Picking the greatest in-game dunker of all time is kind of like selecting the best in-traffic driver. "Wow, did you see that green Subaru manuever from lane three to lane two just now? Perfect". "Hm, that was okay, but I think the yellow Jetta's decision to stay put will win out in the end."
In other words, it's subjective.
Fans of Jettas will understandably lean towards the V-Dub, just like a fan of the ATL will rave forever about 'Nique. I have no doubt that the following will be scrutinized, analyzed and could likely leave me victimized, but I will press on. This is my list of the NBA's greatest in-game dunkers.
The classification is important; these are guys who dunked, with some shock and awe, during the game.
You may not believe this to look at me know, but I used to be able to dunk. Being able to throw-down was about the only thing I had on my high school bucket list. While other kids were concerned with meeting girls, partying, rocking out to Devo or actually graduating high school, I wanted to dunk.
Even though I had access to a gym at school, I joined one near my house with the sole intention of working on my hops. My dad and I set up a hoop in my backyard and the battle was on. I could touch the rim with no problem. Then, I was gripping it. I thought I was close, but quickly realized that the trick in getting off a dunk is to get ABOVE the rim.
Ah, bummer. Back to the gym, but I was close.
I still remember it clear as I day. I was outside, working on my dunk, like pretty much every day after school, when it happened. I took my customary running start and elevated. It felt different from the second my feet left the ground.
Maybe I took off from the right angle, maybe the earth had shifted somehow giving me an extra gravitational lift, maybe it was just dumb luck—but I was on my way. It really was slow motion. I saw myself getting closer to the rim, I cocked my arm back, kept my eyes open and threw down!
I stayed up, holding the rim with both hands as I saw the ball bounce off my feet. I dunked!
Dude, I dunked.
Sure, it was just a tennis ball and maybe the rim wasn't exactly 10 feet off the ground and no one was there to see it, but I know I did it. That day, I joined the ranks of the players on this list. As a guy who once dunked, sort of, in a way, kinda.
It's with that background as a dunker that I bring this list. I think it gives me a little extra credibility, don't you think? As amazing as my dunk, which I called either "Shock and Awe-mazing" or "Get out of my Wayyy, my name is Hose-Ayyyy", was, I realize it wasn't all that special because it didn't come during a game.
Dunking in the gym or backyard and dunking in a game is the difference between shooting bad guys on Call of Duty and doing it real time in Afganistan. it's the difference between chatting up that pretty girl online, using your "other" name and picture, or actually walking up to her to communicate.
Night and day.
This is the criteria I used to put together my list.
1. This player had to have dunked in a game.
Larry Nance was a great player and a pretty amazing dunker, he even won the NBA dunk contest, but his in-game his dunks were pretty pedestrian. Same goes for Nate Robinson.
2. A single in-game dunk can get you on the list, but the more you have, the better.
3. The dunks have to be of the type that get fans and players off the bench.
This criteria alone will leave off some amazing dunkers like Jason Richardson, David Thompson, even Dwight Howard and others. All great players and amazing dunkers, but although each has thrown down in a game, few left me screaming "WOW".
Simple enough, right? The greatest in-game dunkers of all time according to me.
I remember when Shaq came into the league his detractors would say he was "just a dunker". Well, ya, back then that's all the big fella had in his bag of tricks, but isn't that like calling Jessica Alba "just hot" or Bill Gates "just rich". Shaq's "just" was enough to bring plenty of shock and lots of awe's into NBA arenas.
Part of me is sad to watch him now jumping from team to team and lumbering up and down the court, but the truth is, what he is doing today is pretty amazing. Dude is 38 years old, 325 lbs (allegedly) and still running up and down the court against guys 10 years younger and occasionally still getting those 400 pounds of Shaq-ness off the ground to convert a Rondo pass into an alley-oop dunk.
Darryl Dawkins didn't just dunk, he entertained. It wasn't enough to humiliate you with an in-your-face dunk, Dawkins immortalized you by naming you in his dunks. Yeah, like me, he named his dunks. How cool is that? I'm pretty sure he got it from me.
Bill Robinzine played in the NBA for seven seasons. He averaged over 10 points a game in that time and was a ferocious rebounder. To most however, he will always be remembered as the guy under the shower of glass after a Dawkins dunk shattered the backboard. Dawkins had a catchy name for that dunk.
"Chocolate Thunder Flying, Robinzine Crying, Teeth Shaking, Glass Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Wham, Bam, Glass Breaker, I Am Jam."
Chocolate Thunder, classic.
Other Dawkins gems include, In Your Face Disgrace, Sexophonic Turbo Delight, Hammer of Thor, and Yo Mamma. I tried "Hammer of Thor" once in my backyard. Let's just say that my attempt wasn't as graceful as the guy who called himself Zandokan the Mad Dunker.
Okay, this is where I might start to hear more boos than LeBron coming back to Cleveland in a Heat jersey, but hear me out. Griffin makes this list on the strength of criteria No. 3. If "dunks that are so incredible that they bring players, the crowd and the announcers out of their chairs" was an NBA category Griffin would be in first, second, third and fifth place.
When Sam Cassell was traded to the Clippers for the 2005-2006 season he was bummed. Hard to blame him, the team wasn't that good and didn't have a solid reputation behind them. I remember him telling a story though that helped him grasp the moment. In short, someone told him how he would be "King of LA" if he could transform the Clippers into winners.
Cassell was energized by the challenge and led the team to the 2005-2006 NBA Western Conference Finals. Cassell was King!
It's one thing to do something amazing individually, it's another thing altogether to transform a franchise. Cassell did it then, and Griffin is doing it now.
Griffin has been on those ESPN road show commercials, he is featured on every Clipper telecast on TNT, and did you see his big head on that NBA commercial? Griffin has the Association's attention. The Clippers are news! Wow. As if that other-wordly feat wasn't enough, the kid has other-wordly hops to match.
I know people that go to hockey games just to watch a fight break out. Today, there are people that go to Clipper games just to witness the moment. You know what I mean, that moment when Griffin fakes left, goes right and somehow, defying all laws of gravity, gets up off the ground higher than any man his size should and drops the hammer.
A shock and awe moment is virtually a guarantee at every Clipper game.
He makes this list, and makes it this high because his lift is better than Dawkins' or Shaq's. After all, he made the Clippers watchable, that is probably a greater feat than anything else this young stud has done to date.
The greatest of all time, no doubt. Sure, he has someone in second place on the GOAT list who is gaining fast, but the there is little doubt that MJ belongs on top.
Back when Magic Johnson was wowing everyone in LA with occasional triple-doubles, word came out that Oscar Robinson not only used to do the same thing, he surpassed it. Where Johnson had the occasional triple-double, Robinson averaged a triple-double for a season!
Much like we took the Big O for granted back then, I think we might have taken the greatness of Michael Jordan for granted. The greatest player of all time was a three-point stud, a defensive stopper, a winner and yes, one of the greatest in-game dunkers of all time.
Is there anything this dude didn't or couldn't do?
As in IT guy I sometimes revert back to a tried and true method of resolving an issue. Its simple really, and every IT person has done. Step 1 - shut off the equipment (server, router, etc) Step 2 - see who complains.
It's a 100% perfect way to know exactly where the dependency is and how will be affected by an outage. Works every time.
Without meaning to, I think I tapped into the same type of scenario here. By throwing out a list like this I knew I would have people disagree, that's just how things go. I didn't know I would discover an omission, but its clear now that I have.
There was some rumbling and mumbling about Kemp, Stoudemire and even ranking MJ too high, but nothing came in as loud and as clear as Vince Carter. So, I researched and discovered that messed up. Simple as that. When the posterization of Alonzo Mourning, one of the best defenders of his era, is VC's #10 dunk, well, 'nough said.
I have followed the NBA since the Showtime era of the Lakers, so I can't use "I missed the Vincanity era" as an excuse. Plain and simple, I just didn't watch enough Raptor or Nets games to notice. My bad. I still might not have him as high on the list as you all would like, but he absolutely belongs.
So, to all those Vince Carter fans, I apologize. I am now sitting down to eat my humble pie and will happily give you, the Vincanity fans, the last word.
highlight every night when with the Raptors
Vince Carter is BAR NONE the best dunker in the NBA history
He is the no 1 in game dunker no ifs or buts, he postered alonzo , dikembe , duncan,antonio davis (yes his own teamate), 7 foot 2 frenchman (more like leaped over) and the list goes on . He dismantled alonzo twice plus has a gentlman pacted with shaq ( shaq asked vince not to dunk on him)
For my money, Wilkins was the owner of the best nickname in the history of the Association. The Human Highlight film rarely failed to live up to his moniker. His dunks were graceful, at the risk of extreme corniness, it was like watching ballet.
Not that I watch ballet, but, ya.
Wilkins could dunk left-handed, right-handed, both-handed; it didn't matter. You got the feeling watching him that he didn't know what he was going to do until he reached the right altitude.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached 25 inches, about half way to our final destination, to your left you can see Larry Bird looking up at us, on your right is Danny Ainge grimacing. Please make sure to keep your seat belts fastened and enjoy the view. I think I'm going to go with a windmill, reverse, after dropping the ball down to knees and throw the ball behind my head. It might get a little bumpy."
Hands down, no argument from anyone, this is the top dog. Probably best known for his amazing windmill in-game dunk over Michael Cooper, Dr. J makes this list not only on the strength of his dunks, but because he revolutionized the sport.
People dunked before Erving, but he made it a part of the game unlike anyone before ever had. Think Babe Ruth and the home run. Sure, others hit them out of the ballpark before the Bambino, but no one did it as often or with as much flair as Ruth. That's Dr. J.
As amazing an in-game dunker as Dr. was, I will never forget his reverse doe-see-doe, whirling dervish move in the 1980 Finals against the Lakers. Mark Landsberger was defending Erving. Landsberger wasn't fast, but he was big, so Dr. J decided that instead of going through him, he would jump, and go around him.
He lifts from the baseline, and slides by Landsberger on his way to the hoop, only to see Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the way. With his path to the hoop blocked, and him already committed and up in the air, he had a decision to make. Most players would have likely tried to throw the ball of an opposing player as they started their decent, but Erving was no ordinary player.
Dr. J just kept elevating. He palmed the ball in his right hand and swooped passed Abdul-Jabbar, ducking so he didn't hit his head on the back of the backboard as he flew under it.
He reached out his long arm, Kareem now behind him, Ladesberger watching in awe, he flipped the ball up and off the other side of the backboard as he landed. The ball went in and the crowd went crazy.
No, it wasn't a dunk, but it is one of the single greatest shock and awe moments in an NBA Finals, with MJ's hand-switch in mid-air against the Lakers in second place. Interesting, isn't it, that the greatest in-game dunkers are also world champs who shared the ability to bring a crowd off their feet.
When you make it to the top of this list you do it on the strength of your dunks, and the power of your shock and awe. No one in the history of the Association had more of both than Dr. J.