Top 10 Best NBA Dunk Contest Moments of All-Time
What a wild season it’s been so far for the entirety of the NBA. As the season reaches its halfway break, there has been a flurry of high-profile trades, break-out performances, and teams finally hitting their stride.
This weekend marks the unofficial halfway point of the NBA season with the league’s All-Star Weekend, which is set to be held in Los Angeles. One of the most exciting and high-profile events of the weekend is the Dunk Contest, which is due to take place this Saturday night.
With just a few days to go until this season’s dunking exhibition, we’ve compiled a list of ten of the best Dunk Contest moments of all time.
Larry Nance Wins the First Modern Dunk Contest in 1984
Our first moment comes from the league’s first “modern” Dunk Contest, which took place all the way back in 1984. The contest was won by Phoenix’s Larry Nance, who utilized a plethora of smooth dunks which included a stunt that saw him dunk two basketballs while in mid-air. Nance’s son, Larry Nance Jr., is set to take place in this year’s Dunk Contest, some 34 years after his father’s triumph.
5’7” Spud Webb’s Two-Handed Reverse Slam Wins the 1986 Contest
Standing at just 5-foot-7, Spud Webb had to have been considered a longshot to ever win participate in a dunk contest, never mind win one. However, in 1986, he did just that thanks to an unbelievable two-handed reverse dunk off of a self-pass. Despite his diminutive stature, Spud was able to soar through the air and throw the ball down like few before him. Webb’s triumph helped paved the way for smaller players such as Nate Robinson, who ended up winning the contest three times himself.
Michael Jordan’s Iconic Free-Throw Line Dunk in 1988
When you think about the Dunk Contest, chances are the first thing that pops into your mind is Michael Jordan’s free-throw line dunk from 1988 – for good reason. Jordan pulled off one of the most iconic moments in basketball history in the 1988 contest as he sprinted down the court and took off from the foul line, cocking the ball back and slamming it with authority. Jordan’s final dunk of the night was good enough to win him the title on his home court in Chicago and remains one of the best in the history of the contest itself.
Dee Brown’s No-Look Slam in 1991
One of the great things about the Dunk Contest is that the participants are always pushing the envelope and looking for new, exciting dunks to bring the crowd to their feet. One of the most unique dunks in the history of the event came in 1991, courtesy of Celtics guard Dee Brown. Brown won the event his rookie year thanks to an incredible dunk that saw him cover his eyes with his arm and dunk the ball with authority despite not being able to see where he was going.
Vince Carter’s Insane 2000 Dunk Contest
When examining the best all-around slam dunk performances, Vince Carter’s showing back in 2000 is surely near the top of the list. Carter wowed the crowd all night with a fantastic repertoire of dunks, with each slam he performed besting the one he had done previously. His final dunk, which coincidentally won him the contest, saw him get 37” of air and dunk the ball while hanging onto the rim with his elbow. In a fantastic career that has seen him play for almost twenty seasons, Carter’s theatrics in 2000 might still be his crowning achievement.
Gerald Green’s One-of-a-kind Birthday Cake Dunk in 2008
Over the past decade, the use of props in the Dunk Contest has become en vogue. Perhaps the most innovative use of props came in 2008 courtesy of Gerald Green. Green had his teammate Craig Smith put a cupcake on the back of the rim with a lit candle in it. The current Houston Rocket received an alley-oop pass from Smith and blew out the candle in mid-air and then dunked the ball with two hands. Despite his outside-the-box thinking, Green came up short, losing to Dwight Howard that year.
Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard’s Incredible Dunk-Off in 2009
Despite being a friendly competition, the Dunk Contest has spawned some very entertaining rivalries, with the most notable being between Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard. The two players combined to win five out of six competitions between 2006 and 2010. The rivalry reached its peak in 2009 when Howard and Robinson continued to one-up each other in every round. Howard’s famously ducked into a prop phone booth and donned a Superman cape before dunking on a 12-foot hoop but was unable to beat Robinson. Robinson donned a green “Kryptonite” Knicks Jersey during the contest and won thanks to a dunk where he dunked over Howard himself.
Blake Griffin Takes Flight Over a Parked Car
If Gerald Green helped usher in a new era of props in the Dunk Contest, Blake Griffin took things into the stratosphere with his routine in the 2011 event. Griffin had a choir of people sing “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly while he ended up catching an alley-oop pass and dunking over a Kia Optima. The other competitors must have been furious because it’s pretty much impossible to top someone dunking over a moderately-priced midsized sedan.
Jeremy Evans Wins in 2012 Thanks to an Incredible Dunk over Gordon Hayward
In this article, we’ve already talked about fantastic alley-oops and players that dunked two balls at the same time, and former Utah Jazz forward combined these two tactics for an unforgettable dunk en route to his title in 2012. Evans took off from a running start and jumped over his teammate, Gordon Hayward, who threw two balls into the air which Evans grabbed while sailing over Heyward and threw them down one after the other. This dunk has to be seen to be believed as it’s hard to do it justice with words alone!
Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine Duel in the Unforgettable 2016 Contest
The 2016 NBA Dunk Contest was considered to be an instant classic and one of the best contests of all time. This was largely thanks to two up-and-comers, Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine, who both put on spectacular performances. Aaron Gordon collaborated with the Orlando Magic mascot on a number of his dunks, which included an incredible slam where he grabbed the ball from the mascot while flying over his head, then put the ball around his legs and dunked acrobatically. Not to be outdone, LaVine threw down a breath-taking windmill dunk after taking off from the free-throw line. LaVine was crowned the champion in 2016 but both men put on all-time performances.
(Cropped image courtesy of Eric Wong via Flickr.)