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NBA Slam-Dunk Contest: The 15 Greatest Dunk Contest Fields of All Time

Ross LipschultzAnalyst IDecember 13, 2016

NBA Slam-Dunk Contest: The 15 Greatest Dunk Contest Fields of All Time

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    It's been a long time since the Dunk Contest has been compelling. Last year's competition featured four people who looked like they'd rather be at a morgue than under the bright lights.

    Maybe that's because Blake Griffin was hurt.

    The former Oklahoma Sooner took the NBA by storm this season, throwing down more times than Paris Hilton has thrown up. He's the only reason to watch Los Angeles' other team and the Poster Child is coming to the Dunk Contest later this month.

    Unfortunately, it's not just a Griffin exposition. Three other competitors will join him. Damn, it's not just going to be a one-man flight school.

    Can Griffin, Serge Ibaka, Demar DeRozan and Javale McGee bring the event once lauded as the best part of All-Star Weekend back to prominence? Those four make a very talented field, so there is quite the buzz in the air for 2011's display. 

    The real question, however, is how these four dunkers stand up to the greatest fields of all-time. Do Griffin's tremendous hops take this year's group to the top?

15. 1996

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    Brent BarryClippers

    Michael FinleySuns

    Greg MinorCeltics

    Jerry Stackhouse76ers

    Doug ChristieKnicks

    Darrell ArmstrongMagic

    Most people probably read those six names and said, "Ross, those guys were in the three-point shootout, not the dunk contest." 

    But that's why it's an awesome dunk contest. Even stale Guinness had more hops than this field.

14. 1992

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    Cedric Ceballos—Suns

    Larry Johnson—Hornets

    Nick Anderson—Magic

    John Starks—Knicks

    Doug West—Timberwolves

    Shawn Kemp—Sonics

    Stacey Augmon—Hawks

    Fans probably just wanted Starks in the event so he could remake this immaculate throw-down. This field had a lot of promise, but once Kemp got out early, people started tuning out.

    And, judging by the photo, leaving. There should be no empty seats when a man blindfolds himself before a dunk attempt and, yet, there's a lot of visible orange in that photo.

13. 2003

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Jason Richardson—Warriors

    Desmond Mason—Sonics

    Amar'e Stoudemire—Suns

    Richard Jefferson—Nets

    The second of J-Rich's titles came against a field of high-flyers. Jefferson was an early favorite to dethrone Richardson and Amar'e made it cool for big men to return to the contest.

    But of course, Desmond "I only dunk, regardless of my location on the floor" Mason made the second round instead. The fans just can't win.

12. 1991

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    Dee Brown—Celtics

    Shawn Kemp—Sonics 

    Kenny Smith—Rockets

    Rex Chapman—Hornets

    Kenny Williams—Pacers

    Blue Edwards—Jazz

    Otis Smith—Magic

    Kendall Gill—Hornets

    People either haven't heard of many of these dunkers or figured they only threw down on a Nerf hoop. Having a deeper field helps, but unfortunately, this one wasn't buoyed by a bevy of greats.

    However, the 6'1" Brown and 6'10" Kemp made for an awesome finals, including the brilliant no-look by Brown. Kemp would have won, if he had just used any of these jams.

11. 2006

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    Pool/Getty Images

    Nate Robinson—Knicks

    Andre Iguodala—76ers

    Hakim Warrick—Grizzlies

    Josh Smith—Hawks

    Smith returned to defend his crown, which he won with three 50's on four dunks, but the Hawk came up way short on this night...to a (relative) midget, 5'9" Nate Robinson. 

    Robinson figuratively brought back nostalgia for Spud Webb, and then literally brought out Webb for a ridiculous vault. While some maintain Iguodala got robbed, losing by one in a tiebreak, the field did not disappoint.

10. 1989

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    Kenny Walker—Knicks

    Clyde Drexler—Blazers

    Spud Webb—Hawks

    Shelton Jones—76ers

    Tim Perry—Suns 

    Jerome Kersey—Blazers

    Ron Harper—Cavaliers

    Chris Morris—Nets

    Anyone with a Star Wars nickname is cool in my book, regardless of the fact that this Walker demolished rims. With Jordan sitting out this year, the field lost some sheen, but the dunks were still phenomenal.

    Unfortunately, this contest ended on a low note, as Drexler barely showed up in the finals. Walker threw down two near-perfect slams and not even the ridiculously short shorts could stop him.

9. 2011

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Blake Griffin—Clippers

    Javale McGee—Wizards

    Demar DeRozan—Raptors

    Serge Ibaka—Thunder

    Doesn't it just seem like the magic might be back for 2011? The contest used to feature mostly big men, and these four guys are about as athletic as they come.

    Yes, another year, another avoidance by LeBron. But hey, it's hard to beat The Poster Child. 

8. 2000

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Vince Carter—Raptors

    Steve Francis—Rockets

    Tracy McGrady—Raptors

    Ricky Davis—Hornets

    Jerry Stackhouse—Pistons

    Larry Hughes—76ers

    Ignoring Larry Hughes' abysmal effort (how many times has that been said...today?), 2000 boasted a great field. Cousins Carter and McGrady threw down 50's with ease, and Francis did it for the little people.

    With a solid 48, even Davis put on a show, which doesn't happen very often with him. Or, frankly, ever.

7. 1986

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    Spud Webb—Hawks

    Dominique Wilkins—Hawks

    Terence Stansbury—Pacers

    Gerard Wilkins—Knicks

    Paul Pressey—Bucks

    Jerome Kersey—Blazers

    Roy Hinson—Cavs

    Terry Tyler—Kings

    Webb, the shortest player to ever compete in the dunk contest, came in merely as a novelty. Against a bevy of ferocious dunkers, Webb and teammate Wilkins went toe-to-toe until the little man came up big, winning 100-98 in the finals.

    Please note that 1986 was also the first time that perennial loser Jerome Kersey threw his hat into the ring. As you will see, he is the William Jennings Bryan of dunk contests.

6. 1987

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    Michael Jordan—Bulls

    Jerome Kersey—Blazers

    Terence Stansbury—Sonics

    Clyde Drexler—Blazers

    Ron Harper—Cavaliers

    Johnny Dawkins—Spurs

    Tom Chambers—Sonics

    Gerard Wilkins—Knicks

    After Jordan took 1986 off, fans begged the legend to return and re-energize the field. With nothing lower than a 48 in the final two rounds, Jordan could not be stopped.

    That's not to say the rest of the field didn't show. Kersey barely missed the crown and Stansbury had the highest first-round score (with two recorded dunks) until Vince Carter in 2000.

    Unfortunately, Chambers let down white people everywhere by not kneeing more defenders in the face.

5. 1990

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    Dominique Wilkins—Hawks

    Kenny Smith—Kings

    Kenny Walker—Knicks

    Shawn Kemp—Sonics

    Scottie Pippen—Bulls

    Rex Chapman—Hornets

    Billy Thompson—Heat

    Kenny Battle—Suns

    Finally, a field without a definite loser (Kersey didn't enter). The top four had all had significant contest experience, so the first round was intense: Only one player (Battle) scored under a 90.

    Generous judges or a mighty plethora of dunkers? Doesn't really matter. 

4. 1988

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    Michael Jordan—Bulls

    Dominique Wilkins—Hawks

    Clyde Drexler—Blazers

    Otis Smith—Warriors

    Jerome Kersey—Blazers

    Greg Anderson—Spurs

    Spud Webb—Hawks

    In Jordan vs. Dominique II: Electric Bugaloo, the Bulls' great finally got revenge for the beat-down he suffered to Wilkins in 1985. The final featured MJ's legendary dunk (above), as he needed a 50 on the final dunk to win. 

    Don't forget the rest of the field. Ex-champion Webb, former semifinalist Drexler and repeat loser Kersey all made the event as hyped as ever. They just had no chance to stop the inevitable finale. 

3. 1984

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    Larry Nance—Suns

    Julius Erving—76ers

    Dominique Wilkins—Hawks 

    Darrell Griffith—Jazz

    Edgar Jones—Rockets

    Ralph Sampson—Bulls

    Orlando Woolridge—Blazers

    Michael Cooper—Lakers

    Sure, champion Larry Nance isn't exactly a household name, but look at the rest of the field for the NBA's first dunk contest. Erving and Wilkins were two of the best dunkers ever and Ralph Sampson and Orlando Woolridge are two huge athletic stars.

    It can't get much deeper than that, and, yet, this field still does.

2. 1976 (ABA)

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    Julius Erving—New York Nets

    David Thompson—Nuggets

    Artis Gilmore—Kentucky Colonels

    George Gervin—Spurs

    Larry Kenon—Spurs

    Don't gripe about the ABA's dunk contest making the list. Without this event, the NBA's version would never have been born eight years later. So, thank your luck All-Stars.

    While it may not have the depth of some of the contests with eight players, it's hard to argue with three Hall of Famers and Gilmore, who should be in too. But they all got to witness Erving's free-throw line dunk.

1. 1985

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    Dominique Wilkins—Hawks

    Michael Jordan—Bulls

    Terence Stansbury—Pacers

    Julius Erving—76ers

    Larry Nance—Suns

    Darrell Griffith—Jazz

    Orlando Woolridge—Bulls

    Clyde Drexler—Blazers

    This contest had everything, with arguably the three best dunkers ever, the champion from the past year and four other electric competitors. Putting Jordan, Wilkins, Erving and no defenders on the court for fans is like telling a five-year-old that it's Halloween every day.

    Jordan, a rookie at the time, put a valiant effort, but no one could stop 'Nique. He scored below 47 once the entire time, making the other seven contestants look silly.

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