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2/18/2008 12:49:00 PM
Top Five NBA Dunk Contest Performances
Vince Carter's display at the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest was one for the ages.
by Lang Whitaker, SI.com
NEW ORLEANS -- Slam dunking a basketball has gone from being a novelty to being an art form. Formerly outlawed from the game (well, the college game), now the dunk is de riguer, and the NBA's annual Slam Dunk Contest has become the Louvre of the dunk, where the most artistic and creative examples are displayed. Here are my top five NBA Dunk Contest performances of all-time...
1. Michael Jordan/Dominique Wilkins: They went back and forth in the 1988 Dunk Contest in Chicago, each one-upping the other, over and over. Jordan ended up winning, but Dominique was the better dunker that night.
2. Vince Carter: After two years without a Dunk Contest, Vince Carter brought it back with a bang in Y2K, doing all sorts of spinning, through-the-legs dunks.
3. Dwight Howard: This year in N'awlins, Dwight managed to get people to overlook the fact that he's a seven-footer by using creativity and moxie, and, above all else, having fun and making the crowd have fun. That Superman dunk didn't hurt, either.
4. Dee Brown: He wasn't the shortest or the tallest contestant, but he was memorably creative back in Charlotte in 1991, pumping up his Reebok Pumps hightops before each dunk.
5. Spud Webb: Back in 1986 in Dallas, hometown kid Anthony "Spud" Webb shocked the world. Listed at 5-7, most people weren't sure Webb could even dunk, but he ended up stealing the show.
What was your favorite dunk contest performance? Let us know below.
Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com.
I have no beef with your list, but as a lifelong Knicks fan Kenny Walker's performance back in '89 is my all time favorite performance. He was a relative nobody whose father died just two days before the contest and he nearly tore the rim down with those 360s and windmills he did!
Nice list you got going on, but I can't understand where you leave out love for my man, J-Rich? His reverse between the legs and his off glass between the legs have to be 2 of the sickest dunks this contest has EVER seen.
To the poster who said "'Nique was robbed in every one he was in" does that include 1985 (when 'Nique outdunked His Airness) and 1990, which are the two years he won and 1986 when he received a BYE into the second round?
The funniest performance had to be Chris "The Birdman" Andersen in 2005 when he needed nine attempts before finally converting his first dunk, then six tries on his second.
What about J-Rich's back to back dunk titles....he did some of the sickest dunks ever and did not get any recognition cuz hes from the west coast and he was the only decent dunker than and everyone had jus seen vince the years before and didnt feel nothingw as worhty...but jus watch jrich;s dunks and youll see why hes had the best dunks in the the dunk contest ever!!
Among the best ever dunk contest performers, no doubt were Air Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, "the human highlight", Vince Carter, "Half-man, half-amazin'", Spud Webb who could jump out the gym, but could not palm the ball, Larry Nance,old school dunker from the Phoenix Suns. But for me, there is no doubt who ruled the rafters, the one and only DR. J!!! who not only dominated back in da days ABA slam dunk contests with his own creations, like the "cradle rock" and "the helicopter" plus two ball dunks and the famous and imitated "take off from the runway dunk". Erving did it better and badder and every dunker from past to the present got their inspiration from him.
there's not doubt that spud has to be my favorite (quite possbily because I myself am "vertically challenged"). second to that, i will never forget dee brown's "pump up the reeboks / no look" dunk to win it. he crushed the competition that year.
Dr J without a doubt was the best and the original. At the time no one could out do him. He had grace, speed and agility. His long run and dunk from the foul line will never be equaled or forgotten. Though some tried to recreate it, like ...MJ
I hate it when sentimentality plays a strong role in these lists. I like Nique, but go back to those dunk contests, all the man did were windmills and rim rattles. The reason why old people like Lang (and the media) tend to hype those dunks was because that was etched in their memories as kids as the greatest thing ever.
but nowdays, 'the dunks for the ages' between MJ and Nique wouldn't even rate in a regular game, much less a dunk contest. but the media that grew up with those guys cherish those memories and don't wanna ever let it go and hence, we are constantly inundated with MJ was amazing, Nique was this, Webb was that.. come on. get real.
Go look at what VC did. there's just nothing that can compare. And I agree J-Rich was under appreciated.
I've got to agree with a few of the posters above me. At the time, Dominique and Jordan were doing dunks that were never really done before. But neither of them would make it out of the first round in any competition today with those same dunks, not even a college one! The athletic ability was around during the 80s but the innovation and creativity was seriously lacking back in the day.
I'll also agree about Dwight Howard. Had he not been wearing that Superman outfit, that dunk probably would have gotten a 45 or less. It was the gimmick that sold the judges and crowd, not the dunk itself. The dunk he did when he bounced the ball off the other side of the backboard was 10 times more impressive.
And I'll also give it up to Kenny "Sky" Walker. He came out of nowhere that year and obliterated Clyde Drexler in the final round with some of those dunks.
Trust me, if I wasn't for the Nique vs. Jordan contests, the slam dunk contest might have been on permanent hiatus. To the one who posted about MJ and Nique's dunks now aren't even good enough for college slam dunks, consider this: if it weren't for those two raising the bar for slam dunk contests, then there would be no awesome Carter or J-Rich dunks. It provided an atmosphere where people had to be more creative (which is why the Dunk contest went a way for a few years). The past gets underappreciated because everyone has copied it so much, it has become mainstream (and I admit Jordan vs. Nique was really derivatives of Dr. J's dunks, but done with a bit more artistry).
Trust me, if I wasn't for the Nique vs. Jordan contests, the slam dunk contest might have been on permanent hiatus. To the one who posted about MJ and Nique's dunks now aren't even good enough for college slam dunks, consider this: if it weren't for those two raising the bar for slam dunk contests, then there would be no awesome Carter or J-Rich dunks because they had to up the ante already set (which no one could for a while which is why the dunk contest took a two year break). The past gets underappreciated because everyone has copied it so much, it has become mainstream (and I admit Jordan vs. Nique was really derivatives of Dr. J's dunks, but done with a bit more artistry).
To the poster who said "The athletic ability was around during the 80s but the innovation and creativity was seriously lacking back in the day.", I have two questions.
1. How is it that if the innovation and creativity were seriously lacking back in the day that the dunks from the mid and late '80's are still being imitated 20 (or more) years later?
2. Are you under the age of 20? If so, that would explain your post because you are too young to remember The Doctor, The Human Highlight Film, Spud, and His Airness in their primes and the first time you saw some of those "creative and innovative" dunks was when Jason Richardson or Vince Carter did them and the only games from the '80's you've probably ever seen are the ones they show on NBATV and ESPN Classic.
The same poster also said "At the time, Dominique and Jordan were doing dunks that were never really done before. But neither of them would make it out of the first round in any competition today with those same dunks, not even a college one!", the reason for this is because they've been imitated so often that fans and judges are tired of seeing them!
I was in attendance when Dr. J beat out my hero David Thompson in the original slam dunk contest at halftime of the last ABA All-Star game. The crowd was rooting hard for DT to beat Dr. J, but when Dr. J flew from the foul line and threw it down, we all knew DT was finished. There may be more artistic and even more athletic dunks, but there will never be another original winning slam dunk!
PS - I was also in attendance of Game #5 of the final ABA Championship series when Dr. J beat DT and the Nuggets in double OT to steal home court and set up their championship win in game #6. Has to be one of the best playoff performances ever...too bad it happened in the ABA and almost nobody knows how good Dr. J was on that day. To this day still the best basketball game I ever saw.
I'm the one who made the comment about Jordan and Nique not making it out of the first round of a college slam dunk contest today. After reading the responses I got, I should definitely have given those 2 in addition to guys like Drexler, Jerome Kersey, Ron Harper, and Orlando Woolridge more props for raising the bar so high during the 80s. You guys are absolutely right. The only reason why players need to be so creative these days is because of what those guys were doing 20 years ago (by the way, I was 16 back in '88 and remember watching that dunk contest like it was yesterday). Ever since that '88 dunk contest, it got harder and harder to get a perfect 50 with each passing contest. To this day, nobody can throw down a windmill like Nique could, jump from the foul like like Jordan could, or get nose high to the rim the way David Thompson could. So rest assured that I know my dunk contest history and know who paved the road for these young guns we see in 2008. I guess that all of the lobs, gimmicks, and between the legs stuff we see today has just spoiled me. Peace out.
wow...no jrich..people forget how he had some of the craziest dunks at the time...i still havent seen no one tried the off the backboard between the leg dunk yet and if someone does..i bet that player will be on this list for doing it without giving jrich any credit...go back and watch his dunks and reconsider your list of best dunk contest performances.
You must be in your 20's because you didn't mention The Doctor. Dr.J was the first to dunk from the free throw line and all his dunks look effortless because he was so graceful. Ask Bill Walton what it feels like to get dunked on by The Docter and ask Michael Cooper the same question, they made a commercial with that dunk!!!
To anyone who thinks what Carter did isn't anything other than the best of all time I want you to try and replicate his first dunk (inward-spinning 360 windmill) without a rim or a ball, just jump. Even getting your body to do that is near impossible let alone jamming a ball through a 10-foot rim.
I thought a couple of years ago when josh smith won it he did awesome. He was really creative and his arms and legs are so long that every one of his dunks looked incredible. That was probably the best dunk contest performance since carter won in 2000