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The 10 Best NBA Dunks of all time

This article was originally published on Josh’s blog, which can be accessed here

Across all sports, few actions from a player can be as memorable, emphatic and explosive as a powerful slam dunk from a basketball star. I was a few years behind catching the Michael Jordan bandwagon but I grew up in an era where the athletic prowess of NBA superstars went to a whole new level.

Slam dunking stars like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Josh Smith, Gerald Wallace, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook were – and have been so far – unable to win a championship, but their ability to entertain through their sky-walking skills kept the turnstiles in overdrive.

As a basketball junkie and with YouTube taking the IT world by storm, seeing the latest jam/dunk/slam/throw down/alley-oop was never too hard.

Here are my top 10 dunks of all-time;

1) Vince Carter, USA National Team – ‘The Dunk of Death’

This is the greatest dunk in history and I will argue that with anybody willing.
During the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australian’s witnessed Vince Carter complete a feat that should have won him two gold medals – one for basketball and one for high jump. Carter intercepted the errant pass from a French player and decided to create a highlight that will be viewed forever. VC took two dribbles and launched over 7-2″ (216cm) centre Fred Weis before throwing down a powerful slam. Weis stood tall and only slightly bent his upper body as Carter cleared his head, almost defying physics with the leap.
The below video contains brilliant comments from both Carter and Weis regarding the dunk, as well as some very entertaining commentary from the international play callers.

2) Vince Carter, New Jersey Nets – ‘Talk about large’

In my mind, Carter currently sits as the greatest ever dunker. There are a million others who do it well and a million more who throw down the odd super slam, but Carter’s consistency and creativity sets him apart.
Never afraid to take on the shot blockers, Carter certainly took it to a big time defender on this play. Playing with the Nets in the prime of his career, Carter retrieved a ball headed for the sideline, wrapped it around his back and made a beeline for the hoop. As Mourning stood below the rim, Carter took off and initiated significant body contact with ‘Zo’ before dropping the hammer on the shot blocker.
From saving the ball, to squaring off with Mourning and taking it right at the shot-eraser, Carter had it all going in this throw down for the ages.

3) LeBron James, Miami Heat – ‘Guess he didn’t see me’

This dunk makes my top 10 list as much for James’ post-game comments as it does for the play itself. After Boston veteran and regular motormouth Jason Terry made some negative comments about the Miami Heat and LeBron, this play fell perfectly for King James.
Dwyane Wade stole the ball and as guard Norris Cole threw the alley-oop, Terry was caught out underneath a high-flying LeBron. The two-time NBA champion seemingly threw this dunk down a little harder than the rest after Terry’s comments and even stood over ‘The Jet’ after the play.
In the post-game press conference, James was asked whether he saw Terry below him whilst in the air – his response? ‘Yeah, I saw him, guess he didn’t see me.’ The smugness with which he answered the question was not of sheer arrogance but more of ‘who are you to try take me on?’

This video
 has the comments from James regarding Terry’s involvement in the dunk.

4) Tracy McGrady, Houston Rockets – ‘He just sucked the gravity right out of the building’

During his heyday, there were few on T-Mac’s level on a basketball court. An elite athlete who could handle the basketball at 6-8″, a brilliant play-maker who was able to rebound with the bigs, McGrady could score the ball on a world-class level – winning two NBA scoring titles. Unfairly maligned for his playoff performances, McGrady made one devastating play in the post-season which was hard for even the haters to forget.
Dressed in his Rocket red facing a strong Dallas Mavericks outfit, McGrady destroyed 7-6″ centre Shawn Bradley. Known for his shooting but not his strong defence, Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki tried to stop McGrady in the corner with little success. T-Mac blew by Dirk and elevated for a ferocious slam over the league’s tallest player. The reactions from McGrady’s Rockets teammates were awesome, including one player rolling on the court with disbelief.

5) Tracy McGrady, Orlando Magic – ‘Hey, LeBron, get ready, buddy’

With a young LeBron James sitting courtside, awaiting his NBA draft night, Tracy McGrady decided to give him an up close and personal display of NBA greatness.
With McGrady on a tear in this playoff game against Detroit, he caught the ball on the left wing and slashed to the basket, dunking all over a young Mehmet Okur. As shown in the video below, LeBron was immediately interviewed following the dunk and was clearly impressed with McGrady’s sensational jam. As T-Mac captivated the NBA for a few seasons with his ability to score with ease, no two points were more devastating than the two he put in over Okur.

6) Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls – ‘Pippen abuses the Knicks’

Whilst Michael Jordan stole the headlines in Chicago – and rightly so – his sidekick was also doing some pretty impressive things. Pippen, one of the 50 greatest players of all-time, made a particular play during the 1994 playoffs against foes, New York.
As the Bulls streamed down-court, Pippen received the ball in stride and elevated for a prodigious tomahawk slam over shot blocking enforcer, Patrick Ewing. Pippen stood over Ewing after the jam then proceeded to give Knicks fan and sports movie maker Spike Lee some not-so-nice words before receiving a technical foul for his choice words.
That play from Scottie had the United Center fans on their feet – one, for the explosive play they just witnessed and two, for the embarrassment it caused Ewing and the Knicks.

7) Gerald Wallace, Sacramento Kings – ‘Oh my Goodness’

Wallace typifies the journeyman lifestyle of the NBA.
A one-time All-Star, Wallace has spent time with Charlotte, Portland, Brooklyn/New Jersey, Sacramento and currently with Boston. Wallace was the star player for the Bobcats during the first ever NBA match I attended back in 2007 and I was fortunate enough to meet him during my recent trip to the USA.
As a young pup on the excellent Kings team, Wallace was getting a decent opportunity during a pre-season game against Houston – and he took full advantage. As he received the pass with only one Rocket between he and the basket, he took two dribbles and took flight over European forward Bostian Nachbar. The landing and subsequent 360 degree mid-air spin was almost as impressive as the jam in what was to become one of many for the now-Celtics veteran.

8) Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers – ‘Buckle up for Kobe Bryant’

During the 2003 playoffs, the Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers faced Kevin Garnett and Minnesota. With a handy margin early in the third quarter, LA fed the ball to Shaq in the paint before he kicked it out to Robert Horry, who flicked it to Derek Fisher and in-turn to Bryant in the corner. Kobe received the ball, never looking to shoot the three-pointer with Garnett closing out to him. He blew past KG and managed to explode for the powerful reverse jam on the other side of the hoop as Garnett and fellow 7-footer Rasho Nesterovic attempted to block the shot.
At 6-6″, Bryant was the prototype athlete for the explosive slam dunks and his aerial exploits were featured heavily on highlights shows throughout America.

9) Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves – ‘And I don’t believe what I just saw’

Kevin Garnett still commands respect around the NBA, despite being in his 20th NBA season. But the KG of today is merely a shadow of what he was during his prime in Minnesota with the Timberwolves. Garnett changed the face of the game for big men with his all-around skills to go along with his incredible intensity and passion.
In this particular game against Western Conference rivals Sacramento, KG went to the glass to contest yet another rebound – something he did more than any other player in the 2000s. As guard Terrell Brandon’s shot bounced off the glass, Garnett rose up using his incredibly long arms and in one motion, threw the ball back through the hoop. He barely touched the ring and the play came from nowhere but it typified Garnett’s effort during his years in Minnesota.

10) Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls – ‘I wanna go higher’

Before being struck down with three serious knee injuries, during his 2011 MVP season, Rose erupted during a two-v-one fast break opportunity in Phoenix. Midway through the fourth quarter, forward Tyrus Thomas led the break and perfectly timed a pass so that Rose could catch and elevate. Gun Suns point guard Goran Dragic found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as Rose seemingly got a secondary lift once making body contact before throwing down a vicious two-hand dunk.
The commentary from former Bulls guard Stacey King was priceless and his team mates went crazy on the bench after seeing Rose throw it down.

Read Josh’s take on the big differences between the AFL and NFL here

You can find more of Josh’s writing on his blog

Cover image via Terren Peterson