LITTLE BIG MAN
15) During last year’s dunk contest, 5-8 champion Nate Robinson used Spud Webb as a prop to leap over. Treasure the memories Nate, it’s about as close as you’ll ever get in dethroning Webb as the best little-big man dunker of all time.
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET?
14) Darryl Dawkins often boasted of being from another planet (“Lovetron”) during his NBA career. And if you ever witnessed the power of the man credited with patenting the “gorilla dunk” you might understand why. During the 1979 season, Dawkins smashed two backboards on dunk shots within a month.
T-MAC CAN ATTACK
13) Perhaps it’s in the genes when it comes to Tracy McGrady. He’s a distant cousin of fellow dunking legend Vince Carter. Aided by a fluid, God-given 6-8 frame, McGrady combines polish and imagination in a mixture that has easily transform him into one of basketball’s immortals.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
MAYOR OF ‘LOB CITY’
12) Blake Griffin The unquestioned king of in-game poster dunks, Blake Griffin has been on constant rotation on SportsCenter’s ‘Top 10’ since he arrived in the league in 2009. A stress fracture in his knee delayed his NBA debut with the Clipper one year, but it was well worth the wait. Griffin’s penchant for disrespectful power jams assures his spot at #12 is only temporary.
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLYDE THE GLIDE
11) Since his days as the Phi Slamma Jamma alpha dog at the University of Houston, Clyde Drexler prided himself on being able to fly with the best of them. And his soaring, swooping jaunts to the basket assured that he never, ever disappointed himself.
(AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
SUPERMAN THE SEQUEL
10) It’s rare when a man the size of Dwight Howard actually has the hops to complement their height. But Howard’s ‘Superman’ rendition in the 2009-dunk contest proved him more than worthy.
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
J-RICH CASHES IN
9) As the only back-to-back slam dunk winner besides Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson has paid the cost to be the boss—not to mention rate on anyone and everyone’s all-time best dunkers list.
(AP Photo/Chris Gardner)
8) For those of you who don’t know, David ‘Skywalker’ Thompson once leaped so high to block a Bill Walton shot in college, he squarely banged his head near the top of the backboard. Now imagine him taking off for a simple dunk. It was picturesque enough to move MJ to have Thompson, his boyhood idol, introduce him during his recent Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
(AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
KOBE’ S GRILL ROUTINE
7) Sure, Kobe Bryant has his requisite dunk contest banner in tow, but what truly separates him from the rest is his seemingly effortless ability to cram the balls on the heads of almost every NBA opponent who dares to stand in his way.
(AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
6) Don’t get it twisted, before he gained too much weight and turned in uninspired play, Shawn Kemp head-and-shoulders rated as the most agile and athletic big man of his era. Kemp takeoff turned the notion that big men can’t jump on its head.
(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
THE RISE OF KING JAMES
5) Outside of MJ, LeBron James may be the best in-game dunker in NBA history. But will he ever rise any higher on anyone’s list without giving the people what they now crave in the form of a rites of passage NBA dunk contest appearance?
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
DOC’S WHAT’S UP
4) The name of Julius Erving is arguably more synonymous with the slam dunk than any other in the game’s history. If only we’d gotten to witness all Doc’s house calls sooner on the NBA stage, he would rate even higher on our list.
3) Has there ever been a quicker, more explosive leaper than ‘The Human Highlight Film” humbly known as Dominique Wilkins?” And given all Nique’s razzle-dazzle exploits, has there ever been a more aptly nicknamed baller? The two-time dunk champ shocked and amazed us as few others have over the course of his Hall of Fame career, easily marking his territory at the head of most all G.O.A.T dunking lists.
2) Vince Carter’s greatest distinction is he arguably is responsible for both the most riveting jam (think Fredrick Weis) and the most amazing series of them (think 2000 Dunk Contest). During that aforementioned exhibition, VC was truly in a zone, one where windmills, 360’s and free-throw line liftoffs all rated as par for the course. Thing is, that ‘zone’ area is the very place Vince has resided his whole career when it comes to slamming.
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AIR ALWAYS RISING
1) No one has ever combined grace, athleticism and explosiveness quite the way Michael Jordan did, which is why he rises to the top of the TheGrio’s all-time dunkers pecking order. When it comes to dunk contests, you can argue that others have been at or near his level, but as it relates to live, in-game-action no one comes close to supplanting “Air Jordan”.
(AP Photo/John Swart)
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NBA All-Star Weekend is upon us again, and memories light the corners of my mind. Memories not only of slam dunk contests and spectacularly riveting plays gone by, but simply thoughts of the best to ever perfect the art of basketball. Feel free to paint your own portrait, but here at theGrio we’ve selected our squad of history’s best dunkers. Now, the ball’s in your court.
Glenn Minnis contributed text to this slideshow.