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2/18/2008 12:49:00 PM

Top Five NBA Dunk Contest Performances

Vince Carter
Vince Carter's display at the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest was one for the ages.
Jed Jacobsohn
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.
posted by SI.com | View comments |

Comments:

Posted: February 18, 2008 2:31 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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!
Posted: February 18, 2008 3:50 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
from da boy vince

are you kidding me
not even a mention of Dr.J
he created the dunk contest and was one of the best dunkers of all time

what are you thinking
Posted: February 18, 2008 4:32 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
nique was the reason i watched the dunk contest. he was robbed in every one he was in.

shawn kemp also had a couple memorable showing despite never winning.
Posted: February 18, 2008 5:25 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Dwight Howard's "superman" dunk wasn't that good. What did folks see ?

He left inside the tape mark and threw the ball at the rim. That's not a real dunk.

Gerald Green's blow out the candle was better.
Posted: February 18, 2008 7:32 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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.
Posted: February 18, 2008 7:58 PM   by Anonymous JFJ
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!!
Posted: February 19, 2008 2:04 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
JT says

J Rich put on some pretty good show's back to back...that reverse between the legs was pretty nasty.

JR Rider gets the nod too..or Kobe when he was a kid and had crazy ups

for the best of all time without question was the bird man!!
Posted: February 19, 2008 4:46 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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.
Posted: February 19, 2008 7:42 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I like your list, but i would switch 1 and 2. What Vince did was unreal and actually brought me back to watching the dunk contest again.
Posted: February 19, 2008 7:49 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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.
Posted: February 19, 2008 8:15 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I'm with da boy...HELLO! no mention of Dr J? He's the automatic #1. What are you on crack?
Big Al
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
Posted: February 19, 2008 10:53 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Easy...

Spud Webb, hands down.
Posted: February 19, 2008 11:42 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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.
Posted: February 19, 2008 12:12 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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.
Posted: February 19, 2008 12:14 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
The year Dr. J did his "take-off-on-the-runway" dunk, off-camera during a TV break, he grabbed a tennis ball sitting ON TOP of the backboard and dunked it on the way down.
Posted: February 19, 2008 1:26 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I was in Oakland for Vince's show,watching the players seated courtside was priceless. MJ vs Nique was a great duel,but Wilkins had no shot in Chicago. This year's was very entertaining.
Posted: February 19, 2008 1:31 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
If not for the police blotter,JR Rider would have been known as a good dunker. Harold Miner(the first next MJ)had a few good contests. I certainly can't remember anything he did during a game
Posted: February 19, 2008 2:24 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
My favourite performance was the year Dr. J had his sons on the sideline, describing to him the dunks he should do. The other guys in the contest are like 21 and Doc has his kids there!
Posted: February 19, 2008 3:58 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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).
Posted: February 19, 2008 4:00 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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).
Posted: February 19, 2008 4:01 PM   by Anonymous JFJ
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!
Posted: February 19, 2008 5:02 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Andre Iguadala had a pretty good showing a few years ago. D. Howard basically recreated one of his dunks; the off the back of the backboard dunk.
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.
Posted: February 20, 2008 7:59 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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.
Posted: February 20, 2008 11:01 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
This page has all 22 dunk contests ranked by users. They have Vince at #1...and Nate Robinson at #22.
Posted: February 20, 2008 11:25 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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.
Posted: February 20, 2008 12:42 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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!!!
Posted: February 21, 2008 11:18 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Spud all the way. Pull it up on YouTube. It is awesome!!!!!
Starks.

You know the play.

Nothing better.
Posted: February 24, 2008 11:11 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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.
Posted: February 25, 2008 9:44 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
The Starks play didn't happen during a dunk contest, you moron.
Posted: February 27, 2008 4:28 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
VC is the best dunker of all time.
Posted: February 27, 2008 8:25 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
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
Posted: March 6, 2008 1:09 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
you guys should youtube 720 dunk, the air up there
Posted: July 21, 2008 1:07 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Bah..

1. MJ/Nique
2. VC
3. JRich
4. Spud
5. Dr. J
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