becoming a future Slam Dunk champion like Gordon, grab a kettlebell, strap on an oxygen tank and head to the bottom of your local pool. You won’t get any weird looks at all, we swear. (Just kidding; please don’t attempt this without supervision.)