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Ranking the five greatest dunk contests of all-time

Home » NBA » Best dunk contest: Greatest dunk contests of all-time

It’s not easy to talk about the best dunk contest of all time. If anything, the Slam Dunk Contest has often been the cherry on top of the sundae and the most-awaited event of All-Star Weekend. Or at least, that’s how it used to be back in the day.

This event has given us some of the top dunks in NBA history. Superstars used to go toe-to-toe against each other to prove who the top-notch dunker in the league was. But now, they try to preserve their bodies and don’t participate in this event, leaving it for up-and-coming, lesser-known players.

That has inevitably taken some of the emotion away from the competition. I mean no disrespect to Derrick Jones Jr., but we would much rather watch Russell Westbrook and LeBron James throw windmill dunks than him. That’s why most of the greatest dunk contests of all time happened quite some time ago.

Best dunk contest

That doesn’t stop us getting some memorable dunk contests, though. We still get to watch some talented, young players going head-to-head to wow the crowd, which is going to be easier said than done.

The guys we’re about to mention, however, excelled at that task, and that’s why we’ve put together the top five best dunk contests of all time.


5. Spud Webb tops Dominique Wilkins, 1986

Standing at just 5’6”, Spud Webb wouldn’t strike you as the average NBA player. As a matter of fact, not many people would ever think that he could be a professional basketball player, let alone win the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest.

But make no mistake. What Webb lacked in size, he made up for in hops. He would take over and float mid-air and made a name for himself for his emphatic, explosive dunks; even posterizing some of the best rim protectors in the Association.

That leaping ability helped Webb take down one of the greatest dunkers of all time in Dominique Wilkins. Like defying physics, gravity, and common sense; Webb had a combination of reverse dunks, one-handed hammers, and lobs that looked like CGI.

4. Superman and Gerald Green blowing candles, 2008

The NBA’s All-Star Weekend is proof that fans aren’t always right. Fan voting often snubs players who deserve the nod the most but don’t play for big-market teams, leading to never-ending controversy on whether the players alone should get a vote.


That was also in full display during the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest. Fans were more impressed by Dwight Howard‘s Superman apparel than they should’ve been and voted him as the champion, even though he didn’t have any of the best dunks of the evening.

Gerald Green used a step ladder to finish a breath-taking windmill. Then, he went through the legs for an explosive dunk despite being barefoot and later blew a candle on a cupcake sitting on top of the rim. He was spectacular and blatantly robbed.

3. Michael Jordan floats from the line, 1988

Michael Jordan had many iconic dunks throughout his incredible career but notably, one of those didn’t even come in a game. His Airness wanted to get back at Dominique Wilkins for beating him three years prior, so he saved the best of his repertoire.

Jordan paid homage to Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving and put together one of the top dunks in NBA history. He went baseline-to-baseline, dribbled just inside the three-point line, and took over from the free-throw line to float all the way to the rim. It was poetry in motion.

That dunk was so spectacular and breath-taking that Jordan had the nerve to do it again in the final round against Wilkins. Unsurprisingly, he got a perfect score again and capped off one of the greatest dunk contests in the history of the league.

2. Vince Carter’s debut contest, 2000

Vince Carter is widely recognized as one of the greatest, if not the greatest dunker of all time. His poster in the Olympics is perhaps the best in-game dunk in basketball history, and he would’ve been at the top of this list if we were to judge individual performance alone.

Carter took over the league and put the Toronto Raptors on the map. However, it wasn’t until the 2000 Slam Dunk contest that the whole basketball world took notice of Air Canada. Half-man, half-amazing, Carter put together the greatest individual performance in Slam Dunk Contest history.

Vinsanity knocked everybody off their feet with a 360 windmill dunk. Then, his signature elbow dunk was even more impressive. Carter was so spectacular that most people don’t even remember that Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady also had some dunks for the ages.

1. Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine wreak havoc, 2016

It was close with the 2000 edition but the 2016 Slam Dunk Contest has to be considered the best dunk contest of all-time. Often known as the day Aaron Gordon got robbed, it gave us two of the best dunkers in modern history and some of the top dunks in NBA history.

Aaron Gordon, a 6’8”, 208-pound specimen proved to have unmatched athleticism with some of the most twisted, complicated, and spectacular dunks of all time. He had multiple perfect scores and would’ve beaten every contestant in history, except from 2016 Zach LaVine.

LaVine’s hops and hangtime were enough to one-up Gordon in nearly every single one of his attempts. While his dunks were simpler and the format benefitted him, he put together an incredible show from start to finish. They should’ve been the first and only pair of co-winners of the event.

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