Top 5 NBA Dunk Contest Moments
The All-Star weekend is headlined by the Slam Dunk Contest. For many years the event has overshadowed the game itself, which many think lacks the competition to even warrant viewing. Hopefully this year’s alterations will inject some life into the game. The 2018 Dunk Contest promises plenty of intrigue, the lineup of participants is one of the strongest of the past few years, though with a notable omission (Donovan Mitchell). This year’s lineup includes: Aaron Gordon (who somehow still hasn’t won the event), Mavericks’ rookie Dennis Smith Jr., Pacers’ star Victor Oladipo and Lakers’ forward Larry Nance Jr. Before looking ahead to this year’s contest let’s look back at some of the best moments of the Dunk Contest from years past.
1976 Julius Erving
Philadelphia 76ers legend and former ABA MVP, Julius Erving was a revolutionary figure when it came to dunking. His creativity, athleticism and poise at a time where the sport was still finding it’s feet, helped bring in new fans with his otherworldly skillset. The 1976 ABA Dunk Contest solidified his status as not only one of the game’s best dunkers of the era, but in the history of the sport. His dunking ability helped normalize the practice across the league and made the ever-important skill an integral part of the game to this day.
1988: Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins
The year was 1988, MJ mania had yet to fully grip the league and a man known as the ‘Human Highlight Reel’ was making his way to Chicago to fight for the glory of being crowned the sport’s best dunker. Both players recorded plenty of perfect scores from the judges despite the difference in their style. Wilkins had power and poise like no other, and Jordan had the ‘wow’ factor. Somehow a double-clutch dunk only earned MJ a 47, much to the dismay of the hometown crowd, though he ultimately took home winning honors. Even more shocking is the fact that a 2-handed power windmill didn’t earn Wilkins more than a 45. Plenty have protested to this day that Dominique was robbed of winning that year, including the man himself. This was taken from an interview with the Sporting News, last year:
“I don’t care what anybody says — I believe I won. Everywhere I go people tell me I was robbed. In a way, I’m tired of talking about because there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t hear about it. Look, I’ll say it like this. MJ was the man back then. It was his city, they weren’t going to let him lose.”
2000: Vince Carter
Vince Carter: Half-Man, Half-Amazing. There were so many great moments from this contest, Shaquille O’Neal’s reaction after Carter’s first dunk while holding a camcorder still lives on to this day as one of the best ever. The fact that he is still playing eighteen years later is beyond belief. The dunks themselves are just too beautiful to put into words, just watch the video yourself to relive the glory and beauty of Vince Carter.
2009: Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard
These two may not be very close in stature but boy do they know how to dunk, and they’ve got the personalities to go with it. Dwight Howard was one of the game’s most popular players at the time and this contest, specifically that Superman dunk, helped solidify that status. Nate Robinson still remains one of the best dunkers in the history of the association and this dunk contest just goes to prove it. We wouldn’t see a great head-to-head battle like this one, until almost a decade later.
2016: Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine
These two just went all out. Aaron Gordon’s under the legs, toilet seat dunk remains one of the most breathtaking moments in the contest’s history. Dunk after dunk these two just want it, trading blows like heavyweight prizefighters. Like in 1988 with Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan, the contest ended with a controversial winner. However, the real winner was the fan, being able to witness such an extraordinary display of dunking dominance.