The NBA is getting ready to hold the 2010 Slam Dunk Contest. Not all of the best dunk artists in the league today will participate, but it should still be an enjoyable event for many.
Here is, in no particular order, a list of some of the best dunk artists in NBA or ABA history. Len Bias graces the cover of this slide show because I never saw anyone jump higher than him—ever.
People tend to forget that Dr. J was a long-range shooting specialist during his collegiate career at UMass. Shortly after he joined the ABA as an undrafted free agent in 1971, though, his dunking ability became so legendary that the audacious move carried over into the NBA after the leagues merged in 1976.
There have been few beautiful aerial artists like the Doctor.
David stood 6'4" and had a 48" vertical.
This leaping ability allowed him to perform outstanding dunks yet to be duplicated. There was a longstanding rumor he could grab a quarter on top of the backboard and leave 15 cents in change.
According to sportswriter Terry Pluto, Thompson performed a dunk called "cradle the baby." He would cradle the ball in his arm above the rim, then punch it through.
They called him "Glide" because he was so smooth.
People noticed him first in college at the University of Houston as a member of Phi Slamma Jamma. After jumping to the NBA, Drexler had an excellent pro career, winning a championship and earning induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Connie was a legend even before he joined the NBA at age 28. With his amazing leaping ability, "The Hawk" had already made a name for himself on the playgrounds of New York City.
After playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, he joined the Pittsburgh Pipers of the ABA. Hawkins was named both the regular season and postseason ABA MVP in 1968, and led the Pipers to a championship. His ABA success and scoring prowess later made him a four-time NBA All-Star.
His Airness was known for more than his spectacular dunks or the ever dangling tongue that accompanied them. He was a champion, a scoring machine, a lock-down defender, and possessed a drive to improve each moment on the court.
There are many who consider him the best to ever play in the NBA.
The man dubbed "Dr. Dunkenstein" was also called "The Golden Griff" by Utah Jazz fans. After leading Louisville University to a NCAA Championship, he joined the Jazz and was named the 1981 Rookie of the Year.
He became a long-range shooting threat as he career went on, but was beloved for his dunks. Griffith had his jersey retired by the Jazz after 10 excellent seasons with the organization.
"The Human Highlight Reel" was one of a kind. He won the second ever slam dunk contest and was the 1986 NBA scoring champion.
Although his teams never won a title in the NBA, he would win the 1995-96 Euroleague Championship with Panathinaikos BC and was named the Finals MVP at the age 36.
Wilkins is one of only six players in NBA history to average at least 25 points per game for 10 consecutive seasons, and he holds the records of most free throws made in an NBA regular season game without a miss, 23, and most points scored in an NBA playoff Game Seven, which is 47.
Wilt was called "The Stilt" and to describe his impact on the game of basketball would take days.
While most remember that he scored 100 points in one game, others may forget he used to dunk taking off from the free throw line after being fouled. He is the reason a player cannot cross the free throw line on an attempt.
He was also the first man ever to dunk on a 12-foot basket.
After Pollard helped Stanford University win the 1942 NCAA Championship, he went off to serve in the Coast Guard during World War II.
He was 26 years old when he joined the Minneapolis Lakers in 1948, and soon his impressive hopes earned him the nickname "The Kangaroo Kid."
Pollard became the first player ever to dunk while taking off from the free throw line. In his eight years with the Lakers, they won six titles. He is a member of several Hall of Fames, including the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Although he just recently turned 25-years-old, James is already playing his seventh year in the NBA.
"King James" has a career average of over 27 points per game, and a playoff average of over 29 points.
At 6'8" and weighing 250 pounds, James combines power, grace, speed, and excellent leaping ability.
He blew into the NBA in 1989 at age 20, and had a rare combination of a 6'10" frame and incredible hops. Fans soon dubbed him "Rain Man" because of how he seemed to fall out of the sky.
Sadly, Kemp would battle personal problems that hampered his game, but many recall his exciting and amazing early seasons and wonder what could have been.
It may be hard to believe, but the 31-year-old Bryant has been in the NBA since 1996. He may have the experience of a wily veteran, but he shows little sign of slowing down for a very long time to come.
Having already won four NBA championships and an MVP Award, he has transformed his game from being a selfish player to a good teammate.
"Chocolate Thunder" is remembered for breaking backboards and giving his dunks nicknames.
Although his teams never won a title, he did play on some extremely talented rosters. Dawkins holds the record for most fouls committed in a season.
He was given the name "Thunder" early in his career for his powerful dunks, and remains one of the most popular Phoenix Suns players ever.
In 1992, Majerle became the first player ever voted to start in an All-Star Game despite having come off the bench all year. He is a member of the Suns' "Ring of Honor."
The dunks that "Vinsanity" has perpetrated are legendary. His "honey dip" dunk won him the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, which would be the last he participated in.
He is the third player to lead the NBA All-Star Game fan voting three or more times, but many Toronto Raptor fans will always remember his quitting on the team and supposedly not giving it his all.
"The High-Ayatolla of Slamola" won the NBA's first ever Slam Dunk Contest in 1984, which was an idea stolen from the ABA.
Nance was 6'10" and athletic. Not only could he score, but he was an excellent defender. He now is a professional drag racer in the International Hot Rod Association.
Many say Spud was 5'7", but others claim he was even shorter. It didn't matter, though, because Webb had a 42" vertical leap that he used to wow people in the 1986 dunk contest.
He beat his teammate, and defending champion, Dominique Wilkins by bamboozling him. Wilkins had never seen Webb dunk before, and Spud told him that he was unprepared and had not practiced. After Webb's display, Dominique knew he had been conned.
Webb is the third shortest person to have ever played in the NBA.