The 30 Biggest Dunking Fails in Sports History
They rock living rooms, shake stadiums and send hearts racing faster than an F-16 flyover at a ballpark.
Few plays provoke more emotion and energy from a fan base like watching a player throw down a big nasty dunk in a basketball game.
But like any other high-flying aerial maneuver there are risks, and sometimes a monster jam can turn into a monstrosity of an athletic endeavor.
From mascot muffing to double-clutch disasters, the following list is an example when slamming the rock goes wrong.
30. Cougar Mascot Attempts the Impossible...and Fails
Failure is the only result possible when exercise balls are misused.
But apparently Gary the No Trash Cougar forgot this rule, and his attempt to launch into a dunk off of one of the orbs ends the only way it could end—on the ground, wallowing in big, bouncy failure.
And nobody helps him. At all.
29. LeBron James Misses Dunk and Crushes Camera Man
A bruised orbital bone and a credit from the commentators were the only rewards cameraman Steve Angel received after LeBron James apparently went into hibernation mode in midair on this breakaway dunk.
28. Rudy Gay’s International Dunk Debacle
Rudy Gay didn’t make for the best ambassador of American basketball after duffing this tomahawk against Lithuania in a friendly international match.
27. Rim Rejects Preston Knowles
Louisville guard Preston Knowles tries to grab some big air and throw down a prime time-worthy two-handed jam against UConn, but ends up rubbing the ball on the bottom of the rim as he flies past the net.
At 6’1”, dunking is by no means an impossibility for Knowles, but even he doesn’t look surprised after coming up short on this one.
26. Darrell Armstrong Lays Up Dunk
There aren’t many rules in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but of the few that do exist, I believe the most sacred and cardinal is “No layups.”
I understand that Darrell Armstrong just lost the handle here, and that basic basketball instincts compelled him to try to turn this failed dunk attempt into a basket.
But unfortunately, there are no points for that in the Dunk Contest, and there’s always room for “dunks” like this on the fail list.
25. Metta World Peace’s Layup/Dunk/Foul Fail
Metta World Peace comes up limp to the rim in this failed dunk, appearing to not know whether his spiritual path would want him to dunk with authority or lay the rock in peacefully.
A simple layup could’ve saved both World Peace and then-Lakers head coach Phil Jackson some time in therapy by the looks of the two men’s faces after this failure to launch.
24. Backboard-Breaking Failure
I’ve always wanted to break the backboard of a hoop with an earth-shattering dunk.
I’m talking like a two-handed, 360-degree glass-shattering assault right before the buzzer to win state.
This dunk was a lot like the opposite of that scenario—a group of guys clapping lamely as their friend wipes his shoes and goes on to ruin a perfectly good goal with a backboard-breaking missed dunk.
I’m glad you can jump, my friend. But when you hang like that you ruin practice for the JV squad.
23. Blake Griffin Throws Ball at Hoop
He’s got the ups, but Blake Griffin’s “throw-dunking” style of jamming the ball can be a low-percentage affair at times.
In this particular misfire, Griffin attempts to launch into the dunk from near the free-throw line and ends up just chucking it at the glass when he meets resistance and comes up short.
22. Kobe Misses Dunk with Authority
Kobe Bryant throws the ball down hard—and ends up laughing even harder at himself.
21. Spiderman-Style Dunk Doesn't Work out
Vladamir Antigua from Southern Virginia University shows us what happens when you take your celebrating a bit too seriously above the rim.
Antigua went from baller to tabby cat stuck in a tree in about two seconds with this post-dunk celebration.
20. Javale McGee Fails to Dunk from FT Line Twice
A two-for-one deal of failure, the video in this slide includes two separate occasions where Denver Nuggets forward Javale McGee inexplicably decides to take off from near the free-throw line for a slam dunk.
I’ll let you guess how it works out.
19. LeBron James’ Fancy Failure
Oh, so you fancy, ‘Bron?
LeBron James is a prolific jam-artist, but here he gets caught attempting to sponge up the face-time on ESPN’s “Top Plays” and clanks it off the far side of the rim.
And sorry about the quality of the video—I think the head of cabbage used to film this has gone bad.
18. Karl Malone’s Missed Dunk Enters Stratosphere
The Mailman typically delivers in fine form, but this time the package almost ended up on another planet.
Karl Malone looked primed to smash the backboard before something went wrong and the ball ended up blasting off the rim and halfway across the court.
17. Compilation of Dunk Competition Botched Jobs
They’re supposed to be the best rim-manglers in the business, but sometimes the participants in the dunk contest don’t have it all dialed in.
16. Why Tony Parker Doesn’t Dunk
Tony Parker decided to go out on a limb and give a slam dunk a try and was immediately rewarded for his bravery with an instant reminder of why he doesn’t usually do these kinds of things.
15. Marreese Speights Misses Everything
Philadelphia 76ers forwards Marreese Speights either grossly overestimated his wingspan or completely lost track of where he was in the lane in regards to the basket.
Either way, after receiving an entry pass from the wing, Speights elevates too far from the basket for a dunk and ends up throwing the ball under the rim, completely botching the now-popular Blake Griffin-style art of “throw-dunking” the ball.
14. Darko Milicic Misses from Point-Blank Range
Yes—even seven-footers have to jump to dunk the ball.
But it would appear Darko Milicic forgot that rule. In this video, Milic appears to rise a whole quarter inch off of the ground before being rejected by the rim on a wide-open bunny hop of a dunk.
13. Raptors Mascot Fails to Dunk Twice
This poor guy just couldn’t buy a bucket.
The Toronto Raptor’s mascot is trying his best to entertain the crowd with some halftime trampoline dunks, but is lucky he walked away from these dueling dunk fails with his Achilles tendon in one piece.
12. Mr. Thunder Fails to Finish the Slingshot Dunk
This particular fail is one of the few that feel more like a win in my book.
Just look at the components of the event—a giant ramp, a rollerblading mascot and an oversized slingshot. I don’t care where you come from—that’s a recipe for magic no matter what the hell happens.
Sure, Mr. Thunder might’ve biffed the finish on this one, but at the end of the day he’s been launched through the air at a professional basketball game wearing horns and roller blades, which is more than most of us can say.
11. Big Baby (Almost) Gets Up
While no one’s ever confused Glen Davis with Dominique Wilkins, you think that even the Big Baby would be able to manage a breakaway dunk in open court.
Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be the case in this video. Davis steals the ball and finds himself in a solo breakaway to the hoop with nothing but highlight dunks and churros swirling in his head.
Everything looks good until liftoff, which is when Davis’ dunk turns into some kind of strange ritual offering, as he appears to be trying to place the ball on the rim as if it were the final piece of some grand puzzle.
The ball dribbles off the hoop and Big Baby picks up a foul scrambling after it. And we all had a fine, hearty chuckle.
10. Santa Slams Face on Rim
Hope Hermey the dentist elf isn’t squeamish, because there’s no way this 360-to-faceplant concussion didn’t crush several of Slam Dunk Santa’s molars into white peppermint powder.
9. Paulius Parachomikas Fails All over Cheerleader
Oh, it’s everywhere. It’s on the ceiling and in her hair.
Paulius Parachomikas’ failed dunk attempt was a scatter bomb of collateral damage and failure, and they most likely had to apply some industrial strength Goof-Off to get all of the fail gravy off of this poor cheerleader he attempted to jump over.
8. Julian Wright Forgets How to Land/Hold Things
Another case of a player catching a big whiff of SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays” list in their nostrils and completely mucking the opportunity.
Kansas’ Julian Randle steals a ball and heads down the court looking to put himself on a postcard with a big, sexy windmill dunk, only to find out even he wasn’t ready for the ruckus he was attempting to bring.
7. Chris Bosh Misses Three Dunks in 15 Seconds
You read that right—three missed dunks in 15 seconds.
It almost doesn’t sound mathematically possible, but somehow, someway, Chris Bosh managed it.
6. Ricky Davis' Failed Under-the-Legs Dunk
Free and clear of any defenders, Boston Celtics' Ricky Davis attempts a show-stopping through-the-legs dunk and winds up losing control of the ball and slapping it off the glass.
This is what happens when you try to church it up too much.
5. Fan Attempts Some Sort of Something
Halftime shooting and dunk contests at basketball games are always filled with bloopers and goofy moments, but this is one of those moments that truly breaks the mold.
This particular fan goes for a trampoline-assisted dunk with the speed and tenacity of a glue stick and ends up floating and spinning his wheels in a Wile E. Coyote-esque running motion.
It’s a perfectly embarrassing and un-athletic exposition all the way through, and the fan’s desperate attempt to salvage some dignity by chucking the ball at the rim only puts a cherry on top.
4. Travis Outlaw Air-Balls Dunk
“He shot that over the rim.”
No, he dunked that over the rim.
We don’t exactly how, but after leaping high enough to sack-tap a diplodocus, Travis Outlaw loses the handle of this tomahawk jam about six inches away from the net and ends up delivering what amounts to the most ridiculous bounce pass ever to a teammate.
3. Jason Richardson Misses Game-Tying Dunk
Socks and soap—they’re the only two things that the teammates of two-time Slam Dunk champion Jason Richardson could use to make sure that things like this game-tying missed dunk never happen again.
2. Michael Jordan Misses Dunk and the Garden Explodes
Even legends brick the bed every once in a while.
In what looks like a jam sure to end up as a poster, His Airness gets a touch overzealous and crunches the ball off the rim, much to the joy of the fans at Madison Square Garden.
1. Fat Man's Majestic Dunk Fail
Sublime. Glorious. Inspiring.
Plenty of words could be thrown at this watershed moment in halftime fan fail history, but none of them would fully capture the magnitude of it all.
So let’s just be quiet, and stand witness to its majesty.