Vince Carter

20 greatest dunks in NBA history

Home » NBA » 20 greatest dunks in NBA history

The best dunks of all time consist of some of the most humiliating and difficult dunks ever performed in an actual NBA game. From posters to alley-oops, there are thousands of these insane highlights throughout NBA history.

Best dunks of all time

There’s a huge reason why most basketball posters highlight NBA players dunking. There’s no other highlight more beautiful than your favorite player dunking another player. After all, a slam dunk is the most electrifying play in basketball.

So this brings us to the greatest dunks of all time. These plays were amazing due to how physically impressive they were. A lot of these are performed with a certain degree of difficulty.

Here are the 20 greatest dunks in NBA history. We even put clips of them below.

20. Dominique Wilkins double pumps over Bob Lanier (1984)


Dominique Wilkins is one of the greatest dunkers of all time. He had hundreds of highlights in his entire 16-year career. This is why they call him “The Human Highlight Reel”.

His best dunk was against 6-foot-11 Bob Lanier. In this play, Wilkins spins to the baseline and challenges Lanier. He double pumps the ball to avoid the block and throws it down with authority.

19. Derrick Rose’s two-handed slam over Goran Dragic (2010)

Youngest MVP Derrick Rose scratches his back and throws down a two-handed slam over Goran Dragic during a fast break. Just look at Rose’s right shoulder— it touched the backboard!

What made this play even better is Stacey King’s legendary commentary: “What are you doing, Dragic? Didn’t you get the memo? Derrick Rose can go upstairs!”.


18. Blake Griffin throws it down over Kendrick Perkins (2012)

A year prior to this dunk, Blake Griffin put 7-foot-1 Timofey Mozgov on a poster. That dunk showed that he isn’t afraid to go against bigger and taller opponents. Griffin added another poster to his resume when he dunked over Kendrick Perkins in 2012.

You can see the perfect bounce pass from Chris Paul to set Griffin up. Griffin takes flight and throws down a monster jam against Perkins. And one! You have to love DeAndre Jordan’s reaction after this dunk.

17. Dwyane Wade dunks over Anderson Varejao (2009)

This dunk is just straight disrespectful. Dwyane Wade elevates and throws down a monster dunk over 6-foot-11 Anderson Varejao. Reggie Miller perfectly captured the play after Wade’s dunk: “Welcome to your Kodak moment, Anderson Varejao!”.

Wade added salt to the wound by stepping over Varejao after the dunk. It was like Allen Iverson’s killer crossover and step through over Ty Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals.

16. LeBron James with no regard for human life (2008)

LeBron James humiliated Kevin Garnett, one of the best defensive players in the NBA, on this play. James was so strong that he slammed the ball hard even when Garnett shoved him mid-air.

What made this dunk 100 times better is Kevin Harlan’s iconic call: “LeBron James with no regard for human life!”. This call is perfect for such a violent throwdown.

15. Gerald Green’s windmill alley-oop (2012)

Gerald Green put on a show on this fastbreak. MarShon Brooks throws a lob and Green windmills it for the huge throwdown. If you look closely, he almost hit his head to the rim! Even the Rockets bench forgot which team they are on.

This alley-oop dunk is only rivaled by Carter’s alley-oop dunk against the Clippers in 2000.

14. Baron Davis posterizes Andrei Kirilenko (2007)

Baron Davis throws down a monster dunk against one of the best defenders at the time in Andrei Kirilenko. What makes this play even more amazing is Davis’ and the crowd’s reaction after the dunk. The entire arena was electrified in this play.

Golden State ultimately lost the series against Utah, but this play is one of the most memorable plays during that ‘We Believe’ era.

13. Kobe Bryant’s reverse dunk on Kevin Garnett (2003)

This is one of the most athletic plays you will ever see. Kobe drives to the baseline and avoids Kevin Garnett with a reverse dunk. For someone who drives at full speed, twists his body mid-air, and goes for a dunk, this play seems impossible. But Kobe did it anyway. He also had a right shoulder strain coming into this game.

Again, what a fantastic commentary from Kevin Harlan: “Buckle up for Kobe! Kobe Bryant just sucked the gravity out of the Target Center!”

12. Vince Carter’s alley-oop dunk against the Clippers (2000)

There’s no doubt that Vince Carter is the greatest dunker in NBA history. Honestly, his top ten dunks alone can fill up half this list. That just shows how crazy his dunk highlights are.

His dunk against the Clippers is arguably the best alley-oop dunk of all time. In this play, Steve Brown throws a bad lob pass to Carter as it was far off the rim. But Carter improvises. He reaches the ball towards the back of his head and throws it down emphatically instead. What a play.

11. LeBron James tomahawks over Jason Terry (2013)

This is one of the most disrespectful plays of all time. It was three versus one—Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, and LeBron James against Jason Terry on the fastbreak. In this play, Cole throws a lob and LeBron does the rest. He reaches way up for the ball and angrily throws it down over Terry.

LeBron’s staredown was the icing on the cake here. Yes, he was called for the tech but he didn’t actually care. He wanted to put on a statement against the Celtics.

10. DeAndre Jordan puts Brandon Knight on a poster (2013)

THE LOB, THE JAM. This play was perfectly set up by the point god himself, Chris Paul. He throws a high lob and DeAndre Jordan just viciously throws it down over the hapless Brandon Knight.

The entire arena exploded after this dunk. Also, look at the Clippers’ bench. This dunk would be higher on this list if Knight was taller than his listed height of 6-foot-2. Still, this is one of the best dunks of all time.

9. Kobe Bryant’s behind-the-back reverse dunk (2003)

Before he became a master of the midrange, Kobe Bryant was an uber-athletic scorer. Number 8 Kobe would constantly attack the basket and throw the ball down.

Perhaps his best dunk was in 2003 against the Nuggets. After catching the pass, Kobe went creative and improvised to avoid the defender. He puts the ball behind his back and jumps even though his body isn’t facing the rim! No one has ever done this in an actual NBA game, only Kobe.

8. T-Mac sucked the gravity right out of the building (2005)

People shouldn’t forget that Tracy McGrady had serious hops. He had a plethora of highlight dunks even with a short career. Perhaps his greatest one was his poster dunk against Shawn Bradley in the 2005 NBA Playoffs.

What makes this one of the best dunks of all time? First, it was T-Mac. Second, it was over 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley. Third, it produced one of Kevin Harlan’s best commentaries: “He just sucked the gravity right out of the building!”.

7. Vince Carter’s reverse dunk against the Pacers (1999)

The difficulty of this dunk is off the charts. But it was just another day for Vince Carter. In this play, Carter drives towards the basket and humiliates Chris Mullin and Rik Smits. Carter avoids the two defenders with a double-pump reverse dunk. You can see him almost sitting in the air.

You often see this dunk in slam dunk contests, but Carter did it in a real NBA game. He will put on a show no matter if it’s contested or uncontested.

6. Tom Chambers’ two-handed slam over Mark Jackson (1989)

MAGICAL. In this play, Tom Chambers uses Mark Jackson as a pogo stick to elevate further and flush a two-handed dunk. The way he glides in the air is poetry in motion and it was a sight to see for fans watching that game. Thanks to Jackson’s body, Chambers jumped so high that his head almost hit the rim.

There’s no doubt that this is one of the best dunks of all time. It’s even crazier when you slow the clip down. 

5. Michael Jordan hesitates then dunks over Patrick Ewing (1991)

When we’re talking about the greatest dunks in NBA history, expect that Michael Jordan’s dunk against Patrick Ewing would be in it. It was personal for him.

This dunk was perfect from start to finish. Jordan fools two Knicks defenders with a hesi dribble move, drives to the baseline, and elevates over Patrick Ewing for the and-one basket. Jordan elevated over 7-foot-tall Ewing with little space at the baseline. It was simply insane.

4. Vince Carter cocks it back against Alonzo Mourning (2005)

One of Vince Carter’s greatest dunks ever is when he put Alonzo Mourning on a poster. Mourning is known as one of the best shot blockers of all time but Carter simply didn’t care. He nullifies that with his verticality and hangtime.

In this play, Carter finds an open lane and challenges Mourning at the peak. Mourning goes for the block but Carter cocks the ball behind his back instead and throws it down emphatically. This is one of the best posters in NBA history.

3. Scottie Pippen posterizes Patrick Ewing (1994)

We all know that there was bad blood between the Knicks and Bulls in the 90s. The rivalry was at its peak during the 1994 NBA Playoffs. Perhaps the most memorable play during their rivalry was Scottie Pippen’s poster on Patrick Ewing.

This dunk was just blatantly disrespectful. First, he teabagged Ewing. Second, he taunted Spike Lee at the side, who is an avid Knicks fan. But he’s not done being a savage yet. Up to this date, Pippen continues to troll Ewing on Twitter during his dunk anniversary.

2. Shawn Kemp puts Alton Lister on a poster (1992)

Shawn Kemp will always be remembered for his monster dunks. He was long and uber-athletic at his position. Yes, he was not a scorer by any means but he was a highlight machine.

The best dunk of his career is when he posterized Alton Lister. Kemp finds an open lane and elevates over 7-foot-tall Lister. What makes this dunk even better is his celebration. Sadly, this is a tech nowadays and we won’t see celebrations like this anymore.

1. Dr. J’s ‘Rock-a-baby’ dunk over Michael Cooper (1983)

This Julius Erving dunk is the greatest dunk ever. It was a combination of three things—creativity, finesse, and power. Dr. J uses his right hand to cradle the ball and jams it to the hoop with authority. You can hear the iconic line from the commentator: “Rocks the baby to sleep and slam dunk!”.

What makes this dunk even more amazing is that he threw it down over Michael Cooper. Cooper was an elite defender. You can see that he doesn’t give on this play, but Erving just had a better idea.

You rarely saw players do what Dr. J did back then since dunks weren’t a huge part of the game yet. He was a trailblazer for players who play above the rim.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *