Of all the events at any NBA All-Star weekend, the Slam Dunk Contest is the most anticipated and exciting.
It makes the big shoot-around game pale in comparison.
Since the inception of the Slam Dunk competition in 1984 — which in recent years has become more about trickery than anything else — many great names have participated and won with electrifying, gravity-defying flushes.
Kobe Bryant has won it, as well as Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks is the all-time leader in wins, with three, followed by Jordan, Wilkins, Jason Richardson and Zach Levine with two each.
The team at Goliath has reviewed many a video and we have come up with the 10 most mind-blowing dunks ever perpetrated on a NBA approved bucket.
10. Spud Webb – 1986
For a guy who stood just 5’6″ it was incredible that Spud Webb enjoyed the lengthy career he did, much less win a slam dunk contest. The Dallas native, chosen way down at no. 87 by Detroit in 1985, played 12 seasons in the NBA, starting 429 of 814 games at point guard for Atlanta, Sacramento, Minnesota and Orlando. In 1986, Webb became the shortest competitor ever in the event at Dallas Reunion Arena. His inclusion surprised teammate and 1985 champion Dominique Wilkins, who had never seen the vertically-challenged Webb dunk before. Webb beat Wilkins with a repertoire that included a two-handed double-pump dunk, 360-helicopter one-handed jam and reverse double-pump jam, among others. He won the contest with a lob pass to himself and a reverse two-handed strawberry jam. It’s at 1:10 of the video.
9. JaVale McGee – 2011
He is not a household name, not even in Oakland, where the Golden State Warriors rule. JaVale McGee, though, has the distinction of being one of the league’s most innovative dunkers. Now a back-up center for the Dubs in his ninth season, McGee was with Washington in 2011 when he got tabbed to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest. The 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2008 draft was the first ever Wizard to take part and was pitted against eventual winner Blake Griffin. He warmed up with a Guinness Book of World Records’ certified three-ball dunk, but it was his next trick that had everyone agog at his mastery. With two hoops set side-by-side, McGee took a ball in each hand, ran at the first basket, tossed one ball off the backboard and then dunked on each hoop, nearly simultaneously.
8. Dee Brown – 1991
Jacksonville native Dee Brown literally came out of nowhere to minor stardom in the NBA. He played a full four years at little known Jacksonville University before being drafted by the Boston Celtics in the first round (19th overall) of the 1990 draft. The 6’1″ point guard immediately made a name for himself, playing in all 82 games his rookie season in 1990-91, making the all-NBA Rookie team. That freshman performance got him an invitation to participate in the 1991 Slam Dunk contest and the kid didn’t disappoint. He went through his full repertoire, including a two-handed reverse windmill jam and a Dominique Wilkins style flush before saving his best for last. His contest-winning dunk involved a run from center court and then an improbable no-look jam that shocked everyone. It’s at 1:30 of the video.
7. Dwight Howard – 2008
Superman has been a prolific dunker since bursting on the scene with Orlando in 2004. Picked first overall by the Magic that year out of high school, he was prized for being extremely athletic, offensively and defensively, despite being 6’11” tall. His impact on the league since has been nothing short of amazing. He has been an all-star eight times, rebounding leader five times, blocks leader twice and a five-time all-NBA First Team honoree. In 2008, the big man was at the height of his powers and would take part in the Slam Dunk contest. The jam session had become a little stale in previous years, so Howard jazzed up his routine to re-invigorate it, even slamming one home while wearing a Superman cape. It was his behind-the-backboard sizzling jam, though, that won the thing. It defies description and comes at 1:07 of the video.
6. DeMar DeRozan – 2011
JaVale McGee wasn’t the only one to pull out all the stops in the 2011 Slam Dunk contest. Toronto Raptors super sophomore DeMar DeRozan was just coming into his own during the 2010-11 season and earned his second trip to the contest after being a runner-up to three-time champion Nate Robinson in 2010. The 6’7″ shooting guard wouldn’t win the competition, that distinction going to L.A. Clippers superstar Blake Griffin, but he would earn a “10” across the board for a dunk he called “the Showstopper.” After completing his first dunk, DeRozan approached the sideline, exhorted the crowd to cheer and got ready just outside the three-point line. He alley-ooped the ball to just inside the paint and then executed a perfect reverse windmill dunk that had the talking heads gushing.
5. Jason Richardson – 2003
We had to pick between two superlative dunks by two-time Slam Dunk contest champion Jason Richardson. In the days before Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Richardson was the star with Golden State. He was drafted fifth overall by the Dubs in 2001 and made the all-Rookie team in 2001-02. He won the 2002 Slam Dunk contest in Philadelphia and in 2003, he defended his title with authority in Atlanta. With Michael Jordan looking on in the crowd, Richardson needed a big one to win it all. He didn’t disappoint, performing an alley-oop, between-the-legs reverse jam that a “10” score did injustice to. As a side note, in 2004, he repeated the feat, only throwing the ball off the backboard instead of the straight up alley-oop.
4. Andre Iguodala – 2006
At 33, Andre Iguodala, like JaVale McGee, is a sub with the Golden State Warriors. Like McGee, he has also flashed brilliance at the Slam Dunk contest, even though he didn’t win. The 2015 NBA finals MVP and one-time all-star has had a great career and he kicked it off in high style at the 2006 Slam Dunk contest in Houston. Though he would go on to finish second to Nate Robinson (who won his first of three titles), Iggy’s second dunk in his repertoire goes down as one of the all-time greats. He did a requisite windmill for his first jam and then on his second he got tongues wagging by setting up in the corner well behind the basket, with Allen Iverson stationed just behind the bucket. Dolla Billz then ran out from the corner, AI flicked the ball off the back of the basket and Iguodala snatched it, came out from behind and reversed the ball down with thunderous aplomb.
3. Dominique Wilkins – 1985
In just the second year of the Slam Dunk contest, the final round pitted “Human Highlight Reel” Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks against up-and-coming superstar Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. Wilkins set the bar high that year for future generations of Slam Dunk competitions, mixing in some awe-inspiring aerial slams worthy of repeat looks. Jordan didn’t stand a chance that year. Wilkins had a decent jam his first of three attempts in the final and made good on his nickname on his second go around. On a dunk that earned him a perfect score of 50, he bounced the ball from behind the free throw line hitting the backboard and coming back toward him. He snatched it in mid-air and executed a high-flying reverse windmill dunk, effectively winning the title with it. It’s at 2:50 of the video.
2. Michael Jordan – 1988
The vision of Michael Jordan, tongue hanging out of his mouth, driving to the basket, is as iconic an image as they get. Air Jordan won the Slam Dunk contest in 1987 and then got the chance to defend on home court in 1988. By then the league’s elite player, Jordan went head-to-head with the man who beat him soundly in 1985, Dominique Wilkins. Known for show-stopping plays and clutch playoff performances, it was a tall task for His Airness to come up with something completely new and cutting edge. A baseline double reverse got everyone’s attention in the first round, followed by Wilkins’ awesome 360 windmill jam. In the semi-finals, Jordan would cement his legacy as a dunker with few peers, running the length of the court and sailing all the way from the free-throw line for the slam and a perfect score.
1. Vince Carter – 2000
We’ve saved what we believe is the best for last. At the height of “Vinsanity” in Toronto, still current NBA player Vince Carter pulled off the dunk of dunks at any Slam Dunk contest. It was 2000 and Carter was in his second season with the Toronto Raptors. His superb play that season got him an invite to the contest at the All-Star game in Oakland and without a doubt, he put on the master class. On his first dunk (seen in the video), Carter does a 360 reverse windmill jam that had everyone in the arena roaring with approval. On his second attempt, he left no doubt that he was the King of the Dunk. He ran toward the basket, took a bounce pass from teammate Tracy McGrady, scooped the ball between his legs and windmilled the ball into the hoop seamlessly. He did the famous pointing dab and then looked at the camera and said, “it’s over.” Indeed.