No matter what one accomplishes, a new generation of athletes is constantly working to break new barriers and reach new heights. There was a time when no one thought a runner could complete a mile in less than 4 minutes. Now, it is common place. Heck, the 2-mile has been finished in less than 8 minutes.
Athletes are continuing to get bigger, faster and stronger.
There may be no place where this concept is more evident than the evolution of the NBA dunk contest. There was a time when we were awed by windmill dunks from Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan’s jam from the free-throw line. However, the likes of Isaiah Rider, Vince Carter and Jason Richardson took the art of the dunk forward.
This most recent NBA dunk contest took yet another step. Orlando’s Aaron Gordon and Minnesota’s Zach LaVine mastered slams that even superstars like Wilkins and Jordan would have once deemed impossible.
The dazzling achievements by Gordon and LaVine make it a great time to review some of the best jams in NBA dunk contest history. The rankings take into account the difficulty of the dunk but also the era in which they were accomplished.
10. Terrence Stansbury, 1987
Nearly 30 years later, Stansbury’s Statue of Liberty dunk remains a sight to be seen.
- Spud Webb, 1986
Standing only 5-foot-7, Webb amazed teammate Dominique Wilkins and the entire crowd with his ability to leap and finish. Webb, who paved the way for other small dunkers such as Kenny Smith and Nate Robinson, saved his best dunk for last with a spectacular reverse off the bounce.
- Gerald Green, 2008
Theatrics and dunking go hand-in-hand. There may be no better example of this than Green’s “cupcake” dunk.
- Dwight Howard, 2008
Howard dunked with the power of a 7-footer but with the grace of competitors like Jordan and Wilkins.
- Isaiah Rider, 1994
A between-the-legs dunk may seem like old hat now, but we must not forget Rider’s innovation.
- Michael Jordan, 1988
This iconic dunk is iconic for a reason. And no matter how routine the free-throw line jam may seem now, Jordan delivers it was a flare that is all his own.
- Jason Richardson, 2003
With a combination of traits from Wilkins, Rider and Carter, he took the dunk contest to new heights.
- Vince Carter, 2000
Carter may simply be the best all-around dunker ever.
- Zach LaVine, 2016
I see your free-throw line dunk and raise you a between-the-legs jam.
- Aaron Gordon, 2016
With a leap that would have earned the bronze medal for the high jump in the 2012 Olympics, this may be simply the best dunk of all-time.
If you’re still not convinced by the accomplishments of LaVine and Gordon, check out the review from ESPN’s Sports Science.
Mark Schremmer has been a sports reporter since 2000 and has covered games at the professional, college and high school levels for the Topeka Capital-Journal and The Joplin Globe.
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