The dunk: A beautiful expression of explosiveness, power, coordination, creativity and grace. The dunk is awe-inspiring, "oh my god" inducing, earth shattering, everlasting. It is both primal and sophisticated, not to mention so incredibly cool.
One dunk is all it takes to make its practitioner a hero, a legend, a god. One dunk can signify arrival, vindication or apotheosis. It can raise the roof, bring down the house, ignite the crowd and even transcend the game.
It's no coincidence that dunking is described by so many euphemisms; it is among our culture's most compelling actions. Players spend entire careers trying to posterize each other. The first time I threw down may have been the proudest moment of my life.
Now, it's time to serve you up some facials. So here they are, the 50 most ridiculous in-your-face dunks of all time.
Before we start, though, some criteria:
1. Each dunk must be on, through, or over somebody. No flashy dunk contest slams in open space.
2. The defender matters. Anyone could dunk on my little sister in the driveway. But few have successfully dunked on the greatest shot-blockers of all time.
3. Size matters. A little guy dunking over a big guy is always more impressive than the opposite.
4. The post-dunk reaction counts. Extra points for leaving defenders sprawled on the floor in pain or embarrassment.
5. When the dunk happened is irrelevant. We're not talking clutch or important dunks here, just dunks that inspire sour-milk face in all who watch.
Europeans have a reputation for not playing much defense. Maybe it's because they're afraid of this happening to them. Derrick Rose seems to suspend in air just long enough for Dragic to fly underneath and improve consequent posters.
Iguodala springs off the floor with such unbelievable quickness that the ball often careens through the hoop before most defenders know what happened. It might be better, though, if Terrence Williams is unaware of the outcome of this play. Otherwise he might start crying.
Question: Who just climbed up and over Marcus Camby to send home a putback?
Answer: The Answer.
With all the crossing over and breaking ankles, people tend to forget that young Iverson could fly. Camby doesn't seem all too pleased with AI riding his shoulders after the play is done.
I apologize for the poor video quality, but this dunk is sick. Most people think Ray Allen is merely a smooth jump shooter, but young Ray Ray could get jiggy wit it! And there's some flair added at the end, too.
Clyde the Glide always had that bounce!
Though Horace Grant denies Drexler's first attempt, the Glide more than makes up for it with his second foray to the hoop. Marv Albert calls it perfectly: "A facial served up by Clyde Drexler!"
David Thompson, who had a brief but electrifying career from 1975-84, rarely receives his due nowadays. A 6'4 scoring guard, he was one of the game's original high flyers, as you'll clearly see in this montage. The dunk that makes this list is at 2:10 in the video.
Here's a little interesting factoid: Thompson is one of the 5 players ever who have scored more than 70 points in a game.
Michael Finley is another one of those forgotten bangers. In the late 90s, he regularly abused all sizes of defenders. Here he takes on a former Defensive Player of the Year without any reservations, and we viewers are better off for it.
Before his devastating knee injuries, Penny Hardaway could soar! He was one of the most versatile and athletic players in the league, pairing with Shaq to lead the great mid-90s Magic squads. Here he blasts into the lane and pounds one on a hapless Bull (could Be Luc Longley).
Russell Westbrook is one of those guards that gets freaky-deaky on the regular. He may not have a consistent jump shot yet, but he can surely blitz the hoop.
Westbrook should be providing highlights for years to come.
Just listen to that crowd reaction. That's what the game is all about!
Stevie Franchise used to be ridiculous! The first few years of his career were littered with thrilling athletic exploits. He has no mercy for Jahidi White here and completely demolishes the opposing big man.
Though it looks like Jermaine O'Neal might have a chance at blocking this shot, Hakim Warrick just says no. Warrick will not be stopped, and he finishes with authority!
As you'll see later, Patrick Ewing was often the subject of staggering slams, but he could deliver the blow too! Here he gives one of the league's best shot-blockers quite the facial and then makes sure everyone knows about.
Before the druge abuse and illegitimate children, there was simply the dunking. Shawn Kemp was a pure thoroughbred, a hoss.
Here, he explodes to the hoop so quickly, Carr barely has a chance to try and block the shot. Watching the Reign Man dunk makes you concerned for the safety of everybody near.
This is why they call him the Diesel
Shaq Daddy has countless forceful dunks to his name. He has broken bones and backboards and crushed defenders' spirits.
Here he annihilates the Admiral, who won't be asking for more any time soon!
And they say Dwight needs to expand his offensive game. He makes Theo Ratliff look like Raggedy Ann, bulling through him and then throwing it down on his head.
You see how no one wants to play any help defense? The paint is a danger zone when Howard's on the court.
The shoe is now on the other foot Mr. Superman.
I was thinking of giving Dwight a pass, considering Kobe was in his prime and Howard was just a rookie. Yet Dwight was drafted #1 to stop these things from happening, not from being an embarrassed spectator.
To this day Dwight maintains it is the only individual play that still haunts him.
Stromile Swift treats Yao like a chump and drops the hammer! There's nothing else to say.
(Swift gave us more flashes of brilliance than almost any other predominantly ineffective player.)
This dunk is probably the most memorable slam in New York Knicks history. John Starks apparently was fed up with the Bulls dunking all over Patrick Ewing, so he decided to return the favor, lefty style.
Outside of the Big Apple, Starks doesn't always get the credit he deserves for being one of the best dunkers of the 90s.
Shawn Bradley is extremely tall (7'6) but can't jump very well.
Tracy McGrady isn't extremely tall but can jump very well.
I guess hops trumps size.
(Point of note: Dunkers loved to play against Shawn Bradley, as he almost invariably provided opportunities for others' highlight reel finishes.)
Oooweee! Here's that canvass for a dunker's paint again.
Chris Webber tells Shawn Bradley, "Get in the weight room, son! Go eat a sandwich!"
Those flimsy arms do nothing to deter Webber from slamming with force.
Manuuuuuu! Ginobili is known more for clever footwork and crafty layups, but occasionally he reminds us that he can play above the rim as well.
He embarrasses four Lakers on this attack of the rim, exclaiming: "You can't hold me down!"
Can you take me higher?
The Chosen One can. In a display of sheer dominance, he slings the rock through the rim as if he wants to decapitate KG.
This is LeBron in classic beast mode, and all KG can do is put up his arms to deflect the pain.
How do you say, "Please don't do that to me it's upsetting" in Chinese? That's what Yao's probably thinking.
Kobe demonstrates that it's not the size of the feet that matters, it's the size of the boosties underneath the shoes.
A nation of over 1 billion people cringed together at this sight.
Brezec should know better than to challenge J-Smoove in the air. What other outcome could possibly occur besides Primoz ending up on the wrong side of a Sportscenter Top 10 play.
Smith is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete and he shows it here.
Amare has dunked on a lot of people. But Amare hasn't thrown people to the floor the way he does Jeff Foster. Watching this makes you think that Amare will someday seriously hurt someone by dunking on them.
Plus, the snarl at the end is fantastic.
Oh snap! Everyone knows Tyrus Thomas is a pogo stick, but this is unusually nasty. There is nothing Jermaine O'Neal can do.
Also notice the brief but penetrating stare Thomas gives the fallen O'Neal. That look says, "We both know I just owned you, and no matter what happens in the future, I will forever own you!"
Uh! This one makes me cringe. Big Ben rarely gets played like this, so this dunk is rather surprising. Trevor Ariza's superior athleticism permits him to yak all over Wallace's face.
When Tyrannosaurus Lawson entered the league, we all knew he was a blur. But I don't think anyone realized he had those ungodly ups. That's a pint-sized rookie taking a big guy to school... then forcing him to stay for detention.
Um, Andres, you know you just got demolished by Kwame Brown, right? KWAME BROWN. How can you even show your face around the league anymore?
This might be the only good play Kwame ever made, but boy is it special.
Chris Paul goes all MC Hammer on Dwight, screaming "Can't touch this!"
CP3 may like to pass, but he can finish too. What an explosive move by an explosive player.
Shannon Brown might be the premier high-wire act in the game today. Here's the conversation I'm imagining:
Brown: Hey Mikki, watch out! I'm hurtling down the lane about to dunk.
Moore: No it's ok, I think I'll try to take a charge.
Brown: Are you sure? I'm gonna take a dump all over your face.
Moore: Go ahead.
And then Moore just gets blown up!
Let's do some math:
Most powerful, dynamic player in the history of professional basketball + arguably the greatest defensive power forward of all time + serious hang time = epic dunk.
After being launched through the rim, the ball proceeds to hit Duncan on the head as he stumbles backward.
The Packman was such a beast! You almost get scared watching him dunk, as if he could explode through the screen.
Pack could be on this list for any number of these throwdowns. I think the one on Laettner is the most impressive, but feel free to make up your own mind.
As soon as Carmelo steals the ball, I find myself bracing for the inevitable humiliation of Millsap. It's kind of like seeing a head-on collision from a mile away but not being able to do anything.
I love the vigorous head-nodding and chest-slapping. Really animates the scene.
This may not be Dr. J's most famous dunk, but it is definitely his most in-your-face. Look at the rise, look at the extension, look at the utter mastery over Walton.
While we're here, I would like to say thank you to the Doctor for making this whole slideshow possible.
The best angle might be the one at the end of the clip.
Larry Nance's career was defined by dunking. He was the winner of the first slam dunk contest. His nickname was the High-Ayatolla of Slamola.
If you watch this video, then you'll completely understand why, as there are a number of dunks that could earn him a spot on this list. The unreal jumping ability, albatross wingspan, and entertainer's attitude made him elite.
Old fundamental Grant Hill?! Sledgehammering the ball on Zo's head?!
Early in his career, Grant Hill was among those dubbed "the Next Jordan," due in no small part to feats like this.
Grant displays a sweet move and an even sweeter exclamation point, conquering a mountainous shot-blocker!
Sorry, Zo, but you just got smoked on back-to-back dunks. On the other hand, there is no shame in being dunked on by Carter; in fact, I would be honored if it happened to me.
Vinsanity is perhaps the finest dunker the world has ever witnessed. This formidable flush forces Mourning to stagger backwards and gather his bearings, something that regularly happens when you visit New Jersey.
Look at the dunk face!
Amare has become known for his frequent powerful facials, but this one takes the cake.
He flies from the middle of the lane and hammers the ball over and through Olowokandi. And though the Kandi Man is a scrub, he's a pretty physically imposing scrub.
This is truly unbelievable! As soon as Stackhouse collides with the two defenders, they fly backwards as if a bomb has exploded!
I don't know of any other dunk that has sent multiple guys crashing to the floor.
These two unfortunate souls guys are lucky that it is impossible to tell who they are. It has saved them an eternity of digital embarrassment.
What is Nachbar thinking? I love when defenders set up to take a charge and then try to bail out as they realize that they're about to get posterized. Nachbar gives us a prime example here, as Gerald Wallace absolutely demolishes him.
Crash brushes the ceiling, and the acrobatic landing makes it all the more spectacular.
This dunk has packs a serious punch.
As B-Diddy beats his man baseline, he elevates so rapidly and flushes so strongly. Nevermind the elbow to Kirilenko's face and the post-dunk strutting.
Baron used to be able to ignite a crowd the way few others could.
This whole sequence is one of Michael's most captivating, transcendent moments that will live with us forever. The slam itself is iconic.
Pitiful Patrick Ewing; he always tried so hard but often was made to look like a chump.
Conversely, MJ always had a knack for making magic happen.
Oh the devastation!
Shawn Kemp is as vicious a dunker as they come and a showman to boot. That combination spelled complete humiliation for anonymous Alton Lister.
After barreling through Lister to assault the rim, the Reign Man decides to rub it in by pointing mockingly at his fallen foe.
For posterity Lister will only be remembered ignominiously as they guy who got dunked on and pointed at.
He's not called the "Human Highlight Reel" for nothing.
'Nique is downright ferocious. He's like a runaway train with flubber attached to its wheels! Like a pterodactyl with opposable thumbs! Like Hercules with a jetpack!
Observe how many big time players he smashes, such as Larry Bird and Robert Parish.
This dunk became a prototype. The explosive Suns point guard was the original drive-left-baseline-then-turn-sideways-and-hammer-it-down guy. (Baron Davis, Grant Hill, Kobe etc. should pay homage.)
Not only was KJ just 6'3, but he also accomplished this maneuver over the leading shot-blocker in the history of the league. The Dream receiving this facial is truly unexpected and truly mind-blowing.
Tom Chambers... with no regard for human life!
Chambers was a unique athlete: Big, strong, and fast, with exceptional leaping ability. All these qualities are on display as he wreaks havoc on Mark Jackson.
That's almost like MMA, that knee to the throat!
Let's hope Jackson has a selective memory, because he might want to forget this ever happened.
Oh baby! Dwyane Wade tells Varejao to get out of his building. What an astoundingly powerful finish.
This dunk makes me want to cover the eyes of any nearby children. I can practically feel Varejao's pain as he crumples into the basket support like a crash test dummy.
Varejao is known for flopping, but there's no acting about his fall here.
There's no other word for this than destruction.
Scottie Pippen shows Patrick Ewing who's boss, not-so-politely asking him to sit down and observe Scottie's splendor.
This dunk epitomizes the relationship between the Bulls and Knicks. For year the Knicks tried to stop the Bulls and always put up valiant efforts. But then the Bulls repeatedly went over and through them, knocking them to the floor, walking all over them.
The most ridiculous in-your-face dunk of all time belongs to Vince Carter. When you see this for the first time, your jaw hits the floor in disbelief. Years later, it remains hard to put into words.
This dunk has it all. Vince literally jumps over a 7-foot Frenchman. He's like a superhero, "clearing men in a dingle bound."
And the posturing after the dunk - the leg kick, fist pump, howling - is the ultimate exclamation point.
The poor French. Although they have a long history of losing wars and being conquered, this might be the country's worst defeat of all time.