NBA's All-Time Top 20 Dunkers (With YouTube Video)
What makes a great dunker? Is it hops? The ability to dunk through multiple bodies? Winning slam dunk contests?
These are a few of the many factors that need to be examined when determining the greatest dunkers of all time.
Previously, ESPN's Sports Nation did a countdown of the Top 20 Dunkers of All-Time. It was part of their mini series titled, "Who's No. 1?"
Here's the list of how they saw the Top 20 dunkers five years ago:
20. Steve Francis
19. Harold Miner
18. Amar'e Stoudemire
17. Darrell Griffith
16. Isaiah Rider
15. Kevin Garnett
14. Dwyane Wade
13. Larry Nance
12. Tracy McGrady
11. Connie Hawkins
10. Darryl Dawkins
9. Kobe Bryant
8. David Thompson
7. LeBron James
6. Shawn Kemp
5. Clyde Drexler
4. Vince Carter
3. Dominique Wilkins
2. Julius Erving
1. Michael Jordan
This was the list they gave and, as with most lists, it is based on opinion.
I have my own list. The criteria include: creativity, the Slam Dunk Contest, dunk success, style, hang time, power, dunk perfection, entertainment factor and dunking in the playoffs.
They are guys who just missed the cut:
Kenny "Sky" Walker—as they called him—had a few spectacular dunks, but they were mostly reserved for the Slam Dunk title.
Larry Nance won the NBA's original Slam Dunk title over Julius Erving.
He also had a ferocious dunk over Kareem and the Lakers as his main highlight to go off of. Other then that, he lacked the full repertoire of dunks needed for inclusion on this list.
Dwight Howard is still young but, other than his buzzer-beating dunk over Tim Duncan, lacks character-fulfilling dunks.
Darrell Griffith had the hops and scoring ability, but lacked the force and facials of big men to make a permanent stamp on the Top 20.
Spud Webb won the historic Dunk contest in Dallas, but did not have as much good fortune in dunking during games. His highlight dunk would be the dunk in which he went burrowing down the lane and shook Magic Johnson out of his shoes. Still, not enough for the list.
Elgin Baylor was the original hang-time member. However, he lacked the creativity needed to sneak him into the 20th position.
Nate Robinson is another guy who was great in the Slam Dunk competition, but has still left us hungry for more in-game dunks. Still, he took what Spud Webb did to another level.
Baron Davis is a powerful little guy who had maybe one of the biggest dunks of all-time against Utah in the Playoffs. We also can't forget his dunk over K.G.
Josh Smith, a freak of nature, easily could have been the 20th member chosen. He dunks the ball hard, but he lacks any other creative dunking skill outside of the familiar "Statue of Liberty" that LeBron uses. I want to see more facials from this kid. He should be able to creep onto this list within the next few seasons.
Here are the 20 I selected:
20. Amar'e Stoudemire
This was a tough one between him and Josh Smith. I went with Stoudemire based on years in the league.
Stoudemire had the infamous dunk over the Candy Man in his rookie year and another ferocious dunk this season over Anthony Tolliver of the Warriors. Yes, those Warriors who play no defense.
He lacks the creativity or the offensive assault to make his dunks more valuable. He also stands right on the cusp as the 20th member selected. He embodies many of the physical tools held by Shawn Kemp of the Supersonics' days.
One can only hope that he can be a little more spontaneous with his dunks in the future, barring micro-fracture knee issues.
19. Shaquille O'Neal
Breaking backboards and throwing big men out of the way to make them look like children.
Just an average day for Shaquille O'Neal.
He makes the list based on his physical prowess inside. He also named his dunks, such as the "Black Tornado."
Not as creative with his dunks as Daryl Dawkins, they still demoralized defenders.
18. Kevin Garnett
"The Big Ticket" could come as a surprise to many, but the fury with which he throws down the rock can't help but make you say oooohh.
The dunking prowess of Kevin Garnett in Boston is nothing like it was during his formative years in Minnesota.
Garnett shook the rim plenty on the Timberwolves.
17. Charles Barkley
When Barkley got going, you could only hope to get out of his lane in time. He used all of his 252 pound frame to knock bodies out of the way on a tip dunk.
His years in Philly would remind you of Daryl Dawkins when he threw down the rock. He was another guy who used his entertainment before and after the dunk to promote its value.
16. Andre Iguodala
The new A.I. has definitely got some spring in his step.
Whether at the University of Arizona or currently with the 76ers, Iguodala has been getting up. He makes some high rising plays that make fans rise out of their seats.
He lost to Nate Robinson in a controversial Slam Dunk Contest. What's not up for debate is that he has the lengthy tear down of a dunk like T-Mac and force of K.G.
He'll give you a facial if you challenge him.
15. Robert Pack
Robert "Action Packed" is an overlooked dunker for much of the basketball community.
Don't be fooled: he could take it to the rim.
Although only 6'2'', Pack would rise above the giants and throw the ball down their throats. His explosiveness and power is something I have not seen from a pro his size.
When Pack weaves around the corner then raises for a fantastic finish, he resembles a smaller Jason Richardson.
He also made sure to dunk in the playoffs. Just ask the '94 Sonics.
14. Tracy McGrady
Tracy McGrady over Shawn Bradley might be a top ten jam of all-time. It was like McGrady took Bradley's soul on the play.
Tracy, like his cousin Vince Carter, also competed in the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest and was quite impressive.
His playoff dunks and the posters on the walls of youngsters are his claim to this spot on the list. Watch the videos if you need more evidence that this former Raptor knows how to jam.
13. Dwyane Wade
D-Wade has thrown it down a time or two in his career. Deceptively strong within his 6'4'' frame, he conjures up memories of David Thompson with many of his dunks.
Wade can be elusive as he rises for his attempt and even tougher to stop from completing the dunk. His deathly dunk over Anderson Varejao in Miami even raised the eyebrows of His Airness in attendance. This is the dunk that cannot be forgotten.
12. Jason Richardson
The former slam dunk champion is similar to Dominique Wilkins in his ability to throw down a sensational windmill dunk.
He has the ups of a frog and could possibly leap over players. I only wish we could see some more posters on the wall starring Jason Richardson since most of his spectacular dunks come when he's alone. Still, he has won the NBA Slam Dunk crown and can still get up after almost a decade in the league.
11. Darryl Dawkins
Darryl Dawkins had many nicknames for himself and his dunks.
I'll just call him Chocolate Thunder.
Shattering backboards? That's his game.
His creativity was his main asset, naming each of his dunks. Being a showman was nothing Dawkins couldn't handle. He was the precursor to Shaq in trying to bring the house down.
10. Connie Hawkins
"The Hawk" was smooth and raucous at the same time. Huge hands gave him the ability to move the ball around in all sorts of twists and turns to put down a dunk.
The attempted rejection of his dunk only made the dunk look prettier as he would sway it in the air before it crashed down below.
9. Kobe Bryant
Almost everyone who knows Kobe can recall his dunk over the then-unknown Ben Wallace.
His baseline reverse dunks have always been nasty and a reminder that he has more than just a jumper. Also, Kobe is willing to take it to the rack and throw it down when needed at the end of a game.
He is also a member of the Slam Dunk Champion fraternity, as he won it during his rookie season.
8. David Thompson
David "Skywalker" Thompson, was only 6'4'', but his 48" vertical leap was a nightmare for defenses.
Before drugs took away his leaping abiliity, he was a natural trampoline. Finishing on the heels of Dr. J for the original Slam Dunk Title, the former Wolfpack member showed that he could easily get up.
His blocks and dunks were as smooth as peanut butter. His dunk on Bobby Jones was just mean.
7. Clyde Drexler
Clyde "The Glide" Drexler had hang time like a 747. He could get up, write a novel, have a drink and then come back down to reality for a nice little flush.
He took many of the dunks first performed by Elgin Baylor and put a little more spice and explosiveness into them.
His dunk against the Lakers in the Forum from near the free-throw line stamped Drexler on this list.
6. LeBron James
LeBron James dunks the ball with a relentless passion like a young Michael Jordan. If he is coming your way, you better move or get ready to take a charge because he's going to make you pay.
As is shown in this pic, LeBron will not only posterize you, he'll make you wish you hadn't even shown up for work that day (Delonte West, Damon Jones).
His famous "Statue of Liberty" dunk is where he strikes the ball like a dart on a board. He has more dunks in his arsenal, but his air in Charlotte and fury over the opposition lands him at No. 6 for the given time.
5. Julius Erving
The Doctor schooled others on many things, especially the art of the dunk. The original Slam Dunk winner during his ABA days, his free-throw line dunk has been copied to the nth degree.
An originator, he can take credit for the progression of the dunk. It is just too bad there isn't more footage of his play with the Nets. His dunks in the Finals against the Lakers, when he swooped past Michael Cooper, and against the Blazers are just money.
4. Shawn Kemp
Electricity, quicks and power are all parts of Seattle's "Rainman". He truly made the flush an art form.
He is best known for the "Lister Blister"r and the "Gatling Splating".
He gave facials to anyone standing in his way and, most importantly, did it in the playoffs. The dunk over Bill Laimbeer is pure comedy.
His alley-oop dunks from Gary Payton were poetry in motion.
Much of what was so great about Kemp's dunks weren't even the dunks, but the little shimmy movement he'd make after the dunk, or the little finger point at Alton Lister for example.
He brought the entertainment element outside of the dunk to rile up the fans and teammates.
3. Michael Jordan
Having the nickname "Air" speaks of Jordan's abilities. The man could fly, with flash, and relentlessly pursue the rim.
Like LeBron James, they go at the basket as if they are in a dog fight and they need to destroy it.
He also had the ability to be agile and smooth at the same time, creating an art form out of the dunk. His baseline dunk over Patrick Ewing in the 1991 NBA Playoffs is arguably the greatest dunk of all-time.
2. Vince Carter
Vince wowed everyone with his thrilling show at the 2000 All-Star Game in Oakland. It was the best performance I've seen by anyone in the Slam Dunk Contest.
That title was just a footnote, though, compared to the in-game dunks Vince had during his first three years in the league.
Over Duncan? Check.
Baseline reverse past Mullin? Check.
Nasty throwdown over Mourning? Check.
He has had a slew of creative and innovative dunks. He took many of the features of his predecessors and created a new mix with them.
Why don't I have him at No. 1 as so many believe him to be?
Injuries, for one, limited the amount of time he was able to be fully devastating with his dunks.
The other point would be his lack of "important dunks." He did have the game winner over Olajuwon in his early years, but he settled for the jumper instead of taking it to the rack for most of his career—a choice that probably hampered him from ever reaching his full potential.
He also lacked the dunks in the Playoffs that Starks, Jordan, Kemp and Wilkins achieved.
Still, it cannot be denied how awesome of a throw-down specialist he has been. If you were to place him any lower than the third, it would be a shame.
At one point, he really was "Half-Man, Half-Amazing".
1. Dominique Wilkins
Who else but the "Human Highlight Reel" at the top spot?
He had force on his dunks that rivaled Shaq.
His windmill dunks looked like a knockout punch from Mike Tyson.
He had hang time like Drexler and Baylor as well.
He would take on multiple opponents (like his double clutch against three Milwaukee Bucks) with a dunk as the game was on the line. Heck, he even had a dunk where he combed through all five Miami Heat players.
His vertical was up with the rest, he had the height to throw down over big men and when he dunked on Larry Bird it looked like he might go to jail for aggravated assault.
Dominique was still throwing down nice dunks for the San Antonio Spurs in his mid-30s. By the way, that was after he had blown out his Achilles tendon five years earlier.
He was robbed of the Slam Dunk title by Mr. Jordan in their infamous showdown (likely due to it taking place in Chicago).
All in all, if you grew up watching Hawks games on TBS, you knew at least once a game Dominique was going to have you saying "Damn!"