The Slam Dunk contest during the NBA All-Star Weekend has been among the most anticipated contests for several decades. Of course, the top stars in the NBA would initially excite the crowd with their incredible dunks.
However, in recent years, the dunk contest has highlighted lesser-known players whose popularity increased following the event. Before highlighting five of the best performances in slam dunk history, here are a couple of honorable mentions.
Dee Brown – 1991
Brown’s performance is impressive since he was victorious over famous dunk master Shawn Kemp. Brown performed a blind dunk covering his eyes with his right forearm to win the championship.
Nate Robinson – 2006, 2009, 2010
Standing at 5’9″, Robinson was a regular competitor in the late 2000s, winning the contest three times. His 2006 championship was controversial since Robinson took dozens of times to have a successful dunk to win against Andre Iguodala. In 2009, Robinson won against Dwight Howard, which included a dunk over Howard. Fans voting by text message determined the winner, giving the win to the underdog, Robinson.
Five Of The Best Slam Dunk Performances
5.) Spud Webb – 1986 Slam Dunk Contest
At 5’7″, Webb shocked the audience and experts alike by defeating his teammate Dominque Wilkins in the finals. During the contest, Webb could not fully palm the ball, making his dunks much more difficult. Failing to have the ball fully grasped and having the height disadvantage makes his performance and win that much more impressive. Webb’s vertical leap was incredible, and considering how much higher Webb needed to leap to dunk successfully makes his performance an all-time great accomplishment. It’s a rare feat for a smaller player to have impactful dunks and overcome bigger, taller competitors.
Happy Birthday to an NBA Slam Dunk Contest legend, Spud Webb!! pic.twitter.com/MMu6AblVP4— Andscape (@andscape) July 13, 2020
4.) Dwight Howard & Gerald Green – 2008 Slam Dunk Contest
While Webb was at a disadvantage for lack of height, Dwight Howard was at a disadvantage for being too tall. As a result, Howard had to find unique ways to make more challenging ducks against an acrobatic competitor in Gerald Green. One of the most iconic moments in slam dunk contest history saw Green perform a dunk and blow out a candle on a cupcake that Green had placed on the back of the rim. Not only did Green blow out the candle, but the cupcake didn’t fall off. The concentration to perform both acts is an incredible and entertaining feat.
Howard performed a dunk while wearing a Superman cape and through the basketball through the basket. The visual of Howard floating in the air while throwing the ball through the basket was an impressive accomplishment and astonished the crowd. In the final round, Howard bounced the ball, tossed the ball against the backboard, and finished a one-handed dunk. Howard’s final dunk was taking the ball off a smaller basket attached to the backboard and finishing a windmill dunk. Howard’s victory could have saved the dunk contest, as the competition was on the chopping block at the time. However, ‘Superman’ saved the day, yet again.
3.) Zach Lavine & Aaron Gordon – 2016 Slam Dunk Contest
An incredible dunk contest between Gordon and Lavine that had some controversy attached to it. Gordon performed a one-handed 360 dunk while grabbing the ball from the Orlando Magic mascot spinning around on a hoverboard. That was his first dunk in the championship round. There’s almost no way to top that dunk. Gordon followed up with a one-handed around the back of his legs after taking the ball over the mascot’s head. Lavine had impressive dunks, as well. Lavine responded with a windmill dunk coming from near the free-throw line. The battle between Lavine and Gordon may be the last all-time classic contest in slam dunk history as of 2023. At one point, there were six consecutive perfect scores. Lavine won following a between-the-legs from near the free-throw line. Gordon’s score on his final dunk may have been too low at 47. If there was ever a time to have a potential tie, it’s the 2016 Slam Dunk contest.
2.) Michael Jordan & Dominique Wilkins – 1988 Slam Dunk Contest
If there was ever a doubt about who guys like Lavine and Gordon were inspired by, then look no further than the 1988 showdown between Jordan and Wilkins. Both men provided grace in the air. Wilkins had more of a power finish to his dunks, while Jordan had a seemingly flawless flow. Jordan’s famous free-throw line dunk allows for a repeat as champion. Two of the best in their prime trading dunks is quite the sight to see and still holds up to today’s standards.
1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.— Randy Cruz (@randyjcruz) February 6, 2021
Michael Jordan vs Dominique Wilkins.
33 years ago today. 🔥🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/HontFuXiIP
1.) Vince Carter – 2000 Slam Dunk Contest
After two years of the slam dunk contest not taking place, the competition returned in 2000 and was revitalized by one man, Vince Carter. Carter’s performance may be the most important for the continued success of the dunk contest. The NBA didn’t have an All-Star Weekend the year prior because of the lockout between players and owners. Carter’s unbelievable athleticism sparked the NBA and accelerated Carter’s rise to superstardom as the Toronto Raptors rising star.
The 2023 Slam Dunk Competition takes place on TNT on February 18th, 2023, as part of the All-Star Weekend festivities starting at 8 pm ET.
The 2000 Slam Dunk Contest created the legend of Vince Carter. (@TheUndefeated) pic.twitter.com/oE2WRFOu2Z— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 5, 2019