We’re just two days away from the 2012 Sprite Dunk Contest. Another year, another set of participants. The biggest problem with this year’s crop of participants: nobody knows who they are.
It wasn’t a secret that the competition was losing its steam. But the Dwight Howards and the Blake Griffins gave the contest some life. This year, it’s Derek Williams, Chad Budinger, Paul George and Jeremy Evans vying for the title. The lack of stardom makes us reminisce about the top 10 moments in dunk contest history.
10) Fred Jones – 2004
Not too many knew who Fred Jones was before the 2004 Dunk Contest, and not too many people know him today. But the 2004 champion sealed the contest with this ridiculous dunk. The dunks that require a self-pass always have a degree of difficulty added to them. But to reach back like Jones did and still maintain total control of the ball earns him a spot on this list.
9) Kobe Bryant – 1997
Kobe earned this spot because he threw down a dunk in the 1997 contest that was later perfected by Vinsanity. Nevertheless, this was Kobe’s “welcome to the NBA” moment. Every great dunker has won the dunk contest (cough, LeBron, cough), so this was Kobe’s moment. You have to love young Kobe’s swagger in this video.
8) J.R. Smith – 2005
Smith earned the No. 8 spot simply for executing a dunk that was both original and insanely difficult. The amount of stress a behind-the-back dunk puts on your body is incredible, but Smith is athletic enough to power though and finish strong. Smith’s dunk may come across as simple, but the behind-the-back is far from it.
7) Andre Iguodala – 2006
The creativity behind this throw-down is really why it makes the list. The lob from Allen Iverson has to be perfect, and it was. Starting out of bounds? It may be common these days, but a few years ago it was not. The amount of work that went into this dunk must have taken up a lot of “practice” time.
6) Blake Griffin – 2011
I have to be honest – if this piece was titled “Best Dunks in Dunk Contest History,” Blake’s leap over the car might not have made this list. But this list is about the moments, and Griffin’s leap over the car will end up being one of the more iconic moments because of all the hype surrounding the Blake Show. He won the dunk contest – perhaps unfairly over my boy, JaVale McGree – so this moment belongs on this list.
5) JaVale McGee – 2011
I know it took him several attempts to complete it, but JaVale McGee dunked three basketballs at once. That alone reserves him a spot on our list. There are probably a handful of people in the world that could not even come close to finishing this dunk. You have to be athletic enough to jump, with enough hang time, and you have to have massive hands to grip the basketball. McGee has much work to do in game situations, but this dunk comes close to perfect.
4) Jason Richardson – 2002
J-Rich’s dunk capped off the first of his consecutive Dunk Contest wins in 2002 and 2003. The G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, Nate Robinson and Richardson are the only back-to-back champions in competition history. But his dunk in 2002 shouldn’t be a feat that human beings can accomplish. As I said, the lob has to be perfect – which it was. On top of that, the torque put on Richardson’s body as he is going up is unfathomable, yet he finishes. Richardson will undoubtedly go down as one of the best dunkers of all time.
3) Vince Carter – 2000
Before there was Linsanity, there was Vinsanity. At the dunk contest, Carter took Kobe’s idea of a between the legs dunk and elevated it – literally. Carter not only added a degree of difficulty with the bounce, he almost jumped out of the gym. To go through all that motion in such a confined space is nothing short of athletic genius. Carter, much like J-Rich, will go down with the best of the best.
2) Jason Richardson – 2003
Capping off back-to-back Dunk Contest titles is one thing, but doing it with this dunk brings it to a whole new level. Richardson was among dunk contest elite with his 2002 performance, but his 2003 repeat performance raised the bar for dunk contests to come. The between-the-legs seems to be a theme in this list, and Richardson’s version is the best ever. Call me crazy, but this may be the best dunk I’ve ever seen.
1) Michael Jordan – 1988
In 12 quick seconds, Michael Jordan went from M.J. to “His Airness” in what is perhaps the most iconic moment in NBA history. This dunk not only won him that year’s contest, it launched a brand. The Jordan logo is one of the most recognized symbols in the world, and it spawned out of this jam. It may not be the highest degree of difficulty, (although it is quite hard), but it certainly is the highest degree of famous. M.J., you can land now.