While it’s almost always true that substance trumps style when it comes to winning games in the NBA, for a lot of teams, style is the only option.
That’s certainly been the case for the Golden State Warriors over the past 20 years or so. Without any real direction or cohesive plan to succeed, the Dubs of the last couple decades relied on gimmicky offenses, guard-heavy rosters, iffy character risks and showmanship.
Predictably, none of those things end up on the list of “items required to win basketball games.” But they sure do make for an entertaining product. And of course, the most important ingredient to an entertaining, but ultimately go-nowhere basketball experience is the dunk.
The Warriors’ history is rife with dunkers. Some were pioneers, like Wilt Chamberlain. And others were chronically overrated like Mitch Richmond, who could barely dunk at all. Neither of those two historically revered Warriors will make this list, though.
The criteria here are simple: To make the cut, the dunker must either have a lengthy body of dunking work as a Warrior or at least one uniquely memorable mash. Dunk-contest-only dunkers who never did anything memorable in games are excluded. Sorry, Nate Robinson.
Above all, the dunker must have style.
Let’s check out the top five throw-down artists in Golden State Warriors history.
This one took some digging.
Nobody under 30 remembers David Wood. And really, most people over 30 also probably have no idea who he was.
But Wood earns honorable mention for posting a number of sneakily nasty dunks during the mid-‘90s. He was hilariously awkward at times, and explosively athletic at others. Wood is not quite good enough to crack the elite company of the top five here, but he deserves a little attention.
Hopefully, this long-lost highlight collection will both educate and entertain the disturbingly large faction of Warrior fans who think the franchise’s history began in 2006.
Behold David Wood, the hidden gem of Golden State Warriors dunkers.
Like most things with Anthony Randolph, his dunks hinted at sky-high potential that was never realized.
AR-4 burst onto the scene with a shocking combination of length and hops that made him an excellent in-game dunker. And although every coach he’s ever had probably discouraged Randolph from taking defensive rebounds coast to coast on his own, that bad habit occasionally made for some pretty spectacular dunks.
The lefty didn’t hang around with the Warriors for long, joining a long list of young players with attitude problems, who butted heads with Don Nelson and lost. But before shuffling off into NBA obscurity, Randolph put together a highly entertaining dunk reel.
Randolph also earns extra points here for his excellent post-dunk scowls.
Monta Ellis is Exhibit A in the case of style vs. substance.
No. 8 had a real knack for the spectacular play. He piled up highlights on a nightly basis, often making the impossible look effortless. Naturally, he included a number of breathtaking dunks in his reel.
Ellis was a true athletic marvel as a Warrior, often making other elite NBA athletes look like they had their feet cemented to the court. While he’s often (rightfully) criticized for not helping his team win, there’s no question that Ellis was a spectacular dunker.
At a wispy 6’3”, Monta seemed to float through the air before powering the ball home with his typical one-handed spike. While Ellis put up his most prolific dunking display in the 2007 Rookie-Sophomore game, he also had a number of nasty ones in games where the score mattered. Just ask Leandro Barbosa or Ronny Turiaf.
It’s not surprising that people have forgotten about Latrell Sprewell, a four-time All-Star, 1997 All-Star game MVP and All-NBA first-teamer. Some of the more unusual events during the latter half of his career have understandably overshadowed his on-court accomplishments.
Just for fun, a few of Sprewell’s most notable historical tidbits include choking his own coach in 1997, turning down the last NBA contract offer he would ever receive on the grounds that he couldn’t feed his family with $21 million and running his yacht aground. Sprewell would later lose said yacht, dubbed “Milwaukee’s Best,” and everything else he owned, reportedly going broke after a $100 million career.
Things didn’t turn out well for Spree, but he sure could dunk.
Sprewell had a signature style. Whether elevating off of one foot or two, he always opted for the cocked-back, two-handed tomahawk. His hands, which were too small to palm a basketball, made the style a necessity.
Still the Warriors’ most recent All-Star, Spree stole the show in 1997 with a flurry of his trademark slams. Plus, he raises the roof at the end of the video. So there's that.
Baron Davis is on this list for one reason.
By the time Davis joined the Warriors, he’d put on a few extra pounds and suffered through a series of back and knee injuries. Possessing diminished athleticism and constantly nursing a nagging ache or two, Davis was pretty stingy with his dunk attempts as a Dub.
But he could always summon up some spring when he needed it.
Coming off a historic upset against the No. 1-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2006-07 playoffs, the Warriors were pitted against the Utah Jazz in Round 2. Utah, a matchup nightmare for Golden State, controlled the series easily, knocking the Warriors out in a tidy five games.
At least Baron made things interesting in Game 3 by putting Andrei Kirilenko on a poster. The slam was a terrific crescendo to an unlikely season, symbolizing the team's "We Believe" upstart attitude.
Davis was a defiant player, captaining a defiant Warriors team. He picked out Kirilenko, a shot-blocking menace, and simply climbed over him for the one-handed smash. The dunk didn’t help the Warriors avoid elimination, but it will still go down as the most amazing one in Warriors’ history.
Perhaps you were expecting someone else?
Without question, Jason Richardson is the most amazing Warriors dunker of all time.
Second only to Vince Carter among the greatest dunkers in recent history, J-Rich had it all, provided he had time to come to a two-foot plant. Richardson was a true power dunker, with an arsenal full of windmills, reverses, 360s and tomahawks. Despite the consistently high degree of difficulty and the ferocity with which Richardson hurled the ball through the rim, his slams were uniquely clean.
In games, J-Rich always caused a collective intake of breath when he was alone on the break. As the winner of a pair of dunk contest crowns, Richardson’s legacy as an aerial artist is secure.
All hail the most amazing dunker in Warriors history.