Jeremy Evans, JaVale McGee Among Top 10 NBA Dunk Contest Losers of All Time
Works of art are subjective. Their merits, or lack thereof, are based solely on the values of those judging them. In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The audience in attendance at the NBA's 2013 Slam Dunk Contest witnessed Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors accumulate a score of 99 while garnering 58 percent of the fan vote.
Ross exhibited great hand speed while "orbiting" the ball around his body in throwing down a ferocious dunk in the finals. His Vince Carter tribute dunk was a site to behold as well. Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans' dunk over a painting of himself dunking over a painting was universally giggle-inducing, but the explosiveness and lower body control displayed were no laughing matter. The left arm windmill motion was almost anime in nature, truly cartoon-ish.
That dunk, in addition to his one-handed catch dunk, helped the 2012 NBA Slam Dunk champ win the proverbial silver in 2013 with a score of 90 while winning 42 percent of the fan vote.
As the afterglow of the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend reverberates through space and time, I felt it was high time to take a second look at some of the greatest losing dunks in NBA All-Star history. Subjectivity being what it is, there's a strong chance I might not list some of your favorites. If you think I overlooked your resident high-riser, don't hesitate to mention him in the comments. And away we go...
Serge Ibaka's dunk from the foul line earned him a score of 45 from the judges in 2011. Though Ibaka didn't put any extra flair into it—like cock the ball back, jump over a house or blow out a forest fire—he did jump from the freaking free-throw line.
Standing at 6'10", Ibaka may have been the victim of the size bias inherent in dunk competitions. Serge Ibaka's feat was one very few people can do, no matter their height.
Isaiah (J.R.) Rider
Unabridged and unabated explosiveness was what Isaiah (J.R.) Rider displayed in his prime. He would win the 1994 NBA Slam Dunk Contest with a dunk that one could argue was not better than his final championship-round dunk performed in 1995, where he would lose to eventual champion Harold Minor. The last dunk in the final round appeared to have been improvised by Rider at the last second, adding to its beauty. Hang time, spatial awareness and body control at their finest.
Larry (L.J.) Johnson
Larry Johnson was once on track to be one of the best 'tweener forwards the NBA had ever seen prior to his debilitating back issues, which would eventually sap much of his lower-body strength. In his prime, Johnson possessed athleticism and explosiveness at the power forward spot the likes of which were largely unmatched for many years, with only Charles Barkley being a fair comparison.
In 1992, Johnson would advance to the dunk contest finals against eventual winner Cedric Ceballos, whose blindfold dunk could make a case for weakest winning dunk in the history of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Johnson's 360 degree one-hander combined body control, hang time and powerfully ill intentions toward the rim to spectacular effect.
Darvin Ham received a cumulative score of 36 for his first-round dunks in 1997. However, that score was not enough to place him in the dunk contest finals. His between-the-legs-reverse-double-pump slam was ferocious, indeed.
That was followed by a more common yet equally fearsome rendition of what was basically the same dunk from a slightly different angle. But his 360 degree-touch-the-backboard dunk was special to me because of the incredible hang time and body control displayed. He appeared to literally hang in mid-air after touching the glass.
The man formerly known as Stevie Franchise, aka Steve Francis, was one of the most spectacular point guard dunkers the NBA had ever seen when he came into the league in 1999. Averaging 18 points per game for his nine-year career, Francis made a name for himself by taking big-man dunks and making them his own.
At the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, the relative NBA runt (6'3") wowed all in attendance, throwing a lob to himself off the bounce, catching the ball and cocking it back in one motion prior to throwing down an authoritative one-hander. He would lose to Vince Carter in the final round.
Jason (J-Rich) Richardson
Jason Richardson isn't posterizing people like he used to. But a young J-Rich's drives to the basket once struck fear in the hearts of most who dared rise to oppose him. His forays were often punctuated with violent rim-rattling dunks. Richardson's off-the-glass-between-the-legs dunk in the 2004 NBA Slam Dunk Contest featured incredible hang time, agility and a strong finish. However, that dunk was not enough to get him out of the first round that year. But it was a great dunk all the same.
This year, 2012 NBA Slam Dunk champ Jeremy Evans performed a spread eagle one-handed windmill dunk over a painting of himself dunking over a painting. There's not much else to be said about that. He would go on to lose the 2013 Slam Dunk Contest to eventual winner Terrence Ross, but Evans' dunk combined amazing athleticism with literal and figurative artistry. The most clever prop concept I've seen in a number of years.
Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee has his fair share of detractors because of what some call his immature basketball I.Q. and perceived devil-may-care attitude toward the game. But the NBA has not seen a true center as athletic as McGee since Dwight Howard.
At times, fans might hear analysts prattle on about dunkers being penalized in contests because of the height advantage of the participants. I'm guilty of doing the same. Standing at 7'0" tall, and possessing a 7'6" wingspan, JaVale McGee could be the poster child of that assessment.
His second dunk in the 2011 NBA Dunk Contest got most of the glory (the three-ball dunk), and it was indeed creative, but McGee's wingspan and height were clear advantages. However, his first dunk was made all the more incredible because of his height.
Observe the trajectory at which he launches himself into the air, making sure to duck underneath the backboard, rocking the ball behind his body, before powering it home for the over-the-shoulder slam. Griffin would go on to win the contest with a score of 95 and a fan vote of 68 percent. McGee would finish with a 99, but he was hurt in the fan vote.
The infamous Iggy dunk at the 2006 NBA Slam Dunk Contest might have been overlooked for the same reason JaVale McGee's under-the-rim-over-the-shoulder dunk would be five years later. The dreaded height bias reared its head, but it wasn't because Andre Iguodala was too tall (6'6"), but because eventual winner Nate Robinson was so small (5'8").
The timing involved in catching Allen Iverson's pass off the side of backboard goes without saying. The body control involved in ducking the rim, the hang time displayed by soaring from out of bounds and the spatial awareness to know the exact moment at which to reverse slam the ball through the rim? That cannot be overstated.
Dominique Wilkins was known as the Human Highlight Film for a reason. It's not one of those funny opposite nicknames, like mothers who name their huge kid Tiny. No, prior to Vince Carter and LeBron James, Dominique Wilkins was considered by many to be the preeminent small forward finisher in NBA league history. He might still be the best two-foot dunker ever, at any position.
Wilkins would participate in five dunk contests and, oddly enough, only win two of them. When people speak of Slam Dunk Contest snubs, those old enough to remember will mention Dominique. Of the three contests Wilkins lost, two were under somewhat controversial circumstances.
In 1986, Wilkins would face Atlanta Hawks teammate Spud Webb, competing in front of a friendly Dallas, Texas crowd. Webb bested Wilkins in the final round with a combined perfect score of 100 to Nique's 98.
Webb's performance was worthy of victory despite Wilkins pulling out all the stops to try and seal the win. Among those dunks were his signature two-handed windmill slam and a double-clutch reverse dunk.
He would come in second to Michael Jordan's "kiss the rim" dunk and his legendary double-clutch-from-the-free-throw-line dunk in 1988 at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in Chicago. Though coming in second to MJ is nothing to be depressed about, a wise man once said: "Second place is the first loser."
Both of Wilkins' losing dunks would have beaten lessor competitors on any other day, but he had the misfortune of running into the best "little" dunker the NBA had ever seen in '86, and two years later the string of bad luck continued when he ran into Michael Jordan, a more graceful and versatile dunker, in front of a hometown crowd.