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Before we begin the rankings, it's vital to understand exactly what excitement is on a basketball court.
There's a difference between great and exciting. When you get to the end, you'll notice quite a few of the all-time greats are missing because they weren't exciting, just efficient.
For example, John Stockton is a notable omission here because he put together a lot of traditional, unexciting assists. It wasn't like you were going to say, "Oh wow! I can't wait to see John Stockton get 14 assists today with his incredible chest passes and bounce passes!"
The reality is slam dunks, crossovers, alley-oops and other highlight-reel-worthy plays are the ones that excite us.
We love seeing players fly through the air and defy gravity. We love seeing guys juke out other players, especially when they're what we might call vertically challenged. We love seeing stars display panache and unrelenting flair on the court.
The guys on this list are the ones that make you want to grab your popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show. You don't want to take your eyes off them when they're on the court. But more than anything else, they're going to make your jaw drop while filling your memory bank with plays you never, ever want to forget you saw.
For example, in the words of my friend Bart Rich, "If you showed someone who wasn't a basketball fan a video of George Gervin doing a finger roll and then another video of Blake Griffin or Vince Carter dunking, I think we know who would win out." There was no disrespect meant to The Iceman there (and you'll notice that he's actually pretty far up on this list), but the idea from the quote does ring true.
With that, the last thing I need to do is thank a few people for their help here. I spent countless hours watching YouTube highlights and reading articles about these players, but this wouldn't have been possible without the help of a bunch of my friends.
One I specifically have to give a special shout-out to is Bart, the source of that quote two paragraphs back. We spent roughly 10 hours talking about which players belonged and how to rank them, and this list wouldn't be anywhere near as complete without him. I probably wouldn't still be sane either.
Now...drum roll...let's get ready for the rankings!