The 10 Best Jams of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest Since 2000

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2019

The 10 Best Jams of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest Since 2000

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    TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

    Few events in sports can grab the attention of fans quite like the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

    Hall of Famers like Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins had some of their most iconic moments during All-Star Weekend, while younger players have used the event as a stepping stone to become household names.

    One dunk can live on forever, and many top stars have taken advantage of this opportunity over the last two decades with things we have never seen before on a basketball court.

    This year's group of Dennis Smith Jr., John Collins, Miles Bridges and Hamidou Diallo will have a lot to live up to if they want to turn heads.

    Here are the best slams from the dunk contest since 2000.

Ranking Criteria

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    Difficulty: Although most of us watching at home can't touch the net without a ladder, the majority of the NBA can do it with ease. The best dunks are the ones that truly stand out as things few players could replicate.

    Originality: Doing something we have never seen before is a great way to get noticed. Homages are great, especially when throwback jerseys are involved, but you can't give them more credit than the original dunks.

    Memorability: You might go crazy in the moment for a big dunk, but what do we remember years later? This is where creativity helps compared to a usual jam. Although props and costumes are sometimes tacky, they are all part of the fun.

    Individual Effort: While Steve Nash's header to Amar'e Stoudemire was one of the best ever, the dunk itself wasn't as good as the pass. An alley-oop is one thing but the actual competitor should be doing the hard work.

(10) 2011: Blake Griffin Leaps over a Car

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    Take away all the theatrics and this was a pretty average dunk that might not even cause you to turn your head in a game.

    With that said, this is one of the more iconic dunk contest moments of the past decade.

    Blake Griffin brought out a car and a choir to sing "I Believe I Can Fly." These aren't things you see every day on the basketball court.

    If he had gone over the roof of the car instead of the hood, this dunk might have been No. 1.

(9) 2011: JaVale McGee Dunks on 2 Hoops

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    This is one that has gotten lost in the shuffle among great moments in the dunk contest, which happens sometimes among non-winners.

    JaVale McGee still deserves plenty of credit for breaking new ground in 2011 when he dunked on two different baskets at the same time.

    The concentration and hand-eye coordination alone raised the degree of difficulty, while few others could even physically pull this off without the center's crazy wingspan. 

    "I don't know if there is anyone else on the planet that can do this," Kenny Smith said on the broadcast.

    DeMar DeRozan deserves an honorable mention with his Show Stopper from the same year where he nearly head-butted the rim, but McGee's attempt was more unique and much tougher to replicate.

(8) 2008: Gerald Green with the Cupcake Slam

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    Gerald Green won in 2007 mostly relying on his freak athleticism to just jump higher than everyone else. In 2008, he decided to be more creative.

    This led him to the Cupcake Slam, where he blew out a candle sitting on the rim.

    Not only does Green get points for originality, it also showed just how high his head can get during his dunks for his mouth to be that close to the rim.

    It didn't help him defend his title, but this might be one of the more underrated dunks of all time.

(7) 2009: Nate Robinson Jumps over Dwight Howard

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    A three-time dunk contest champion, Nate Robinson excited fans with his leaping ability for a 5'9" player. His jump over Spud Webb helped him win the 2006 event and put him on the map.

    Still, the most impressive dunk during his reign came when he jumped over Dwight Howard, his opponent in the 2009 competition.

    The added bonus of KryptoNate against Superman made it even more fun.

    Even if he leaned on Howard a bit, Robinson's athleticism for his size was simply incredible.

(6) 2016: Zach LaVine Through the Legs from Foul Line

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    Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine combined for one of the best contests ever in 2016, but this is the dunk that won it for LaVine.

    A lot of people have jumped from the foul line or just inside of it, with Michael Jordan's dunk still being one of the most memorable.

    No one has gone between the legs from the distance LaVine jumped in 2016, and it might be a while before we see someone else try anything like it again.

    This was the best slam the guard pulled off in the dunk contest even when his Space Jam theatrics stole the show in 2015.

(5) 2003: J-Rich Between the Legs (0:45 into Video)

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    Jason Richardson won back-to-back in 2002 and 2003, providing some of the most vicious slams we have seen.

    Out of all of his dunks, the best came in 2003 when he went between the legs before finishing with his left hand.

    This showed creativity with a move we hadn't seen before as well as the pure athleticism to sky with his head at the rim.

    The crowd yelled, the players watching along jumped onto the court and the judges gave him an easy 50.

(4) 2008: Dwight Becomes Superman

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    If you want to talk about a dunk being iconic and memorable, there are few bigger than Dwight Howard's in 2008.

    The big man didn't get the respect he deserved on some more unique dunks like when he used a 12-foot rim. However, he certainly got attention when he put on a Superman shirt and cape and jumped from almost the free-throw line.

    Sure, he didn't actually complete a real dunk and instead threw the ball in the net. But who cares? It was an incredible moment in a fun event.

(3) 2000: Vince Carter Does the Honey Dip (1:51 into Video)

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    Some of the best dunks get a roar from the crowd as everyone jumps out of their seats. This one got mostly silence, which made it even better.

    Vince Carter went elbow-deep into the rim on his Honey Dip dunk, leaving those watching along mostly just confused about what just happened.

    Only after replay and plenty of reflection can you appreciate what Carter did to help seal his win in 2000.

(2) 2016: Aaron Gordon Skies over Mascot

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    Aaron Gordon didn't win the 2016 contest, but he did have the most memorable dunk of the last decade with this throwdown. 

    The Magic star kept the ball under both legs, bringing down the house while also leaving an incredible lasting image of him seemingly floating in mid-air. It shocked you in the moment and was something you would never forget once you saw it.

    Although there might have been a bigger degree of difficulty in his other dunks that year, this slam was the best part of an incredible battle between Gordon and LaVine.

    It was arguably the best contest of the past 15 years, and this jam stole the show.

(1) 2000: Vince Carter's 360 Windmill (0:44 into Video)

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    This slam really began the modern dunk contest.

    After two years without a competition and nearly a decade with limited excitement, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis helped bring it back in 2000. The young players battled with high-flying jumps and unique movements we hadn't seen before, even when Michael Jordan was competing.

    Carter kicked things off with a reverse 360 windmill that set the tone of the night—and the next two decades of this event.

    There was so much air on the jump, and it ended with a jam that made it seem like he was angry at the rim. No one seemed ready, but it became one of the best dunks anywhere.

    Many have tried to replicate Vinsanity, but no one will ever come close.