Or­lando’s Se­cret Agent

Where Orlando - - Where Now -

The fourth over­all draft pick in 2014, Or­lando Magic’s Aaron Gor­don suf­fered an un­for­tu­nate mid-sea­son in­jury his rookie year. Now he’s back on the court and fo­cus­ing on the fun­da­men­tals of the game in or­der to help his team score big and help him­self stay grounded—but with a 39-plus-inch ver­ti­cal jump, he spends most of his time in the air. BY JUSTIN BRAUN

In or­der to stand out and suc­ceed in this game, you have to have the right in­ten­tions. And th­ese are shown through your ac­tions.

At 20 years old and mid­way through his se­cond sea­son, Aaron Gor­don is one of the youngest play­ers in the NBA. Tow­er­ing at 6’ 9’’ and cov­er­ing the po­si­tion of small for­ward, Gor­don says height runs in his fam­ily. He’s part African-Amer­i­can, part Na­tive Amer­i­can and part Cau­casian. His great-grand­fa­ther on his father’s side was an Osage In­dian who stood a whop­ping seven feet tall.

But with great height comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity. Gor­don gave the Magic a scare mid­way through last sea­son when he frac­tured a bone in his left foot. Ear­lier this year he frac­tured his jaw. But af­ter miss­ing 32 games and un­der­go­ing surgery in mid-Fe­bru­ary, Gor­don’s back. And his blend of size, ath­leti­cism, strength and im­proved shoot­ing gives the Magic a real shot this year.

His key to suc­cess this sea­son is fo­cus­ing on fine-tun­ing his fun­da­men­tals. “We have a re­ally de­tail- ori­ented coach (Scott Sk­iles). Fin­ish­ing around the rim, screen­ing and box­ing out— that’s what I’m fo­cus­ing on right now.”

The se­cond-year rookie grew up in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, where his var­sity ca­reer was high­lighted by sev­eral Divi­sion II cham­pi­onship wins and earn­ing a 2011 FIBA Amer­i­cas Cham­pi­onship gold medal. For col­lege he com­mit­ted to the Univer­sity of Ari­zona and was named one of the 30 fi­nal­ists for the Nai­smith Col­lege Player of the Year, named to the All- Pac-12 first team and earned Pac-12 Fresh­man of the Year and Pac-12 All- Fresh­man team hon­ors. Af­ter only one year of col­lege, he de­clared for the NBA draft.

“When I first got here I didn’t un­der­stand what it was like to be a pro,” says Gor­don. But, thank­fully, he’s had a lot of role mod­els in his life. His father, Ed Gor­don, was a star of San Diego State bas­ket­ball and his older brother, Drew, also be­came a pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball player. Not only that, but upon join­ing the Magic, Gor­don found in­spi­ra­tion in play­ing along­side To­bias Har­ris, fel­low for­ward who was also drafted early. “To­bias is such a hard worker. He’s a great ex­am­ple for me to fol­low.”

Gor­don says he wasn’t even a lit­tle in­tim­i­dated by his team­mates when he first joined. “In or­der to stand out and suc­ceed in this game, you have to have the right in­ten­tions. And th­ese are shown through your ac­tions.” To Gor­don, the Magic gives ev­ery­one on the team a chance to be heard. There’s no sin­gle vo­cal leader. “Ev­ery­one speaks up a lit­tle bit. Ev­ery­one has a voice.”

Gor­don has cer­tainly set­tled into his role on the team. Like a se­cret agent, he’s be­com­ing known for his abil­ity to go un­no­ticed un­til he sud­denly ex­plodes to the rim. He’s even been dubbed 00AG—for his num­ber 00 and his ini­tials AG.

He’s also set­tled into life in Or­lando. “It’s a lit­tle bit like Cal­i­for­nia,” Gor­don says. “I re­ally like it. I went from liv­ing in one place my whole life in Cal­i­for­nia to a dorm in Ari­zona to this.” Gor­don now lays his head in a spa­cious apart­ment in down­town Or­lando where he likes to blow off late-night steam by tak­ing a run around nearby Lake Eola.

“Or­lando is an amaz­ing place. It has good mix­ture of a lot of dif­fer­ent cul­tures and things to do,” he says.

For fun, Gor­don finds him­self ven­tur­ing to In­ter­na­tional Drive in the tourism cor­ri­dor to go bowl­ing with his team­mates at Kings Or­lando, go­ing to Ep­cot, hav­ing din­ner at his fa­vorite restau­rant, Fogo de Chão, or watch­ing the fire­works at Uni­ver­sal Or­lando Re­sort. He loves start­ing his day with Bikram yoga and tear­ing around town in his black- on-black Jaguar XJL, which he pur­chased with money from his close-to-$- 4-mil­lion- dol­lar sign­ing deal. But to Gor­don, play­ing in the NBA has lit­tle to do with seven-fig­ure salaries.

“I let my money make it­self,” he says. “In­stead of spend­ing, I save it and pre­tend I don’t even have it. Not much has changed. I act like I’m my nor­mal self.”

NBA com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver with Aaron Gor­don

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