Anfernee Simons Wins 2021 NBA Slam Dunk Contest: Where Win Ranks All Time

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers' Anfernee Simons competes in the Slam Dunk contest during basketball's NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta, Sunday, March 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Welp, that was a bit of a dud. 

Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons won the 2021 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but the signature moment from the event was probably the judges deciding that Cassius Stanley's first dunk was only worth a 44:


Cassius Stanley starting things off with a bang 💥 #ATTSlamDunk https://t.co/hN8gpyjCq1

Josiah Johnson @KingJosiah54

How Cassius Stanley looking at his dunk score https://t.co/oIi00pD5xj

Tim Reynolds @ByTimReynolds

That's a 44 for Cassius Stanley? https://t.co/KIsehvK9Og

Cameron Magruder @ScooterMagruder


Ramona Shelburne @ramonashelburne

Did @cassius_stanley make that look too easy? C’mon man!

Really? That was only a 44?

OK then.

As for the rest of the competition, there's an argument to be made that the first three dunks were the best ones we saw. Here's what Simons and Obi Toppin offered to start:


SIMONS GETTING WAYYY UP.. WATCH #NBAALLSTAR ON TNT! All 3 dunks from 2021 #ATTSlamDunk champion Anfernee Simons. 🍿 https://t.co/JhSTv7DLj0


OK OBI! #ATTSlamDunk https://t.co/qmVLnO4KjP

Those two advanced to the final, where the judges ruled Simons posted the better dunk. You can decide for yourselves:


Anfernee Simons almost kissed the rim 😯 #ATTSlamDunk https://t.co/1BXYOP8cJS

All in all, it was a fairly disappointing event. When you think of classic Dunk Contests and iconic winners, well, Sunday's performance likely isn't going to make the list. 

It didn't change the course of the NBA—or the way we view the slam dunk and the limits NBA players could push—like Julius Erving taking off from the free-throw line in in 1976 while still in the ABA:

It isn't going to compare with Michael Jordan beating Dominique Wilkins in 1988 by reprising Erving's legendary dunk while adding his own flourish:

It won't have the impact that Vince Carter had over the basketball world with his incredible performance in 2000:

And come on, we may never see a better back-and-forth than we got between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon in 2016, arguably the best Dunk Contest ever:

It also didn't have the controversy of 2020, when some questionable judging kept Gordon from getting the win, with Derrick Jones Jr. earning the nod instead:

And nothing on Sunday was as cool as the 5'6" Spud Webb winning the Dunk Contest in 1986, seemingly taming gravity itself:

That's no knock on Toppin, Simons and Stanley, who pulled off some impressive dunks. But Sunday's contest lacked the star power of past events. It didn't quite bring the drama we've seen before or leave everybody in awe of a truly signature dunk. Even the judging was suspect. 

It was a fun event, as always. But when the history books record the all-time memorable Dunk Contests, this one won't be anywhere close to the top of the list. 

Unfortunately, it's more likely to be near the bottom.