By: Ian Wixted
The NBA All Star Dunk Contest has been the anchor to All-Star Weekend ever since it made its debut back in 1984. The event brings out shock and awe from fans and athletes alike every year with high flying performances from the NBA’s top up-and-coming dunkers. Something so average, like an in-game dunk, becomes something of legend, something you will remember seeing and know exactly where you were when you saw it. Every year we think all the dunks that were humanly possible had already been made, what more could happen? But every year some new contestant comes in and completely drops the jaws of everyone in the building and watching at home. Your imagination is your limit in the Dunk Contest and that’s what keeps it going strong every year, some kid gets inspired seeing his favorite dunker and they think to themselves “I can do that, and I can make it better.” Competition is good and the Dunk Contest brings out the competition in the fiercest of players, so what better way to honor the history of the Dunk Contest then by looking back at the top ten greatest dunks that we could remember.
Number 10: Dee Brown No Look Dunk (1991)
Just cracking the Top Ten, we start at the 1991 Dunk Contest with a high flying, Pump wearing rookie from Boston named Dee Brown. How could you not root for this man once you saw him bending over to pump his Pumps before taking his first dunk? That was an iconic image burned into my memory and would have made the number 10 spot if it wasn’t for his final dunk. You know you’re a special dunker when you have Magic Johnson arguing that one of your dunks is a “Dominique” dunk with Dominique Wilkins himself, and Dee Brown made sure Magic’s praise was justified. With his last dunk of the night, Dee Brown took off from midcourt leaped up and tucked his head into his arm to obstruct his view of the basket. The No Look Dunk was an originator and might just be the first time someone was dabbin’ on em, and for that it takes the number 10 spot.
Number 9: Dwight Howard “Superman is in the building!” (2008)
Usually a center in the Dunk Contest doesn’t end well, but not when that center is Dwight Howard, and not when that center has an alter-ego. For his final dunk of the 2008 Dunk Contest, Dwight Howard entered the phone booth a mere mortal, but when he exited he was transformed into Superman! Donning the cape, Dwight was set to fly. With one single bound, Howard leaped into the air, caught an assist from his teammate Jameer Nelson, and slammed the ball through the hoop with more power than a locomotive! Is it a dunk? Is it a bird or a plane? Who cares, it was something that was never seen before at the Dunk Contest and it was Superman.
Number 8: Spud Webb 360 Dunk (1986)
If Mighty Mouse had a poster on his wall, it would be a poster of Spud Webb! One of the shortest people in NBA history, Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb was the shortest contestant ever in the Dunk Contest. Nobody knew what to expect from Webb and being only 5’7”, nobody expected much. But Spud proved everybody wrong by dethroning defending champion and teammate Dominique Wilkins. It’s hard to choose which dunk of his lands at the number 8 spot, every one of his dunks that night were something special and truly amazing, but we chose his 360 Dunk over all because seeing a person that small be able to not only jump that high but to also make a complete spin while dunking? In the words of Ed Lover “C’mon Son!”
Number 7: Gerald Green ‘Make A Wish’ (2008)
One of the hardest dunks to judge in the Dunk Contest are prop dunks. You know the ones when a player brings in something foreign to the basketball court to help with stylizing the dunk. Whether it be a car, a group of kids, a former Dunk Contest champion, do you judge it based on the dunk itself or the dunk plus the clever use of a prop? As a defending champion, Gerald Green wasn’t a stranger to using props, the year before he jumped over a table and ultimately won, but for 2008 he had something a little more sweet in mind. For his first dunk of the night, Green had a teammate bring out a simple white box, and inside that box was a birthday cupcake. With the candle lit, it was time for Gerald to make his wish and blow out the flame! Even though he didn’t win the championship, this was a simple dunk with a lasting image, and that’s why it’s in our number 7th spot.
Number 6: Nate Robinson ‘Superman’s Weakness’ (2009)
What does it take to stop Superman? Kryptonite of course! And that’s exactly what Nate Robinson was to Dwight Howard’s Superman. Being the second smallest player to enter the Dunk Contest, the 5’9” Robinson had already a championship under his belt and knew he would have to bring everything to dethrone the reigning champ. Dressed in green, the color of Superman’s only weakness, from head to toe, Nate Robinson mustered all that he had and jumped over Howard to throw down a serious dunk. The year before Superman was in the building, but this night belonged to Kryptonite! This was the first of back-back Dunk Contest Championships and 3 overall, the most in NBA history. Look at those kicks! And doing the Supa Man is just the icing on the cake.
Number 5: Zach LaVine Behind the Back Smoothness (2015)
Now this is where the fun starts, the Top Five! You knew this young dude was going to show up on the list sooner or later, and we felt that the number 5 spot was a perfect gap from old to new. If Victor Oladipo’s dunk made me say the Dunk Contest was back, Zach LaVine’s night made it set in stone! Every one of his dunks last year were refreshing and jaw dropping, but the one that makes the list is his behind the back dunk. This was like watching water flow from top to bottom of a bottle, just sooo smooth! And you can’t knock a guy who was rocking the Kobe X ‘All Star’. We can’t wait to see what he brings this year!
Number 4: Andre Iguodala ‘A.I. to A.I.’ (2006)
Talk about hometown love! This entry into the 4th spot might be a little bias, but who could argue that this dunk wasn’t nasty?! Andre Iguodala was an up-and-coming sophomore when he first entered the Dunk Contest. With his second dunk of the contest, Iggy enlisted the help of his teammate Allen “A.I.” Iverson to assist him in what I thought was the best dunk of the night and obviously one of the best dunks in Dunk Contest history! The A.I. to A.I. connection was too much Philly for the judges to let Iguodala win, and that honor went to Nate Robinson.
Number 3: Michael Jordan ‘Foul Line Defense’ (1988)
Number 2: Jason Richardson ‘Sideline Toss’ (2003)
The Dunk Contest was in its Heyday in the early 2000s, and Jason Richardson was a big part of its popularity. J-Rich was hot off a 2002 Dunk Contest championship when he entered the ’03 Contest to defend his title. Back-to-back years of fresh dunks we haven’t seen before, it was hard to choose which one of the OG Warriors’ dunks for the number 2 spot, but the honor goes to his ’03 Sideline Toss Dunk that sealed his second consecutive championship. I remembering having to watch this on replay a couple times just to see what happen, so much in motion and such a filthy dunk, this just falls a little short of that number 1 spot.
Number 1: Vince Carter ‘All of 2000’ (2000)
It wasn’t the first time we saw the foul line dunk and it sure wouldn’t be the last, but something was special about seeing Brent “Bones” Barry sore through the San Antonio air with that sweet Clippers warm-up on. The 90s was a great decade.
Michael Finley’s Self Assisted Windmill Jam (1997)
Right before Michael Finley confused a bunch of us with his attempted Cartwheel Dunk in the finals, he gave us a ferocious Windmill Jam that he threw to himself which got him into the finals. If Finley would have made the Cartwheel dunk, he might have been crowned champion, maybe, but that honor goes to The Black Mamba.
Victor Oladipo’s 360 Reverse Dunk (2015)
Not going to lie, this was a tough one to leave off the list, but what’s done is done. Victor put on a show for Madison Square Garden, first by giving the crowd some home cooking singing “New York New York’, then with this dunk. Paying homage to another Dunk Contest Champion on his kicks, Victor threw down this dunk with ease. After some so-so years in the Dunk Contest, this was the dunk that made me say “the Dunk Contest is back!”
Tracy McGrady’s 360 Dunk (2000)
Cousin rivalry was at an all-time high during the 2000 Dunk Contest. Vince Carter vs. Tracy McGrady. The night was ultimately Vince Carter’s but Tracy wasn’t going to be outdone by his cousin/teammate, he blest us with this…. And that Tim Duncan clap.