Top 10 greatest dunkers in NBA history
There is nothing more satisfying for an NBA player than dunking over a rival. Players take unique pleasure in rising over the rim and slamming the ball home, leaving oppositions helpless.
Dunking is not an easy skill though. It requires tremendous athleticism, speed and agility, and if not timed correctly, it can go horribly wrong. However, more often than not, when a player sets his mind on performing a highlight-reel dunk, it ends up being a success.
Over the years, the NBA has witnessed some tremendous dunks performed by some of the best players in the league’s history.
From the likes of Michael Jordan and Vince Carter to LeBron James and even Blake Griffin, fans have been treated to some supremely entertaining slams over the years.
On that note, here we take a look at the 10 best dunkers of all time in the NBA:
#10. LeBron James
LeBron James is known for many things in his NBA career till date, with his dunking abilities probably lowest on that list.
LeBron was a ferocious dunker in his early days and although that’s taken a back seat in recent years, he is still not averse to the occasional slam.
LeBron has the unique ability to be the one on the receiving end of an alley-oop and the one providing the pass, which is evidence of his versatility.
What makes his presence on this list all the more impressive is the fact that all of his special dunks have come during competition.
LeBron has been vocal about his desire to never compete in a Slam Dunk competition and considering the fact that he’s 34, he’s unlikely to change his mind anytime soon.
However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he has the ability to posterize any player at any time. The annual All-Star game provides plenty of evidence of LeBron’s dunking capabilities.
#9. Nate Robinson
Nate Robinson was drafted with the 21st overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. Robinson went on to win the Slam Dunk Contest in his rookie year, beating Andre Iguodala in the final.
One of his dunks included jumping over Spud Webb, who also features on this list, and slamming the ball home, earning a perfect score for his efforts.
Robinson went on to win the dunk competition two more times, in 2009 and 2010, to become the first player in NBA history to win three dunk competitions.
However, despite his obvious prowess, off-the-court issues meant he never truly fulfilled his potential.
#8. Blake Griffin
One of the few modern-day NBA stars who relishes a good ol’ dunk, Blake Griffin was one of the most dynamic players of his generation when he burst onto the scene.
He particularly relished dunking over opponents and would often stare them down following a particularly violent slam.
Griffin has lost some of his athleticism the past few years due to debilitating knee injuries, but he is still capable of producing some highlight-reel slams.
His most notable dunk came in 2011 in the Dunk Competition when he leaped over a Kia to slam the ball home. His efforts helped him win the Dunk Competition that year and he also went on to be named Rookie of the Year at the end of the season.
Griffin formed a great partnership with Chris Paul following the latter’s arrival at the Clippers and the franchise earned the nickname Lob City for the repeated alley-oops and dunks provided by Paul for Griffin to get on the end of.
If he can continue to stay healthy, Griffin will surely be a top-five dunker at the time of his retirement.
#7. Spud Webb
Spud Webb was just 5 ft 7 in, which makes his dunking prowess all the more impressive. While the leading dunkers in NBA history have always been centers and tall power forwards, Webb ensured there was always room for the little guy as well.
Webb was a fourth-round pick, selected by the Detroit Pistons in 1985 and entered the NBA as one of the shortest players in history.
However, he soon made headlines for his highlight-reel dunks and even went on to win the Dunk Contest in 1986, beating off competition from his teammate Dominique Wilkins.
Webb put on an absolute masterclass in the Dunk Contest, performing an elevator two-handed double-pump dunk, an off-the-backboard one-handed jam, a 360-degree helicopter one-handed dunk, and several others electric slams, finishing with two perfect 50-point scores.
Till date, he remains the shortest player to ever win the Dunk Contest.
#6. Larry Nance
Although modern NBA fans will be familiar with Larry Nance Jr’s exploits for the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers, older fans will fondly remember Larry Nance Sr’s rim-shattering dunks on a nightly basis.
Nance was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1981 and went on to have a relatively successful career, making the All-Star team thrice.
Nance ended his career with averages of 17.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game and even had his No. 22 jersey retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Nance is best known for being the inaugural winner of the Slam Dunk Competition, way back in 1984. Nance competed with the likes of Julius Erving in the competition and managed to come out on top, earning the nickname The High-Ayatolla of Slamola in the process.
#5. Shawn Kemp
Shawn Kemp was one of the most athletic players of his era.
Breaking the tradition at the time, Kemp declared for the NBA draft without having played a single minute of college basketball.
However, that did not hinder his career in the slightest as he used his athleticism, raw speed and urge to entertain to great effect, delivering electric performances game in game out.
Kemp formed a great partnership with Gary Payton and enjoyed getting on the end of Payton’s alley-oops for close to a decade.
He was also one of the first players to take pleasure in dunking over opponents, something that’s become commonplace in the modern NBA.
The Reign Man never won a Dunk Contest in his storied career, but he is best remembered for dunking over Leonardo Di Caprio during a celebrity game back in 1994.
#4. Dominique Wilkins
Wilkins was known as the Human Highlight Reel for a reason. Specializing in the windmill dunk, Wilkins was lethal in transition as he had a telepathic understanding with point guard Doc Rivers at the time.
Wilkins competed in as many as five Slam Dunk competitions, in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1990, and ended up winning twice.
His battles with the likes of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird were staples of the late-80s and although Wilkins would often come up short, hos acrobatic slams ensured he did not leave fans disappointed.
An NBA Hall of Famer and nine-time All Star, Wilkins remains one of the most dominant and entertaining players to have ever featured in the league, despite his inability to win a Championship with any of his sides.
#3. Julius Erving
Julius Erving arguably revolutionized the NBA with his arrival in the league back in 1976. An electric performer, Erving is best remembered for his scintillating and creative slam dunks.
Erving made the dunk a thing of beauty and also ensured it gained traction over the years. Dr J is the proud owner of arguably the greatest dunk in NBA history which he performed in 1983.
Winning a footrace against Michael Cooper, Erving picked up a loose ball and raced away to the other end of the court before leaping like a salmon and windmilling the basketball into the hoop whilst staring down Cooper all the while.
Erving is credited with making the dunk famous and despite his numerous career accomplishments, will forever be remembered for a few highlight-reel slams.
#2. Michael Jordan
Jordan won two Dunk competitions during his time with the Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan is inarguably the greatest player of all time. With six championships and five MVP awards to his name, Jordan is also among the most successful players in NBA history, shaping the way the game has developed over the years.
However, Jordan has to settle for the #2 spot on this list, which is no mean feat. When Jordan first entered the league, he did not possess a great jump shot and relied on his otherworldly athleticism to torment defenses and earn victories for his side.
Jordan won two Dunk competitions during his time with the Chicago Bulls, in 1987 and 1988. On both occasions, Dominique Wilkins was at the receiving end of Jordan’s infamous staredown.
Jordan had the ability to race across the floor, take off from the free-throw line, elevate himself over the hoop and slam the ball down into the net with venomous power.
#1. Vince Carter
Vince Carter entered the league way back in 1998 and continues to be a force in the NBA. Carter was drafted by the Toronto Raptors with the fifth overall pick of the 1998 draft and went on to have a stellar career, representing multiple franchises over the years.
Carter is best known for his highlight-reel dunks which he often performed during big games, posterizing opponents who attempted to stop him in flight. He even picked up several nicknames along the way courtesy his otherworldly dunking prowess, including Air Canada and Vinsanity.
Carter’s best couple of dunks did not come in the NBA though. One of his most famous dunks, nicknamed Honey Dip, was performed during the Slam Dunk Competition in 2000, which Carter went on to win, beating off competition from the likes of Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis.
The Honey Dip consisted of Carter leaping over the height of the rim, slamming the ball into the hoop and extending his elbow into the net. That dunk received a stunning response from the crowd and remains one of the best dunks of all time.
Carter was not content with just performing in Dunk competitions though. He once famously dunked over 7-foot-2 French center Frederic Weis during the 2000 Summer Olympics which remains one of the highlights of his storied career.
Despite being forty two years of age right now, Carter continues to give his all on the NBA court and still performs terrific dunks over younger and much more athletic players.
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