by Rob Joyce
It’s a fair argument that the NBA has the best All-Star weekend. The players seem to genuinely want to be there, and the league has done a nice job of re-energizing All-Star Saturday after it went through some lean years a decade ago (remember when Fred Jones won the dunk contest in 2004?). That was never more clear than on Saturday, when Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show in the dunk contest, which many are calling the best of all-time. The dunks were creative (Hoverboards! Mascots!) and seemingly inhuman, as LaVine narrowly won his second straight title.
The show put on by the pair includes a couple of slams that are among the ten greatest in dunk contest history:
10) Gerald Green, 2008:
What a use of props. It’s one thing to put on a cape – you’d make the dunk with or without it. But Green’s use of a cupcake on the rim had a laundry list of things that could go wrong. Atop the list is missing and obliterating the cupcake, sending chunks everywhere. But Green executed the dunk to perfection, blowing out the lit candle with finesse to accompany a powerful finish.
9) Spud Webb, 1986:
He was the first to prove that little guys could rock the rim, too. In 1986 he had to go WAY up to put home this reverse-slam. Without the 5-foot-7 Webb, perhaps there aren’t guys like Jason Richardson and Nate Robinson in future dunk contests.
8) Dwight Howard, 2008:
His overall performance in 2009 may have been better (he dunked on an 11-foot hoop, went from behind the backboard on another, and threw one off the side of the backboard to finish a third dunk), but the dunk people remember the most was from the year before. His first time pulling out the Superman cape mid-contest, he technically didn’t even dunk it when he took off from the free throw line. It doesn’t matter, because it was still awesome.
7) Jason Richardson, 2003:
One of the great dunk contest performers of all-time, Richardson clinched his second straight title with an incredibly difficult between the legs reverse flush. However, as we get to later, it’s not even his best dunk ever.
6) Jason Richardson, 2004:
Richardson’s bid for a three-peat was ultimately thwarted by the aforementioned Jones, but his through-the-legs dunk from his own toss off the backboard is the stuff of legend. The complexity and timing involved to make this work is wildly difficult.
5) Zach LaVine, 2016:
You can pick most of LaVine’s dunks from Saturday, but two stand out: his first dunk required an absurd amount of technique to be able to switch hands behind-the-back while in midair and finish with a reverse dunk. Then the second tiebreaker that ultimately lifted him to another title was a replication of Jordan’s famous free-throw line slam, but with an added, crazy-athletic twist.
4) Andre Iguodala, 2006:
He didn’t win the dunk contest in ’06 (Nate Robinson did), but Iguodala certainly stole the show. His behind-the-back slam is worthy of this list, but even more impressive than that is his reverse two-handed flush from behind the backboard on a toss from then-teammate Allen Iverson.
3) Aaron Gordon, 2016:
A few points of emphasis here. One: The Magic mascot (Stuff the Magic Dragon) stands at about 6-foot-10, and with the ball held directly over its head it’s a touch over seven feet height. Gordon not only grabs the ball in midair, but fully clears the mascot’s head without Stuff ducking down. In other words: Gordon’s legs were at one point over seven feet off the ground. His eyes were looking above the rim!
2) Michael Jordan, 1988:
Jordan’s free-throw line dunk isn’t even the first such dunk of its kind (that belongs to Julius Erving in the 1976 ABA Dunk Contest). Regardless, it is perhaps the most iconic in the dunk contest’s history, with its combination of grace, athleticism, plus the Jordan tongue. In terms of originality and difficulty there are plenty of dunks that probably top this, but because of the lore surrounding the dunk (and let’s be honest – His Airness has the Midas touch) it makes the top two.
1) Vince Carter, 2000:
Carter is still in the league at 39, as a role player for the Grizzlies. But in 2000 he was Vinsanity, and was the clear-cut best dunker in the world. That was made abundantly clear to start things off in the dunk contest, with his 36-degree reverse windmill slam. Later on his “elbow dunk” helped clinch his contest crown. His pair of slams secures his place firmly atop the list.