The Top 12 Dunks in Slam Dunk Contest History

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One of the sports calendar’s great weekends is upon us.

NBA All-Star Weekend tips off in Houston Friday night with the Celebrity Game, followed by the Rising Stars Challenge. Saturday’s festivities include the Shooting Stars Competition, Skill Challenge, and Three-Point Contest.

But the highlight of All-Star Saturday Night—and, for some people, of the entire weekend—is the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

The American Basketball Association introduced the Slam Dunk Contest in 1976, just months before the ABA-NBA merger. The NBA added the event to its All-Star festivities in 1984.

This year’s event, the 28th of its kind, features defending champion Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Kenneth Faried—the Manimal—of the Denver Nuggets representing the Western Conference. Gerald Green, the 2007 champ from the Indiana Pacers, Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors, and James “Flight” White of the New York Knicks will represent the East. (Participants this year for the first time will earn points for their respective conference.)

To get you ready for the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest (Saturday night on TNT), here’s a look at the 12 best dunks (in my opinion, at least) in the event’s history:

Jeremy Evans dunks two balls tossed to him by teammate Gordon Hayward to win last year's Slam Dunk contest (Bob Donnan/US Presswire)

Jeremy Evans dunks two balls tossed to him by teammate Gordon Hayward to win last year’s Slam Dunk contest (Bob Donnan/US Presswire)

12. Larry Nance, 1984: The Cradle Windmill

The inaugural NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984 featured two of the great dunkers in the game’s history: Dominique Wilkins and Julius Erving, otherwise known as Dr. J. But neither of these esteemed dunkers hoisted the trophy at the end of the evening.

That honor went to Larry Nance of the Phoenix Suns, who won with this cradle windmill:

Nance’s dunk is tame by today’s standards. But I appreciate the simplicity, the fact that it didn’t require props, and the fact that he nailed it on the first take (something that is rare in the second decade of the twenty-first century).

Here are Nance’s other dunks from the 1984 competition:


11. JaVale McGee, 2011: 2 Balls, 2 Baskets

We know (and love) JaVale McGee for this and this and this, but the Nuggets forward-center is also responsible for one of the most impressive dunks in basketball history.

At the 2011 contest, while Blake Griffin was busy working out endorsement deals with Kia, McGee had an extra hoop brought into the arena. While dunking two balls at the same time is nothing new, McGee put each of the balls in a separate basket.

This dunk is probably my favorite of the bunch, but I can’t place it higher than No. 11 for two reasons:

  1. McGee needed multiple attempts to complete the dunk, a luxury not afforded many of the other dunkers on this list;
  2. This isn’t the sort of dunk one could do on a playground. I don’t mind props, so long as the props are things that are easy to come by and could be used on most any basketball court (blindfolds, chairs, other players, etc.). An extra hoop doesn’t qualify.


10. Cedric Ceballos, 1992: Blindfolded

The Celtics’ Dee Brown won the 1991 Dunk Contest by covering his eyes with his right arm while he was in the air:


The following year, the Suns’ Cedric Ceballos took the no-look dunk to its obvious conclusion: he wore a blindfold.

And Ceballos didn’t put on the blindfold while he was under the basket or at the free-throw line. He ran across two-thirds of the court without sight.


9. Spud Webb, 1986: “Judge Me By My Size, Do You?”

Anthony “Spud” Webb earned his keep in the NBA as a backup point guard for the Atlanta Hawks and later put up respectable numbers as a starter for the Sacramento Kings. But he is known for his performance in Slam Dunk Contests.

The diminutive Hawks’ guard won the 1986 competition with a series of dunks that destroyed all sorts of assumptions about physics and physiology. Webb, standing 5 feet and 7 inches, defeated teammate and favorite Dominique Wilkins with this beauty:


8. Nate Robinson, 2006: Over Spud Webb

After Spud Webb’s win in 1986, 20 years would pass before another player under 6 feet tall would win. At 5-foot-9, 2006 rookie participant Nate Robinson didn’t shy away from comparisons to Webb. Instead, he honored his predecessor by using him as a prop.

Webb, wearing his old Hawks jersey and standing a few feet in front of the hoop, bounced the ball and Robinson caught it as he jumped over the former champion and dunked the ball with ease.

A few years later, Robinson would win the second of his three Dunk Contest trophies by jumping over Dwight Howard. While jumping over the 6-foot-11 Dwight Howard is more impressive than scaling 5-foot-7 Webb, Robinson had to push off of Howard’s back; and he didn’t have the added challenge of catching the ball in the air.


7. Andre Iguodala, 2006: AI to AI off the Back of the Backboard

The past year has been a good one for Andre Iguodala. He made his first All-Star Game appearance, led the Sixers to a first-round upset of the top-seeded (but Derrick Rose-less) Bulls, won a gold medal as a member of the US Olympic team, and got traded to a Denver team that had won nine straight before dropping two games earlier this week.

Back in 2006, when Iggy was just the other A.I., he was a participant in the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest. He didn’t win, but he may have performed the night’s most impressive dunk, with assistance from the original A.I. (Allen Iverson). Iggy caught the ball off the back of the glass and finished with a reverse slam.

(I’ve tried this dunk on a 7-and-a-half feet goal, and haven’t come close to pulling it off.)


There are the first six, but just wait until you see the top 6. You may remember:

  • The most underrated dunk of all-time.
  • The Human Highlight Film creating human highlights.
  • Michael Jordan “flying” as gracefully as any human ever has.
  • Vinsanity...
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About Josh Tinley

Josh Tinley writes the Away From The Action column at Midwest Sports Fans, covering all aspects of sport aside from what actually happens on the field, court, or track. Josh grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from the University of Evansville and Vanderbilt Divinity School. He is the author of Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports and the managing editor of LinC, a weekly curriculum for teens that explores the intersection of faith and culture. Josh lives outside Nashville with his wife, Ashlee, and children, Meyer (7), Resha Kate (5), and Malachi (3). He will not allow himself to die before the Evansville Purple Aces make another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Follow him on Twitter @joshtinley or send him an e-mail.


  1. You guys forgot about the Larry Johnson tap the backboard on one side and duck under the rim slam on the other side.

  2. Shawn Kemp 1991. Should have won. The dunk when he creates a figure mid-air.

  3. Jordan’s hanging flight in 1987.

  4. The slam dunk contest has become somewhat ho-hum as of late because it’s all been done. I still peek in on it though just to see if anything creative happens……..

  5. How can anyone not mention Kenny walker sky show to me he had some of the best dunks ive ever seen

  6. mitch patterson says:

    JR Rider dunk between the legs dunk I think it was the year the AllStar game was in Minnesota

  7. I think Dee Brown’s pump it up and air it out dunk was underrated

  8. How can you leave out the dunk master who patented the dunk from the foul line, Dr. J

  9. Wow, this piece of writing is good, my sister is analyzing these things, so I
    am going to let know her.

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