25 Best Dunks of the 2012-13 NBA Season

Luke Petkac@@LukePetkacFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2013

25 Best Dunks of the 2012-13 NBA Season

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    The 2012-13 NBA season was a good one for dunks.

    The high-fliers were out in full force this year, showing off the best slams, jams and putbacks that the league has to offer. And though the overall choice for the top slam of the year was fairly cut and dried, determining the order for the remainder of the top 25 was a nearly impossible task.

    There are only a few criteria: no contest dunks were considered for the list, and dunks that involve defenders are naturally given more weight than those that don't. But that's all there is to it.

    Some players may appear a few times and others only once, but every one of them has earned a place in this season's slam dunk Hall of Fame.

No. 25: Terrence Ross' Near 360

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    Terrence Ross’ spinning jam was more like a 300 than a 360, but it’s still one of the best open-court dunks of the year.

    There may never be another in-game dunker like Vince Carter, but Ross—the 2013 Slam Dunk champion—is at least a little reminiscent of him, and not just because Carter used to wear a Toronto Raptors jersey.

    The flair, the creativity, the power (just listen to the “thump” that this slam makes), the hang time…the two are at least similar. That’s about as high as praise can get when it comes to dunking.

    On a separate note, the other Raptors look like they've been practicing their post-dunk dances. 

No. 24: J.J. Hickson over Alonzo Gee

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    This must have been a weird role reversal for Alonzo Gee. He's used to putting other people on posters, not vice versa.

    This dunk is great, not just because of Damian Lillard's slick drop-off pass, but because when J.J. Hickson and Gee meet, there's a split second where Hickson seems to slow down before brushing off Gee and slamming it home with both hands.

    It was a true head-to-head confrontation between two leapers, and this time, Hickson was the big winner.

No. 23: Jeff Green over Chris Bosh

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    In the first half of the season, Boston Celtics fans spent a lot of time complaining about Jeff Green’s lack of aggression. Something tells me that they didn’t complain much after this game.

    Green gets the pass, goes right by LeBron James (an accomplishment in and of itself) and hits Chris Bosh with the one-handed “Statue of Liberty” finish. You’ll never see Green in a dunk contest—he doesn’t have the flash that guys like Gerald Green or Terrence Ross do—but he sure can put guys on posters.

    You can’t really see Bosh’s face after he got dunked on, but odds are it was something like this.

No. 22: Russell Westbrook over Stephen Curry

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    Proponents of the pure point guard may hate Russell Westbrook's aggression, but that same quality is a dunking fan's dream.

    When the Oklahoma City Thunder had Stephen Curry isolated in a three-on-one fast break earlier this year, the Golden State Warriors star played it perfectly, guessing that Westbrook would go for the bucket himself.

    The Thunder guard viciously dunked on him anyway.

    Westbrook's pure power is almost unprecedented for a point guard, but even more impressive is just how high he gets up. His feet were at Curry's knees when he went up to send it home. Unreal.

No. 21: Damian Lillard over Nene

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    Damian Lillard isn't in that Russell Westbrook-Derrick Rose-John Wall class of athletes, and he's known more for his nifty stepbacks than his above-the-rim forays.

    But that doesn't mean he's not capable of throwing down from time to time. In this one, Lillard gets by Wall with ease, puts on the jets and then leaps by Nene for a killer tomahawk.

    The Portland Trail Blazers didn't have a great season this year, but Lillard was an absolute blast to watch because of plays just like these. He's always attacking.

No. 20: DeMarcus Cousins over Anthony Randolph

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    So that's what it looks like when DeMarcus Cousins channels his temper into his on-court play. 

    Cousins' and-1 emasculation of Anthony Randolph was by far the angriest dunk of the year. After JaVale McGee gambled for a risky steal, Cousins took it hard to the hoop and demolished Randolph when he attempted to draw a charge.

    In the replays, it's difficult to tell if Cousins really sent Randolph flying or if Randolph exaggerated some of the contact. But even if it's the latter, you can't call what Randolph did “flopping” so much as “falling for his life."

No. 19: Josh Smith over Brook Lopez

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    There aren't many coast-to-coast dunks on this list, but Josh Smith's sneaky rim assault represents them nicely.

    After ripping down the board, Smith heads up the court with Brook Lopez glued to his shoulder. He slows down to a trot—making it seem like the Atlanta Hawks are going to play in the half court—before stepping on the gas and putting through the hoop with authority. 

    How many legitimate one-on-four fast breaks end successfully, let alone with a rim-rattling dunk?

    Smith threw it down hard enough to make one of the announcers quip that the rim should be checked for bruises. All kinds of good stuff here.

No. 18: Terrence Ross over J.J. Redick

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    Terrence Ross winning the 2013 Slam Dunk Contest was cool and all, but it never showcased his real forte: the putback dunk.

    Ross is always watching from the perimeter, waiting for a miss. And when he finds one...look out.

    J.J. Redick, for one, gets the picture.

No. 17: Derrick Favors over Matt Bonner

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    Derrick Favors had a few highlight-reel plays against the San Antonio Spurs in last year's playoffs, and he kept the ball rolling by embarrassing Matt Bonner about a month back.

    If you're not a Utah Jazz fan, you can probably get a sense of why they're so up in arms about Favors' lack of minutes (he gets just 23 a game) after seeing this. Favors is raw offensively, but he has worlds of potential. This is just a taste of what he can do.

    Instead of watching Favors in this play, it's actually more fun to watch Bonner during the slow-mos. You can literally see the moment he switches from “I'm going to try and contest this shot” to “I need to protect myself" or "I might die.”

    Probably a good move from the Red Rocket.

No. 16: Will Barton over Thabo Sefolosha

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    Meet Will Barton, the Portland Trail Blazers' rookie guard who apparently knows a thing or two about dunking. Barton is one of the few guys on this list who's not all that well-known, but he sure showed Thabo Sefolosha who he was.

    Barton really loaded up for this one, almost touching his back with the ball. You don't see those kind of two-handed power dunks anymore, and the Rose Garden certainly seemed to appreciate it.

    The one problem here is that dunks are partially influenced by the way they're called, and the Trail Blazers announcer sounded about as excited about the dunk as Sefolosha was about being dunked on.

    Of course, there's always the chance that the announcer was just in a state of shock, in which case he's totally forgiven.

No. 15: Blake Griffin Soars in for the Chris Paul Alley-Oop

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    Believe it or not, this is only Blake Griffin's second-best dunk on the year (we'll get to the best a little later), but it's still a doozy. In fact, it might be the quintessential Los Angeles Clippers play: Chris Paul with a perfect pass to Griffin for a slam.

    There are a lot of great dunking big men, but Griffin is the only true big in the league who dunks with grace. There's something elegant about watching him soar through the air that you wouldn't normally associate with a player his size.

    Considering the power he exerted to throw it down, that elegance cannot be overstated. 

No. 14: JaVale McGee over Joakim Noah

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    Ever caught JaVale McGee in the middle of a boneheaded play and found yourself wondering why he’s even in the NBA? Next time, just remember this.

    There’s length and athleticism, and then there’s McGee jumping into the next universe and go-go-gadget-arming the ball into the net. He makes Joakim Noah, another seven-footer, look Muggsy Bogues-ish.

    McGee has had his shot blocked 34 times this season (per NBA.com), but that must be a typo, because there’s no way anyone else in the NBA can get that high.

    Also, special shout-out to Andre Iguodala for missing that alley-oop attempt at the beginning of the clip. A missed dunk has never worked out so well.

No. 13: Kobe Bryant over Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries

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    Apparently, someone forgot to tell Kobe Bryant that he's 34 years old. 

    It's probably more fair to say that Kobe dunked between Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries rather than on them, but whatever. The most important thing is just to call this what it really is: impressive.

    Kobe has legions of fans show up no matter what city he's playing in, but at least in this case, the roar of the Barclays Center had less to do with the player than it did with the play itself.

No. 12: Terrence Ross Throws Down the Reverse Putback

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    J.J. Redick can breathe easy. He's not on the receiving end of this one.

    Terrence Ross obviously has a gift for throwing down putbacks, but this is just ridiculous. How many guys could come in from one side of the basket angling for a putback, and then have the hops to reverse slam it after the ball caroms to the opposite side?

    Heck, how many guys even attempt that once they see the ball going the other way?

    At this point, the list is just one name—Terrence Ross. And for that, we thank him.

No. 11: J.R. Smith's Reverse Alley-Oop from Pablo Prigioni

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    At first glance, J.R. Smith's monster reverse alley-oop doesn't look like much. The problem is that Smith throws it down so quickly, it's hard to tell just what happened.

    If you watch the replay, you can see that Smith actually turns what looks to be a regular pass from Pablo Prigioni into an alley-oop. He jumps, catches the ball at knee level and then throws down a reverse in a single motion.

    He literally creates his own alley-oop. That's absurd. 

    Never change, J.R.

No. 10: Kevin Durant over Marcin Gortat

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    Kevin Durant might be the most underrated dunker in the league, but no one could possibly invalidate this one.

    Durant slowly dribbles up, freezes Michael Beasley with a hesitation move and then bangs it on Marcin Gortat's head. Two reactions are worth noting: Kendrick Perkins' awkward air punch and even more awkward slaps to the side of Durant's head (Perk likes to say “good job” nonverbally), and Jeremy Lamb's look of genuine concern for Gortat's life.

    Couple those with Gortat's own good-natured response later, and you've really got something.

No. 9: Jeff Green over Al Jefferson

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    There’s something about those twisting “sideline to the center of the key” drive and dunks that are just awesome. And this particular one is about as good as it gets.

    This time, it’s Al Jefferson on the receiving end of the Jeff Green hammer, and he didn’t stand a chance. You’ve got to love a dunk so good that an injured Rajon Rondo still decided to celebrate it with a great hop-skip routine.

    Green got T’d up over what had to be an inadvertent whistle out of fear. 

No. 8: Blake Griffin Oops the Between-the-Legs Pass from Jamal Crawford

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    This is one of those dunks where the sequence matters more than the actual dunk.

    More specifically, Jamal Crawford's pass matters. Maybe it's foolish to expect less from possibly the best ball-handler in the league, but still: Who else would have even tried a pass like that for kicks?

    Of course, that's not to take anything away from the dunk. There aren't many players in the league who can finish a windmill the way Griffin can, and none who can do it with his power.

    Plus, that jam was 100 percent improvised; there's no way that even Griffin knew what Crawford was going to do with the ball. Got to give him big points for adjusting.   

No. 7: LeBron James over Jason Terry

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    It might not be quite as impressive as last year's leap over John Lucas, but this year's slam on Jason Terry was 10 times as forceful.

    Teams like the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers sometimes try a little too hard to set up lobs when they're on the break.

    Not this time. You could see the end coming for Terry as soon as Norris Cole got the ball with LeBron James coming in from behind like a freight train.

    Judging from the reaction of the Boston crowd, they could all see it happening too.

No. 6: Byron Mullens over LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Byron Mullens is a great athlete who spends most of his time hovering around the perimeter and chucking threes. He shoots just 32 percent from downtown, so if there’s even a chance at another dunk like this, then he needs to stop firing.

    Mullens follows up his own three-point miss, snags the loose ball and throws down a leaning, one-handed slam that puts his waist level with LaMarcus Aldridge’s head. You do have to feel for Aldridge a little bit; he was set up for that charge for about three seconds, but his foot was just inside the restricted area.

    Maybe next time, try and actually contest a shot instead of just standing there like a bowling pin, LaMarcus.

    Note: In case you’re a raging Blazers homer and refuse to accept this dunk, the Portland announcers have a slightly different version of events.

No. 5: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist over Greg Monroe

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    A few have penciled in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a disappointment since the No. 2 overall pick hasn't had a franchise-altering impact on the Charlotte Bobcats. And sure, right now he's mostly a hustle guy with a crooked jumper.

    But when he does stuff like this...oh boy.

    You've got to love what the rook does when he gets the ball. No jumper or any attempt at a soft finish—just a single power bounce and a one-handed dunk vicious enough to make Greg Monroe look like he wants to melt into the crowd.

    It's perfect.

No. 4: Gerald Henderson over Dwight Howard

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    You want to know how good Gerald Henderson's and-1 dunk over Dwight Howard was? Tear your eyes away from the slam itself for one second and look at the very end of the Los Angeles Lakers bench.

    Antawn Jamison is so fired up that he actually starts celebrating before Robert Sacre pulls him back down. Jamison's been around the block, and he wouldn't completely lose his head over nothing.

    It takes a heck of a play to get opponents cheering for you. Henderson is in some good company.

No. 3: DeMar DeRozan over Timofey Mozgov

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    DeMar DeRozan's been a bit overshadowed this season (in terms of dunking, anyways) by Toronto Raptors rookie Terrence Ross. But he's still had some vicious throwdowns, and this is the best of them all.

    DeRozan takes advantage of some lax defense from Andre Miller and a late rotation from Timofey Mozgov (who must see these things coming at this point). He hangs in the air, hangs some more and then unloads a tomahawk on Mozgov and the rim.

    Mozgov is making over $3 million this season, but there's no way that's enough money to cover all of the therapy he'll need after this jam.

No. 2: Harrison Barnes over Nikola Pekovic

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    Harrison Barnes' detonation on Nikola Pekovic was about as close to perfect as it gets. It was a combination of the right crowd, a great call, a crazy bench celebration, a nice little stare-down and a smaller guy dunking on a bigger guy.

    That's pretty much the perfect-dunk checklist.

    In all honesty, one of the few negative things you could even say about Barnes' slam is that it happened too early in the year. This came less than a month into the season, so long ago that it almost seems like old news.

    But that doesn't stop it from being one of the best dunks of 2012-13 and a slam good enough to be crowned No. 1 in almost any other year.

    Just not this one. 

No. 1: DeAndre Jordan over Brandon Knight

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    There are great dunks, and then there are pantheon-level dunks—the ones that end up defining a season, or maybe even an entire era. 

    This dunk is in that category.

    Say what you will about that fact that DeAndre Jordan is a center and Brandon Knight is a guard. It doesn't matter; it's that good. This season's “dunk of the year” competition was over as soon as this happened.

    There are plenty of awesome things about this dunk, but here are just a few of the best:

    • Jordan almost landing on Brandon Knight because it took him that long to come down.
    • Knight's teammates gathering around him like they were at some kind of funeral.
    • Chris Paul pacing back and forth because he needed to calm down.
    • The kids on the sidelines going absolutely crazy.
    • The Los Angeles Clippers bench going absolutely crazy.
    • Caron Butler's “did that really just happen?” face.
    • Jordan's “I think Brandon Knight might be dead” face.
    • Social media nearly ending because of the sheer amount of people talking about this.

    There's an excellent chance that we'll be talking about this years from now. Maybe even decades from now. In a season of incredible dunks, this is the one that we'll remember forever.