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Ranking the Best Poster Dunks of 2013

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 23, 2013

Ranking the Best Poster Dunks of 2013

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    It's probably safe to assume that LeBron James or Blake Griffin will throw down one or two more posterizing dunks before we flip the calendar to 2014, so consider these rankings subject to explosive change.

    For now, though, we've compiled and ranked the top 20 in-your-face jams of the past 12 months.

    Forget uncontested breakaways and lobs over the top of lazy defenders. To make this list, dunks have to have victims.

    Naturally, the larger the unfortunate "dunkee," the more credit awarded the dunker. It's much harder to spike one on Andrew Bogut than it is to cram one home against Jason Terry. At the same time, the raw ferocity of the dunk, combined with its overall aesthetics, will ultimately matter more than the height of the unlucky party under the rim.

    Respected coaches and old-school basketball minds always applaud the guts of those brave souls willing to stand in the way of a hard-charging offensive player. After watching these jams from 2013, I think it might be time to re-evaluate those sentiments.

    Here are the top 20 posterizations of 2013.

20. J.J. Hickson on Alonzo Gee

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    Alonzo Gee's face said it all.

    As he raised himself up to a sitting position on the baseline, his eyes bulged open and a smirk crossed his lips. Milliseconds after J.J. Hickson had punched in a two-handed slam on his head, Gee realized he had just been dunked on—good and proper.

    Gee's a wing player, which made things easier for the much larger Hickson. But the then-Portland Trail Blazers forward added some extra flair by hanging in the air through the contact with Gee's chest. That extra hang time emphasized the way Gee caromed off of Hickson, making him look like a rock hitting the windshield of a Mack truck doing 75 on the highway.

    That's only No. 20, by the way.

    These are going to get good.

19. Blake Griffin on Spencer Hawes

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    This one would have been a better poster if Blake Griffin hadn't switched to his left hand in mid-flight. Doing so allowed him to ward off Spencer Hawes with his unoccupied right hand in a way that kept the Philadelphia 76ers center from really getting into the picture.

    Griffin is now apparently at the point in his career where he's no longer satisfied by conventional highlights. He's already switching hands for no apparent reason.

    What's next, a jetpack?

    Oh, and there are no points awarded for DeAndre Jordan's follow-up slam on the missed free throw. He'll get his due later on.

18. Kid on Kid

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    You don't need Kevin Harlan and Kenny Smith doing voice-overs to make a dunk great, but it sure does help.

    We take a slight departure from the NBA's slate of 2013 posterizations to pay homage to a top-notch jam from a high school hallway. These kids have it figured out: teamwork, the element of surprise, a sense of the moment—they're all there.

    What showmanship!

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled NBA programming.

17. Harrison Barnes on Anthony Randolph

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    You know what they say: It's almost impossible to get a reaction out of Draymond Green and Kent Bazemore.

    Wait a second. Nobody says that.

    Easy-to-impress audience notwithstanding, Harrison Barnes' nasty reverse jam on Anthony Randolph warrants a place in these rankings.

    On its own, the supremely athletic (and clearly improvised) decision to dunk that ball would have been enough. But the symbolism of a current Golden State Warriors phenom dunking on one from the past was especially sweet for Dubs fans.

16. J.J. Hickson on Marvin Williams

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    Nobody should feel sorry for Marvin Williams. By the end of this season, he'll have made over $55 million despite a disappointing career.

    The former No. 2 overall pick has been a decent player, averaging double figures in scoring in six different seasons and generally giving solid effort. Had he been drafted in the middle of the first round, I'm guessing he'd be viewed differently. But by virtue of his draft position, many see Williams as an underachiever.

    Now that we're all better acquainted with the complex narrative of his career, here he is getting flushed on by Hickson.

    That's two entries from Hickson, by the way. Don't worry; we're done with him from here on out.

15. Kobe Bryant on the Nets

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    In light of recent events, this one's a little bittersweet.

    Kobe Bryant won't be dunking again in the foreseeable future, but as recently as last February, he was throwing down the occasional sneaky slam.

    Here, he doesn't get particularly high above the rim, but he manages to claim two victims: Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. Clearly, they weren't ready for Kobe to turn back the clock.

    Per Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated, Bryant said: "I was upset because I missed so many easy ones all night long. I had a lane to the basket and I took it. I thought it was an and-one but I think the ref was surprised that I actually dunked it."

    Come back soon, Mamba.

14. Blake Griffin on Ian Mahinmi

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    I know what you're thinking: What makes this left-handed slam from Griffin any better than the one he threw down on Hawes five spots ago?

    Well, for one thing, Ian Mahinmi is a much more intimidating figure than Hawes, and the Indiana Pacers big man gave a great effort to prevent Griffin from completing the play. Incredibly, the Blake Show managed to elude the shot-blocker, giving up his body and falling out of bounds after whipping the rock through the net.

    Any time you risk great bodily harm to create a poster, it's worth a few extra ranking spots.

    Before we move on, it's worth noting that 2013 wasn't nearly the dunking year for Griffin that 2012 was. Maybe he's mellowing out.

    Either that or he's using up all of his energy flopping.

13. Paul Millsap on Jared Sullinger

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    I'm not sure what prevented this jam by Paul Millsap from getting a little more coverage.

    It has everything a good poster needs: style, a big man trying to defend the rim and a sweet tag line from the commentator pronouncing Millsap's "evil intent." Of course, it's also possible that nobody was watching when the Atlanta Hawks took on the Boston Celtics earlier this season.

    Seriously, attendance at Philips Arena is a joke. I don't know how else to put it.

    Bonus points to Millsap for the high leg kick and the way Jared Sullinger immediately darted up the floor after getting jammed on.

    Sorry, Sully, the poster's already printed. You're on it.

12. Will Barton on Thabo Sefolosha

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    If that last Millsap dunk got swept under the rug, this slam by Portland Trail Blazers reserve Will Barton is buried beneath the entire house. Honestly, I don't think anyone outside the state of Oregon remembers this play.

    That's what these year-end rankings are for, though: to remind everyone of the posters that were.

    Frankly, this dunk doesn't make the list if Barton doesn't fully cock that thing back behind his head before unleashing embarrassment all over Thabo Sefolosha. For you kids out there, Barton went "Full Sprewell" on that slam.

    Bonus points for making me remember the actual "Oaktown Jam" Latrell Sprewell poster I used to have. Thank you, Will Barton.

11. LeBron James on Ben McLemore

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    Ben McLemore's heart was in the right place. So, too, were his intentions, as he just missed getting his feet outside the restricted area in anticipation of LeBron James' soaring drive.

    It was McLemore's mind that could have used some recalibrating. After all, there's not a referee on the planet who'd whistle James for a charge against a rookie, let alone one who only managed to catch a little of James' left thigh in his face as the King elevated for a ridiculously easy spike.

    The Sacramento Kings have a promising player in their rookie shooting guard. Chances are, he'll recover from this mistake just fine.

    You can bet he'll think twice before stepping in front of the reigning MVP again, though. Welcome to the league, rook.

10. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Greg Monroe

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    LeBron's dunk was awesome, but it fails to crack the top 10 for a couple of reasons. First, it featured a halfhearted effort to contest by McLemore. Second, we've seen much better from LBJ.

    Neither of those things are true of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's punishing dunk on Greg Monroe, though, which is why it checks in among the top 10 dunks of 2013.

    MKG takes on a big man who's up to the challenge and completes the play with ferocity. The normally soft-spoken second-year player even lets out a triumphant shout after the jam. Plus, this play might be Kidd-Gilchrist's career offensive highlight.

    All that stuff aside, this is a sick dunk. MKG takes one hard power dribble inside the foul line and absolutely soars over the top of Monroe.

    I bet Bobcats owner Michael Jordan smiled about this one between cigars when he heard about it on the 15th hole.

9. Josh Smith on Brook Lopez

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    They don't come much bigger than Brook Lopez. But that didn't bother Josh Smith, who pounded home a full-extension, left-handed bomb on the Brooklyn Nets center last January.

    Lopez kind of sets himself up for trouble here by staying on Smith's hip as the much-more-athletic forward dribbles up the floor. But then the big man compounds the problem by easing off at the last second, allowing Smith the airspace he needs to really elevate.

    The cherry on top here is Lopez feebly slapping Smith in the head as he flies out of the frame.

    Ouch.

    Serious question: If you can do this, why on Earth would you ever shoot contested 20-footers? Maybe somebody should ask J-Smoove the answer to that one.

8. Taj Gibson on Kris Humphries

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    Humphries makes his second appearance here, this time for being on the wrong end of one of Taj Gibson's typically angry slams.

    If you think about it, this play has almost every key element of a perfect posterization. A big man tries to get in the way, the dunker has a running start, and everybody in the arena positively erupts as the flashbulbs pop in unison.

    It's tough to be critical of Gibson's dunk. But if forced to nitpick, I really would have liked to see him square up to the contact just a tiny bit more.

    You can tell we're getting close to the top of the list when we're searching for flaws in dunks like this one.

7. JaVale McGee on Andrew Bogut and Vice Versa

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    You get two for the price of one here, as we're featuring Andrew Bogut and JaVale McGee's postseason dunk exchange as its own entry.

    The Denver Nuggets big man got things started by pounding home a vicious slam over the cranky Aussie in Game 1 of the Warriors' first-round series against the Nugs.

    But then Bogut got his revenge in Game 4, turning a pick-and-roll into a rise-and-jam.

    Bogut almost never rolls to the rim with this much purpose, mostly because he wants to avoid taking a trip to the foul line. So you could tell that he was out to even the score in this instance. The crowd at Oracle just about blew the roof off after Bogut's retaliatory dunk, setting the raucous tone that helped propel the Dubs to a series upset.

    G'day and goodnight, JaVale.

6. Xavier Henry on Jeff Withey

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    If this is how Xavier Henry deals with former classmates, I'd hate to see how he treats big men who didn't play college ball with him.

    Poor Jeff Withey found himself on the railroad tracks as the train was coming through, and he didn't do a very good job of getting out of the way.

    Most other NBA bigs would get a pass for trying to deter one of Henry's dunks. The Los Angeles Lakers guard doesn't have much of a resume after bouncing around for a few uneventful seasons, so there are probably plenty of centers who wouldn't have been familiar with his hops.

    But Withey spent time watching this guy dunk during practice and games at Kansas. He should have known better.

5. J.R. Smith on Ian Mahinmi

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    I'll admit it: I'm a complete sucker for wrong-footed plays. It doesn't make sense, it makes me a biased judge, and I won't apologize for it.

    I just think it's a brilliant way to flash quirky athleticism while also keeping defenders off balance.

    So if you're curious about how J.R. Smith's wrong-footed slam on Ian Mahinmi managed to make it all the way up to the No. 5 spot in these rankings, wonder no more. I'm not a fair judge when it comes to this particular type of play.

    Biases aside, this is a terrific, ridiculously difficult dunk to complete. Getting enough elevation to finish this play with the right hand is incredible, and doing it through contact is even more amazing.

    Maybe it lacks the eye-popping wonder of a traditional posterization, but this jam is sneakily excellent.

4. LeBron James on Jason Terry

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    If Jason Terry were a few inches taller, this poster slam would have been worthy of the No. 2 ranking. But at just 6'2", Terry didn't have a prayer of grounding James' flight.

    This is a classic "get out of the way" situation, but the veteran Terry just couldn't remove himself from harm quickly enough. As a result, he found himself staring up at a member of a more evolved species as James did something normal human beings can't do.

    Everything about this play is fantastic. Terry's realization that James, and not Norris Cole, would be finishing the play is priceless. The way the Celtics guard topples to the floor adds some extra violence, and James' insane elevation lends a surreal quality to the entire sequence.

    Frankly, James didn't need to stand over his fallen foe. He'd made his point. But other than that, this dunk is hard to beat.

3. DeMar DeRozan on Timofey Mozgov

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    The good news is that Timofey Mozgov makes just one appearance on this year's list. In the past, Blake Griffin and a never-ending parade of high-fliers ensured his inclusion multiple times per year.

    Here, DeMar DeRozan provides all of the necessary elements for a posterization. He gets a running start at a much larger opponent, rises and fires the ball through the net with a one-handed spike. Basically, it's how you'd draw up a poster-worthy jam in a laboratory.

    Mozgov gets credit for continuing to make an effort to prevent dunks like this. And for what it's worth, he's a pretty capable interior defender on most nights.

    But this had to feel like deja vu for the Nuggets center.

    It also bears mentioning that the Toronto Raptors faithful cheered like crazy after the play. They wouldn't reach that deafening decibel level again until the team managed to trade Andrea Bargnani. Good times.

2. Paul George on Chris Andersen

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    The stakes of a dunk have to count for something, right?

    I mean, Paul George's ruthless tomahawk jam on Chris Andersen in last year's Eastern Conference Finals would have rated as a top-10 dunk if it had happened in December. But the fact that it contributed to the momentum of a surging Pacers team as it tried desperately to unseat the champs made it all the more spectacular.

    All "Birdman" wants to do is block shots, but he doesn't even come close to bothering George on this play. After darting past James, the Pacers' rising star propels himself toward the rim with a raw speed and power that only a few NBA stars can match.

    The post-dunk yell is positively primal, a bellowing announcement that George and the Pacers have arrived.

1. DeAndre Jordan on Brandon Knight

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    I mean, seriously, were you expecting anything else?

    Sure, Brandon Knight is nowhere near DeAndre Jordan's size, which makes this play fall short in some of our predetermined posterization criteria. But the sheer power and athleticism of Jordan's one-handed atomic bomb of a dunk are enough to warrant the No. 1 spot with room to spare.

    The Clippers bench goes absolutely insane. Blake Griffin starts screaming at Jordan like a crazy person, Lamar Odom takes a walk to collect his thoughts, and an entire arena full of civilized human beings starts jumping and shouting uncontrollably.

    Nobody had a bigger dunk in 2013 than Jordan, and it's probably a safe bet that we won't see one this good for a few more years.

    Oh, and another thing: Jordan completed the play with his off hand.

    Per LeMont Calloway of NBA.com: "Outside of the dunk's height and ferocity, I am always amazed at the way the left-handed Jordan throws it down with his right hand. Nasty... Just nasty."

    Nasty, indeed.

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