The Top 5 Most Amazing Dunkers in New Orleans Hornets History

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIISeptember 12, 2012

The Top 5 Most Amazing Dunkers in New Orleans Hornets History

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    The New Orleans Hornets might not have the rich history of amazing dunkers that other franchises have, but they've had some gems over the years. From Alonzo Mourning to Eric Gordon, the Hornets' history is sprinkled with highlights of some outstanding jams from some great athletes.

    Today, we'll take a look at the five greatest dunkers to ever put on a Hornets uniform. Granted, this quintet would put on many YouTube-worthy moments with different teams after leaving the Hornets. Still, all five managed to give Hornets fans something to cheer about during their time in Charlotte, Oklahoma City and New Orleans.

    Several notable dunkers barely missed the cut. Morris Peterson developed a reputation for being a high-flyer while at Michigan State. When he came to the Hornets in 2007 after a long tenure in Toronto, he made sure he gave the crowd their money's worth.

    Chris Andersen played a few seasons with the Hornets from 2004-2008 but many would get better acquainted with "The Birdman" as a member of the Denver Nuggets. Andersen participated in a couple Slam Dunk contests while with Denver, but occasionally flashed his athleticism while with the Hornets.

    The best dunker to ever be associated with the Hornets never played a game for the franchise. In 1996, the Hornets took a chance and used the 13th overall pick on a kid out of Lower Merion High School named Kobe Bryant. The kid who would later become "The Black Mamba" wouldn't last more than a couple hours as a member of the Hornets before being dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest is history.

    These five gentlemen may not have the lengthy resume of a Kobe Bryant but they are noteworthy in their own right. All five have at least one Slam Dunk contest under their belt. Here are the five best dunkers in the history of the New Orleans Hornets franchise.

5. Larry Johnson (1991-1996)

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    Larry Johnson was the first cornerstone piece for the Hornets franchise. Selected with the first overall pick of the 1991 NBA draft out of UNLV, Johnson would later be joined by Alonzo Mourning to give the then-Charlotte Hornets a formidable inside duo.

    The man who would later be known as "Grandmama" was a unique blend of power, speed, athleticism and intensity wrapped inside a 6'7" power forward's body. In the clip shown above, LJ showed off some of his hops in the 1992 Slam Dunk contest with an impressive windmill jam.

    Many of Johnson's dunks don't have the pizazz of the slams administered by the other guys on this list, but it was the authority in which Johnson threw down that made him so polarizing. Whether running the break on his own or catching a lob from guys like Muggsy Bogues, Johnson always looked like he had a personal vendetta against the rim when he dunked.

    Johnson went on to bigger things in New York as a member of the Knicks after being traded for Anthony Mason. He would become a vital member of a very competitive Knicks team and contributed one of the most memorable plays in Knicks history with a 4-point play in the closing seconds against the Pacers.

    Back injuries would derail Grandmama's career as he called it quits in 2001 at the age of 32. He never lived up to the high expectations placed upon him coming out of college, but he was a solid player for most of his career. He elevated a young Hornets team and was a significant piece to Pat Riley's Knicks.

    He was one of the best forwards of his era and helped usher in a new wave of athletic power forwards.

4. Ricky Davis (1998-2000)

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    Ricky Davis' tenure with the Hornets may have been short-lived, but it sure wasn't uneventful. Davis lasted only two seasons in Charlotte before being shipped to Miami as part of a blockbuster deal that brought Jamal Mashburn to the Hornets.

    While in Charlotte though, he teamed with Baron Davis to give the Hornets a young and athletic backcourt. As seen in the video above, the Davis boys put on quite a show in the fast break and Ricky certainly benefited being on the receiving end of Baron's lobs many times.

    Another underrated moment in Ricky Davis' Hornets tenure was his participation in the 2000 Slam Dunk contest. Davis would go on to finish fourth in a contest that would mainly remembered as Vince Carter's coming out party. While Vinsanity stole the show, Davis did manage to pull off an impressive between-the-legs reverse dunk in the contest.

    Davis was well-traveled in his 12-year career. He played for eight different teams and developed a reputation for being a selfish showboat.

    During his tenure in Cleveland, Davis deliberately missed a shot at his own basket so he could grab the rebound and notch a triple-double. Of course, that same Cavaliers stint provided this highlight which Steve Nash probably wants to forget.

    Davis may have been a Grade A knucklehead but there was no questioning his hops. You can find YouTube videos such as this that feature Davis' top 100 dunks. He may not have been with the Hornets long but there is no doubting his status as one of the best dunkers the franchise has ever had on its roster.

3. Baron Davis (1999-2005)

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    Baron Davis is as much a unique enigma as he is a stellar athlete. Davis was a big point guard with the size to back down defenders, the vision to hit the open man and the athleticism to wreak havoc at the rim. He was a powerful dunker who seemed to feed off the energy from the crowd.

    Davis' career is one the NBA's greatest "What ifs". He had tremendous talent and potential but his career was hindered by injuries and his tendency to not keep himself in the greatest of shape.

    During his time with the Hornets, Davis provided many highlights such as the dunk on Jermaine O'Neal shown above. Davis would also go on to make look the legendary Kevin Garnett look foolish during Davis' rookie season.

    In 2005, Davis would become the latest star to fall victim to the notoriously cheap Shinn ownership. Davis was shipped to Golden State for a pair of expiring contracts.

    Davis would energize a young Warriors team and provided one of the low-lights of Andrei Kirilenko's career with this infamous posterization. Davis helped the Warriors pull off an upset as the eighth seed against the Dallas Mavericks.

    From there, Davis would bounce around the league. He played a couple seasons with the Clippers before being dealt to Cleveland for Mo Williams in a trade that would also land the Cavaliers the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. That pick turned out to be Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving. 

    The Cavaliers would use the amnesty clause on Davis. He would later be signed by the New York Knicks, who patiently waited for the former UCLA guard to recover from back surgery. While in New York, Davis would tear his ACL and MCL in the playoffs. He's expected to recovered in about 12 months.

    Since the Davis era was followed by the Chris Paul era, the sting of Baron's departure isn't as brutal as when CP3 left this past December. We'll always wonder what a talent like Davis could have done had he been healthier and more committed to being in shape. For now, he lives on in the mind of Hornets fans as one of the best dunkers the franchise has ever had.  

2. Desmond Mason (2005-2007)

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    The top spots could have gone either way.

    As a Hornets fan for nearly two decades, it disappoints me that the Desmond Mason era didn't last longer. As a dunker, he was absolutely electrifying. He was Vince Carter without Carter's jump shot.

    You rarely get to see a player pull off the kind of in-game dunks that Mason pulled off. He had such an awesome array of moves from windmill jams to going between-the-legs to a standard tomahawk.

    Some of Mason's better moments came outside of wearing a Hornets uniform. As a member of the Seattle Sonics, Mason won the 2001 NBA Slam Dunk contest.

    In that competition, Mason famously jumped over a bent-over Rashard Lewis to throw down a one-handed dunk. Mason put on a spirited performance in the 2003 contest but lost to Jason Richardson.

    After leaving the Hornets, Mason would create some highlights for the Milwaukee Bucks. You can find most of them in this video of Mason's 100 best dunks. There are also several other videos on YouTube that are a collection of excellent Mason jams.

    Without much of a game beyond his immense athletic ability, Mason bounced around the league. He was last seen in 2009 as a member of Sacramento Kings. Without a suitable jumper, defenses learned quickly that the best way to stop Mason was to deny him from driving to the lane.

    He may have been more along the lines of Harold Minor and J.R. Rider than Carter or Richardson, but Mason was one of the most underrated dunkers the game has seen in quite some time. He may not have achieved much with the Hornets, but his legacy will continue to live on on YouTube.

1. J.R. Smith (2004-2006)

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    Like Desmond Mason, J.R. Smith was a high-flyer whose career with the Hornets should have lasted longer than it did. Like Mason, Smith played only two seasons with the Hornets before becoming another in a long line of good players who made their best efforts elsewhere.

    Smith was drafted out of high school with the 18th pick of the 2004 NBA draft. He was a physically-gifted yet extremely raw talent with amazing leaping ability.

    In 2005, Smith participated in the Slam Dunk contest where he would finish third behind Amar'e Stoudemire and Josh Smith. By 2006, he was on his way out of New Orleans and into Denver after a series of trades that would send Tyson Chandler from the Bulls to the Hornets.

    Smith had some exciting moments with the Hornets, but his best highlights came as a member of the Nuggets.

    Playing on a young team with a good coach in George Karl, Smith finally came into his own as a dynamic scorer and finisher. Poor shot selection and immaturity doomed his tenure with the Nuggets but he wouldn't leave Denver without getting some payback on the Hornets for trading him.

    Smith spent half of last season playing in China while awaiting the end of the lockout. Once the lockout ended, Smith inevitably landed on the Knicks. Smith, who spent his high school career in New Jersey, became a fan favorite and ended up re-signing with New York this past summer.

    As for the Hornets, they didn't find a suitable replacement for Smith at shooting guard until this past December's Chris Paul trade landed them Eric Gordon from the Clippers. Even for all his talents, Gordon only played nine games with the team last season. He was signed for four more years this past summer.