Best Slam Dunks of All Time
Most basketball players started out the same way; a child fascinated by the sport and the impressive moves by their idols. A typical day for a young player might mean throwing a favourite basketball jersey and heading down to the nearest court with a group of friends. From there on the days continue on repeat, until witnessing, for the first time in real life, a slam-dunk. There is something about that move that is so impressive and promising; it’s like watching your own dream or ambition play out in front of you. It changes you forever.
Since the first documented dunk in an organised game in the 1936 Olympic games, the explosive move has become a crowd favourite. It even spawned its own spin-off event, The Slam Dunk Contest, first aired in 1976.
Since then, the move has been taken to new heights. While there are few things more exciting than a big dunk during a game, it is hard to beat the skill and athleticism on show in the Dunk Contests. As such, we’ve put together a list of our favourite slam-dunks across both the NBA and Slam Dunk Contests.
Best dunks in the NBA:
1. Dr J’s ‘Rock the Baby’ dunk on Michael Cooper in 1983.
Julius Erving, known as Dr J, is widely considered one of basketball’s best dunkers. There is perhaps none more famous than his “Rock the Baby” dunk in 1983. Coming in the final moments of a regular-season game, Erving, running at full speed, rocked the ball in one hand before launching into the air and slamming it down into the ring. Notice the old school jersey designs? This was a while ago! Michael Cooper, the Los Angeles Laker’s best defender at the time, later admitted that all he could do was “get out of the way” as Erving flew through the air and delivered the blow. There is no doubt that Dr J helped make the slam dunk become the cultural phenomenon it is today.
2. Vice Carter on Alonzo Mourning in 2005.
Vince Carter is no stranger to the slam-dunk. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he launched over 218cm French Defender Frederic Weis to deliver one of the most memorable moments of the contest.
In the 2005 NBA season, Carter’s athleticism and skills were on show again when he repeated the feat, dunking over one of the games best-shot blockers, Alonzo Mourning. In a dazzling display of strength, leap and ball handling, Carter gathered the ball near the 3-point line, flicked it behind himself and then launched up and over Mourning to deliver the dunk.
3. Shawn Kemp on Alton Lister in 1992
Perhaps known as much for the post-dunk celebration as the dunk itself, Shawn Kemp delivered this earth-shattering move against the Golden State Warriors in 1992.Powerful enough to earn it’s own nickname, “The Lister Blister”, Kemp launched himself at the ring, taking out Warriors defender Alton Lister in the process. Not one to shy away from things, Kemp proceeded to stand over Lister pointing, in a move that would most likely result in a taunting technical foul if done today. We also love the classic basketball uniforms on display here!
Best Dunks in Slam Dunk Contests:
1. Vince Carter’s 360° Windmill Dunk.
Having already shown what he can do in-game, Vince Carter was always going to put on a show. In 2000 contest, with his first dunk of the night, Carter launched into the air, spinning 360 degrees, before slamming down a windmill arm dunk. Not only did his move re-popularise the contest, it set the tone for the contest for years to come.
2. Aaron Gordon’s Under-The-Legs, Over-The-Mascot Dunk.
In the 2016 contest, Orlando Magic player Aaron Gordon pulled off the impossible with this famous dunk. Off a few steps, Gordon propelled himself over the Orlando Magic mascot, while somehow simultaneously passing the ball between his legs and then throwing it down into the ring. While the crowd went crazy for the move, it incredibly did not win the contest that year. Zach LaVine would be the eventual winner after a series of impressively athletic dunks.
3. Michael Jordan’s “Kiss The Rim” Dunk.
It wouldn’t be a basketball highlights countdown without mentioning the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan. While Jordan has had countless dunk highlights, his best came during the 1987 contest. Labelled the “Kiss the Rim” dunk, this was a master class in form, height and skill as he floated through the air to deliver one-handed dunk perfection.
This dunk might only be rivalled by his work in the 90’s Disney movie, Space Jam! Which, let’s be honest, also feature an iconic ‘Space Jam’ basketball jersey we’re all a bit jealous of!