We’re only two days away from NBA All-Star Weekend, one of my favorite weekends on the sports calendar. And one of the highlights of any All-Star Weekend is the 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. (The Suns’ Larry Nance upset Dr. J and Dominique Wilkins to win the inaugural competition.)
This year’s competition—featuring the Pacers’ Paul George, the Rockets’ Chase Budinger, the T-Wolves’ Derrick Williams, and Jeremy Evans of the Jazz replacing injured Iman Shumpert of the Knicks—will be the 27th NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
To get you ready for this year’s contest, here’s a look at the ten best dunks in the event’s history:
10. JaVale McGee, 2011: 2 Balls, 2 Baskets
We know (and love) JaVale McGee for this awful triple double and for running back on defense while his team was still on offense. But the Wizards center is also responsible for one of the most impressive dunks in basketball history.
At last year’s dunk 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 #10 for two reasons: 1) McGee needed multiple attempts to complete the dunk, a luxury not afforded many of the other dunkers on this list; and 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.
9. Terence Stansbury, 1987: The Statue of Liberty 360
Terence Stansbury is known more for his three appearances in the Slam Dunk Contest than he is for the three seasons he played with the Pacers and Sonics. He only started 31 NBA games before leaving the league for a two-decade career in Europe, but he will long be remembered for his signature dunk: the Statue of Liberty 360.
Interesting fact: Both JaVale McGee and Terence Stansbury have relatives who played in the WNBA. McGee’s mother, Pamela McGee, a gold medalist with the 1984 Olympic team, was the second overall pick in the inaugural WNBA Draft. Stansbury’s daughter, Tiffany, played three seasons in the WNBA with the Sparks and Lynx.
8. 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.
7. Spud Webb, 1986: “Judge Me By My Size, Do You?”
Anthony “Spud” Webb had a longer and more esteemed NBA career than Terence Stansbury, but like Stansbury Webb is a player best known for his performances 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:
6. Nate Robinson, 2006: Over Spud Webb
After Spud Webb’s win in 1986, 20 years would pass before another player under 6-feet tall won the Slam Dunk Contest. At 5-feet, 9-inches, 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. 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 Dwight Howard is more impressive than scaling Spud 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.