Son of African American former San Diego State basketball star Ed Gordon, Aaron Gordon noticed that he rarely saw anyone that looked like him or even his mother when he would visit her tech job in Silicon Valley as a kid. And that visual reality led the Denver Nuggets forward and his mother to start a program with their family foundation in hopes of inspiring underprivileged kids of color to enter the tech world.
In his recent interview with The Undefeated, Gordon, whose mother is white and father is Black said: “I was probably 10 years old, and what I noticed later, as I reflect, it was all white men.”
“She was one of the only women there. She was breaking a glass ceiling of her own. But it was just all white men. That’s not right.”
Gordon was playing for the Orlando Magic in 2018 when he and his family founded the Gordon Family Giving Foundation, whose mission is “to provide opportunity through science, technology, engineering and math education to underserved and underrepresented young students.”
Gordon and his mother, Shelly Davis Gordon, decided in 2019 to use her expertise from 35 years of working as a computer scientist and engineer in Silicon Valley to start CodeOrlando, an immersive STEM experience.
The free four-week summer camp for eighth through 12th graders introduced the students from various Orlando, Florida, schools to coding, robotics and nanotechnology.
The students are primarily of color from underserved backgrounds, the groups most underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
As written by Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, over the years, the kids in the program have taken part in group projects, three-day internships and visited local colleges, tech development companies and organizations.
The Gordon Family Giving Foundation partnered with the University of Central Florida’s College of Community Innovation and Education to host the CodeOrlando program on the UCF Downtown campus each summer through 2025.
“We did a lot of stuff like holiday giveaways, Thanksgiving stuff, basketball camps in the summer, those types of things,” Davis Gordon said. “But Aaron and I have always talked about how we really wanted systemic change and we really wanted to do something that was more lasting than just a giveaway.
We talked a lot about his love for technology and my experiences with it and how the college dropout rate for Black males is 60%. It’s no wonder that the pipeline for Black, Hispanic and women to get into technology and then to stay in technology, remains small. There’s just so many things that block people from being able to participate in it.”
“We’re just trying to show these kids there’s a different pathway than fiddling with microphones [in music] and dribbling basketballs, or dealing drugs and gangbanging. There’s other ways to break the generational curse,” Gordon said.
Gordon certainly comes from a basketball family, as his father Ed played at San Diego State, sister Elise played at Harvard and brother Drew is a former NBA player now playing in Ukraine. But thanks to his mother, the eight-year NBA veteran is also a self-described “computer dork” who loves having all the latest tech products and is educated about the newest products.
With CodeOrlando thriving, Gordon plans on beginning a new code program soon in Denver, where he is now thriving with the Nuggets.
Gordon averaged 12.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists in seven seasons with the Magic before being traded to the Nuggets on March 25.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward said that he was trying too hard just to fit in offensively with Denver after the trade, but he also made a strong impact defensively.
The Nuggets saw enough of his value after the trade to sign him to a four-year, $92 million contract during the offseason.
“We liked his versatility and his defense,” Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth told The Undefeated. “Obviously, we lost Jerami Grant. We were looking for somebody who is bigger on the wing to help protect Mike [Porter]. Obviously, [Gordon] was playing a No. 1, No. 2 role in Orlando. We felt that he would be a good complementary piece for us.
“I think he had to grow from last season, but what has happened is that we had a whole summer to get him healthy, work on his game more and tighten some things up. I think he’s feeling better about his body and his skill set.”
Gordon is most well-known for being one of the NBA’s greatest dunkers. His often-debated dunk contest loss to Zach LaVine in 2016 in Toronto is considered one of the greatest because it included six straight perfect scores.
So, will Gordon take part in the 2022 NBA dunk contest in Cleveland and perhaps add a creative STEM twist?
“I will do the dunk contest again, but it’s got to be a grip [financially],” Gordon said.
“I’m not sure what the price is, but it’s going to be a lot. It’s going to be entertaining. It’s gonna be a draw. I still got it. People still want me to be in the dunk contest. I know whatever they’re going to pay me they are going to make triple, quadruple that anyway. They can afford it.”