12 Insane NBA Dunks to Say Goodbye to 2012
Turn on any NBA game nowadays, and you are guaranteed to see at least one show-stopping, highlight-reel play.
No longer is this a league predicated on pounding the ball inside or trying to slow the pace. Athleticism is at an all-time high, and it seems like every team has at least one player capable of an awe-inspiring moment or two per night.
Still, not every dunk is created equal.
Your run-of-the-mill putbacks or one-handed flushes are certainly impressive, but they pale in comparison to some of the above-the-rim plays that stars like LeBron James and Blake Griffin have pulled off so far this season.
As 2012 winds down and as we gear up for the most grueling stretch of the campaign, let's take a moment to review some of the most incredible dunks from the beginning of the basketball year.
LeBron James' Alley-Oop over Atlanta Hawks
Now this is the way the Miami Heat want to play basketball: A textbook fast break that starts with a great blocked shot by Joel Anthony and ends with LeBron James skying for a ridiculous one-handed finish.
Ray Allen fired a great outlet pass to Norris Cole, who floated it up around the rim perfectly for LeBron to do what he does best.
The Atlanta Hawks are a very solid defensive team, but once the Heat get a few players out in transition, there is very little a team can do to stop them.
Miami has had its weak moments this season, but here it looked absolutely invincible.
Matt Barnes Hits Blake Griffin off the Backboard
This is the kind of play that belongs in an All-Star game.
On the way to their 10th straight win, the Los Angeles Clippers decided to provide the NBA world with one of the more ridiculous plays of the 2012-13 season.
After Brandon Knight misfires on a three-pointer, Blake Griffin grabs a hold of the rebound and begins to push it down the court before spotting Matt Barnes, who took off the second Knight threw up his shot.
Instead of going in for an easy layup or dunk of his own, Barnes launches a pass off the backboard that Griffin hammers through the hoop for an emphatic two points.
Gerald Henderson Does Bad Things to Dwight Howard
Gerald Henderson is 6'5". Dwight Howard is 6'11" and said by many to be the best defensive big man in the association.
He certainly didn't look the part, however, when Henderson cut down the lane off of an offensive rebound and threw down on the L.A. Lakers' shiny new center.
Henderson has always been known for his athletic ability, and a play like this perfectly illustrates why. After receiving a short pass from center Bismack Biyombo, Henderson absolutely exploded to the rim and finished, despite some contact from Howard.
The Lakers were able to eke out a 101-100 win by the skin of their teeth, but the play of the night easily belongs to the Charlotte Bobcats.
JaVale McGee Finishes over Ian Mahinmi
JaVale McGee has always been praised for his length and athletic ability, and even though many have questioned his decision-making and maturity, few can deny his physical skills.
Here, McGee benefits from the Indiana Pacers defense collapsing around Andre Iguodala in the paint, who dishes the ball off to him on the move. McGee takes a few power dribbles before launching an all-out assault on the rim.
Ian Mahinmi, a decent defender and shot-blocker, tries to contest, but McGee is able to use his long arms to finish over him while avoiding the contact.
Jeff Green Throws Down on Al Jefferson
After missing the entire 2011-12 season following heart surgery, Jeff Green understandably needed some time to get acclimated once again to life in the NBA.
However, he looked like he hadn't missed a minute when he caught a pass from Kevin Garnett out of a double team, drove straight into the paint and elevated over the outstretched arms of former Celtic Al Jefferson.
Jefferson has always been criticized for his post defense, but there was not exactly a lot he could do once Green took flight.
To add insult to injury, Green was whistled for a technical foul for "taunting" Jefferson, and Mo Williams missed the ensuing free throw.
DeMar DeRozan's Reverse Flush Against the Houston Rockets
The Toronto Raptors were expected to be a dark-horse playoff contender by many, but a slew of injuries and inconsistent play have them fighting to stay out of the conference's cellar.
However, if they've had one thing to be excited about, it is the play of DeMar DeRozan, who is averaging 18.1 points and 4.9 rebounds and has emerged as not just an athlete but a well-rounded player as well.
Here, DeRozan receives a swing pass from Ed Davis in the post, drives baseline and decides that this particular drive deserves more than your run-of-the-mill dunk, so he spins himself around for a two-handed jam.
The Raptors are still having trouble consistently winning games, but at least they look good while they lose.
DeAndre Jordan's High-Flying Putback
DeAndre Jordan may not have a bevy of post moves or be the most polished big man in the league, but he sure can finish at the rim.
Jordan runs the floor as well as any big man and has a knack for carving out positions to grab an offensive board and hammer home a putback.
In an early game against regional rival Lakers, DJ manages to slip inside against Dwight Howard and Steve Blake and corral a missed three-pointer by teammate Willie Green.
Perhaps what's most impressive about the play is the fall.
Jordan is so high up that, as he comes crashing back to the ground, his foot actually shakes the net.
As long as he keeps blocking shots and making plays like this, Jordan will have a place in the league, even if he can't hit an open 10-footer.
Kevin Durant Posterizes Jonas Valanciunas
Kevin Durant has slowly morphed from being just a scorer into being one of the league's most versatile players not named LeBron James.
In 2012-13, he has become a more confident passer, a stronger rebounder and a much better defender.
However, that's not to say Durant is unwilling to torch a defense and fill up a stat sheet from anywhere on the floor. In a game against Toronto, he and Russell Westbrook execute a textbook pick-and-roll, with Durant rolling beautifully to the hoop after catching the ball.
He then elevates, stretches out his absurdly long arms and finishes over prized Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas, who was brought in by Toronto's front office to provide some interior grit. But after what KD did to him, Valanciunas may need to spend a few more years playing in Lithuania before he can set foot on an NBA court again.
Durant Embarasses Josh Smith
The dunk on this play is spectacular, as Durant finishes, despite contact from an elite shot-blocking forward like Josh Smith, but it is the whole sequence that makes it truly incredible.
The Atlanta Hawks attempt to isolate Smith on Durant, giving him a post-up opportunity, but Durant turns him away multiple times once he gets into the paint.
Following his final rejection of Smith, Durant turns on the burners and sprints the court, receiving a pinpoint pass from Westbrook and turning it into a highlight-reel dunk with a Smith foul from behind.
Thomas Robinson Slams over Dwight Howard
Thomas Robinson has not exactly had a stellar rookie campaign with the Sacramento Kings, but he looked every bit the franchise player the Kings envisioned during the preseason when he connected on a monster putback over the outstretched arms of Dwight Howard.
Robinson, one of the most athletic and strongest prospects in the 2012 draft, has not seen his preseason play translate into the 2012-13 regular season, but here he showed why he could be so valuable to Sacramento going forward.
Howard failed to box out properly after Isaiah Thomas missed a three-pointer, and Thomas snuck in, leaped over Howard's back and rammed home one of the best dunks of the preseason.
If Thomas can show this type of energy and athleticism every game, he'll have a long and productive NBA career.
Tim Duncan Gives Serge Ibaka the Business
Tim Duncan's play in the early stages of the 2012-13 season has been among the most surprising stories in the association. Thought by many to be washed-up and on his last legs, Duncan has apparently turned back time, playing like a much younger version of himself.
That could not be more apparent in this play from the San Antonio Spurs' first contest with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as he catches a perfect entry pass from Tony Parker, fakes out a good defender in Thabo Sefolosha and slams home a one-handed dunk over Serge Ibaka, considered by many to be the league's top shot-blocker.
Duncan may not sky over Ibaka as he would have done in his younger days, but he protects himself brilliantly by using the rim and manages to make Ibaka look like a complete non-factor on the defensive end of the court.
Even though his retirement may be looming, Tim Duncan looked every bit like a two-time MVP on this play.
Jeff Teague Demolishes Durant
Since entering the league, Jeff Teague has been touted as one of the more athletic point guards in the NBA, and that was certainly apparent in his team's huge road win at Oklahoma City.
Teague, who has tremendous hops, used a screen from Zaza Pachulia to drive right past a solid defender in Russell Westbrook and took off before anyone could get in his way and draw a charge.
Kevin Durant, a talented and underrated shot-blocker, rose to contest Teague's dunk attempt, but by that time there was no stopping the Hawks point guard, who was hellbent on reaching the rim.
The fact that Teague stands a mere 6'2", while Durant clocks in at 6'10" with absurdly long arms, makes the play all the more impressive and one of the highlights of Teague's young career.